Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bad customer service aka OSH Sucks

So this is weird - I usually buy home improvement/gardening type stuff at OSH. I'm not sure if it's a regional or national chain or what but basically it's like Home Depot or Lowes or any of these guys but not quite as big and usually better service. Basically if you're willing to pay a little extra to not wait in line so much and have good service it's worth it, otherwise off to Home Depot. I'll go to one sometimes, especially if I'm already in the area and just want one or two things.

The details of the story aren't that interesting - suffice to say after a long wait as they tried to deal with the incomprehensible concept of an item that the computer didn't recognize and the guy who could provide the necessary SKU insisting on coming out and trying it himself several times as we waited he finally provided the code and as he was leaving made a really snotty remark about us. You know, because it was our fault that the item wasn't in the database or that the process took so long.

Well, I asked to talk to a manager and what I found interesting was that he wouldn't apologize. He said some things like "it's an employee issue and I'll deal with it" but never "I'm sorry" or "that shouldn't have happened" or "how rude!". After it became clear I wasn't getting anywhere I said I was going to contact corporate and he said two interesting things - one was that it would just come back to him to deal with (aka that there was no point in going over his head because it was his decision - which is interesting because he was just an assistant manager) and then later he kind of sighed and said something like "somebody might call you and then you'll get your compensation." Like I was fishing for coupons or something. Which I wasn't - I hadn't asked for anything and if they call I'll refuse it because I don't even want the appearance that this is motivated by me wanting free stuff.

But I think that's very revealing - like he couldn't imagine somebody actually said something offensive enough that I'd want to make sure a manager knew about it - that in his mind the only motivator could be that I was looking for coupons or a discount or something. (I'm not even sure what it would be - "I'll go away if you give me a pound of nails?" It's not like if you complain at Ben and Jerries and pretty much they're going to give you some ice cream.) I'm not sure if that says more about him or about your average customer these days, but it's interesting.

Anyway, I thought the whole thing was rather odd. And at Home Depot I probably would have shrugged and figured the clerk was having a bad day and never talked to the manger, but at the places whose selling point is good customer service, who needs it? If I'm going to be abused I can do that at Home Depot like everybody else.

But getting back to the compensation thing - I bet it's a lot easier to complain on the corporate website than it used to be. Hit contact us, complain, get some free goodies. You could hit Ben and Jerries, some fast food places, whatever. I bet they'd send you some coupons good for free food or whatever. I wonder if people actually do that - once a week make up a new fake name and story and go fishing. There's probably even a book in it "How I got 52 free pints of ice cream in a year". Or you could have a blog dedicated to it, and people could share tips about particularly generous companies.

OK, I Googled it, and sure enough there's at least one page on how to do it. Sigh.

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