If you're laying out your hard-earned money, you want quality, great customer service, clean stores, clean/sealed packaging and ease of shopping. If something goes wrong, every consumer wants an exchange or refund that is quick and easy. The concept is pretty simple. I give you my money, you give me a product, product does not meet expectations, I bring product back to you and you give me back my money. It seems easy enough right? It's amazing how many different ways that can get botched up! Then add to the mix the complications of mail order and online ordering. It can become such an ordeal...enough to push someone to the brink of madness.
Recently, I have had quite a few instances of poor customer service or shopping experiences. Over the summer we stayed at a hotel that ended up being right near a fire department, the cable went out around 11:00 pm and in the morning, I was the only one in the family to have bug bites all over my ankles. I immediately filed an online complaint. But we never heard anything back. Once we got home, my husband started making calls and it turns out the hotel manager has already sent out a letter of apology to us (which never arrived). And it only took a few more weeks of back and forth between my husband and the hotel people before finally they were ready to kinda make amends by giving us enough points on their rewards program to stay a night or a voucher to stay a night. And that's when my husband steps up and said "Or you could just refund the money to my credit card."
I know, once a company gets you money, they don't want to lose it. So they will make offers and substitutions...anything they think will placate you. Sometimes it works. Sometimes you just want your money back.
While this discussion does apply to all areas of consumerism, I have seen a few strange things go on in the world of cosmetics...and since that is my favorite world to play in, I'm going to focus on these incidents.
Back in May, NYX Cosmetics was planning a phenomenal, never seen before, sale that would be like no others! To celebrate their 12th Anniversary, all of their products (apart from a select few) were going to be ONLY $1.20!!! The sale would go for 12 hours. This seems pretty straightforward and simple, right?
I suppose there just wasn't enough foresight, and NYX has so many fans and followers, overloading the servers was inevitable. The site wouldn't load properly at all! Refresh, refresh, refresh. Still nothing. Then they'd give you hope that they'd be up to speed at 8 pm, but guess what? CRASH! They even extended the sale another 12 hours to help people get their orders in. But the process was maddening, you could only buy 2 of an item and sometimes when you're refreshing so much, you are adding things and not even knowing it! And you could go and adjust the contents of the cart. You'd have to delete all of that item and then manually put the item back in again. I stayed up all night, managed to get a handful of items in my cart and was lost in the doldrums of refreshing, refreshing...
I had been up over 23 hours. There were only a couple hours left of the sale. NYX had made a statement that anyone who wasn't able to get through would be issued a 50% off coupon after the sale was over. Well, that's all well and good, but all of us who stayed up all night took that as a slap to the face.
So I called them.
The first customer service rep was pleasant and explained that I should just keep on trying and refreshing. I explained that that technique had done nothing for me for the past 22 hours so the odds were slim I'd get my order in in the last 2 hours of the sale. But she kept going on about trying and refreshing, blah, blah, blah. I asked to speak to her supervisor.
The next woman I spoke with was quite pleasant. She pretty much said everything the first customer service rep said, but she added on that they really appreciate their customers and they want to make customers happy, but if you can't get through online....oops, sorry. Around then, I started feeling my pulse go up. The tiny burn of blood rushing to my face making me completely upset and flushed. I told her that if they REALLY cared for their customers, then she'd take my order by phone, email or fax. She said they weren't set up to do that....which I completely shot down since I know of many cosmetics companies that take orders that way. Then she started to ramble on about "the best they could do", "appreciate customers', blah, blah, blah. So I asked to speak to her supervisor.
It was that point when I finally found a human and not some comsetibot to take my call. I mean, I'm human, I fully realize that the whole sale experience was a nightmare. People were throwing fits online on all social media outlets. People had taken to the phones, just as I had. It had to have been very stressful to take a call in the NYX office that day. I am not excusing what happened, just saying I understand.
The woman on the other end of the line had a position higher than the csr's. I explained to her that I had recently gotten my pro membership information from them and that I had been looking forward to placing my first order. But once this deal came into play, it's obviously a better deal and I want to take advantage of it. She then proceeded to give me her direct number and told me that if I didn't get through in the last hours to call her back.
At Noon, when the sale ended, I called her back. She asked how many items I had. I hadn't counted so I didn't know, but I did know it was a lot and that's what I told her. She then told me to print the list out and fax it to her. (Fortunately, while I had been waiting for 24 hours with no sleep, I was compiling the list of items I was going to order.) I did just that. It took over a week to get it totally processed and out, but it did happen.
This situation was frustrating for so very many reasons:
- NYX was not prepared for the traffic on their site.
- Some of their posts were snarky and sounded like the consumers were doing something wrong if they couldn't get their orders through.
- NYX never really apologized for any of the mess.
- Their stance seemed like "Too bad, so sad...but here, have a coupon."
- There was no genuine feeling of concern for the consumer.
- I'm sure the people who called got the same sorts of interaction as I did, but they just let it go after the one person they spoke to blew them off.
It was also a poor move on NYX's part because it created a massive schism between their fans. It was ugly. I saw it first hand.
So, what should you do when you are dealing with a situation like this? Some conspiracy theorists claim that this was an old "bait and switch" tactic. Or only orders with small quantities got through and all others would be left with the 50% off coupon. That way as few as possible people could benefit from the 12th Anniversary sale.
I don't know if this is true or not. I do know that one of the first things I was asked when I got on the phone with the last woman was "How many items are in your basket?" So, that makes me pause for a second.
In any event, if you are working your way through the maze of telemarketing customer service, always remember that the person you are speaking with is not the final authority, there is always someone else. You may have to say, "May I please speak with your supervisor?" over and over again. And all the while, you need to remain pleasant. Getting angry and using profanity gives them an excuse to end the call. Eventually you will get to someone who can answer questions. Many times these are the people who can make decisions to deviate from set plans.
And sometimes everything doesn't work out so rosy, but the fact of the matter is that this company was looking for sales. Were they really going to want you taking your money anywhere else? Your money can be your voice, especially if you are planning on making a large purchase.
Also, in the heat of the moment, when you are upset and want to throw around the names of government agencies and groups that deal with consumers, know this:
- The Better Business Bureau does nothing more than keep your complaint on file. They do not mediate any issues between client and company.
- The Federal Trade Commission acts almost identically in the same way as the Better Business Bureau.
- The State Attorney General handles problems between businesses and unsatisfied consumers (they do mediate too).
- If it's a local business you can always go to one of your local newspaper, television or radio consumer watchdogs. The reporter's who are looking out for the little guys...you know the ones.
- And in a SELECT FEW cases the FDA can be contacted, depending on your situation.
If you do not demand it from these vendors, then you are excusing what they do, which leads to even more consumers having the same problems. I don't know what it is about where we are today that makes it so easy for us to shrug something off. "Incorrect change, eh, whatever." "My food's not right? Well, I'll just pick whatever I don't like off." "The shirt was never worn, still has tags, but they are only giving me store credit? Okay." So, people of Consumerland, I have to ask, "Where's the fire in your belly?!?!"