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Elephant in the room

buttercupcrankyIt’s not cool to whine, right?

I don’t want to be one of those websites where people come to complain. But there’s at least one company that I just cannot do business with any more. Their website is nonfunctional, the staff seem to be completely out to lunch; I’ve never had a transaction go smoothly. They advertise – they keep dragging me in to the site – but they almost never have what I want, and on those rare occasions I try to buy from them, it’s a hassle.

But where can we talk about that? Is there a non-whiney way to talk about businesses that don’t serve you well?

I hate those Yelp comments that all sound the same. You can tell when someone’s just flat-out nuts. “The waitress took 5 minute to bring my kid a coloring sheet! We’ll never go to this restaurant again!!!!” But I think it’s tougher to tell the real complaints from the fake ones planted by other businesses or people with a grudge – and that’s exactly why they do it.

I don’t think there’s a good way to point a finger that isn’t kind of douchey. At least on the web.

I HAVE developed a list of criteria for a business I do not enjoy working with. When these things start showing up (or disappearing), I start taking my compulsive shopping habits elsewhere…

1) They advertise products that aren’t in stock.

This makes me insane. There’s no reason for it. In today’s world, even with the brute force of an employee and a computer, your inventory can be mostly up to date. But I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about items LISTED for WEEKS, and it says “Sold out.” Well… Till when??? Forever? This week? WTF is going on??? I have no idea if I should try to maintain a tenuous relationship with this business because eventually they will have what I want, or if it’s all just a tease.

2) It takes longer than a week to ship.

Again: not that tough to do, at least for a business. I know people who sell things on eBay who make it a point to get to the post office at least twice a week. Are you telling me a retail establishment can’t do better? Honorable mention in this category is Nordstrom, which has the slowest shipping processes of any retailer I ever met. To counteract that they keep you super-informed, telling you two or three times that the product you want is going to ship. I have to say, eventually it just sounds like “Na na na na na…”

3) They repeatedly demonstrate that they know the product line less than I do.

I know there’s sales associates out there who don’t know product lines that well. It’s forgivable to me. But I don’t expect a business overall not to know the field. There’s one business where they constantly act surprised that 50 ml bottles are manufactured for products they only carry in 100 ml sizes. That starts to get up my nose. Either they don’t know – which they should, and offer to special order for me – or they’re fibbing. Silly, for the margin on a 100 ml bottle over a 50 ml. Don’t.

4) Just random-ass shit happens – which I don’t find out about till I ask.

I don’t need a communication every day, which seems to be the standard nowadays in retail, where I tend to get an email when my order is placed, when it ships, and nowadays, even when it is delivered. Plus an email afterwards asking me for my feedback.

I don’t need that level of communication. Honestly. I have enough stuff in my in-box. It’s OK. Relax.

But what does bug me is when I have to follow up on a transaction (and I always wait quite a while) and find out something random happened. “Oh, we don’t have that after all.” “Oh, we’re on vacation.” “The person who does that won’t be back for another week.” “Oh, you didn’t get that? – let me find out where it is.” This makes me nuts. WTF is going on??? Was there a point at which you were going to communicate that to me? What would have happened if I hadn’t checked?

Hey, if it’s someone working out of their garage, great. But again, this is the age of computers. Copy all your customer email addresses from (start date) to (end date) and email them – “Our offices are closed for vacation next week, but we’ll be back next week and all your orders will go out!” Anything.

It’s as if having my money creates no sense of urgency for them at all – not even a real interest. I wonder if they feel that way when it’s their money involved?

ANYway. That’s too much negativity for me for one day.

How ’bout you? Do you have criteria you start ticking off when a business ticks YOU off? Have you crossed businesses off your personal list, though you’re too polite to say so?

Image is “Cranky 3/4” by sharyn morrow, via Flickr; used under Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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12 comments to Elephant in the room

  • I have had a bad experience with a niche perfume company that ticked all he boxes next to your criteria in a most effortless way. I admit that I did go ahead and buy from them after the bad experience just because I liked the damn perfume so much. Recently they approached me with an offer for a set of samples and I have been sitting and waiting for the samples to arrive for the usual aeon that takes them to notice they are not doing their job. It is a small house though and I am too generous a person to shout out them out.

    • Judith

      See, for some reason I think it is admirable not to noise it about too much… but some of these companies, how will they ever know their service is execrable? They don’t do customer satisfaction surveys, after all!

      • It is just a small niche perfume company and they have some really good perfumes and I understand that at this stage a perfume cannot juggle everything and they don’t have a lot of money to hire someone who has done this before. The combination of all these things can lead to disaster.

        • Judith

          It’s very true! I realize how small a world perfume really is when I realize (to be frank) how many bad businesses there are in that world, and how much on the edge so many of them must be. But perhaps it’s that way in a lot of business arenas. There certainly are a lot of business people who lack some of the things it takes to be successful in business. Plus it’s really hard.

  • Are you going to tell us which store? 🙂

    I’m not polite because I want the world to know when I am wronged. I won’t make things up but p-ss me off once and that’s it.

    I’ve sworn off the Perfumed Court and have made comments at NST and Kafka’s blog. When I got my samples, many of them had leaked and the reporting / returning / replacement process was tedious and assumed you’re lying to begin with. When I FINALLY got my replacement, it took them 3 weeks because…they ran out of atomizers — ummmmmmm, that’s just like Pizza Hut closing shop because it ran out of pizza dough! Never again. Surrender to Chance now has ALL my business and I don’t care that sometimes the discount is better at TPC.

    On the other hand, Nordstrom had been superfabulous for me although I usually have them ship the items to the store so I can just pick up whenever I’m in the store and not have to worry about deliveries and the vagaries of the weather.

    • Judith

      See, I think naming names just leads to badness. I think you might have been the person at NST who was warning someone else away from TPC… and I pointed out I’ve been using TPC with no problems at all. I think just trying to spread a decent warning can come off as bad blood – and no one’s really trying to do that, are they? But then as I just also commented, these companies never do customer satisfaction surveys, and as long as they stay in business they probably assume they are doing well. I wish there were more ways for them all to get feedback!

      Totally agree that if a perfume shipper runs out of atomizers, that’s like Pizza Hut running out of dough. 🙂 Also that Nordstrom is fabulous. I love them. (Though I’ve had TERRIBLE experiences picking things up in the store while it was under construction. Total chaos.)

  • It’s no fun when you won’t say what shop it is. 🙂
    I haven’t sworn off a brand/shop but I think it’s mostly because I no longer buy stuff online from anyone. Well, when it comes to perfume I generally don’t buy stuff anymore as I have a problem dealing with the amount I already have and until I have it under control, no more adding to collection.

  • SallyM

    I think its okay to name names if you do so in a way helpful to others and with good reason for your complaint – ie, not just as an excuse for a bitch-fest. I feel that if you don’t name the company then you cant give others the heads up, although I’m aware that while I may have had a particular issue, many others may not. It also may be that the company might do something about it if they see people making the same complaint (HA! – ever hopeful here). Whenever I buy something online, I always do research first to see what sort of feedback that item has had and am glad of it, warts and all.
    I’ve also had problems with TPC for the same reasons – leaks, difficulty in getting replacements.
    I hate it when you gleefully find something you want to purchase, go to the site and see the dreaded OUT OF STOCK banner. I always groan aloud “For how long?” For the love of the sanity of perfumiacs – give us some indication of when our addiction might next be fed!

    • Judith

      You make a very good point – companies need feedback! I feel it’s a stronger point to send it straight to the company (and hope they address it) than to noise it around the internet. At least until they’ve ignored (or responded negatively to) my complaint. THEN I feel totally comfortable telling EVERYONE what I think! (I haven’t shopped at Old Navy for many years because they stopped carrying plus sizes on the floor of their stores, only online.Guess this fat girl will take her business elsewhere! And guess what, I bought clothes for my husband there as well, plus other little items. No more, because there’s no reason for me to go to their business!

      Clearly we need to start a campaign – ANY “out of stock” marker needs to say FOR HOW LONG! Otherwise, as Undina points out, it really could be considered just bait and switch. There’s one perfume retailer online (I forget which one but it’s really obvious) that never has any of the rarer scents, but lists them all with a “Contact me if this comes back into stock” link. Such a transparent way to gather email addresses to which they market completely different scents. NO.

  • I don’t think that all bad comments are necessarily bad – as long as they have enough details for me to judge if a commenter has a legitimate complaint or just being unreasonable.

    I’m sensitive when it comes to a customer service. I think I have a feeling about what should be expected from any type of business I’m dealing with, on any price level. And if I were to go to a restaurant that advertises itself like a children-friendly place where parents can relax and enjoy food while staff entertains their kids and then had to deal with a bored child for anextra five minutes I would be pissed to. On the other hand, had I chosen an inexpensive pop and mom cafe, I would be rather pleasantly surprised if they had a coloring sheet for my kid or figured out where to find it in 5 minutes.

    When it comes to perfume shopping, I make a point NOT to look for anything else on a website that lured me in promissing the perfume I was looking for just to tell me “Out of Stock” on the actual page: use your bate-and-switch on somebody else.

    Ormonde Jayne is a brand with customer service of which I’ve been disappointed more than once. Currently my biggest complaint about them is that the’ve changed the packaging (in my opinion, it looks MUCH cheaper) but on the website they keep old pictures and description of that packaging. My parfum bottle looks more like a tester bottle than a finished product and my e-mail with questions about it was left unanswered. Will I still buy from them? I might if I come across one of their new perfumes that I love. But I’m not going to actively seek samples – just because I have that bad feeling about the brand.

  • Judith

    I think that there is frequently a very large disconnect between what the consumer is expecting (though perhaps not with you, as you are sensitive to this) and what the business thinks it provides. Especially today when consumers’ expectations about what retail establishments can and will do in the age of the internet. I’m amazed at how professional even eBay sellers are these days – and eBay encourages them to be because it’s good for business. I’m perfectly willing to wait two weeks for something if the company sets that expectation out front. (Well, not if I can get it sooner someplace else. And that’s the competition problem.) But honesty is always the best policy.

    I HATE when people don’t ship me the packaging their website pictures. I always feel duped even if it hasn’t really been a substitution of juice. I am still bitter about an Amazon seller that sent me a bottle different from what was pictured, which was the old packaging that I very specifically wanted. So annoying!

What do you think?