Thursday, March 5, 2009

Customer Dis-service

Since LeeAnn has posted her Lowe's tale, after getting prompted by Dogettes tale of woe, it seems like kind of a meme thing to post customer unappreciation stories. So here's mine...

I was living and working in Los Alamos (yeah, that one), working as a contract electronics engineering tech on part of Reagan's Star Wars program. Now, Los Alamos is a small town, with only a Sears catalog store for your shopping inconvenience. If you want to actually SHOP, it's off to Santa Fe for you -- a good 35 miles away, down a mountain, across the Rio Grande, then back up a smaller mountain, all on State roads. M'kay?

So, I have a JCPenneys catalog, and decide I need a new computer desk to replace the one that had been beat to death during an assortment of moves. I fill out the order form, get all my part numbers, sizes, colors, and so on filled in, then call their catalog order line. I get my order in, and we're talking a couple hundred bucks by the time I'm done. The nice Catalog lady at the other end of the phone tells me my order should be in the following Wednesday. Cool.

Wednesday rolls around, and after lunch, I call the JCPenneys in Santa Fe to see if my order is there. First, I'm told that the truck is there, but not unloaded yet.

I call back a couple of hours later, and the truck is unloaded, but they haven't got everything checked in yet.

Right before I get off work at 5, I call again, and they can't say whether my shit is there or not. The drone at the other end asks when it was supposed to be delivered, and I tell them that day. He tells me that it's probably there, and to come on in -- even after I tell him, a couple of times, that I'm in Los Alamos.

I get in my car after work and make the drive; damn near an hour, what with the speed limits, getting through the miserable Santa Fe traffic, and all. I get into the store, head back to catalog pickup with my copy of my order form (complete with order number issued me by the Catalog Lady) to get my stuff.

Two people in the Catalog area: an office drone that apparently isn't allowed to deal with the public, and some management-looking type. I finally succeed in getting his attention, and offer up my order form and tell him I'm there to collect my shit (I didn't say it that way, of course -- I try to be polite and helpful in such situations). He deigns to accept the paperwork, and wanders off. Some fifteen to twenty minutes later, he's back, and tells me my order wasn't on the truck.

Now, I'm not happy about driving all the way into Santa Fe, but they hadn't told me that my order was definitely there, either. Staying calm, I ask him what happens next. He tells me that my stuff might turn up the next day, or maybe Friday, and that I should call them again to see when it's there. I ask, and he confirms that the truck arrives pretty close to the same time every day; when I point out that they hadn't known my order status until after I'd left Los Alamos, then I wouldn't really know if they had my order until the day AFTER they got it -- essentially making me wait an extra day. He just shrugged at me, which didn't sit well(!!) with me. I asked what JCP was going to do about getting my order to me, since they'd had me drive in without KNOWING that my order was ready.

He tells me that they wouldn't deliver something like that -- particularly not all the way out to Los Alamos. If I want my order, I'll have to drive in again. Wrong answer.

I told him that I had driven in, because THEY had said my order "should" be there; since they were wrong, I figured it was up to them to get it TO ME. He said that wasn't going to happen. That was the last straw, and I told him that I wasn't making another trip in because he and his crew didn't have their shit together -- that when my order finally turned up, they could just put it out on the floor and wait to sell it. He said they wouldn't do that; if I didn't come in to get it, they'd just ship it back. Restraining the urge to tell him what he could do with my computer desk and other items, I balled my order form up, tossed it over the counter, and walked out.

On the way home, I stopped in at a couple of chain discount places (anyone remember Value House?), got reasonable substitutes for what I wanted, got it all in my car, and headed home.

I was seriously pissed the entire drive, but by the time I got home, I'd calmed down. I was still pissed, but I was calmly pissed. I sat down at my computer and carefully crafted a nice, polite letter to JCPenneys headquarters in Georgia; I told them the sequence of what happened, the gist of my conversation with the Catalog Cretin, and that I'd purchased other items instead of dealing with them.

I also pointed out that I was about to spend several hundred dollars on "winter" clothing (7000 feet up in northern New Mexico, wintertime tends to get a bit nippy), and some other things -- all of which would be bought through the local Sears catalog outlet. I went on to suggest that the Catalog Cretin should maybe spend some time helping load and unload the truck, so he'd get an idea of what was supposed to be going on; I finished by telling them that not only w0uld I not be shopping with them any more, I wouldn't even go into their store to use the BATHROOM.

The page-and-a-half single-spaced letter went into the mail the next day.

A couple of weeks later, I get a phone call from JCP corporate customer service -- my letter has gotten their attention, it seems. The CS weenie in Georgia finally gets me to agree to talk to a regional manager. When I get off the phone with her, it isn't but a couple of minutes before it rings again; it's the RM, who finally gets me to agree to talk to the Area Manager -- who calls me minutes after I'm done with the RM. The last person to talk to me is the store manager, who talks me into accepting a 50% discount on my next catalog order; when I tell him I threw their catalog away, he says he'll have one hand-delivered to me. The next afternoon, after I get off work, there's a knock on the door. I open it, and it's the Catalog Cretin with my catalogs - not just the main catalog, but ALL of them. He's apologizing profusely, and all but grovelling before I take the catalogs and send him on his way.

A few months later, I finally used my 50% discount -- on a metric buttload of furniture (new bed, matress, box springs, headboard, dressers, and a bunch of other shit; I was getting married, and wanted new stuff). That 50% off cost JCP quite a bit more than my original computer desk order was worth...


LeeAnn said...

You are goooooood.
I tend to write a letter whenever a store/utility/television show pisses me off. H says "I'm writin' a letter, dammit!" is going to be on my tombstone.
You did good, sir. Well played. :)

Dave said...

I'm willing to play nice as long as the other side is. If they want to go the "I'm gonna be an asshole" route, well, I can do that, too -- and make them wish they'd poked a bear in the ass with a stick...

Teresa said...

I wish I could get these results. Sadly the only two times I've gotten to the letter writing stage has been with airlines. They could care less. *sigh*

But awesome story in any case. I love it.