Thursday, January 31, 2008

Does H&R Block suck?


So I just got off the phone with the good people at H&R Block. They are the masterminds behind the popular income tax software TaxCut. And they've been kind enough to give me an opportunity to write a sequel to my amazingly popular post, "Does DirecTV suck?"

I've been using this software for the last several years to do our taxes. It's not a bad product. However, their customer service is, umm... how do I say this in polite company? ... asspoopy.

First off, since I have to register the software to get updates, they have my mailing address. And every year they send me a CD in the mail with TaxCut Premium Federal + State. Now, if you live in Ohio, you know that in many cases, figuring state income tax is easy enough that my kid could probably do it. The one that's not born yet.

So it would be stupid for me to pay an extra $20 or $30 for some program to copy the income line from my Federal return, ask me whether I want to donate a dollar to some cause or other, and spit out my total.

Now you would think... you would think that the "Federal + State" CD could be used to install the Federal portion only. But if you did think that, you wouldn't know H&R Block.

You would also think that downloading the software from their web site would cost less than buying a physical CD from a retailer. You'd be wrong again. In most cases, I'd forgo the physical disk and download it anyway, even if it did cost a little more. Call it environmental consciousness if you like, but a big part of it is convenience. However, when it comes to the IRS, I'd rather have physical copies of everything.

If by now you hadn't given up on trying to think like H&R Block, you might just think that if you did buy a physical CD, and that CD was defective, you could get help from the Toll Free number on the package.

Let me tell you what did happen.

I called.

I waited patiently.

A person! Woohoo! After providing name, rank, and serial number, I explained that the CD I just got from the store had a small crack. My computer couldn't read it. After trying to understand this highly complex and technical problem for a little while, the CSR finally told me I should take it back to the store. Yeah, does ANY store take opened software back? Not a chance!

I asked if there was any way to return the CD to H&R Block. Nope. I asked if there was any way to get a refund. Nope. I asked what options I actually did have. "Buy it again," says she. "Maybe I should use another service," says I. "I guess so," was her response. She seemed entirely at a loss as to how to get back to her Diet Coke and Tic-Tacs.

Meanwhile, I start wondering if by "customer service," they mean some euphamistic twist on Definition #10 of "service" in Merriam Webster. I kind of felt like I was getting serviced.

After several attempts at reason, logic, and a brief discussion on good business practices, it seemed we were at an impasse. I slapped my mobile phone shut. Only because I had an earpiece on (to possibly prevent my brain being turned into bread pudding), the line didn't disconnect.

And then the CSR says, "You're stupid."


After a brief and mildly ungentlemanly retort, I hang up. For real this time.

I immediately call back. I wait on hold again. I think I'm actually starting to develop a Pavlovian reaction (involving angst instead of salivation) to the sound of soothing music coming through the telephone.

I get a different person this time, of course, who puts me back on hold before I've even said a word. After the whole inquisition thing again, I ask for a supervisor.

When I finally get him on the line, I explain the two separate problems: The cracked CD and Miss Congeniality.

Turns out they do have a procedure for defective CDs after all. Of course it takes six weeks to get that refund. They can navigate the thousand-page tax code and get you your tax refund in 24 hours, but a defective disk takes a month and a half.

The supervisor apologized, and said he'd talk to the rep in question. He assured me that he wouldn't expect such a comment from her - perhaps she was talking to her neighbor, he postulated. Yeah, they were probably engaged in a philosophical discussion about which of them should be named Most Likely to Succeed.

So now, armed with a P.O. Box number in Kansas City, if I can find my Proof-of-Purchase, some soup labels and cereal box tops, a Notary Public, two laywers and a sherpa, I should have my money back by mid-March.

It may be interesting to some to know that H&R Block has been accused of racketeering, defrauding customers, and fraud again in the Enron case.

So.... Anybody used TurboTax?


Postscript: After all this, I received an email from somebody in the accounting department at work, telling me I took one too many vacation days last year, so they're docking my pay by a day on an upcoming paycheck. Never mind the fact that my boss's records and my records both indicate I didn't go over. Never mind asking me any questions. Never mind making up for it with this year's abundant time off. Just docking my pay. And the accounting person was apparently gone for the day before 4:00.

Tomorrow I shall post about warmth and happiness and light.




At 2/01/2008 9:12 AM, Blogger Matt said...

From the high of a cow to the low of taxes. You are a roller coaster. I pay someone and I never regret that small expense.

At 2/01/2008 9:25 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

Oh, my, my! Never used H&R, but have used TurboTax for years. In fact, I usually use it even in years (like last year) when I need to send the whole thing off to the accountant to finish (goofy situation not covered by the question/answer format.) Always very happy with it.

I about snorted my coffee when you said you needed box tops etc for your refund! I know that feeling too!

Hope tomorrow is better!

At 2/01/2008 10:34 AM, Blogger Wendy said...

We've used TurboTax since they first came out (before TaxCut ;). I'm self-employed, and it does everything for us, except make the coffee we need when we're doing our taxes ;). We've never had any problems.

I'm very sorry to hear about your "customer service" experience. This is the kind of "service" I seem to get anytime I call a company. The other day I saw an article or a news clip about the change in attitudes with regard to "customers", and the issue is that we are no longer "customers" (who are always right), we are "consumers", and so the people who are paid to help us and answer our questions view us as non-essential and disposable. For every "consumer" that has a problem with their product, there are five who don't dislike it enough to stop buying it. It's all about the bottom line, and as long as they're making money, they could give a shit about your cracked disc. It makes me sad.

On the bright side, if we really are in a Depression, those companies who perform poorly and have bad "customer service" will be the first to go belly up :). In a tight financial market, people will tend to spend what little disposable income they have at places that treat them well. In other words: Don't despair - they'll get theirs ;).

At 2/01/2008 10:55 AM, Blogger e4 said...

Well, I don't hold onto this stuff for very long. I mean, they're lame, I'll try something different next time, and on with life.

I do think that if nothing else, when the economy gets worse, service gets better. People need to hold on tightly to whatever job they have, and businesses need to hold on to customers too.

At 2/01/2008 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've used TurboTax for many years now. It at least will allow you to install just Federal OR State returns from the CD. And you can download updates without registering. And you can use their online/web version without having to purchase and install software at all if you'd rather. In past years when I've had any issues that required customer service (like the year the automatic update choked), I got prompt email customer service within 24 hours and a fix within 48 hours. I highly recommend it.

At 2/02/2008 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use TurboTax every year, and love it. It does appear that the e-filing fees went up this year, as it now costs $17.95 per return. I remember when it was $9.95. :( I've never had any issues with the software itself, and it is very easy to use. And I believe you can just buy federal with no state. Hope you have a better experience next year!

At 2/04/2008 4:52 PM, Blogger Tameson said...

I use - have for over 6 years now and I think it's great NAYY

At 2/05/2008 12:11 AM, Blogger Suzer said...

Argh! You deserve the extra vacation day just for being able to deal with H&R Block...even if you didn't actually take the day...

At 2/05/2008 8:24 AM, Blogger e4 said...

Suzer - The worst part about the vacation thing is that my boss and I were both wrong! I did take one too many days. And according to Accounting, the only thing they can do about it is dock my pay. :(


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