Saturday, December 04, 2010

Customer Service

I've never worked retail, but I believe I've heard that the golden rule of retail is "The Customer is Always Right". I consider myself a reasonable person, and generally try not to make waves. I rarely find myself in a setting in which I feel the need to speak up and advocate for my consumer rights. But a strange situation is brewing, friends, and I am sharing it here.

Once upon a time, Fibby was browsing on and discovered some lovely socks* that were reasonably priced.

"Ooh!" Fibby thought to herself, "I can purchase these as gifts for friends this year for Christmas!"

Fibby spent time browsing all options, and checked out with multiple purchases from this shop.

The order was packed and shipped promptly, and a few days later Fibby opened a box full of socks that were just as beautiful as they had been in the photos. She left 100% positive feedback for the products online and was generally very pleased with her order. However, some of the socks were larger than Fibby had expected.

"Hmmm, this could be a problem," thought Fibby, "I'm not sure I know people who can wear these socks, and I'm not sure I can wear them either!"

Fibby emailed the etsy shop owner. She explained that the socks were beautiful, but larger than expected and inquired if an exchange would be possible. Fibby didn't expect the shop owner to agree to an exchange, but felt it was worth asking, just in case.

Fibby heard nothing back from the shop owner, which she took as confirmation that the store did not do exchanges.

Weeks later, Fibby realized that there were a few more people in her life who might appreciate some beautiful socks for Christmas and headed to the etsy shop once more. She found a couple more pairs of socks that would be perfect for her friends, and ordered them.

The order form had a section for comments, and Fibby decided to provide feedback to the shop owner:

I love your socks and will continue to buy. Just a note of feedback - I sent you a message a few weeks ago about exchanging some socks. As it turns out, I have found homes for them and I no longer need to. But it would have been nice to hear back from you. I would have been fine if you had told me you don't do exchanges, but not hearing anything was kind of disappointing. Just a little constructive feedback from a repeat customer!

This is where the story gets strange...

One day after ordering the socks, Fibby received an email from informing her that her second sock order had been cancelled, along with the following information:

Cancellation reason provided by the shop owner: Seller refuses service and buyer has paid

Message from the seller: Future purchases are not available to buyer who was not happy with items or shop, but continues to purchase and critique simultaneously.

Friends, I have to admit, this made me concerned about the sanity of the shop owner. I had repeatedly told the shop owner that I loved the socks, had provided 100% positive feedback online, and then provided a piece of customer service feedback directly to the shop owner that I still maintain was written in a constructive way.

A piece of me was tempted to change all my positive feedback for my previous sock order to negative feedback and never do business with Crazy Irrational Shop Owner (CISO) anymore.

But there was another piece of me that felt the need to appeal to CISO with a rational argument and attempt to get the second sock order approved. (The socks were quite lovely, afterall)

I wrote to CISO stating that I believed there had been a misunderstanding. After providing a little more background, I laid out the following points:

To clarify:

1. I was absolutely happy with my original items, but some were a little bit larger than I had anticipated, so I contacted the store to inquire about an exchange. Not a return - an exchange. I didn't want you to lose money, and would have happily paid extra shipping costs or a re-stocking fee if necessary.

2. I heard nothing back after my email, which implied that an exchange was not an option. This was fine, as I wasn't sure I'd be able to exchange the items, but had felt I should at least inquire about whether or not it was an option.

3. I purchased more socks last night because I was so happy with your product, and I wanted to give a few more as gifts this season.

4. I wrote a comment along with my order not to complain, but to provide constructive feedback that it was disappointing not to have heard back from you after my initial inquiry. Had I truly been a disgruntled customer, I would have written negative feedback for the products and/or not shopped with you again.

I then requested that CISO reconsider the (ridiculous and irrational**) ban on having me as a repeat customer.

Where will this go? I don't have high hopes. My guess is that I will once again not get a response, or get a response that tells me the CISO is still not willing to do business with me. There's not much I can do after that, and frankly, if CISO continues to be so unreasonable, I won't have any desire to provide additional income to such an insane person (who knows where that money will go!).

At any rate, it seemed like a good story for sharing on my oft-neglected blog, so here it is.

*gifts have been changed to maintain some element of surprise
** words not included in the email

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