Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Don't get me wrong – I think Amazon MP3 is a great service, and over the last ~1.5 years that I've been using them to buy music, I've usually had no problems with either purchasing music or dealing with their customer service group.  But a recent issue makes me wonder if the right hand knows what the left is doing (or in this case, whether the developers are talking to the customer service reps, and vice-versa).

My most recent fiasco with them involved The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon my "Purchase Review" screen from the site:

When you first start using Amazon MP3, any time you try to get any album/mp3, this screen will pop up after you click the "Get MP3" button.  It provides one last sanity check and confirmation that you're actually purchasing what you want – in this case, the song is free, but if you click on the wrong button or misread the price, this gives you one last review screen to confirm you want to continue your purchase.

Unfortunately, it seems that if you uncheck the box "Always ask before completing purchase" shown on the picture and then continue, it is IMPOSSIBLE to re-enable this option to show this purchase review screen in the future.  Not difficult, but actually physically impossible to ever see this screen ever again.  There are no toggles in the user preferences/settings to turn this back on.  No way for customer service to reset it.  If you turn this off, it's gone the way of the dodo bird.  I had three different customer service reps confirm this. 

So, after going through the following steps (spanning 3 different customer service reps):

  1. Calling rep #1
  2. Deleting all my 1-click payment methods from the account
  3. Transferring to rep #2
  4. Deleting all the saved addresses from the account
  5. Arguing with rep #2 that this "Purchase review" page even exists and that it wasn't something new (I've used it for the last year without problems)
  6. Transferring to rep #3
  7. Logging out, deleting all cookies, and logging back in
  8. Still seeing the problem and finding out this rep had no clue on how to fix it either

the last rep suggested I do the following:

  • Create a NEW Amazon account with the SAME email account but different password.1  This will create a new set of preferences and have this option available again (but only because you've basically created an entirely NEW account!)  Of course, the purchase history and anything related to the old account (Amazon Associates, product reviews, etc) will not be available within the new account and they won't be linked in any way, but this would allow me to have a "purchase review" page again.

or alternately:

  • Log off of my account any time I wanted to make a purchase, and it would ask me to log in before it actually allowed me to purchase the product, providing an extra level of confirmation on my part.

Seriously?  Your solution is to nuke my account and/or force me to log out and back in every time I want to purchase something?  Because that is SO much easier than adding a fricking checkbox in one of the preference pages that gives the option to "Display review purchase confirmation page prior to MP3 purchases."  Not to mention that the log out/in option won't even solve this problem, as it won't display a confirmation page prior to logging in, and after logging in it auto-purchases the album (believe me, I tried).

The last gal I spoke to said she'd forward on a request to the developers to add this option, but that I shouldn't expect it to be rolled out any time soon.  She wouldn't go so far as to agree with me that this was a bug in the website, but what the heck else do you call it when you can disable something but can't re-enable it? 

Oh wait, I know what you call it – an impetus to get me blogging again. 🙂

1How many websites do you know that allow you to make completely separate accounts with the same login but different passwords?  Isn't that sort of weird?  I wonder how many different Amazon accounts you could create with the same email but different passwords?  Anyone want to experiment and let me know if you hit a limit?

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Earlier this month, my wife and I ordered some flowers online for some family members who had helped us out in a pinch with watching the kids.  I've ordered a number of times from them before, and they always provide a quality product with decent customer service (e.g. the one time the order came with a broken vase, I called and they rushed out a duplicate bouquet the next day with a replacement vase).  But recently they did something that just struck me as a little bit ridiculous.

A week after placing the order online, I received an email directing me to a customer satisfaction survey about my orders.  I typically fill these out if I have the time, as I figure it is my chance to get my voice heard, even if all I have to say is good things about the company.  I filled out the survey, giving them good marks on almost every area.  The only section I gave sub-par ratings to was the shipping costs.  Almost all of these flower services have to charge a relatively large amount for shipping & handling, so this company was not above average in shipping prices.  However, it still was, in my opinion, beyond what I would want to pay for shipping a product that already is costing a decent amount.  So I marked the survey as "Not satisfied" with the shipping costs, and put in the comments that I wish shipping charges were reduced or made free to help ensure I continued being a customer.

About a week after that, I got a call at home at about 8 PM from a customer service rep.  She wanted to let me know that they had received my comments and that they were indeed passing them on to be considered.  That was the entirety of the call.  Just informing me that the survey that I had submitted had been processed, and that someone was going to look at the answers I gave.

Then, this morning, I received an email from the company asking me to take ANOTHER quick survey, this time to see if my "issue" had been resolved.  So, in their mind, I created an issue by filling out the survey, and their "resolution" was to let me know that they were going to look at the results.

I filled out this second survey.  I clicked "No" when they asked if my issue had been resolved.  In the comment box, this time, I mentioned that I really didn't see a need to contact me to let me know that my comments were being reviewed, as that was sort of implied by me filling out and submitting the survey.

How much do you want to bet I'll be getting another call in a week, letting me know that my latest comments are going to be considered in an upcoming survey review?

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This is a little long winded, so I've tried to split it up into sections for ease of reading.

The Background

You may remember when I broke my last Zen Vision:M mp3 player on a flight home from Houston.  Best Buy held fast to their belief that I was shit-outta-luck when it came to trying to claim the broken screen under their product replacement plan, so I had to suck it up and buy a new one.  Not wanting to give repeat business to Best Buy after such cruddy customer service, I decided to buy from Circuit City, which coincidentally had a special running on the same mp3 players at the time, making them $50 cheaper than the same product at Best Buy.

The Bait

Learning my lesson from my last player, I decided to go whole hog this time around, and buy the "Circuit City Advantage Plan Plus", which the guy at the register guaranteed "covers any kind of accident you have with the player…drops, spills, cracks, etc that wouldn't be covered under the normal warranty".  The plan cost an extra $40 for 2 years of coverage, averaging out to about $2 a month for accident protection, which I figured was reasonable, and would save me some money if I had another "what the heck happened to the screen on this player?" moment.  Here's where the fun begins:

The Switch

With the purchase of the plan, the guy grabbed one of the little pamphlets that covers the terms and conditions of the plan and put it in the bag with my new mp3 player.  I didn't get a chance to look at it until I got home, upon which time I discovered this was not the T&C for the "Advantage Plan Plus", but rather just the terms and conditions for the "Circuit City Advantage Protection Plan".  Blatantly printed inside this pamphlet was the following:

My Realization

Obviously, this was not what I had paid for.  But my receipt specifically called out the "Advantage Plan Plus", so I hoped that I had still purchased the correct thing and just been given the wrong pamphlet.  I went online to the Circuit City website to see if I could find the T&C for my plan there, and was directed to their advantage plan website.  NOTHING on this site provided any terms and conditions for the "Advantage Plan Plus" program, and I couldn't even register on the site with the plan # I had purchased, as it came up invalid when I tried.  I contacted customer service via email asking for the T&C for the "Advantage Plan Plus" and received the following response.

Dear Customer:
To register online you will need your Ticket Number (found on your receipt) and your Product Code (found in your resources kit). If however you did not receive a kit at the time of in-store purchase, simply take your receipt to your local Circuit City and ask to be given a resource kit. If you need further assistance please call (866) 442-3600.

Trust Me… We've Never Had a Problem

Due to work travel, it was a few weeks before I was able to make it over to the local store to get the correct resource kit.  I finally managed to brave the mall traffic to get in to see customer service yesterday, and asked for the "Advantage Plan Plus" resource kit that included the terms and conditions for the plan I had purchased, and showed my receipt.

The customer service manager there kindly informed me that there was no such kit, and that my receipt served as proof that I was covered under the "Plus" plan.  I agreed that the receipt was sufficient proof I had purchased the Plus plan, but that I also wanted the terms and conditions for the Plus plan to see what was covered and what was not covered.  She said there was nothing like that at the store, and all I needed was my receipt.  When I had to file a claim, I just called or logged on online and set it up, and sent in my receipt with the device to get my replacement/refund. 

When I balked at this and said that without seeing the terms and conditions, there was no way to know whether I had actually purchased something that covered accidental damage, she said that "this has always been the case" and "the fact that your receipt says you purchased the plus plan means you're covered for accidental damage".

I asked her, "What if the company has a policy change?  You wouldn't be able to go against company policy, and then I'd be out of luck."  To which she responded, "Well, you had purchased the product before the policy change, so the old policy would apply to you."  And I countered, "Exactly.  Now where can I find this policy written down, so I can prove exactly what coverage was included in the policy during the time of my purchase?"  Obviously, we were in a vicious cycle here – she was telling me that I should trust her verbal guarantee of my coverage, and I was insisting on something written to back up her claim.

Resolution…for Now?

Getting frustrated, she started pulling out piles of papers out of a drawer until she found another booklet of some kind.  She flipped through it and found something that said the following:

NOW we were getting somewhere!  I was about to happily accept this new booklet and head out when I flipped back to the front cover and felt a sinking feeling in my stomach.  This pamphlet was marked "Circuit City Advantage Protection Plan for Home Audio, Video & Car Electronics".  Nothing about small electronics, and in fact, explicitly made mention on the inside of the first page that this pamphlet did not apply to small electronics, which were governed by the T&C in the packet I had already been given.  I refused to accept this as proof of my coverage for my mp3 player, forcing our discussion back into a holding action.

An (Un)Happy Compromise

Sick and tired of fighting at this point, but willing to stand my ground indefinitely, I finally suggested an alternative that this manager was amenable to.  I suggested that she write out a formal statement that my small electronics purchase, bought with the "Plus" protection plan, covered accidental damage for my purchase as listed in the "Home Audio, Video & Car Electronics" Advantage plan booklet, backed by a promise of the store to provide me a replacement or credit for the device should the Circuit City claims process not recognize this accidental damage coverage during the duration of my plan's coverage period.  I didn't think she was going to agree to this, but surprisingly, she did.  I think mostly because she had more faith in the system than I did, at this point.

She wrote out the statement, signed and dated it, and added store # and phone number.  I apologized for causing so much heartache, but explained that while I might be willing to trust the word of an individually owned store, I would not and could not trust a corporation like Circuit City without having the terms and conditions in writing.  Her parting shot was, "Well, you should…we've never had a problem before."

All's Well That Ends Well

In order to take screen shots of the agreements to put in this post, I had to log back on to the Circuit City website and download their T&C .pdf documents.  Imagine my surprise when I found that in addition to the Advantage Plan documents, there was a new "Advantage Plan Plus" addendum document for small electronics!

Needless to say, I've downloaded and printed out a copy of these terms and conditions to stow with my purchase receipt.  So now, I don't even have to worry about the signed statement from the store manager to back me up. 

But I'm glad I made her go through that hassle – now that I caused such a scene (and called today to let them know that this was up on the circuit city website), maybe next time someone asks for the "Plus" plan T&Cs, she'll point them to this addendum, rather than asking someone to "Trust Us."  After all, "We've Never Had a Problem Before" just means you could have the dubious distinction of being the first such problem they've ever faced, right?

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So Sears has been calling for the last month or so every afternoon before I get home from work, presumably to try to get us to buy an extended warranty on the microwave they repaired for us after the magnetron broke.  I say presumably because my wife doesn't answer the phone when the caller ID says "No Name" – it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that I found out from her that they were calling every day, and I promptly called back and asked to be taken off their call list.  Let's compare their customer service to Bose's.  On this call:

1) They transferred me from the warranty department to the customer service department (apparently those warranty folks can't get you off the list, they can only sell you warranties)
2) I had to wait on hold for 4 minutes to get to an operator in the customer service department.
3) I had to give not only my phone #, but my entire address to get them to take me off the list.

Annoying, but worth doing to get them to stop calling.

And then….this afternoon….they called again.

Me: Hello?

Warranty Seller from Sears (WSS): Hello, is Mr. Goldberg there?

Me: I'm sorry, but I have previously asked to be taken off your call list.

WSS: When did you request this?

Me: About 2 weeks ago, I'm not sure of the exact date.

WSS: And did they do it?

Me: *speechless for about 5 seconds* …Uh…obviously NOT, if you're still calling me!

WSS: Oh, well it'll take up to 30 days sometimes.

Me: Well, I'm still not interested, so could you make another note to take me off your call list?

WSS: I'd be happy to do that, could I have you verify your address please?

Me: Nevermind, I'll just wait for my previous request to go into effect.


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A few years back (February 2004 to be more specific) I bought a pair of the Bose QuietComfort 2 noise canceling headphones.  I was working in an office, and had recently been relegated to an area that had once been "closed" (i.e. cleared for Classified work) and had NO drop ceiling to protect against the general noise that came from the A/C, pumps, pipes, etc.  It was not overtly NOISY, but the background noise was oppressive.  I never got headaches or anything, but I started to get stressed and felt tense all through the day.  After reading some things online that seemed to indicate this happened to people that flew a lot, I realized that this background noise filling my eardrums all day long was similar in nature to that experienced on an airplane flight, and decided to give the Bose headphones a try.

I borrowed a pair from someone at work and was amazed at the change these headphones made.  Not only was the dull roar quieted to a whisper, but I could listen to music on them and the sound quality was GOOD.  I guess you'd expect that from Bose, but it was still a surprise.

I immediately bought a pair, grimacing at the $300 price tag, but talking myself into the purchase with the reasoning that $300 was a small price to pay for my sanity.  Yes, I could have spent $5 on some earplugs, but then I would have been without music, and that also could have been a quick route to the funny-farm for me.

The headphones lasted me faithfully for 1.5 years, pumping out the tunes while blocking out the noise for up to 60-70 hours on a single AAA battery.  I bought a rechargeable battery kit for my digital camera and was able to charge my batteries for the headphones on it too.  I recommended them to everyone I knew with glowing praise, letting them all try out the miraculous noise reduction capabilities and great sound quality.

Then, the earpiece broke.  The plastic that held the earcup to the head-band cracked and snapped when I took them off my head one day.  There was no prior indication, no warning, just a pop and I had a 2-piece headphone set.  I was naturally perturbed, having expected a $300 set of headphones to last longer than this.

I called up Bose and explained my problem.  They had my product registration on file, and assured me that they would replace the headphones at no cost to me – they gave me a UPS label to paste on a box and send the headphones back to them, and about 2 weeks after they received them, I had a brand new pair of Quiet Comfort 2 headphones in my hands (for some reason, the shoulder strap didn't come with this pair, but everything else was the same).

This new pair was just as nice, and now I was able to recommend the company for both the product AND customer service.  I remained a convert.

Today, the new pair of headphones broke…in the same place.  If you're counting, this is about 1.5 years after the last pair they sent me.  Seems to be the lifespan of a pair of headphones.

So I got on the phone this morning and called Bose again.  Surprisingly, their excellent customer service has not changed one bit since I last called them.  I got a tech support guy on the phone almost immediately (American, I believe), and they were again willing to exchange the headphones at no cost.  This time I have to pay for the return shipping, which I am happy to do as a tradeoff for the replacement headphones.  

I expect to get my new headphones in about 2.5 weeks.  I know there are people out there that scoff at paying $300 for headphones, even if they are the noise canceling kind, but I doubt that Sony or Panasonic would be willing to exchange their $90-150 headphones for a new pair (not once but TWICE).  All in all, I think I've got my money's worth out of these headphones.  My only question now is whether this next pair will also last a year and a half.  I'll keep an eye out for this, but in the meantime I can rest easy knowing that Bose really does stand behind their products 100% (or even 200%), and hopefully will for years to come.

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