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Apparenly, I'm Just That Scary
[Misc] Flowers
I don't think I posted about this, but I've been having a slight run-in with Amazon. I think the important thing to point out is that I usually try to give companies the benefit of the doubt and if there is a problem, if I'm probably the source of it, I just deal with it. Case in point: I accidentally ordered a graphic novel instead of a book from Amazon. I tried to change the order when I caught the mistake an hour later, but it was too late. I called to see and the customer service rep said she thought she canceled the order in time, but if she hadn't, just refuse delivery and send it back to them. Well, she didn't and UPS just left the item for me, so I went ahead and kept it instead of trying to return it, since 1) I'd probably read it anyway and 2) it was my fault.

The other thing to point out here is that I can tolerate mistakes, but I have no patience for bad customer service. I try very hard to be a good, reasonable customer and if a store/service/company doesn't appreciate that, I move on.

It all started when I ordered a textbook for my Cultural Property class. I needed the book ASAP, so not only did I change the address on my account to have it sent to my apartment, but I also paid overnight shipping on it.

Well, I get a notice on my apartment door that I have a package. I go to the front office (where it had been left) and get the package. I go back and open it. Not the right thing. I go back to the office and see if there's another package. I go back and open it again. Still not the right thing. I go to the office a third time, no package.

Okay. I should definitely have it, so I called my parents. After a long, complicated search, they found it. But, oh, yeah, they sent two.

So I have to do without the book for the rest of the week (despite paying overnight shipping). Also, it's weird because at least one of the items I ordered should have gone to my parents house, but, whatever.

Anyway, I get back to my parents that weekend. Turns out that they had billed me for both books and double-shipping on both. So, I send them a message about it, pointing out that not only was the item sent to the wrong address (thus making the overnight shipping absolutely worthless), but I was sent and billed two items and that I didn't think it was fair for me to have to pay return shipping on the item in that case. And I believe that I hinted (or outright said) that this was making me seriously consider whether I wanted to continue with my Amazon Prime membership ($70 per year) and whether I would use Amazon in the future.

Now, it could have ended here. If the reply had been something like "Oh, we're sorry for the inconvenience. Please return the book and we'll pay the shipping costs and refund the extra overnight charges." Heck, I might have been happy with them just paying the return shipping, had the reply been more customer friendly.

What I got was a long email explaining in depth why the wrong address thing wasn't their fault. (They claim I used one-click which sent it to the default address. They failed to address the fact that 1) I manually changed the address on that order and 2) other items ordered the same way went to my apartment.) They didn't even address the fact that I'd been sent two of the same item....or the extra shipping. What really rubbed me the wrong way, though, was the "for dummies" explanation I got about turning off One-Click ordering and links to help pages to explain how refunds worked. Overall, the implication being that the problem wouldn't have occurred if I knew how to order online. Oh, but "to help compensate for this misunderstanding," they made a note to refund the return shipping.

This rubbed me the wrong way. I thought, maybe I just read it in a bad mood and it isn't as bad as it seems. So I gave it a couple of days. Nope, still annoying. Then I gave it another week...nope, still bugged me.

So I sent them a follow-up letter. Basically, I kept hammering away at the "Bad customer service" angle, not the initial problem with the order. I told them that I didn't buy their wrong address excuse, but that really was a non-issue. The issue was the duplicate orders and the extra billing. I would have happily ignored any one of those issues (or even two of them), but three (combined with the poor response) was a bit too much. I then pointed out that while I wasn't sure whether the duplicate order arose from my end or theirs and that I possibly could have stopped the situation in time had I scrutinized the order form (though I've had bad experiences with fixing misplaced orders from Amazon, so it might not have made any difference), there was a good chance that the problem arose from their end. I added that I considered it unreasonable (under that circumstance) to expect me to pay overnight shipping on an item I didn't order, buy packaging to return said item, and then go to the trouble of mailing it back. I also pointed out that I had canceled my Amazon Prime membership and would only use Amazon as a last resort for ordering items. I then pointed out that I had bought about a hundred dollars worth of merchandise in the last week that would have normally been purchased from Amazon and that I was waiting to buy another forty dollars worth of stuff.

The follow-up letter was a little better. Basically, they were not only going to refund the overnight shipping, but they also were giving me a $5.00 credit on my credit card to offset the cost of buying packing materials.

I say a little better because while I appreciated the effort and it would more than resolved the solution had it been the first response, it was a day late and a dollar short and I find it unacceptable to routinely have to contact customer service twice for a satisfactory resolution. (I had a previous problem with Amazon that involved the first person I talked to more or less blowing me off, requiring me to follow-up again.) At that point, I was like "I'm not going to outright refuse to buy from them, but I plan to avoid them as much as possible."

Then I checked my email tonight and found this:

Please accept my sincere apologize for any inconvenience caused in this regard.

Since your business is important to us, I have made a one-time exception to our
policy in this case and issued an advanced refund of $25.53 to your credit card.
As I have refunded the item cost including associated shipping charges, there is
no need to concern.

So, this raises two questions:

1) Should I keep dealing with Amazon?

2) Am I such a bitch that I can make large companies change their policies?

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1) Consider whether Amazon is customarily this stupid in their customer service before you answer that question.

2) Being persistent in contacting a company until they do what they need to do is not bitchy. You may not get a change of policy unless you get it on the news or in the hands of the B3.

1) As I just told someone earlier, the thing with Amazon is that problems with them are rare, but out of the few I've had with them, I can't remember walking away from an interaction feeling good about it. This entire exchange was pretty representative, I think. They seem to rely on the fact that they do have low prices and a good selection to justify having lacklaster customer service and that won't always fly.

2) So you mean that I haven't discovered the superpower of extreme bitchiness? :-( Seriously, I went back and reread my messages to them (and their replies) and while I think I may have been a little terse a couple of times, I wasn't hostile. We just have a society where you feel guilty for causing trouble, I think. And that's how a lot of companies get away with lousy customer service policies.

Man, after the Supernatural Season 3 debacle, I think I'm done with Amazon too. Their e-mail responses were always condescending and never addressed the problem at hand. Plus, I have never dealt with a company less likely to do what it takes to make the customer happy. I got nothing but 'no' and 'do it yourself' from them. And I have to say, any other company would have been offering me free shipping, or discount codes, or gift certificates by that point. Especially when I cancel all my future orders and tell them they've lost my business to Best Buy.

Exactly. I'm glad someone else thinks their responses are like that, because I started to worry that I was reading too much into it. (But, seriously, while I understand the fact that the cable company does have to ask if the television is plugged in every time I call for service because I'm sure a lot of problems are solved like that, I think they could have looked at the fact that I had a long ordering history and realized that I know how to use their site.)

And, yeah, that's really what threw me on Amazon. When there's a problem, I'm usually very focused on solving the issue and how they company can make up for the problem. Amazon seems reluctant to even open that dialog. Besides, from the company's perspective (assuming that the customer isn't someone that has a problem with every order), their concern should be less on whether they did something wrong and more on the fact that they have an unhappy customer and several people who really want her business.

But, yeah, after all that, they gave me five dollars on my credit card to cover the cost of shipping materials. And I spent $5.28 (plus gas) buying a padded envelope and packing tape.

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