Good Companies: BSWUSA, Symetrix

Time for another entry in my “Companies: Good & Bad” category.

Today’s Good Companies are Broadcast Supply Worldwide and Symetrix.

First, the setup. A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a Symetrix 302 used off of Ebay. I got a heck of a deal– about $75 delivered for a $280 Made in America microphone preamp. I’ll be using it for America’s Debate Radio for Jaime‘s and my microphones.

The unit I purchased is in good shape overall, but it was missing something called “Euroblock connectors.” They’re not essential for the unit’s operation, but I can definitely envision a time when I will be using them. I searched high and low for a company that carried the connectors, and couldn’t find them anywhere. As a last resort, I emailed Symetrix.

About four and a half hours later, I received an email back from someone at Symetrix named Mark. He gave me the part number for the connectors, and referred me to three different online merchants that would be able to special order the parts for drop shipment directly from Symetrix. Now that was nice– a same-day response on a request from a gear manufacturer, and it wasn’t even a form letter. Few and far between are companies that personally respond to email.

So, of the three recommended companies, I chose to contact BSW for the parts for two reasons: 1. They had the other items that I needed, a rack-mount tray for my 302, and a blank filler panel to make the rack -mounted 302 look complete, and they had them at a great price. And 2., I have been on the BSWUSA mailing list for some time, and have never ordered from them.

I sent an email to BSW on Tuesday night, and received an email back on Wednesday morning from Jamie at BSW indicating that he would be happy to put together a quote for me. I contacted him back the same day with the information that he requested from me.

Jamie contacted Symetrix about getting the Euroblock connectors, and sent me an email back on Thursday. Symetrix offered, if I ordered the rack and the panel, that they would throw in the Euroblock connectors free of charge. Yes, that’s right– free of charge. He sent me a PDF quote a couple of hours later, and told me that I could call him and place my order.

Jamie went above and beyond what is expected by contacting the Symetrix and getting them to throw the connectors in for free, and was refreshingly prompt in his responses to my requests. He even gave me a discount off of the regular listed prices on the rack and the panel, which is very much appreciated for a website/radio show that has an extremely limited budget.

I called Jamie, and he answered his phone right away– no “push 1 for this, push 2 for that” as one would expect for most companies. I gave him my credit card information, and the order placement was completed within minutes of my calling. From the time I hung up the phone and walked back upstairs to my computer, I had received an email confirmation for my order.

Service like this from Jamie at BSW is surprising. I’ve looked at BSW’s radio catalog. They sell items that cost more than my car, such as broadcast consoles about which I can only dream, or drool. But my order– my measly little order– was for less than $50, not a significant amount for a company that sells individual items that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. I can only imagine the service that would be offered if I were ordering a full studio!

So to summarize for those who are considering ordering from BSW, or purchasing Symetrix products– do it. You won’t regret it. You’ll get top-notch service, prompt responses, and have an amazingly pleasant experience.

Bravo BSW and Symetrix!

American Standard

I love being able to blog about companies that do right, instead of perpetually complaining about companies that do wrong.

Today’s subject is American Standard. They manufacture bathroom and kitchen products, like sinks and faucets.

Last spring, after a major plumbing incident that involved water from our toilet being forcefully ejected out of the bowl in what can only be described as a geyser, Jaime and I decided it was time to renovate the bathroom. Of course, making the decision, buying the materials, and doing the work are three separate and increasingly difficult steps.

I was at Home Depot last spring, about 10 months ago, and saw a pedestal sink that was perfect for our bathroom. It is an American Standard Ravenna, quite a nice sink. It was on closeout for a ridiculously low price ($87.71 total), so I had to get it.

Flash forward to this past weekend, and Jaime and I are finally out buying all the materials to do the bathroom. It’s a really small bathroom– only 8ft by 2.5ft– so the total budget is going to end up around $650. The only recycled item from the bathroom will be the toilet, a massive beast of a thing that was originally manufactured in the 1950s. Everything else will be brand new.

So, I’m going through all of the instructions for all of the stuff for the bathroom, and I find there are parts missing for the sink. It is missing two “well nuts,” which are rubber sleeves with brass nuts inserted in them. They are used to attach the towel bar to the bottom of the sink.

I checked out American Standard’s website, and found they had no online contact mechanism. No big deal– I would rather that most companies take American Standard’s route and just not correspond via email than to send me generic form email that do not even address my questions, like Home Depot does (boo Home Depot– your online service stinks!).

I called American Standard, and spoke with a pleasant man named Mike. I explained that I purchased the sink, but seemed to be missing two “well nuts” and all four screws needed to secure the towel bar to the sink. Mike said he wasn’t sure if they had the individual parts, and would have to send a whole kit.

He asked to put me on hold while he investigated. He came back on the line and informed me that he had located the parts, and that they had a bunch of them. He said he would mail them out to me right away, free of charge. I gave him my contact info, and that was it. The parts are on the way.

So, American Standard– thanks. I appreciate your willingness to send out missing parts, and I appreciate the excellent service I received. It makes me even more comfortable that I purchased an American Standard faucet, at a premium price over the other faucets available, and makes it even more likely that I will purchase another American Standard faucet to replace the leaking piece of junk we have in the other bathroom.

American Standard = good company in my eyes.

Mike

Kmart.com

So we ordered some clothes for Jaime from Kmart.com. It was on clearance, so why not, right?

Here’s the experience:

One pair of pants was canceled off the order, even though it was listed as in stock. This is 2007. Can we please get accurate stocking? I don’t want to advocate some sort of federal law requiring truth-in-stocking, and luckily I don’t need to. We already have truth-in-advertising laws, and those laws need to be enforced against companies that accept orders on items of which they do not have adequate stock to fill the order.

Shipping was going to be the same even with the canceled pair of pants, which made no sense, so I emailed the company telling them that I expected adjusted shipping for the now smaller order. They never responded, but did reduce the shipping by 75 cents. OK fine. An email stating that they adjusted it would have been nice, but I’d rather have an adjustment with no email than an email with no adjustment.

So the order arrives here in Savannah after a few days via UPS, coming from Virginia. We take the box upstairs and Jaime opens it so she can check out the clothes.

First shirt, nice. It’s a little black sweater that apparently I had picked out. Jaime doesn’t like the beads (she wouldn’t have ordered it if she knew it had beads), but hey, it was $5.

Second shirt, a white stretchy thing. It’s nice as well. It looks good on her, and she likes it.

Third and final item, a pair of pants. She picks them up out of the box, and immediately knows they are the wrong size. How does she know? Well, Jaime is like a size 6. These pants are a size 14! Holy crap. She could fit her whole body in one leg of these pants.

So I call Kmart’s toll free. I explain the situation to the lady who answered the phone, and she then transferred me to the right department. Oddly, though, she kept saying “Thank you for calling Sears” something something. Strange.

Well, the next lady I talk to is Brenda. She says we have two options. One is to take the pants to a store, which I shot down before she finished. I bought these online and paid for shipping. I am not covering the cost of gas, eating up my free time, and taking the risk that is involved in driving to Kmart and back. I paid for shipping.

The other option is to wait 8-10 days for a UPS pickup. Then, once they receive the giganti-pants, there would be another period of waiting– I think she said up to 10 days– for a credit. If I wanted a replacement, I would have to re-order and pay a full shipping charge instead of a pro-rated shipping charge.

What kind of an option is that? I explained that they have an obligation to correct the mistake. I placed an order and they took the money out of my account. If I am to be required to place a new order, pay full shipping, and wait up to 4 weeks (surely they meant business days) to get my money back, I am going to send back the whole order and not place any more orders in the future. I told her as much, and told her that I didn’t appreciate the way they handle their own mistakes.

She put me on hold and came back on the line and said that they would credit the pants, shipping, and tax. OK, fine, no pants, but no huge delay in getting my money back and no temporary double-payment so I can reorder to compensate for the fact that whoever or whatever packed our box cannot distinguish the difference between a size 6 and a size 14 by look and feel.

Overall, I’m still disappointed. Jaime wanted these pants, we ordered them, paid for them. Kmart has them, shipped the wrong ones, and won’t ship the right ones unless I pay them a second time, and then loan them the original amount for up to a month.

I’m not planning on any more purchases from Kmart.com in the future, and I would recommend the same to my friends and family.

Don’t you hate pants?

Office Depot – Last Entry – Good Riddance

Barring any unforeseen circumstances– like them getting me a couple of monitors and redeeming their poor policies and services of the past week– this will be my last post about Office Depot. There won’t be any future opportunities for Office Depot to offer any more poor service to me, as I will no longer be shopping there. They have lost a customer of well over three years because, while they could admit that I received poor service, they could not make up for it by honoring my original purchase price for a similar item.

Part of this post is going to come from an email I sent to Casey Ahlbum, the Manager of the Office Depot Executive Customer Relations department.

Before I start, I would like to thank the people who have taken the time to read this. I know that my two prior Office Depot posts are getting a decent amount of traffic. Just look at the comments– there are actually comments! Normally, my blog gets a fair amount of readership, but never any comments. It seems that my entries about Office Depot have been enough to pull the commenters out of the woodwork!

If a company–any company– has mistreated you I encourage you to stand up for yourself and demand satisfaction. Even if you do not get that satisfaction, you will at least know that you tried your best to give a misbehaving company a chance at correcting a situation and earn your business. And for companies that don’t rectify problems created by their own faulty systems, I encourage you to never patronize those companies again.

It is simple. If Soyo or Belkin denies your rebates without good reason, do not buy their products. If the retailer where you bought the products will not honor the rebates even though they are legally obligated to do so, don’t shop at that retailer. If Target charges a late fee on a credit card for which you never received a bill because their internal address system was unable to update billing records (but able to update credit line increase records), then don’t shop at Target. I haven’t shopped at Target for over five years. And if a company like Office Depot charges your credit card for the full amount of a purchase that they said was in stock, and they are unwilling to give a comparable product at the same price as agree, then don’t shop at Office Depot.

There are almost always alternative companies that are willing to earn your business.

On Sunday, July 24, I received an email from Mr. Ahlbum, the Manager of the Executive Relations Department. He had been asked to contact me by Brian Levine in Media Relations.

If there is one positive statement I can make about Office Depot, it is that Mr. Ahlbum was polite and pleasant in our correspondence. Of course, he was unable to provide two monitors at the price I had agreed to pay and was subsequently charged, but at least he gave it a try. In all likelihood, Mr. Ahlbum was simply not able to get permission to offer the monitors to me at the price I had agreed to pay.

Mr. Ahlbum’s initial email was very polite, and asked that we get in contact so we could discuss ways to address the matter. Of course, the easiest way to address the matter would have been to sell me two monitors, but that was seemingly out of the question.

Here is the email I sent to Mr. Ahlbum in response to his request for contact:

I appreciate your response.

On Friday, District Manager Don Butler returned my several phone calls from Wednesday and Thursday, only after I called again and left another message with Susan, who takes his messages. Mr. Butler had previously offered $100 off each on any two monitors sold by Office Depot. After researching this, I found that, when accounting for a $100 discount on all other monitors in the Office Depot inventory, I would actually be paying similar prices to those at nearly every other retailer.

I had found that Amazon-Tiger Direct sells a monitor that Office Depot also sells– the KDS K-917S– for $269.99. If Office Depot were to price match the Amazon-Tiger Direct price, and then apply the $100 off per monitor that Mr. Butler offered, my final price would be $169.99, which is a mere 2% more than the price of my original order. I would certainly have been satisfied with that.

Mr. Butler informed me that Office Depot does not match Amazon-Tiger Direct prices. He stated that he would match a price of any merchant in Savannah, GA, or Charleston, SC. I thought this was odd because it seems to be contrary to the Low Price Guarantee policy listed at the Office Depot site. I informed Mr. Butler that I thought his offer of $100 off each of two monitors was not very good, considering it basically brought the prices of the monitors down to that of other competing merchants. I informed him that I was posting full details of my experience with Office Depot online for all to see.

I went back and reread the Office Depot Low Price Guarantee policy, and I still couldn’t see where it blocked price matching for Amazon-Tiger Direct. I called 1-800-GO-DEPOT and spoke with the first agent who answered the phone. I asked if Office Depot matched Amazon-Tiger Direct prices. The representative stated that Office Depot did match Amazon-Tiger Direct prices, however they charge overnight shipping charges for these items. I thought it was odd that a customer service representative would have different information than the District Manager, but I was not surprised judging by my past communications with Office Depot employees.

At this point, it seemed that every level of Office Depot with which I had dealt– from the Floor Employees to the Store Manager to the District Manager to Executive Customer Relations– were unclear on company policies and procedure.

I decided to dig a bit deeper to find someone at Office Depot corporate willing to listen to my story about being given incorrect information from the very moment I placed my order. I eventually discovered a phone number to Office Depot corporate: 561.438.4800. I called this number, explained my situation to the operator, and she transferred me to someone whose name I cannot locate in my notes.

The man with whom I spoke was understanding of my problem, and attempted to help, albeit in a round about way. He confirmed that an Amazon-Tiger Direct price should be matched, although frankly I had no reason to believe him. He offered to match the Amazon-Tiger Direct price on the KDS monitors– the cheapest 19″ LCD monitors in the Office Depot inventory. I thought I was finally getting somewhere.

Since the price match was offered, and since the District Manager had already told me that I would get a $100 credit per monitor because of the inventory confusion, I was under the impression that I would be able to get the monitors at the matched price, minus $100 each per the district manager.

The person on the phone informed me that this was not possible. He stated that Office Depot would lose money on this transaction. Here is what he offered: He would have the two monitors sent to me for the Amazon-Tiger Direct price of $269.99. I would pay $539.98 plus tax for the two monitors. He would also include two $100 Office Depot gift cards, further reducing my price to $339.98 plus tax.

Unfortunately, this was simply not financially feasible for me. When I placed my initial order for the original monitors, Office Depot placed a “precharge” on my debit card. This precharge actually reduced the amount of available funds in my bank account by the cost of the order.

As of right now– early Monday morning– the funds are yet to be returned to my account. I understand that, after contacting my bank, that I am dependent on my bank to return the money as the precharge falls off the system. But, if the items were not in stock at the time I ordered, I should not have been precharged for the items. No money should have been held or reserved from my bank account at the hand of Office Depot if the monitors were never in stock from the beginning.

I understand that $350 is a small amount of money for a large company like Office Depot. Part of the reason that sum is insignificant to Office Depot is small businesses like mine who purchase small quantities of supplies, but purchase them from the same place time after time.

We are a free website– we don’t generate a lot of revenue. In fact, this monitor purchase is more than 10% of our annual revenue– not profit, revenue. We do not profit. We provide a great service for free, and ask for nothing return. As a result, we pinch pennies everywhere we can, and getting a good deal on technology items and office supplies is one way we accomplish that.

Since my funds have not been available to me for going on six days now, I was unable to accept the offer of an Amazon-Tiger Direct price match including the two $100 gift cards– I simply do not have the money, even though there is a small chance that I might if my original funds were returned.

After I declined the offer, the representative offered to send a $100 gift card, which may or may not be on the way, regardless of whether or not I purchased the monitors.

If Office Depot could sell the monitors for $269.99 and add in $100 gift card, bringing the price to $169.99, I do not see why Office Depot cannot simply sell me the monitors for $169.99. That is only 2% more than my original order.

With three office supply superstores within five miles, companies are distinguished by their service. The accuracy of the information provided by the employees of a business directly impacts a customer’s chance of patronizing the business in the future.

At this point, I am not too sure what else can be done to correct this situation in my eyes short of finding two new 19” LCD monitors for me to purchase at the same cost as my original order.

If you still wish to contact me, I may be reached at 912.xxx.xxxx during most of the day.

Thank you again for your response,

Mike

Yesterday evening, Mr. Ahlbum left a message on my machine while I was getting dinner. He basically stated that he would like to apologize, and would like to clarify what I should expect from Office Depot in the future.

I thought I had made it fairly clear that, without monitors on my doorstep, there would be no reason for clarification of Office Depot policies. Without monitors, Office Depot would lose me as a customer, no matter how many times they apologize or how many gift cards they send me.

I attempted to telephone Mr. Ahlbum this morning at the telephone number he left on my machine, and the automated operator did not seem to want to transfer my call. I sent Mr. Ahlbum an email:

Mr. Ahlbum,

I attempted to return your telephone message of yesterday evening, and was told by an automated operator that my call “could not be transferred at this time.”

I appreciate your effort in calling. However, I am not particularly interested in learning much more about Office Depot policies, or Office Depot’s positions short of receiving two monitors for the price I was originally charged.

Being aware of Office Depot policies as a customer means very little when the chain of command is unclear about those same policies. Were a situation to arise in the future where I was clear on policy but the in-store employees or managers were not, I would not expect that my assertions of knowing the policies would be very persuasive.

I plan on using the offered gift card as intended– as a gift. I have very little intention of shopping at Office Depot in the future, even for free.

There is an Office Max 1.73 miles north of the Office Depot location in Savannah, and there is a Staples 3.32 miles south. Both of these companies offer very clear policies on their website, including price match policies that specifically address Internet price matching.

I have shopped at Office Depot for three years now, mostly out of convenience. The Office Depot location in Savannah is directly next to Best Buy, and it makes for convenient comparison shopping. Convenience, however, is always trumped by service and price, and Office Depot has performed poorly in both regards, and has done very little to maintain my business.

Again, thank you for your time, and best of luck to you and Office Depot in the future.

Mike

Mr. Ahlbum responded:

I am sorry for the difficulty. I understand that Mr. Butler has made you aware of how such a situation can occur, and believe me, we understand why you are upset! I wanted to speak with you personally,to apologize for the way that the call was handled in my office. The poor level of service provided was simply unacceptable. We should have been able to provide a suitable explanation, but more importantly, found a reasonable way in which to address the difficulty so that you were satisfied.

I am embarrased that this did not occur initially and I sincerely apologize. Mr. Bartlett has sent out the $100 gift card that was promised during your call. I hope that you will accept this with my apology for the poor service along with my thanks for bringing these concerns to our attention. I do not expect you to experience difficulty in the future, but if you do, and you are not able to resolve it at the local level, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Casey J. Ahlbum
Manager-Executive Customer Relations
Office Depot, Inc.

I responded one last time, and am no officially done with Office Depot:

Mr. Ahlbum,

I am confident that you are correct in stating that I will not experience any more difficulty with Office Depot. After giving Office Depot about a dozen opportunities to make good on my purchase without a single opportunity being accepted, no amount of gift certificates or apologies would earn my business back. I would be happy to send the gift card back at your request.

I finally received my funds back this morning after being held for six days since last Tuesday when I placed my order and when my credit card was charged. I will be ordering the monitors referenced in my last email from Tiger Direct this evening.

I hope you forward my concerns on to someone who has the ability to review and change Office Depot policies at a corporate level. If a hold is placed on a customer’s funds and that hold leads to the funds not being available for six days, the order should be completed, even if it means a loss for Office Depot. If there is even a possibility that an item may be out of stock, a customer should only be “precharged” one dollar, if anything at all. Additionally, if a customer orders an item and the item is found to be out of stock when the customer arrives, they should be offered a comparable product for the same price.

I sincerely appreciate that you have taken the time to address this, and am disappointed that, in the end, Office Depot was unwilling to provide comparable monitors to those that I purchased.

Thanks again,

Mike

I’m not expecting a response back, and if I where Mr. Ahlbum, I wouldn’t offer a response. He knows what it will take to keep me as a customer, and is either unable or unwilling to meet my request.

Office Depot, in my opinion, has lost their focus: Customers. Their slogan is “Taking care of business,” but it seems as though their policies are not be written to empower their employees to fulfill the expectation that a slogan like that creates.

Hey, I have an idea. Maybe I can get Office Depot to sink a few hundred grand into my NASCAR. That really takes care of business.

Thanks for three years of good service followed by one week of inadequacies, Office Depot. Now I’m off to find out why “Max means more” and “That was easy.”

Office Depot – Unethical – Scam – Bait and Switch – Take your pick… Part II

So, I talked to Don Butler, the District Manager, again yesterday afternoon. He offered to take $100 off any other monitor they sell. The offer would hold true for any 2 monitors, as that is what I ordered.

I know he is probably doing the best he can, and I am sure he considers it to be a reasonable offer, but he has got to be aware that an offer like that is not a good deal at all!

Let’s look at their three cheapest 19-inch monitor prices:
KDS K-917S – $369.99
Samsung 930B – $429.99
ViewSonic VX910 -$449.99

Alright, so if I buy the KDS, I spend $203.98 more for each monitor than my credit card was charged for the original order. If I buy the Samsung, I spend $263.98 more per monitor than my credit card was originally charged. If I buy the ViewSonic, I would spend $283.96 more for each monitor than my credit card was originally charged for the original order.

What a joke! They want me to spend a minimum of 123% more— not just 23% more— but a full 123% more to get similar monitors to those that I originally ordered! If I were to buy their third most inexpensive monitor, that figure jumps to 171% more than the product I ordered!

So, digging deeper, I find this 17″ monitor (smaller than my original purchase):
KDS K717s – $279.99

Alright, so, $279.99 – $100 = $179.99.

So, they want me to pay over 8% more than my credit card was originally charged so I can get a smaller monitor! Sure, it doesn’t seem like the size difference between a 17″ and a 19″ monitor is that large. But, when you do the math, you find that a 19″ monitor has 22.8% more screen area than a 17″ monitor!

I did some more digging.

It turns out that Amazon has the KDS 19″ for $269.99. If Office Depot were to pricematch this, my final price would be $169.99. That is a mere 2% more than I originally agreed to pay and was subsequently charged for an item that I was told was in-stock.

Of course, the KDS has lower specifications, but I am not particularly concerned about that. I just need two new monitors for Jaime and me at a good price. We spend a heck of a lot of time sitting at our computers to run America’s Debate and our old 17″ CRT monitors are just not cutting it. They hurt your eyes, and they put off an incredible amount of heat. Jaime’s (which I believe was actually bought at Office Depot) is pretty messed up.

So I call the store and speak to the manager (I believe his name was John) about the pricematch and $100 price reduction. He was aware of Mr. Butler’s offer to give me $100 off on each of any two monitors. I asked the manager if the monitors were in stock, and they were. I asked him if they would match the Amazon price in order to fully rectify the situation in my eyes, and the manager declined. He claimed that they do not match Amazon prices

That was flat-out wrong. I just called Office Depot customer service. According to the gentleman with whom I spoke, Office Depot WILL match Amazon’s price. He said they charge overnight shipping, which seems odd, but fine. I would have no problem paying overnight shipping, if I actually got the items overnight Since I ordered on Tuesday, they were due Wednesday. It is now Thursday. The shipment is overdue– shipping charges should be refunded anyway.

So, now I know that the store manager either does not know his company’s policies (highly unlikely), or he doesn’t like the fact that I contacted Mr. Butler and is intentionally giving me bad information as a result.

I try to call Don Butler— it was busy for about 20 minutes. I just left a message with the friendly lady that answers the phone on his line, and she will ask him to call me back.

The title of this entry is “Office Depot – Unethical – Scam – Bait and Switch – Take your pick…”

I may have to change it to “Office Depot – Unethical – Scam – Bait and Switch – All three?”

<scam class=”bait_and_switch” style=”unethical”>

Bait: Sure, come on and pickup your monitors. You paid for them, and they are in stock.

Switch: Oh, you’re here? Sorry, we don’t have your monitors. But, if you raise a big enough stink, the District Manager will give you a discount that you can use on another product.

Unethical: Oh, you got a discount? OK. Can we match Amazon? No, we can’t. <mumble>yes we can</mumble>

</scam>

Given that they deducted money from my account, and that I spent time to go to the store, and time to research other products, and time to go back and forth with them in order to figure out their policies, I think it is safe to wrap the whole situation in a couple of <scam></scam> tags.

Office Depot – Unethical – Scam – Bait and Switch – Take your pick…

So, Office Depot cancelled my monitor order upon arrival at the store, even though the website said it was in-stock at the time of my order and upon initiation of charging my credit card.

For people who found this via a search engine (and there will be some), let me give you some information that I learned about the ethics of Office Depot.

According to an employee at Office Depot in Savannah (I have his name– no need to single out a non-manager):

  • It is possible that somebody is purchasing an item in the store at the exact same time you are ordering the same item online, even if you are ordering the item an hour after the store has closed.

According to Tony Hill, the store manager of the Office Depot in Savannah:

  • Items listed on the website as being in-stock at a local store may or may not be in stock.
  • Customers who have ordered and paid for an item only to find it is out of stock upon arrival to pick it up are not offered a discount of any sort on a similar item, nor are they offered a gift card to make up for the inaccuracies of the Office Depot inventory system, nor are they offered a simple 10% off coupon.

:::OPINION::: Mr. Hill does not seem to be interested in maintaining customers with growing businesses. Office Depot management at the store level does not seem to be empowered to ensure customer satisfaction.

According to Kimberly Bryant in Executive Customer Relations at (800) 937-3600:

  • Placing an online order for in-store pickup of an in-stock item does not guarantee that the item will be in stock.
  • Customers may walk in and purchase an item, even if another customer has purchased and paid for that exact item via the Office Depot website.
  • Employees are customers, too. Simple logic: Employees can cash and carry an item that a customer has already purchased if they find the item to be a good value.
  • Customers who have ordered and paid for an item only to find it is out of stock upon arrival to pick it up are not offered a discount of any sort on a similar item, nor are they offered a gift card to make up for the inaccuracies of the Office Depot inventory system, nor are they offered a simple 10% off coupon.
  • Clearance items are not always marked as “Clearance.” It is up to the customer to determine whether or not an item is on clearance based on the current and previous price of the item.
  • Office Depot is not able to send a Cancellation email to the email used to place the order.
  • Executive Customer Relations is to return phone calls of customers if they are disconnected in-call.
  • Phone calls can end when a customer is in the middle of a sentence.
  • Executive Customer Support does not have the phone number of the district manager.
  • If you are persistent enough and call back after they hang up on you mid-sentence, Executive Customer Support does have the phone number of the district manager.

:::OPINION::: The information supplied by Kimberly Bryant seems inaccurate, and the above, while provided directly by Ms. Bryant, should not be trusted. Executive Customer Relations is code for “reading off a different script.” Executive Customer Relations does not seem to be empowered to achieve customer satisfaction.

According to Don Butler, the District Manager at (843)769-0943:

  • There is a delay in inventory updates on clearance items.
  • Employees can only buy clearance items after they have been on clearance for a minimum of 48 hours.
  • Customers do not have to determine whether or not an item is on clearance by price. Clearance items should be marked as such.
  • District Managers can offer discounts or gift certificates to compensate customers for Office Depot’s flawed inventory system.
  • District Managers are truly concerned about maintaining growing businesses as customers, most likely because there is a Staples 3 miles away, and an Office Max 2 miles away.

:::OPINION::: Mr. Butler has expressed interest in trying to right the situation. He seemed to agree that if a customer orders an item and are told the item is in stock, the customer should either get the item, or some form of compensation to make up for the flaw in their inventory system. He stated he will look for the item elsewhere, and will offer a discount on other monitors or in-store credit to make up for the the inconvenience of travelling to the location to pickup an item that was ordered only to find out that there was an error in the Office Depot system.

I plan on linking to this entry from my signature at America’s Debate. We serve millions of pages per year (7,364,897 since July 2004) to over a million visitors (1,567,605 since July 2004).

My time was well spent on this entry if just one Office Depot executive stumbles upon this post and sees how the flaws in their inventory and ordering system has an end effect of losing customers, or if just one person reads this and decides against ordering from Office Depot.

There are plenty of office supply stores, and they all sell the same products. What sets them apart is service, or lack thereof. Barring any unforseen circumstances, Office Depot has officially been moved to the bottom of my list of local office supply companies.

Radio Shack

Radio Shack is one of those necessary evils. If you need a cable or an adapter, you can either order it online and pay exorbitant shipping rates, or go to Radio Shack.

Let me detail what I hate about Radio Shack:

1. If you do not know your products, do not offer to help a customer. When I ask for 75 ohm cable, please do not direct me to cable in 75-foot lengths. I said ohm. Ohm. OHM! As in resistance, you know? I don’t give a damn about the length if the resistance value is not what I need.

2. Stop asking me for extra information. If I am returning an item I didn’t need, then process my damn return without asking for personal information. I made the purchase with a Visa, and you didn’t ask me for my phone number or address upon making the purchase, you should NOT ask me for my phone number or address when I make a return. If you do, don’t expect that information to be valid.

3. Give me my receipt back. If I return one item from a multiple-item purchase, I get my receipt back. That is how businesses keep records– with receipts. Don’t make me feel like a jerk by threatening to cancel my whole transaction worth $30 just because you won’t give me my original receipt back from a $4 return.

4. Learn the basics. If I ask for RCA, don’t show me Instrument. If I ask for Instrument, don’t show me Coax. This is simple stuff, and if you don’t know the answer, please don’t pretend like you do. If all you are going to do is search around in boxes, then spare me the trouble– I can look through the boxes much faster because I already know what I’m looking for.

5. If I clear you out on an item and ask if you have more, don’t look exactly where I found the item, and don’t look in the back. Put the SKU into the computer and check your stock. If the computer says you don’t have any, that is good enough for me.

Hopefully I got everything I need, and I won’t have to go back to this Radio Shack for a while. They drive me crazy.

National Bad Customer Service Week

So did I miss a memo? Is this week National Bad Customer Service Week? I sure as hell seems as it is. Pardon my rant here, but it has to be done in order to preserve my sanity.

Company #1: HP.

Have I ever told you that I hate HP? They make crappy printers. Let’s just throw that out there.

If you don’t believe me, it is because you have not had enough experience with HP printers. As an example, let me briefly mention their flawed products. For quite some time, HP released flawed products to the market, and made little to no effort to rectify their poor products. When a customer buys several laser printers, and those printers turn into paper monsters, and the customer contacts the manufacturer only to find that there is a flaw and a part has been made available to customers free of charge, but only when the customer calls to complain and specifically mentions the repair part, it makes customers angry. It shows that HP has poor service. But this is not why I am angry with HP today.

On Sunday, I ordered two monitors from the HP website. They were listed, clear as day, at a price of $160, with a $50 mail in rebate. I ordered two, and had a $25 off coupon, so my total came to be $312.60. My credit card was charged, and I received my confirmation. Later that day, I receive notice that the order was cancelled because they could not complete the payment. Keep that in mind as I proceed.

The following day, I called HP, and was told that the product was a “promotion that sold out too fast for us to honor all the orders.” Fine, I can handle that. Just give me an immediate refund and I will be on my merry way. I was told that it would take up to 7 days to get my money back. I asked for a supervisor.

The supervisor then told me the item was a price mistake. Well, which is it– a price mistake, or a sold-out promotion? There is no need to lie– just lay it out for me. The supervisor insisted it was a price mistake, and that I would get my money back within 7 days.

That is not acceptable. So, I contacted HP Executive Support. The lady there was friendly, but not very helpful. She asked to return my call, which I have to admit that she did actually return my call. She stated, however, that HP did not take my money out of the account, and only put a “precharge” on the account. According to my bank statement, they took the money. I have $312.60 less in my account that I currently cannot use. They took my money. When will I get it back? Who knows. If it’s not back by tomorrow, I will contest the charges, and make HP look like fools.

Company #2- First Chatham Bank.

I have been with this bank for about two years, maybe more, maybe a bit less, but it has been a substantial amount of time. They pride themselves on “knowing your first name.” Nobody over there knows my first name.

We were referred to this bank by an acquaintance of the vice president of this bank after our last bank were such bumbling idiots that they lost the original to every single piece of documentation on our account, including internet banking passwords, six signature cards, and more. They (the old bank and worst bank in the world– National Bank of Commerce, now Suntrust) said that my records were taken home by a bank employee who had been terminated.

So, when I started these new accounts (one personal, one business), I was excited to have an “in” at the bank, and expected service accordingly. Not today, though.

Last night, I ordered some keyboards from a company called “Chief Value.” They’re next in the list, but I have to go on about the bank first. Chief Value tried to do address verification on my account, but it failed because the shipping address (home) is not where my statements are sent (PO Box). They sent me an email saying they would try again, and let me know.

Today, I got an email saying address verification failed, and that I needed to contact the card issuer (my bank) to have them add the shipping address to the account’s notes field.

I called my bank. I explained my situation to someone who obviously didn’t listen. I explained it again, and she punted me to someone else. I explained my situation to the next representative. She punted too, and sent me to another lady. She also punted, but this time, told me to call the other branch, where I do not do any banking whatsoever.

I called the other branch. The first person with whom I spoke didn’t listen either. I explained my situation to her again, and she punted. She said I had to talk to the person who opened my account, and then transferred me to her voicemail.

Voicemail is not good. NEVER send a customer who has been given the runaround to voicemail. It gets them angry, and makes them that much less likely to use your services in the future. After all, if I can’t get an answer now, on my schedule, why would I bother trying to get an answer at all? Now is the time– I am calling for resolution. Resolve it, or tell me flat out what I can do to resolve it, but don’t send me to some stranger’s voicemail so I can have them fail to call me back.

I didn’t leave a message, but instead called back. I explained that I would not be leaving a voicemail message, and that I chose a small, local bank so I can get near-instant resolution to problems that may arise. I was then informed that all three people who could help me were at lunch. ALL AT LUNCH? It’s freaking 2:15 in the afternoon. They are NOT all at lunch. And if they are, they need to be reprimanded for all taking lunch at the same time. Customers first. Lunch second.

The lady finally offered to transfer me to someone who could help. This person could not help. She said I had to fax in a copy of my driver’s license with my request because they didn’t have one. That was wrong. I had provided three copies– one when I opened each account, and one when I ordered my debit card. She then told me she was new, and didn’t know how to properly handle the situation. Whoa– the first bit of honesty from this bank.

I informed her that I would call the bank where I actually do my banking, and simply insisted that they provide first-rate service. So I called the other branch. I finally got a person over there that OUTRIGHT LIED to me. She said that “because of the patriot act, we can’t make changes to your account without photo ID.” Oh yeah, then why was Jaime able to sign a debit card request a short three months ago without presenting ID?

She finally said she would take my information and call me back. That is code for “I want to get you off my phone and research company policies and your account.”

I wrote a letter and went in to the bank. It details the customer service runaround I was put through, the poor knowledge of bank policies and laws that their employees maintain, and the fact that my point of contact is now in the “loans” department, and not even at the same branch where I bank.

I walked straight into the bank, went into an account executive’s office, and put my stuff down. I handed her the letter, asked for her to rectify my situation immediately, and told her I would wait. She reviewed the letter, photocopied it, and proceeded to do what I had asked.

While sitting there, I noticed that they had a patriot act disclaimer. I read their patriot act disclaimer to her. It basically stated, “We will ask you for ID to make account changes if you opened the account before the patriot act was in effect.” I explained that she seemingly didn’t know bank policy, asked if we were done, grabbed my stuff, and hit the road.

What crappy service! So, now…

Company #3: Chief Value

I called Chief Value, as their email requested, to inform them that they could not rerun my address verification, and that it would go through. I gave my order number, and the girl was clueless. She couldn’t find my order. Well, what more do you need– I’m reading it straight from the email.

She said that the address verification would be rerun automatically. I asked when. She said 24-48 hours. That is not acceptable. I was given no confirmation number that I had requested reverification, and judging by her knowledge of my order, I didn’t believe her for even a split-second.

I asked to be transferred to the department that handles address verification. She said that was impossible. I asked for her to put a rush on my verification. She said it was impossible. I asked her to cancel my order– she did it within 5 seconds. I asked for her supervisor, and was put on hold for 10 minutes before I hung up.

I called back and asked for a supervisor. I explained that their company advertises great service, and I received way-less-than-great-service. I explained how I order about $5,000 per year in computer parts (which I do), and that if they can’t push my order out the door in a reasonable fashion, they will not get my business, and will get a negative write-up on my blog, linked from AD. I explained that NewEgg had the item at a similar price, and that I have NEVER had a problem with them. I also explained that my card had already been charged, and that if they can charge the card, they can ship the item. Period.

He apologized, which was nice. He finally offered to upgrade my shipping, which is also nice, but not expected. The items are to ship via FedEx, and they are 4 days from anywhere in the country. I don’t need the items *that* fast, I just need to know that my order has been successfully completed, and will ship in a reasonable timeframe.

So, that is this week’s bad customer service experience. I am nearly at the point where I will only place orders via telephone, will record the conversation, and will inform the customer service department that even the slightest bit of incorrect information, rudeness, or unwillingness to help will be reported to their supervisor. It is very sad.

If I am paying for something, I DEMAND SATISFACTION. If you cannot offer satisfaction, simply say it. In doing so, that provides SATISFACTION. It’s OK if you cannot do what you say you can as long as you inform me as much. It is NOT OK if you give me a plate full of crap and expect me to eat it as part of the privilege of doing business with you.

That is all. For now.

Good Company: American Musical Supply

In the past month or so, I have done business with a company that I would like to tell you about. The company is American Musical Supply, and they are a perfect example of a customer-focused business. Let me detail my experience.

1. They use technology to connect the customer to the company. They offer a live chat feature that I have used at least three separate times. I have never had to wait more than a minute, and their chat techs are informed, helpful, polite, and well spoken.

2. They listen to their customers. AMS has a new forum. Well, it’s not really new, but it is still fairly low-traffic. Running a busy forum myself, I had a suggestion for them. I was perplexed, though, when I didn’t see a “Comments & Suggestions” forum in their forum. I sent a personal message to the admin of the forum, he ran my idea past his bosses, and they liked it. AMS now has a Suggestions forum, and it has actually gotten a bit of use.

3. They have great prices. They are about as low as they come. No matter how hard a company tries, though, they are bound to be beat in price on occasion. So, AMS has…

4. An amazing pricematch policy. They will match practically anyone’s prices, as long as the standard conditions apply– must be a business, must be a published price on an in-stock item, etc. But, AMS takes it one step further: If you find a lower price on an item that you have already purchased within 45 days of your purchase, they will refund the difference. Point in case, my mixing board. I bought it from AMS for $179.99 about a month ago. Today, I see that Musician’s Friend has it for $149.99. I opened up a chat with AMS, and within 10 minutes, they had entered a credit on my card for $30. I bought this thing 30 days ago! I am not returning it– I like it. It works well, and fits my bill perfectly. But, at a 16.7% added discount, I am that much more likely to purchase again from AMS in the future.

5. Their price matching policy doesn’t apply only to items, but also shipping. I ordered a $99.99 sound card from them. I actually meant to put it on my mixer order, but for some reason I didn’t. Ordering the card separately does not meet the $200 threshold for free shipping, so I was going to have to pay about $7 in shipping, which is certainly reasonable. But, I saw that a competitor, Zzounds, had the card for the same price, but with free shipping. I contacted AMS by chat, and the technician told me to call in with the details and her name, and they would ship the item for free.

So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, because this outstanding service and support– before and after the sale– has allowed them to earn my business.

I am about to order a compressor, and they will undoubtedly get my business. I will have $30 extra to spend on my compressor, and so they will get the $30 they refunded to me back in the form of a $130+ purchase.

To the folks at AMS, great job! You set the standard that all your competitors strive to meet.