On bad customer service

14 Apr

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, I was an assistant manager in a retail store for a national chain. Whenever we hired new employees, there was an exercise we had them go through at their first training. It went like this:

We’d sit everyone in a big circle, and ask them one by one to tell us about their worst customer service experience. These stories were detailed, and often involved telling all of their friends and family about the offending company or employee.

Then we’d go around the circle and ask everyone for their best customer service experience. Sometimes these involved detailed stories, but usually they didn’t. They were one or two line tales, and it was extremely rare that they involved telling all of their friends and family.

One by one, the new employees would get it. When you treat a customer like shit, they remember. And they tell everyone.

On March 22nd, I ordered a pair of shoes. I’ve been building a steampunk-esque outfit, and since these shoes have heels and cogwheel buckles, I fell in love. I placed my order and got excited about what an ass-kicker I would look like in these perfect, perfect shoes.

Then I waited.

After three days with no shipping notification, I decided to email customer service. I worked in retail for a long time, and I know that things sometimes just fall through the cracks, and it’s no one’s fault.

I didn’t get a response, so I emailed again 24 hours later. Later that evening, customer service wrote back, saying they were sorry and they’d get in touch with their warehouse on Monday to find out the status of my order. Okay, fine. I thanked the customer service agent and said I was looking forward to hearing back from them.

After three days they emailed me again to let me know that they were, in fact, completely out of my shoes. Their website was incorrect, but the shoes would be back in stock on April 11th. I was told that if I was willing to wait my shoes would ship directly from the manufacturer on the 11th. I was sad, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to find them somewhere else in the meantime, so I said okay, fine.

On the 12th I emailed again, asking if my shoes had come in, and did they have a tracking number for me? Customer Service replied that they should be shipping out for me that day, and they would email me with a tracking number that evening.


On the 14th, I had finally had it. I wrote back saying that if at this point, there was no tracking number and they had not shipped out yet, they could just cancel my order. Fifteen minutes later I got the following reply:

Hi Claire,

Your boots are *finally* back in the active inventory and ready to ship. They were scheduled to go out today to arrive for you on Tuesday. Please just let me know if you would still like to cancel.

Thank you,
Name omitted to protect the (not so) innocent

I would like to think I’m a patient person, but Lord help me, I wrote back saying to cancel my order. I did refrain from saying I’d order from someone that wasn’t full of shit.

If I had to go around the circle now and talk about my worst customer service experience, I’d have a new story to tell. It would be about shoes, not keeping a customer updated, and what happens when you lie to a customer.

What’s your worst customer service experience?


One Response to “On bad customer service”

  1. Bika April 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    I have a pretty short memory, but I can definitely recall a couple incidents since last October when I’ve had various home repair/real estate agents come to my house to give estimates and they’ve completely flaked. I’m starting to think I may be cursed!

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