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Ever heard of Holding Actions?

George W. Bush Holding A Baby

Recently, I was introduced to a phrase – I’m guessing many of you had never heard of this before either: “Holding Actions”. Definition-wise, this is known as a attack in war where you hold (or deceive) your enemy into a position that doesn’t help them. In the context I was introduced to this, “Holding Actions” are those that are being inflicted on the consumer forcing them to submit to control. This is how we are being (often blindly) screwed by companies – but their tactics remain legal.

Let me give you an example of holding actions. You’ll probably be able to relate to this one. Major phone companies have installed phone systems that are so large and massive that it often takes 20mins or more to navigate them. A routing call to say, Bell, starts with “Emily”, a voice recognition computer(?) that seems to direct you based on what you say. This system doesn’t work that well, then you get to customer service, then to the retention queue, then maybe to the tech support, then a supervisor, all the while requiring a full explanation of your issue to each person you get to. This is Bell performing a holding action against you. Statistically, there must be a very high percentage of callers that will give up in this mess – thus saving Bell money by not having to support fringe, or harder to support customers. Heck, they save money on 100% customers that give up on calls.

Don’t believe this exists? Have you ever gotten a parking ticket? This is a classic holding action. You’ll know the obvious signs of a holding action by how hard they make it to do something you “supposedly” have the right to do. In terms of a parking ticket in Toronto, It is your legal right to plead “not guilty” to a ticket. Now, you cannot call in to plead, you cannot write in to plead, you cannot email to to plead, you must plead in person. A trip to the location where you are to plead – you’ll find there are absolutely no free parking spots. Once paying close to $10.00 or more for parking, your presented with a long line-up and a person at the desk of of questionable happiness. What you pay to exercise your “right” is possibly another parking ticket and a whole lot of time. This is likely effective in keeping 90% of ticket holders from even thinking twice about fighting – innocent or not.

The biggest commodity used against you is time. To most people, time is money. When you force a person to spend large amounts of time, you can be effective in making them submit to your bidding. Companies are doing this to people with great success. Add in some confusion, a little misdirection, and you can increase your margin as well.

There are so many examples of this. Mail in rebates – make you pay up-front, forget about the money that might never come. Load up the shipping charges to make the base price more appealing. Charge you huge prices for phones if you don’t lock into a 3-year plan. Giving you a 0-down mortgage, though you don’t see that your paying an extra $200,000 over that of a normal mortgage because of interest rates. Companies are finding newer ways to do this against customers – most people aren’t even aware of it.

Is there a way to fight back? Well, if you were rich, you’d have all the time in the world to fight this. Sadly, you probably aren’t. There are some ways the we can use this tactic to hurt larger companies as well. One example, when you call a large company like Bell, if you have he time – make the call a very long one. By internal order, Bell representatives are not allowed to drop calls or hang-up on customers. If you hold the call long enough there are a number internal ramifications to this holding action for the person/company/Bell for not servicing your needs in a timely manner.