Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Fine Art of Poor Customer Service x3

Poor customer service happens to all of us, but hopefully not often enough to really upset us. But in my case, in a span of just a few days, I have been put off from three separate poor customer service experiences. To make matters worse, these are businesses that I have been very happy with in the past, but after a long break, I may resume doing business with them. Here are the situations:

As a slave to health and beauty products, I routinely visit each of my cosmetic junkie hangouts at least once a month. Last Thursday (April 4th), I went to the Ulta store to exchange a product I bought a few days earlier because I had an allergic reaction to it. I loathe to exchange/return things because I'm very selective in what I buy and I'm usually quite happy with purchases, even brand new items. But in this case, the Neutrogena shimmering renewal lip balm I bought gave me an allergic reaction. Part of my shopping routine at Ulta, and as a member there, I receive coupons of $3.50 off purchase of $10 or more. My total purchase with the lip balm came up to $14, so it qualified. Since I bought this lip balm that cost $9, I figured I would just exchange it for another Neutrogena product, like makeup removal face wipes. Perfect for my upcoming overseas trip! And it was two dollars less than the lip balm. I went inside the store, picked up the makeup removal wipes and proceeded to the check out counter.

I explained to the cashier that I wanted to return the lip balm because of an allergic reaction (I even had the packaging and receipt). So she processed the exchange and then went on to proclaim that I OWED $1.14. I was confused because the makeup wipes cost $2 less than the balm so why do I OWE money, I'm expecting a small credit at least. Well, as it turns out, when I use my rewards coupon on a purchase, IF I return/exchange something from the original receipt, and that new product is less than $10, my previously used rewards coupon from the original purchase, is canceled. WTF? So I was left with the option to pay MORE and lose my reward coupon, or just return the balm and have my credit card credited. On principle, I told her to just return the lip balm, and I'll go buy the damn makeup remover at another store. Just on principle. This policy makes no sense, it is designed to punish the loyal customer with daring to make an exchange! Neutrogena products can be bought ANYWHERE, and I'm going to take my money elsewhere to buy it. This pissed me off because I thought I was doing ULTA a favor by demonstrating my loyalty by seeking an exchange and my still saving a measly dollar and some change. Needless to say, I won't bother with them for a while because there are way too many places for me to go to buy my health and beauty needs.

On that same day, in anticipation of my trip to London, I clicked on my bookmarked link to my favorite London spa, Sanctuary in Covent Garden. My dear friend Lucinda got me hooked on this place in 2009, and since then, on two subsequent visits, she and I have been there again. So I was anxious to go to the website to review the spa packages and coordinate with Lucinda our spa plans. However, I was very confused when instead of visiting the usual UK site, my browser automatically deferred me to the new American version of the Sanctuary website. I tried manually entering in but the browser would convert it to  which is the American version of the UK spa. What.the.hell? I tried using a different browser like Firefox, I even logged off my computer and then logged back on. Nothing, still the same results. Apparently Sanctuary UK is branching off into America... well, that's all fine and dandy, and good for them. But that should in no way impede my trying to visit the UK website of a London spa I have been of customer of since 2009, and just visited the website in late February.

So I sent twitter comment to @sanctuaryspa explaining the difficulties I was having in visiting their site to make a booking inquiry. They told me to try to use another browser. Duh, gee, it didn't work, thanks a lot. So I sent an email to and it took them four days to reply back to me. I wrote a very thorough description of my concerns and problems and needed their assistance. Here is the response:

Dear Simone
Thank you for your e-mail.
A US version of our website has launched in the past few weeks so this will be what you are now seeing.
The US site has information on certain products but nothing on spa vouchers as they are no longer available to ship overseas.
Regrettably the internet will always route you to the US site.  All we could suggest would be to maybe try and bring the website up by going via google uk.
We are sorry that we have been unable to help you more with your issue.
Kind regards
As you can see, this is not a proper response and it does not provide a resolution. I immediately replied back to 'Denise' but a full 48 hours later, she has yet to reply back. Firstly, the act of mailing the spa vouchers is an antiquated business concept as said voucher should be Emailed in this day and age. Previous visits, I just had the voucher mailed to Lucinda's London home. As I have recently discovered, nearly 100% of spa competitors in the London area email their vouchers to clients. The voucher is your proof of purchase of your spa treatment itinerary. One would then call/email the spa to make the actual appointment for the spa package. In my search for an alternative spa, I found many lovely spas that I look forward to getting acquainted with on future trips to London. After reviewing several dozen spas and being mindful of my budget, and my spa preferences, Lucinda and I have selected Amida Spa in Chelsea:

I'm quite looking forward to a 55 minute intensive full body deep muscle massage and full use of the spa for £65! The money I would have spent at Sanctuary would have been around £130. Mind, in US dollars, that's a shit load of money, but I thought it was worth it for my once a year indulgence at a spa, and a top notch one in London, England to boot! But the mere thought of saving 65GBP thrill me to bits! And so I have tweeted this info to sanctuary and I emailed my plans to sanctuary. They haven't lost me forever, but this is an example of poor customer service in preventing American visitors to view the UK Sanctuary site in order to make a booking. The American site is half-assed complete, and it looks amateurish and ill conceived. It's a poor and blind woman's version to the UK site. So until Sanctuary UK website get their shit together, my hard earned, converted from dollars to pounds money is going to a British spa that has a website developed to provide customer service, efficiency, and convenience to non-British customers.

And then on Friday, for lunch, I visited the People's Food Co-op in the Kerrytown section of Ann Arbor, near downtown. I love walking to this area for lunch, and I enjoy shopping at the co-op because they have natural and wholesome groceries there. I went there to get a fruit and some Cliff bars. There can be some strange people that shop there, these neo-hippies who police their bodies and minds with only the finest and freshest of foods. One man nearly ran me over twice trying to navigate the small aisles. As I approached the check out area (there are only two lanes in this small store), one had 2 customers, and the other just had one. Naturally, one would navigate towards the lane with the one customer. I placed my banana and two blueberry Cliff bars on the counter and waited. It appeared that the dude in front of me wanted an 'end of the world' stock up order of some very, very, very special mountain stream, filtered, purified, angel tears blessed bottled water. The cashier was writing down on a form his request. Oh dammit... wrong lane. Just as I was about to maneuver into the other lane, some lady with a hefty cart rolled up there. Dang. Ok, I'll have to wait. Well... after the cashier finished writing down the angel tears blessed special bottled water for the man, she then picks up the phone and calls someone. She hangs up, and she said to the man, 'It'll be a few minutes'. Shit...

By now, the cashier still hasn't acknowledged my presence with a mere glance at me. Instead, she continues to flirt with the guy and talk about bullshit stuff. I look around and see if the mystery person that she was talking to on the phone would appear and resolve the situation, but nope, no one. Meanwhile, another person got in line behind the lady with the large cart in the one and only other lane. Cashier and dude are still chit chatting nonsense. My organic banana and blueberry cliff bars just sit on the counter. Ok, I'm pissed now. I took a deep breath, looked around once more for mystery phone person, and I see no one. Not in the mood to listen to the bullshit chit-chat of the ignorant cashier girl and the man she's flirting with, I left the banana and cliff bars on the counter and walked pass the fool man and left the damn store. What the fuck? Why couldn't the cashier just look at me and say that it was going to take a few minutes, or apologize? I would have stayed there if I was just treated with, um,... respect, yeah, that's it, fucking respect!

I wound up getting my cliff bars fix and bananas at Whole Foods later than day, but I really wanted to support the food co-op, a small local business! I can appreciate a worker trying to help and provide great customer service to their current customer, but for cripe sakes, don't just ignore the other customer who has to wait for an uncertain amount of time for an unknown reason. Customer service has to be consistent and sincere. If there is a problem, offer a rational resolution. If you can't provide the solution, find someone who can. But in the end, communicate policies or apologies and explanations as soon as possible.

If just one of these three situations occurred by themselves, I would not have written this blog entry. But instead, in a span of 24 hours, I got the shaft from all three, and this is unacceptable. I may not have a lot of money, but I know how to write and I'm voicing my concerns and disappointments about all three companies. It will be quite a while before I deal with them again. Businesses should not be so dismissive of their customers because it's a big world out there and a LOT of competitors who will take my business and offer great service that leaves me happy!

1 comment:

  1. All companies need to intensify their interview skills. At this point everyone needs BASIC training in simple manners, phone answering skills and proper/appropriate speech. Newbies should be tested first week to insure all these things can be done as a matter of course. Hire fake shoppers if need be. If newbies can't answer a question they must seek someone who can, if they have to call the top person because he/she hired dumbos down the line, get the the manager out of bed! People need jobs. Start firing rude idiots who don't care and haring people who actually like working with the public. Several people have told me my son has an accent because he speaks with manners, diction and helps people. Um yeah, that's how much we've lost in just a few generations.