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The COVID Excuse

When a company mistakenly double-charged my firm for the month, I learned that an email was insufficient, and that I had to call customer service to fix the situation. Mistakes happen, but for some reason, the customer service agent was not so apologetic. When I pointed out that it was bizarre that I had to call and spend so much time on the phone because of an error on their end, they started listing how many clients they have to serve “despite a global crisis”. This was in September 2021, and the company is located in Boston, which is not quite the epicentre of the pandemic these days. “All right, but what does the pandemic have to do with you double-billing me?”

I cannot be the only one getting sick of the COVID Excuse. Because of the never-ending pandemic, companies are still trying to use COVID to cover for their mistakes, even when it is irrelevant. Take, for example, restaurants throughout the United States. Many company owners are complaining that they cannot find enough workers, and they blame COVID for their inability to keep the restaurant fully staffed. But while complaining, they often fail to mention that they are offering dismal wages for workers; restaurants that pay more than the minimum wage are not suffering to the same degree. Yes, there has been a paradigm shift in their industry, and employees are demanding significantly higher salaries, but pretending that this shift never happened is not an acceptable excuse.

From the Pack

The good news is that it is now easier than ever for good companies to distinguish themselves from the pack. Because there are so many companies using the COVID Excuse in bad faith, competent customer service now really stands out. I have noticed that my clients are especially thankful these days for the same level of customer service that I provided before the pandemic. That’s because I am not the only one that has noticed the overall deterioration of customer service in the last year and a half. I recently stayed in a 4-star hotel in London that still has many pandemic-related restrictions in place. Well, the more that I think about it, the only restrictions they still have in place are the ones that save them money: they offer cleaning only once every three days, and they have kept their executive lounge shuttered. This reduction in savings has not resulted in savings for the consumer; prices are higher than they were pre-pandemic.

Things get trickier when we look at COVID excuses at the personal level. People have suffered immensely throughout the world, and the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic have been staggering. Some people suffered far more than others and faced harsher, stricter, and more protracted lockdowns. These lockdowns were tough, and that caused many people to gain weight and develop some bad personal hygiene habits. But we have to face the fact that continuing through life with an extra ten kilos will hurt us in the long run. And reversing course is going to require some short-term pain. People and businesses alike cannot continue using the COVID excuse in bad faith; it will only hold them back from getting their businesses and lives back on track.