Wednesday, October 11, 2006

These Are Not The Bucks You Are Looking For

aka The Buck, What Buck?, part 2

It should be no surprise to anybody who has read my blog entries that I don't mind complaining to companies about their customer service, or lack thereof. Sorry, but I have high expectations of the people that I'm giving my money to -- or possibly giving my money to. Call me a dick if you must. I do also send compliments when warrented, but sadly I find those occasions to be infrequent.

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon recently. I don't know that it's a trend, but I have two or three data points to work with. Here is how it plays out -- I have some experience that causes me to go to a corporate website and fill out a complaint form or a survey or whatever. I get an emailed response saying how sorry the company is and that they will have somebody contact me. But then nobody contacts me!

The first occurence was with CVS. I had reviewed the Sunday ad and written a short list of items that I needed. During my lunch breack one day I went to the nearest store and attempted to find the stuff on my list. Either things were not in stock, not marked as being on sale, or didn't even appear to be stocked at this store. If you are going to advertise something as "Assorted varieties on sale," then I think it's pretty important to actually indicate which of those varieties are, in fact, on sale. Or, if you are going to have a giant portion of the front page of your ad taken up advertising an exciting new toothpaste, I think it's important to have some indication in the store of where one might actually find that toothpaste.

I left empty-handed. I filed a report on their website and a few days later, I got the obligatory "gosh we're so sorry email". Actually, here is what is said (name redacted): "We have received your e-mail and have asked the District Manager, XXXXX XXXXXX to contact you directly regarding the service at the store." Two weeks later, I sent a reply to the email: "I assume that what you mean below is that Mr. XXXXXX has been asked to ignore my comments completely, as I have not heard a thing. I will be happy to take my business elsewhere." There were a couple more exchanges; they wanted my phone number, I refused. Another two weeks went by with no response, I was told that "they" had been in meetings in Florida, and "somebody" would contact me "real soon." That was September 16, and the last I heard anything from CVS.

Round two: Firehouse Subs. A new location of this sub shop opened near my house about two months ago. I decided to check it out one evening. I was a little surprised when the guy who took my order (and money) told me it would be "about seven minutes," but I guess for a hot sandwich that's reasonable. But that seven minutes slowly became ten, fifteen, and nearly twenty before they called my name. And they didn't call my name to give me my tasty meal, no they wanted to tell me that there had been some kind of mix-up and it would be "another few minutes." Now, I'm no food-establishment operator, but when you've at least tripled the time you promised to deliver a meal, wouldn't a free soft-drink or something like that be a nice gesture? "We are REALLY sorry, sir, there's been a mix-up, would you like a free Coke while you wait? We'll bring this out to you as quickly as we can."

Well, yeah, I live in a fantasy world. All I got was a mumbled "sorry for the wait" and eventually, my sandwich. I have to admit, it was pretty tasty, but I do expect a slightly swifter experience when I get what amounts to fast food. Off to the website, filled out the survey. Got a response entitled "Disappointing Web Survey Reply" including the line "One of our representatives will be contacting you to discuss your visit."

Again, I waited two weeks before asking WTF? This time the excuse was that the person who had sent the initial reply didn't pass it along to the right people. OK, fine. But that was September 18, and the last I heard anything from Firehouse Subs.

Look, I don't really care about being contacted. In both cases, that was their idea. But those bucks didn't just get passed, they seem to have disappeared completely from the face of the planet.

Page three: Sur La Table. Fancy, somewhat over-priced kitchen stuff. I was looking around for some small tiles to use on a table that I was building, and in general just looking around. Nobody working there asked me if they could help (which usually I consider a blessing). As I wandered the store, it occurred to me that perhaps I could get gift cards from this place for some of my relatives. But then as I was walking between two display racks, one of the store employees (who apparently was helping some other customers) stepped right in front of me and stuck her arm literally in front of my face to show them something. Quite clearly I was not the droid she was looking for. I said "excuse me" and walked around the other side of the display.

Of course I had to write that one up. In this case, the response I got included an apology on behalf of the whole corporation and then it simply said that "you may be contacted to further resolve this issue." [emphasis added]. So technically they did not overpromise and underdeliver, but honestly, I think this was the most egregious example of customer disrespect I had run into in quite some time. So yeah, they're off the list. Too bad, because I thought getting some strawberry milk flavoring powder for my brother would be amusing.

Again, just take some responsiblity, people.

And please don't make promises you don't plan to keep.


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