Passive aggressive service recovery: Does it work? You tell me!

I dragged myself to a well know phone store last week for a long overdue upgrade. I know this task can be achieved online but I don’t have the patience to trawl through all the technology. I just wanted a human being to show me three options and to transfer the data. Boom!

The store opened three quarters of an hour late and this, I was told, is because they need two people to open it in case they 'get robbed’. Now, I don’t dispute this as perfectly reasonable excuse but, answering the phone or leaving a note on the door could have diluted my annoyance of being made to wait outside, whilst also being ignored by someone that could see me as clearly as I could see them. Moreover, when this person did open the door, he didn’t smile or apologise for the inconvenience. No siree! After letting the second staff member in ahead of me (presumably so I couldn’t rugby tackle him to the ground and ‘rob' him before she could get her foot in the door) he stated the potential insurance issue and turned back into the shop. When I grumbled he swung round and told me that ‘It wasn’t his problem’. I said ‘wow’ and left.

I was cross about his attitude but furious about the time I had wasted. It wasn’t like I was buying a pair of shoes. It was a work job on my day off. I called their customer services department. They weren’t open either, despite the website saying they were, and the answer message referred me back to the website with a cheery ‘thank you and goodbye.’ I emailed my annoyance instead and received a generic reply from someone called Liam, who apologised and said it would be referred to the store manager and then some pasted in, generic text: ‘Your feedback is very important to u' and 'We can't tell you the outcome of your complaint due to data protection laws bla bla bla’ I was a little insulted with his disingenuous response, so I replied saying so. This email was responded to by someone else with a similar apology and the same generic, cut and paste text. I replied again, and the same response came back from someone else. Out of sheer curiosity I sent another reply and the same thing happened a fourth time, at which point I had to admit defeat. In fairness, my angst had been replaced with bemusement, so if their desire was to disarm me it had totally worked!

Is this passive aggressive 'service recovery' tactic intentionally designed so the customer eventually loses the will to live? Is there some highly paid psychologist and maths genius that got together to come up with this magic formula?

I wonder, when a company gets to a certain size, do they not need to worry about a river of complaints? Do they all just become another drop in the ocean?