By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
My wife ordered a coat online from a well-known regional chain for a Christmas present. She has a history of positive shopping experiences at the chain’s physical stores and assumed their virtual store would be no different.
The coat went on sale the week before Black Friday, and when combined with a 30 percent off coupon the price was slashed in half. This made a too-expensive coat suddenly affordable. With free shipping, my wife clicked “submit” and smiled, satisfied over the really great deal she got.
Her satisfaction didn’t last long. Two days later the coat went on sale again, this time discounted even more. With the new sales price and another 15 percent discount, the coat now cost one-third of the original price.
She checked the store’s policy about making adjustments for sales prices. Their website stated that they would issue a credit if a sale occurred within two weeks of the original purchase. Unfortunately she couldn’t do this online. When she placed her original order, she couldn’t log into her account – one she had set up to receive all the discount coupons – so she completed her order as a “guest.” This wasn’t an issue until she tried to log in to get the adjustment.
So she picked up the phone.
The first rep couldn’t make the adjustment, but she could fix the log-in problem. Twenty-five minutes later that issue was resolved, and my wife found herself transferred to someone to issue the promised credit.
This guy cheerfully agreed to make the adjustment for the sale price but couldn’t include the coupon. My wife pushed, but he didn’t budge.
She tried a new approach. “But if I placed the order today, I’d get the sale price and be able to use the coupon.”
“Yes, that’s right,” the rep said. “I can place the order for you if you’d like.” It seemed like a good solution to him. “Then just return one of the coats.”
“That’s a lot of extra work and expense,” my wife countered. “Can’t you just make the adjustment in the computer?”
He gave a long explanation that she didn’t fully understand.
“So what you’re telling me is that your hands are tied.”
He didn’t like her summation, but that’s about what it amounted to. In the end he placed the order for her, again with free shipping. He charged her card for the second coat and told her to return the first one for a full refund. Of course she’d have to pay shipping or go through the hassle of returning it to the store. This part of the call took an additional twenty minutes.
The next day the first coat arrived. The color wasn’t even close to what she expected. “Maybe you’ll like the second coat better,” I said. I had no idea how wrong I would be.
A few days later the second shipment arrived. The box seemed too small. With apprehension, she opened it. Inside was a pair of boots. The order and paperwork was correct, but the packer picked the wrong item. Most likely someone else opened a box expecting a pair of size 13 black men’s work boots only to find a bright purple woman’s coat.
My valiant wife made another call to the customer service department. Though it took her a long time to explain the details of the two sales, the two coupons, the two orders, and the two packages – one of which was wrong – once the rep comprehended the situation, she knew just what to do. She said the first rep (or the second one) should have been able to make the full adjustment without placing a second order.
Then, after only a minute or so of typing, she announced she had corrected everything. All my wife needed to do was to return the boots to the store, and she would receive credit for the first coat.
And everything worked out as promised.
To summarize, my wife wasted an hour of her time; three call center reps combined invested an hour of their time. The store paid for free shipping twice, and my wife had to return the wrong item to the store. And this doesn’t even address the grief the other shopper went through to send back a woman’s coat when he or she ordered men’s boots.
If only the first rep had received the necessary training to issue the credit the store’s website promised!
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.
[From Connection Magazine – January/February 2016]