I Hate Everything About This Post!!!

A Four-Act Rant, including a Surprise Guest Rant

 

Down on my knees:

My local mega-cosmetics-store (yes, folks, you know you live in a super-urban area when you have a cosmetics store that’s larger than most people’s grocery stores) went through a massive renovation about six months ago. I found out about it five-and-a-half months late because cosmetics superstores are not my thing.

But I digress. Back to the reno.

This reno made the store look like a beautiful white chamber, very futuristic… in 1962. Okay, so I show up late and I don’t care for it much. But all I want is my usual mascara, which I’ve needed to get for a couple of months, but it’s not my thing…. oh, I already said that.

Lovely, white white white lab-style scene. I find it hard to orient myself. I make the classic customer’s decision that this is because I’m a dolt, not because they’ve taken all visual cues away from the huge space.

Your customers decide that all the time. Then they walk out or click away. That’s ‘cuz they don’t need my mascara, I presume.

In the section I’ve been hunting for, things are no longer grouped by brand. As they are in every other cosmetics section of every other doggone store I’ve ever set foot in. Now they’ve got me disoriented, they’ve violated conventions that make shopping easy for me to understand, and at last…

At last I find the Mascara Bar. Yes, now I must suffer cutsey indignities like calling this area a Mascara Bar. I am on my way to mildly annoyed, but I still need the stuff. My brand located, style spotted, all that remains is to find the shade I want.

This is when I notice that the racks go all the way to the floor. Not backstock, or drawers, or extras, but the actual hanging racks that I am trying to look through to find my mascara. The Kid happened to be with me, and she saw nothing wrong with crawling on the floor to look for me (thanks, Kid!), but I do. When she didn’t spot it, and I wasn’t sure whether she knew what she was looking for—yes, I had to get down, on my wool-clad knees, in my suit, to look at bloody floor-level to be certain that my mascara wasn’t there.

Which it wasn’t.

… …

If I go back, hoping it will be in stock, what I can’t decide is, will I ask for sales help?

What’s more awful: me on my knees just so I can give them money, or asking a salesperson to humiliate herself to keep my knees clean?

The new interiors are an Experience Design FAIL in every way.

 

UPS redux:

Long time readers may remember my difficulties in getting packages sent via UPS to my home address. I’ve even offered UPS tips to improve their Customer Experience, but it seems they’re a little slow in implementing the changes.

For nearly two years I have avoided UPS for personal and professional shipping, due to this impasse with the company. I’ll even find another supplier if I need to, when the company I wanted to do business with can’t ship via FedEx or USPS.

Except… when I’ve just got to have a certain something, and I can’t get it any other way. Such was the case a few weeks ago for a small package I wanted delivered to my home. On the delivery date, oh what luck, I even happened to be home with a sick kid. We’d have no delivery shenanigans this day…

I checked the tracking number a few times during the day. Out for delivery, out for delivery… no updates, but nothing going wrong either. I kept the blinds on our big picture window open and watched the long front walk for Brown, and continually scanned the parking lot for a truck. All day, while sitting at the computer, while writing, or while taking care of The Kid, checking out the window every few minutes.

At 7 pm I checked the tracking number again… UPS’ site says they can not give delivery estimates but they’ll deliver by 7, yet the tracking number still said out for delivery. The Kid and I were watching a movie so I kept one eye on the picture window, and didn’t bother the computer again until 7:45… when the website said “7:28 pm. THE RECEIVER WAS UNAVAILABLE TO SIGN ON THE 1ST DELIVERY ATTEMPT.”

For a package that did not require a signature. But as my past difficulties have shown me, with UPS that’s a mere technicality.

I’d been sitting there all day for nothing.

I called their 800 number immediately. I explained with a bit of agitation in my voice that I wanted the truck to turn around, he or she is supposedly only 15 minutes away at most, and NO attempt had been made—the truck had not been in the lot, no one had walked up the sidewalk, and of course, no one had been to the door, all of which I’d been watching like a hawk all day precisely so this wouldn’t happen. I explained that this has happened several times before—and variations on this—and that I avoid UPS like the plague because of it, though of course, I know it’s not your fault, Customer Service Guy, you’re just the one who has to hear this stuff. So please turn that driver back from wherever he is, and save him the faux trip that he probably won’t make tomorrow.

He said he was not able to have the driver turn around, because he could not contact the driver. He made me check my front door to see if there was a UPS “attempted delivery” sticker, which I assured him there would not be, and there wasn’t. Even after listening to everything that day and my history with the company, he still said “That’s odd. He was required to leave a note.”

“I am trying to tell you that he has NOT been here.”

The gentleman had been typing furiously the entire time I was on the phone with him. I made sure he understood that it’s not even the undelivered package that was really bothering me, but having the delivery person lie about his whereabouts and mine to save face. I don’t know where he was, but I know where I was. If they’re running too late they ought to write in the system, “ran too late.” Not lie about whether I was there, and think I’m too stupid to find out.

He said that so-and-so from the local office would contact me between 8 and 9 tomorrow morning, after she’d figured out what happened, and give me an estimated delivery time for that day.

At 11 am so-and-so called, and left a message to tell me that she was sorry I had not been there to accept the package, but a different driver would deliver it between 2 and 3 pm. No phone number to call her back.

So I guess the Customer Service Guy was typing an email to his girlfriend, because he sure didn’t tell her that I WAS there, every minute of the day, and the driver is the one who wasn’t. Which means the driver is not going to answer for this incident… which probably has a lot to do with why this is rampant in their organization, judging from all the UPS stories I’ve heard since I first wrote about them. After going through a telephone-labyrinth for the sole purpose of trying to help them fix this problem—after all, I knew they’d attempt delivery again the next day, so I wasn’t getting anything out of the call—there’s no accountability at the proper levels. I wasted my time and my breath.

C.S. Guy apparently also didn’t tell her he’d promised that she’d call hours earlier, when I was ready to take the call and try to straighten this out locally.

The UPS guy arrived at 3:45 pm. Right when you’d expect.

… …

Even a certain something isn’t worth this.

 

Independence Day:

The 4th of July provided a lot of surprises for me this year. Since we moved to this area, we always head to Philadelphia to take in the historic sites and the evening festivities, but maybe I have blinders on as I go. This time we needed a couple of items before running out of town and thinking a 24-hour drugstore would be my only choice, I discovered that most major stores were open. For my readers who are not in the States, Independence Day was once almost as closed-up as New Year’s Day… though New Year’s, I’ve noticed, isn’t as closed up as New Year’s anymore, either.

Is this a good thing? Not to me, for a variety of reasons, but there I go digressing again.

In Philly the story was the same. Many shops and restaurants were open, which was convenient, but distracting from our usual purpose of taking in massive amounts of history, starving until we head to the scene of the night’s activities, and then wolfing down large amounts of street-vendor junk food. I mean, we could eat good food and go shopping between Betsy Ross’ house and Ben Franklin’s! That’s just not traditional.

When it came time to head to the Parkway to meet up with Sheryl Crow, we stopped in a little shop for dessert before dinner (Mama and The Kid get to make up our own rules!). We’d seen people walking by us with cups of soft-serve and we were dying for a little ice cream without the long wait we’d have for some icky premade bar up on the Parkway.

Once inside, we tried to get the hang of things from watching other folks. The place was serve-yourself and pay-by-weight, which seemed interesting enough. We made up wild flavor and topping combos and paid, and only as we were grabbing our spoons did we hear the cashier explaining to another newbie that we’d just purchased frozen yogurt.

I’m not complaining about the concept of frozen yogurt, mind you, but astonished that I’d misunderstood, I looked carefully around the place—there is NO mention of that anywhere, and no hint from the names of the flavors, to the name of the shop.

Not telling your customers what they’re buying is a huge no-no in my Customer Experience book.

We wandered out, munching and walking a bit, and kids being kids, mine decided after we were blocks away that she wanted to use their restroom, so we headed back. I’d finished my treat, quite surprised at how much I liked it (frozen yogurt is not usually my thing), but The Kid, who does usually like it, hated this version. So when we walked back in one of the staff asked me had she liked it, and I could honestly say, “Not as much as I did! I surprised myself.”

… …

The big problem is that they surprised her. Expectations play a major part in enjoyment.

If we knew what we were in for, I admit I wouldn’t have wanted any because I’ve not enjoyed it elsewhere, but she probably would have enjoyed it much more. No matter how many “wins” they may achieve in a pleasantly surprised person like me, the losses will eventually outweigh them.

 

Broken English, Broken Promises:

Last, the fireworks for this show are provided by my friend and fellow blog author, the Urban Panther, who also contributed the title for today’s post. She wrote me:

There is a wood company offering a new type of wood (torrified) in Canada. They have established a market in Montreal, and are now trying to break into our region. We are their FIRST customer in the area. We hired them to build a $7,000 fence, plus told them that we will likely order more wood to build a deck, then next year a balcony, and in later years flooring for inside. In other words, there is the potential for a lot of business from us.

Well, they promised the fence would be installed six weeks ago. Personally, I lost patience with them the second week, after the third broken promise. Because they are French, my partner, the Urbane Lion, has been dealing with them. He has been cool as a cucumber, with the patience of Job, until last night.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a phone call from the fencing company. The Lion wasn’t home yet, so it was my turn to deal with them. The girl didn’t speak English, but she did manage to get out the following:

Fence Girl: Because it rain, no fence tomorrow
Me: It’s not going to rain here.
Fence Girl: Yes, rain.
Me: No rain tomorrow. I am looking at the weather report right now. There is no rain here tomorrow. You CANNOT go by your weather. You are 2 hours away!
Fence Girl: Please wait. I get someone.

Fence Girl 2: May I help you?
Me (after a significant pause): You phoned me!
Fence Girl 2: Yes, yes. No fence. It rain at your place. (Her English was marginally better)
Me: There is NO rain here tomorrow. I looked up the weather report.
Fence Girl 2: Yes?
Me: NO RAIN. I want my fence tomorrow.
Fence Girl 2: Installer phone you tonight. Bye.

The Urbane Lion got home, and Panther relayed the conversation.

Lion: Give me the owner.
Fence Girl: I told your girlfriend that the installer would phone tonight.
Lion: Yes, well, for 6 weeks now I have been told people will phone me and they don’t. I have no trust that he will.
Fence Girl: Okay, I will have the installer phone you now.

Installer: Because it’s going to rain at your place, I started another job today I have to finish tomorrow.
Lion: **&&^% there is no *&^% rain here *&^%g tomorrow. &^%$ You will &^%$ install my fence &^%$ tomorrow. (And it went downhill from there for about 5 minutes)
Installer: Okay, I’ll phone you back.

Note: $#@! = extremely colourful French swear words

Owner: Monsieur, I can assure you that you will get your fence tomorrow.
Lion: Thank you.

Installer: Monsieur, I will not be installing your fence tomorrow.
Lion: ^%$# %%$# %$# %$# %$# (you get the idea)

Lion: Give me the owner.
Fence Girl 1: He is unavailable at the moment.
Lion: tell him to come get his %$#@ wood.

Owner: Monsieur, the installer double booked himself. I will tell him that if he doesn’t install your fence tomorrow he will lose his contract with my company.
Lion: Okay because I am %$#@ tired of all the $#@! broken promises. You promise one thing $#@! and your staff $#@! break them.
Owner: I understand. I will keep you posted.

Owner: Monsieur, the installer will be there at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Lion: Okay. But if he’s not, I would really appreciate your wood being gone before the weekend.
Owner: I will not need to come get my wood.

The installers are here. And, as I suspected would be the case, they had no clue what the design of the fence is. The Lion had to print off the picture we agreed on with the sales lady. So, if he wasn’t home, the installers wouldn’t know what to build. And, it means they are currently standing around scratching their heads on how to build the fence. But at least they are here!

… …

This story made me wonder, as I have many times in my adult life, whether people should be as patient as the Lion (and the Panther, and I) are. Whether we should be or not, many people are. And many companies abuse that good nature.

Until you want to expand into an area where English is the primary language, customer service staff who can’t speak fluently may not be an issue. For this company that time has come, but they’ve got far worse to deal with in their utter inability to follow through on their promises. Your word is all you’ve got in business—no matter what language the word is spoken in. There are many businesses in this super-urban area I live in with staff who are just learning the language, but I enjoy giving them my money because it’s clear that in any language they are pleasant, helpful people.

Post script: The Urban Panther and her Urbane Lion finally got the fence they’d been hoping for. Was it worth the horrors? Let’s see what they do about the deck.

 

Okay, so I don’t hate everything about this post, but I do hate everything that happened in this post. I hope you got a laugh and at least a couple of wows from it.

If these things are going on at your place of business, dear reader, it’s time to get back to work—Maximum Customer Experience is still a ways off.

Have a suggestion for these companies, or a rant of your own? Please share how NOT to woo you in the comments!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson