Thoughts by Richard Bleil
There is an old proverb, African if I correctly understand, of a school child who walked for three days to the coast, picked up a pebble, and walked three days back to present it as a gift to the teacher. When she heard the story, the teacher said that he didn’t have to walk so far for the pebble, to which he replied that the journey was part of the gift.
A friend of mine posted on her social media site a shirt that she wanted. It had a cute saying on it, and her friends commented that she could probably just go have one made. Personally, I believe in small businesses, and to protect this business’s intellectual property I decided to buy it for her. My friends and loyal readers know that with my financial situation it’s probably not the wisest decision but doing nice things to other people makes me happy, especially for people with such great hearts as my friend’s. So, I told her my plan, she gave me the information I needed to send this gift to her and her preferences and I log onto the company website to place my order.
That’s when my three-day journey began.
The web order form is buggy. It asked for the mailing address and credit card information, including the CVV code, but not the billing address. This had me concerned. Clearly, they recognized that it may ship to a different address, but they don’t ask for the billing address, or at least the billing zip code? I place the order thinking that, with the CVV code, maybe they don’t need the zip code. I’ve seen this before. The site said the order placed and they’ll send a confirmation email.
The email didn’t arrive.
So, the next day, I hop back on the site, and there’s a messenger link for customer service. I click on it, and it asks for my email address, name, and has a field for a description of the problem. I fill it out diligently expecting a message back, which I did get…but not from a human. It was an automated message response that said “If you have questions regarding your ORDER you can reach customer support…” with a link. Okay, fine, this is a question about an order, so I click the link.
The link asks my email address, name, and it’s feeling very redundant now. Then it asks for my order number, which, with no email confirmation I don’t have. They won’t let me move on without something in that field, but there’s an option for “I don’t have my order number”. So, I click it, and fill in the field, again, for a description of the problem and submit the form. This leads to an automated response that says, “this email address is not found in our system”, and it takes me back to the EXACT SAME PAGE for order customer support, in essence creating an infinite loop.
Still no human response to the original text message.
So today, I decide to give it one last chance. I hop on their website and go to the link for customer support, but instead of clicking the link to check on an order, I click on “Other”. Unfortunately, this led to a secondary, and VERY LIMITED list of “other concerns”. One of the choices, the closest one to my inquiry, was “violation of intellectual property”. I fill out the form and explain that I suspect that a problem in their order form didn’t allow me to place my order, that a bug in their order inquiry page didn’t allow me to check on the status of the order, and that they never responded to my text message. I explained that I try to support small businesses, but that I was ready to give up on them and find a T-shirt print shop and just have them create one for me if I don’t receive a helpful reply or hear from a true human. I received an automated reply saying they take intellectual property violations very seriously and provided a link to formally report such a violation.
Still no reply from a human being.
Customer service these days are horrible. I’ve had so many problems with so many start-ups who try to go fully automatic with orders and customer service that it’s ridiculous. This is another company that has completely lost my business, and I probably will find a print shop to recreate the shirt to support a local small business, knowing that I’m violating their “intellectual property”. Frankly, I won’t feel bad about it; I’ve given them multiple opportunities to sell me a shirt and actually gain a potential future client, but they chose the easier and less friendly path.
Many years ago, as a gift, my mother gave me a very nice leather desk chair. Two thick springs were part of the construction, and a few years later one of them gave out. This is prior to the internet, so I got their address and wrote them a letter explaining what happened, providing a description of the chair and asked how much it would cost to order a replacement spring. A week or so later, instead of an order form, I received not one, but two replacement springs. THAT is customer service.
My friend is a small business owner, and I can tell you that she has this old-fashioned friendly approach to customer service. I’ve never had cause to complain about her business, but I’m sure if there was a problem that she would bend over backwards to make it right. I miss that kind of care for customers, and it’s because of that heart that I want to get this pebble for her.