Friday, December 11, 2009

Hounding Dead People the Brinks Way

My mother died in her home at the age of 91 last January. According to her death certificate, the primary cause of death was dementia.

I recently found out that she signed a contract with Brinks Home Security many years ago that automatically renews each year. The specific service they were charging for was remote home monitoring - which I find interesting because no alarm system at her home was connected to the phone system - which means for many years there was no way for them to have been monitoring it.

A few months ago, they sent a renewal notice which reached my brother, several months after he'd contacted them to say my mother had died (which to me would suggest that she probably wouldn't pay any new charges into the future). Her credit card was no longer valid so they were looking for a new number. He didn't respond to them - he'd already told them she was gone and there was no need for their services, and that's when they renewed the service automatically and then started sending collection notices.

I've just spent the morning trying to reach a real person at Brinks in order to get the situation dealt with amicably. After going through phone tree systems that had no option pertaining to this situation (all the focus is on trying to sell someone a new system), I got hold of Tyra in Customer Loyalty. After I gave her the account number and passed the "security ID" question (not surprisingly, my mother used the family dog's name), she said that indeed my brother had contacted them last April to say my mother was dead. But now the only thing that would cancel the contract was for me to send a copy of my mother's death certificate, my driver's license, and all the documentation regarding her estate into a Customer Care Department. I said that there was no way I was going to send a copy of my license or any other important documents into a corporate bureacracy when all I'm trying to get them to do is quit hounding a dead woman for services that are no longer being provided and haven't been provided for years. I did offer to send Tyra or any specifically named person a scanned copy of the death certificate by email, and then follow up as appropriate. It soon became clear that Tyra couldn't help me and didn't seem to know any actual person who could.

After thanking her and hanging up politely, I decided to check into the Brinks web site a little more. Brinks - which now carries the Broadview Security name - says on their site that they have a strong commitment to "Creating Customers for Life." Through their investor-relations pages, I see that they're especially proud of just how effective their subscription programs are. Apparently, it's good business to sign up customers once and then keep charging them - through dementia, death, and beyond. Perhaps not surprisingly given that policy, their revenues for the quarter ended September 30 were up by more than 6% over the previous year.

If Brinks wants to continue to hound my mother for a service that hasn't been used for years, they're welcome to do that. If she were alive, I suspect she would find it interesting and perhaps a little amusing. Meanwhile, I would suggest that the attorney general for Oregon (where my mother lived), Washington (where I live) and many other states might want to start looking into how such contracts and payment systems affect elderly people who might have once signed up for a security or home monitoring service, but no longer need it and don't know how to make it go away. Let me know if you need any help.


Anonymous said...

unbelievable.... simply ridiculous.

Philip said...

I'll love to post your story in the Sorry & Fixes section of our blog. When we find such stories affecting customer care we like to bring it to our audience:

Philip Peters