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LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Blog Roundup

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I didn't have a great retail week. Let's review. We'll start with the positive.

The Good: I went to Hallmark to pick up a card. I counted out the money and handed it to the cashier. She counted it again and handed back a dollar. She could have pocketed it and I obviously wouldn't have known the difference. I thanked her for counting diligently and walked out deciding that the next time I need a card, I will definitely head to Hallmark again instead of the other card shop that I sometimes frequent.

The Bad: I tried to order a pair of pants from J. Jill. Every part of the order was wrong--the billing address, the shipping address, the email address and the item itself despite the fact that the woman taking the order read back all the information to me. I called J. Jill and asked if they could ship the correct pants to the brick-and-mortar store nearby and I would exchange the wrong pants for the right pants. They insisted (despite the fact that this was their mistake) that they could not do that and the only solution would be for me to pay for the pants again that day (and have a second charge to my credit card) and return the other ones to the store whenever I could (and get the reimbursement on the credit card). They officially lost a customer.

I went to the mall to return the pants and the employee at the desk tried to make it right by reordering the correct pants for me, waiving the overnight shipping, and charging the original amount. Which was fine and they can keep the money from that purchase BUT they have lost me as a loyal customer of 9 years. In the end, though she fixed the problem, I received nothing for my trouble (due to their mistakes) and wasted another 2 hours of my life between phone calls and driving. Had they offered me anything for my trouble--a credit at the store, a coupon--they could have kept a customer. But there are too many stores that also have clothing I like and I don't want to shop with a company that makes me spend an additional two hours solving their problems with no nod towards the idea that they care if I stick around.

The Ugly: I wanted to get the twins a new sticker mosaic set, but we've exhausted the limited supply from toy stores in our area. I called A.C. Moore and asked if they carried sticker mosaics by Orb Factory (Orb Factory, if you're reading this, make more sets. We have literally accumulated enough sticker mosaics to wallpaper an entire room). The operator passed me first to a man and then to a woman. The woman went to check the shelves and came back to inform me that they had many sets currently in stock. I asked her if they had the mermaid one and she placed me on hold again to check. She returned to tell me that while they didn't have the mermaid one, they had many of the other ones. I was on hold for a total of 10 minutes. I thanked her and made plans to stop working early and drive to the store.

I went to the store and couldn't find the sticker mosaics. So I asked one employee and she didn't know what I was talking about. She asked a man who told me that he had been the first person I spoke to. He didn't think they carried sticker mosaics, but told me the name of the employee who kept me on hold for 10 minutes checking the shelves. He sent me to speak to a manager who told me they didn't carry sticker mosaics at all. She shrugged her shoulders when I told her the story and said, "I just don't know what happened." She had no other solution than shoulder shrugging.

I left the store and will not be getting art supplies at A.C. Moore in the future. The reality is that she could have assuaged my feelings by apologizing, or telling me that she'd be speaking with that employee to find out why she would tell someone to drive out to the store for an item that they've never carried, or offer to help me find a similar art project for the twins. There were so many things she could have done as a manager that could have (1) gotten the store a sale and (2) ensured that a customer didn't leave the store upset. But now they've lost a customer who shops at the store several times a month to keep the twins in art projects. Again, there are other art supply stores in town, and I'd rather drive out of my way or even pay more to have a better shopping experience.

Feel free to vent your own frustrating shopping experience. In fact...

The Weekly What If: What if due to the mistakes of a store, you were forced to waste an inordinate amount of time during a busy week. You are usually a loyal customer of the store, though there are other options in the area. Would you (1) be cranky for the day but ultimately go back to shopping there, (2) be upset and hold it against the store forever, or (3) assume that it's just part of the retail experience and not have it bother you at all? Or some other reaction entirely? What have you done in reality since this "what if" has likely happened to you at some point?

I have three more BlogHer stories, though two may need to wait for next week lest this post get too long. The first is that Nonlinear Girl asked a bunch of us to take a photo of her head taped to a popsicle stick around the conference because she couldn't attend. I met up with The Bloggess, Not Just About Cancer, and Magpie Musings to bring our respective Nora heads together.

When Nora asked us to do it, she sent us this picture and told us the story about the original head on a stick. The point of his story is I MET THE ORIGINAL HEAD ON A STICK. It is none other than extremely cool Karen MEG at A Day in the Life. When I met her at the conference, I had no idea her connection to the head-on-the-stick story, but once I got home and saw her blog, I found out that she is the original head. And, the best part of the story is that she is a fellow ALI blogger which goes to show that ALI bloggers are the coolest ones in the blogosphere.

And now, the blogs...

Are We There Yet? has a post about her frozen embryos. She can keep them for one more year at her doctor's office and then they need to be transferred. She writes, "I’m having difficulties with thinking of them being transferred somewhere else. Perhaps it’s a concern that something will happen during the transport, or not knowing and trusting the staff at the off site facility, or even something else entirely that I don’t even know." It is posts like these that, for me, illustrated the difference in an Iffers world even after parenthood has been achieved. Why people say once an infertile, always an infertile. Because it's not just that the emotional wounds run deep; it's that in some cases, there are constant reminders.

This one from Outlandish Notions because it made me laugh so freakin' hard. That's all I can say; anything else would ruin it.

Awful But Functioning
has a beautiful post called "Gravitational Pull." It is a heartbreaking post examining what is "normal" parenting after the death of a child's sibling. She writes: "But time is funny now, defined mostly by six particular days. At times those days seemed so painfully long, so brutally eternal, we pleaded with any deities listening to end it and now. And at times, so brief, faster than a insect's life span, caught in a whirlwind of paperwork and decisions and kleenex, before we could know -- before we could know her." My G-d, how can you not click over to read the whole thing after seeing those gorgeous words? It is a post about her living daughter's birthday and your heart will break when you read the analogy of the sun and moon. Your heart will literally break with the beauty and truth and sadness of the words.

Sell Crazy Someplace Else
has a post that kicks ass, calling out her disgust at an article titled "Woman Overcomes Obesity to Adopt Child." Jendeis relates it to her own experience at the clinic. It is not a matter of a true health concern such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, but instead a glance at a number, a cut-off system based on BMI rather than overall health. It is a rallying cry post, one that should be read by everyone.

The roundup to the Roundup: Bitch about your favourite retail experience; you know you want to. I met the original head-on-a-stick! And lots of great blogs to read. Have a wonderful weekend.


MissMeliss said...

i think if all that happened to me in rapid succession, i would have given up on all of them. f'em. that's ridiculous. and especially when driving all the way over there and being told that there was an actual live person who LIED to you?!!! oh hell no.

on other days, i'm much more forgiving... and might go back after awhile.

areyoukiddingme said...

I am a habitual harasser of companies who do not meet my customer service needs. If they ignore me, then I don't go back (unless I absolutely have to). I'd be emailing J. Jill and A.C. Moore (and linking your post!). For the most part, companies are very responsive, and will send coupons for even the silliest of complaints. For instance, I wrote to Kimberly Clark because my Viva paper towels smelled like wet dog when I opened them. They sent me enough coupons to buy $12 worth of Kimberly Clark products for my $1.50 bad paper towels. Energizer sent me $5 coupons when my AAA batteries corroded 2 years before the expiration date (I'd already had the batteries for about 3 years). Pepsi once sent me coupons for 4 free twelve packs because I complained that the aluminum cans from the vending machine at work had faulty opening mechanisms.

I also try to compliment the places where I find good customer service, so I'd probably also be emailing Hallmark.

EWebey said...

There is a particular restaurant I do not go to anymore...I go to other ones within the same chain, but not that particular one after a 3rd times the charm experience.
There is also another restaurant I don't go to because of a tomato incident.
There is also a certain LAB that I don't go to because of their unprofessionalism and I went and filled out the online survey and commented about it. (and won't be returning to that one either.)

Jill said...

One thing I CAN NOT STAND is poor customer service. The only excuse for giving poor customer service is laziness- and that is unacceptable.

I think it would depend on a lot of things as to whether or not I would go back. If I had always had pleasant experiences with that store before, I would give it another chance. However, if it was the first time I was visiting somewhere and got poor service, I won't return. so annoying. I think I'm starting to rub off on my husband, too... he notices more and more lately.

Bea said...

I would get upset and swear off ever using the store again and say I was going to write a letter but eventually forget my anger and maybe even go back there, if it was convenient and they had what I wanted. But never the same loyalty factor. In my case, letters have had no real response.


Chelle said...

I'm with you, those comapnies would lose me as a customer too. It irritates me when they do nothing to apologize for it either.

Along those lines, I went to get an HPT this week and stopped at a store next to my work. They keep everything copulation-related under lock and key. EVERYTHING. It will be a cold day in hell before I ask anyone to please get me a pregnancy test from a cabinet like I'm a 16-year-old girl who has to ask the school nurse. Not only that, but do they really expect me to ask anyone for assistance in getting a box of rubbers and lube?! I will drive 5 miles down the street and pay more for any of those items before I ask someone to assist me with getting them. Seriously. They definitely lost my business in that department.

kate said...

I was printing photos for my art class at Walgreens, and dude behind the counter told me they'd be ready in 20 minutes.

I left, came back at the time he told me they'd be ready, and found no one at the photo counter. I was then informed by one of his co-workers that the photos weren't ready, and that immediately after I left, dude went on his lunch break. Great.

When I asked the manager about it, about his employee who understood that I was in a hurry, who quoted me a certain time and who then proceeded to take actions that completely prohibited that expectation from being met, the manager acted like I was being a total bitch for wondering why that was acceptable. I told him to cancel my order and that I would be taking my photo business to the CVS across the street. And mysteriously, my photos were suddenly found sitting on top of the (automated) machine.

I mean, I understand that dude might have needed a lunch break (at 9:30 a.m., but whatever). And I understand that mess-ups happen. And I understand that the dude was probably not paid very much and thus probably cared very little as to whether or not he set expectations with me that he couldn't meet. But for the manager to act like I'm out of line for raising a complaint? That was it, really.

Unfortunately, I'm too enmeshed in the pharmacy there to take all of my business elsewhere, but I generally avoid that store if I don't have some pressing urgent need. I mean, there are three similar stores within a one block radius. And despite what the corporate head may think, they are virtually interchangeable. They all offer standard drugstore wares, they all have a photo lab, and they all have a pharmacy, they are all national chains. Why should I use one over the other? If you act like a jerk to me, you've just made that decision for me.

Jen said...

I have a lifelong boycott of AT&T for charging me after I canceled my cell phone and then not doing anything. I asked them to meet me in the middle, they refused, and I told them they lost me as a customer for the next seventy years. (I'm six years into my boycott.)

Sunny said...

Can I share a positive shopping experience instead? I recently bought a t-shirt for Bean from It's super cute, it says: "Same Shirt, Different Day. I recycle." Anyway, when it arrived in the mail, it had some smudges on it where the printing rubbed off. I emailed the owner, and she is sending me a new one (without making me send the first one back) and including another t-shirt that I expressed interest in -- for free! Now that's how you keep customers coming back. :)

Tash said...

Aww, thanks for the shout out.

It depends on the store, and how frequently I go (there's frequent and then there's frequent). For example: I really have run out of grocery options -- I hit the best one. And when the best one lets me down, I fill out a form telling them that they really need to carry x, y, or z (or more of it) because I'm tired of running to 3 stores a week, and they'll just get more of my money if they do. In the case of Macy's, however, I finally just let them go. I tried to continue being a customer after the merger even tho the number of people working there went down precipitously, and the stores (regardless of location) started to look like a hurricane went through moments before my arrival. I can't find anything there anymore, and there's no one to help me purchase it once I do.

Lorza said...

I definately boycott stores. I also have written letters and emails. I think poor customer service is one of the reasons some stores have gone out business. There are many choices out there, and I too will drive 5 more mintues or pay 10 extra dollars on my grocery bill to know that I am shopping at a place that cares. Imagine how they treat things when these employees are OUT of your sight? What about your credit card numbers?

I have learned from my mother who boycotted CBS around 10 years ago (I don't remember why..), and has even taken programmed her TV to skip it.

nonlineargirl said...

Wow, good work tracking down the original head's owner! The ALI connection is funny. If I had known I would have sent her a picture of me holding her head so we could have gotten a picture of her holding me holding her!

Mrs. Gamgee said...

Wow... I have stories I could tell... The experiences you've had recently happen all too often (and I'm sorry that you've had to deal with it), but I wish to speak in the defense of retail for just a bit.

I have worked in retail for more than ten years, and most days I love my job. Excellent customer service is ALWAYS the goal. While experience has proven time and again that the old adage 'the customer is always right' is not true, how a store handles a customer complaint will determine if they can retain the customer's loyalty. In the same token, how the customer approaches the situation will directly affect the response they get. I have had customers throw books at my head, have had customers call a 16 year old cashier a lying b*tch, and have had to escort beligerent customers from my store and ask them not to return. I often coach my staff to remember that we don't know what's going on in the lives of our customers that is affecting their mood, and to not take difficult customers personally. I think the principle works in reverse. Retail is a tough industry, especially when you consider that the majority of the people who are willing to work in retail lack the maturity to be proactive and problem solve for the customer. (this however shouldn't apply to those in management)

So what's my point? We all need to cut each other some slack.

Mandie said...

I've got a million stories from when I both worked in retail and from my own personal experiences as a customer. Regardless, as a customer, I always write if I've had memorable service, either bad or good. Although, for bad, unless it's extreme, I'll usually give them a second chance before complaining.

Once I had a horrible experience at O'Charley's and wrote them to comment about the quality we had recieved and got a $40 gift card so my husband and I could give it another try.

After a few really REALLY bad experiences at a local McDonalds, I wrote to complain about the various issues and they sent me a coupon for a free value meal. The kicker? The coupon was 5 years expired.

I won't be visiting Motherhood Maternity when I get pregnant again (assuming I actually stay pregnant long enough to need maternity clothes) due to a bad experience I had. I had gone in for my very first maternity store experience (I had never went before I was pregnant). I had a lot of questions about various things and was actually going to buy a bigger bra with more support. As you can imagine, I was excited to be pregnant and going to the maternity store. The ENTIRE (read: 45 minutes) I was in the store, the ONE clerk was on the phone (with an obviously personal phone call) and never even asked if I needed anything or acknowledged me being in there. I wrote to complain and never heard back (not even an "we're sorry that happened, please give us another try" email).

Kristin said...

Not only would they lose my business, but I would both email and write a letter to the national management of these companies and I would cc the store management and regional management. I would include a link to this post and information about just how many people read your blog and now know about the shitty service.

I do the same when I get exceptional customer service too.

Kami said...

This is why I rarely visit your blog anymore. Wait . . . this is actually a compliment.

You see, time for me is very short these days. I don't know how other people do it, but I seem to work, eat, sleep and be a mom. I can barely keep up with the DE and other blogs I follow.

Then I come here and I have opened up just about every link you mention - even googled the sticker mosaics so I can check it out.

Plus I want to comment on the retail experience.

So now I will be spending 30-45 minutes shopping and reading posts - some of which I know will make me angry or happy or sad or all of the above. It will be time consuming and emotionally draining yet uplifting at the same time.

All this and I haven't even got the comment about the retail experience yet.

Do you see why I am afraid to come here? You are just too good at what you do! I know you have a calling to be a personal organizer . . .the next time you are in Eastern Washington maybe you could organize my life so I can read your blog more often.

Thanks for doing what you do. You are the glue for this community.

Now . . . the retail experience.

As someone who has worked with the public all my career and mostly in tech support I am constantly amazed at how bad people can be at it. What does it cost to apologize? Not to brag (but of course that means I am going to) but I think the only reason I was allowed to go part time at my company is because I am good with very unhappy customers. I listen, empathize, apologize and then do what I can to fix their issue and make them happy. It costs me nothing and often enhances my relationship with the customer.

Now my worst retail nightmare: I was calling about my internet service being down a few years ago. I would be on hold for about 15 minutes and then I would just get dropped. Finally I got through and told the tech what was going on (so they would be aware and would fix it) I was shocked when I was told that they do that on purpose so there won't be too many people on hold!

I switched companies within the week.

As for your question . . . I would complain to the manager and if I didn't feel I was heard or understood would move on and not come back - at least for several years.

Well, I'd better get back to work. Nice to "see" you again.

Wishing 4 One said...

Um makes me feel alittle dumb for missing that "great customer service back home..." I know it happens there too, but here imagine that being an everday occurence, sucks. But i have dissed many a company back home in US for being aholes and they lost me as a customer. Here you complain, you threaten you will not shop there again, their reply "ente hora"... "its your choice"!

amelie said...

Verizon -need I say more - today in fact. My daughter's phone broke (2 months old) the same way her previous phone broke while we were out of state. We were advised to return to our home store becasue these phones have a problem with the charger port. I arrived home 6 days after "warranty" and so was charged $50 AGAIN. I spent more than an hour taking up the time of 3 employees in my passive aggressive stance to at least waste $50 of their time. I'll also e-mail etc. I would switch companies but they are the only service we get around here, said daughter is 16 and travels on her own.

And Sears - boycott them please. $186 charge for a fix that took less than 4 minutes and required no tools although I was told by service over the phone that I couldn't do it on my own - too difficult. On a fridge less than a year old. Plus 65 for the part. I went all the way to the top. No response at all. I will do NO business with anyone associated with Sears. I miss Land's End - switched to Bean.

Michelle said...

My worst experience was at a restaurant. My mom, my sis and I went to Big Boy for lunch. We sat talking for a while and then someone came and took our order after about 30 min. Then someone different came and delivered the food. then our 1st server came back and handed us the bill but he never came to ask if we were ok or if we wanted anything else. We wanted refills on our drinks so we said so. He said nothing and walked away. We were left to wonder if we were getting anything. 10 minutes later he came back with drinks.

Anyway, so when we left we were paying our bill and my sister said to the person taking our money (and nicely I might add because she used to be a waitress and knows people can have an off day)..."Just so you know the person serving us was not very polite or friendly. He never asked if we needed anything and when we did ask for something he just would walk away without a response". She stared at us blankly so we started to walk away because we weren't looking for anything except maybe an apology but we thought we were clearly not getting it so rather then make a big deal out of it we would leave and then we hear..."Well that was because you were such TERRIBLE customers!"

I could not believe what I had just heard and my sister swung around so fast and said get your manager...NOW!!! The manager did come out apologizing but we have never been back.

Who says that? We were never rude or was the craziest thing I had ever heard. The look and response from my sister though was PRICELESS!

Now for me anytime I do not get service or product that I think meets standards I email the company. I love to email but I must say I will also send a letter when someone did a really good job. I figure if I am going to complain then I should compliment when justified too!

Coffeegrl said...

I've had nothing but ideal customer service from LL Bean - it's why I love them so much. Other probably depends on the day. If I'm a regular, I tend to chalk it up to just a bad day. But if I get dumped on a second time, I may not return.

I'm terrible at asserting myself and my rights as a customer. Even when I try I think I'm too nice and generally don't get results if there's pushback from the store.

The customer service in Japan is amazing and something I *really* miss.

WiseGuy said...

There was this one restaurant that totally went out of our favourites list...

This was some time before I finished my MBA. Parents, bro and me were at a restaurant for dinner. When the bill arrived, bro found that we had been charged for a dish we did not order/consume. When we got that corrected, we found that there was a totalling blooper. When we got that done, there was another mistake found in the bill and the entire joy of the dinner was thrown away. Even more irritating, was that the waiter would not get the bill checked properly, he would just go to and fro and only get the pointed glitch repaired.

The waiter got a poor tip, and once we went out the door, we never went back for another meal.

the mama bird diaries said...

Is it me or have the cost of cards gotten ridiculous. I was in one of those fancy card stores, and I picked up a card for $6.95. I'm sorry, but that's not a card. That's a gift.

Nice of her to give you the dollar back.

Hez said...

I began my boycott of Perkins in 1998. Horrible, terrible, very bad experience with a manager whose name I can still tell you. I cheered when that particular location went under, but I still haven't gone to any others.

I fired our previous car dealership 4 or 5 years ago when they forced me to bring in a coupon for $50 off service on my husband's vehicle after we'd just spent $2k servicing my vehicle the month before. They had mailed us said coupon, but wouldn't take my word for it over the phone when my husband realized he'd forgotten to bring it. So when I got there, I told the service manager in no uncertain terms that the next vehicle purchase and all our dealer-provided service would be at a dealer out of my way. I also wrote them a letter, and we continue to boycott them (and badmouth them to anyone who will listen, quite frankly).

And I boycotted the Target closest to me for several years because their customer service people were rude. Target as a corporation didn't lose me 'cause the next closest store had competent staff. If they'd stepped over the line once, I'd have quit them altogether.

I call 1-800 numbers when something disappoints me, and I compliment good service. No one will know they've screwed up that badly (or done that well!) unless we tell them so.

BabyonBored said...

I just want to say I absolutely loved your blog reading at the keynote at BlogHer. I was sitting with Alexa and crying. Just thought I'd share. And now that I have, I'll go back to well...nothing.

Cassandra said...

This is part of the reason why I shop at mom and pop stores when at all possible, rather than corporate chains, even if it costs a bit more. (I also like to support small local business, on principle.) They generally value loyal customers, and will work to keep them. When there's a problem, there's a much higher likelihood of actually getting it solved, on the customer end (making it right) as well as on the employee end (retraining, reprimands, firing).

I've been doing the same thing online lately -- online versions of small businesses and Etsy, mostly. They have consistently been making problems right as well as going out of their way to earn my business.

When I do shop at chains, I don't ditch if I have a bad experience with one employee, because an entire corporation can't be accountable for one jerk (though the infraction grows in my mind when I move up the chain of command and still don't find anyone helpful). I've had a couple of quite bad experiences at J. Jill, but I've also had many good experiences.

I am damn cranky the day of a bad customer service experience, for sure. It's truly baffled my husband when I've occasionally come home in tears, because he does not let such things bother him.