Have you ever gotten into an argument with a company or organization based on the principle of ethics? I’m currently in one with the snowboard seller The-House, and these types of complaints can lead to long-term problems. In their eyes I am a measly customer who is complaining about something so miniscule it will never affect their bottom-line. And, it won’t. But, I will fight to the death over their lack of ethics. These types of fights are not something they want to be involved in, and it’s definitely something you don’t want your camp to get involved in.
I purchased my first snowboard since 1995 on The-House.com last week. I took a lot of time to decide on the brand, the model, and the online company I was going to use to purchase it. Living in Charlotte, NC, the prices on snowboards are not the most economical. My first snowboard was bought 16-years ago using The-House catalog I mailed away for. I decided to give them another shot.
After A LOT of research, I chose a board. To my surprise, The-House had this board in stock even though it was not the current year’s model. I found it on another Web site as well for $20 cheaper, but I had a history with The-House. Plus, The-House was offering an awesome gift pack that included my choice of Anon Sunglasses — valued at $140. I had actually been looking for a new pair of sunglasses because I don’t always like to board with goggles on — especially on sunny days — but still want some sun and wind protection.
I looked through the “Free” sunglasses list and found the perfect pair — valued at $90 if purchased without a board. I made the order and it arrived a week later. The board was exactly what I wanted. The sunglasses on the other hand, were not the sunglasses I ordered. I ordered the Anon Indee’s. These were the Anon Comrade’s. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, but the Comrade’s were most likely named this because the only people who would wear them are the snowboarding children of ex-Soviet oil barrons. They were gigantic tortoise-shell glasses with large gold bling the size of a Russian Ruble coin. I was not pleased, but understood that it was probably a simple mistake. I went back online, and the Indee glasses were still in stock, but now they were no longer part of the “Free” deal.
I e-mailed the company that they had made a mistake. I waited 48-hours and never heard back. I decided to call The-House. After being on hold for about 10-minutes — where I had the pleasure of hearing their “Free Sunglasses Special” advertisement four times — I was connected with a customer service rep. I asked how I could return the sunglasses and get the ones I ordered. She said they were probably sold out and that it was a “free gift” that could not be exchanged. I explained to her that my receipt says that I ordered the Indee’s, so they should exchange them for the Indee’s, since the Web site was still “selling” them. She told me that I ordered the brown lens ones, which were sold out, and they only had the gray lens ones available. I said, “Great, I’ll take those.”
She told me that this was not part of the “free” deal and that they had the ability to send me different sunglasses than the ones I chose depending on the availability of them. I told her that their Web site does not explain this, and they can’t just send me whatever they want. I told her that they can’t use “$140 Gift” to sell something, but then use the term “Free” when they screw up the order. Plus, they were in stock when I ordered them. An automated Web site should be able to stop the order during check out if the items are no longer in stock. I said there is an expectation nowadays to receive the correct item ordered online, and that they should remedy the situation when they make a mistake and do not put a disclaimer on their advertisements stating, “Styles of sunglasses may change due to stock levels.” There is no such disclaimer, so they should send me the gray-lensed glasses worth $90 for the ridiculous ones I received valued at $140.
She said that she would pass along my criticism, but there was nothing she could do about it.
This is never the answer we should give at camp. If you advertise something, you have to go with it — especially if there is no disclaimer attached to the advertisement.
I made this mistake when I ran a Middle School Madness program for 6th-8th graders. We sent home a 5th-grader once and 10-minutes later I received a phone call from a very upset parent. He said, “I understand this is for Middle School students, but why does your Web site say it’s for 5th-8th graders?” I assured him that it didn’t. He hung up. I went to our Web site, and he was absolutely correct. I swallowed my pride, and called the upset parent and told him that I screwed up. I apologized and I welcomed his child back to the event for free. His son came the rest of the year and continued to be a great participant. I could have lost that customer forever, but apologized and I took the blame for it. It was not my fault — I didn’t type the wrong ages onto the Web site — but I took the blame because it was my program and I should be responsible for every aspect of it.
I am not The-House’s biggest customer. I have bought two snowboards from them in 15-years. But, during those 15-years I have recommended them to a ton of people who have looked for a good deal on winter gear. That has now ended. I have already complained on Twitter and now I am writing this to all of you; all because they lied about a “Free” gift. I could have gotten my board for $20 cheaper somewhere else, but they convinced me to buy from them because of their “special.” Don’t let this happen to your camp. Avoid arguments based on ethical principles, and offer an apology when you screw up.
Update three hours after this post originally appeared.
I received a phone call this afternoon from a very well-spoken and apologetic employee of The-House. He said that they had seen my Twitter comment and then read this post. He once again apologized for the poor customer service and immediately fixed my sunglasses issue. I should be receiving my Anon Indee’s in the next few days. I’ll make sure to post a pic of me in these cool new shades.
But, the point of this post was not to illustrate any type of incompetence and it was not posted so I could get my sunglasses order fixed. It was to illustrate how a simple mistake can turn into poor customer service. As a camp, we need to acknowledge this. We need to make sure our Web sites are completely up-to-date. And if they are not, we need to make sure to still honor these specials, discounts, and programs when customers call us out.
It’s also a great example of how Social Media can make or break you when it comes to customer service. I e-mailed and I called and did not feel like the situation was handled correctly. I complained on Twitter and it was taken care of immediately. What’s this say about the power of Social Media? Make sure the people you have running your Facebook and Twitter pages are your best customer service agents. Strike one against The-House was the e-mail. Strike two was the phone call. But on the last pitch, they came through and hit a homerun after I posted this on Twitter. Let’s make sure your camp hits that homerun on the first pitch from now on.