MacWarehouse (mail order software and hardware supplier)
I think this one is best explained through the correspondence itself.
On Tuesday, January 14th, 1997 I sent the following the 35 of my friends, plus email@example.com:
I just had the worst customer service experience I have had in a while, and the vendor was MacWarehouse. Since MacWarehouse is a big company (the same company also does DataComm WH, PC WH, MacSystems WH, etc.) and all of you use computers, I thought you might find my experience informative.
Here's what happened:
I recently purchased an ABCD switch from Global Computer Supplies, which I intend to use to connect my PaperPort, modem and laserwriter to the single serial port on my PowerBook 5300. The switch does not come with a cable (which is odd), and Global doesn't sell the cable (which is odder).
Finding the cable has turned out to be a chore. The cable needed is a Mini-DIN 8 to Mini-DIN 8 Mac modem cable -- a printer cable will _not_ work. I visited several local computer stores. I looked through every computer catalog I owned. I called APS Technologies, usually a good source for esoteric products. No one seemed to have the cable I needed, although several people _thought_ they did, because most people do not recognize that a printer cable is not the same as a modem cable.
Then, in a moment of inspiration, I tried the cable which came with the PaperPort -- success! All I had to do was find a PaperPort cable!
So, yesterday I called MacWarehouse to order a PaperPort cable. I was very specific (I had learned this lesson well during the search), asking for a Mini-DIN 8 to Mini-DIN 8 cable for use with a PaperPort. I explained _exactly_ why I needed it (serial port, modem, etc.). I was told that they had _two_ sizes in stock (2-foot and 6-foot), so I decided to get one of each.
The package arrived this morning, but when I opened it there were two 25-to-50 SCSI cables inside, not two Mini-DIN 8 to Mini-DIN 8 PaperPort cables. I called MacWarehouse, and they gave me an RMA number. I then asked them to send me an airbill. They demurred, since I had ordered the wrong product.
Waitaminute, I responded. I _received_ the wrong product, but I very specifically had asked for a Mini-DIN 8 to Mini-DIN 8 PaperPort cable. Why should I pay for return postage? After a few minutes with this Sales rep (Stacy), I asked for her supervisor. After a small wait the supervisor (whose name, alas, I did not write down) came on the line and said the same thing.
"Waitaminute", I said, "You're telling me that if I ordered a particular model of computer from you, and you sent me the wrong model, I would have to pay for the return postage?"
"We don't accept returns on computers," the supervisor said, missing the point that if they sent me the WRONG computer, they damn well _better_ take it back.
"Okay, so you're saying that if I ordered Microsoft Word and you sent me Excel instead, I would have to pay the return postage for the copy of Excel?"
The supervisor responded that Stacy had said that I had said I had ordered the wrong cables, so I would have to pay for the return. I explained that since the cable is very esoteric, I was _very_ specific about _exactly_ what I needed, that I am in technical support and understand the differences between all the different types of cables (and speak very precisely about them), and asked again what the policy would be if I ordered one thing and was sent another. She repeated the claim that I had ordered the wrong cable, and asked me if I wanted her to write up Stacy for lying.
This went on for a while, and although I eventually did get the account number to send it back at their expense, there were several things about this conversation that I, both as a customer and a customer service professional, found very disturbing. Specifically:
1) Turning it into a "so you say she is lying" situation: It is _irrelevant_ if Stacy thought I had said I ordered the wrong cables, I told the supervisor that the correct situation was that I had _received_ the wrong cables. The supervisor effectively turned what was a communication breakdown with a member of her staff into a confrontational situation with a customer.
2) Not answering the policy question: Every time I asked what the policy was regarding return postage, I was asked the "so you say she is lying" question rather than giving me an answer.
Now, I _know_ what the return postage policy is, as I have recently returned a couple of other products to them. In the first instance, I ordered a copy of PowerPortJuggler, which is incompatible with my 5300. When I pointed out that the catalog did not indicate that this product was incompatible with a PowerPC powerbook and that I had stated my machine model to the rep when I ordered it, they cheerfully paid for its return. I then ordered the vanilla PortJuggler, which I was unable to get working with my PPP software. [The developer said she thought it was incompatible; another engineer told me today that he knows that it will work, but it takes some tweaking. Given the products bad reputation, the ABCD switch is probably the better solution anyway.] I cheerfully paid for that return, because MacWarehouse had shipped me the product I had asked for, and there was no way for them to know that it was incompatible.
3) Stating that the clarification was irrelevant: If I said something to you, and I later discovered that, for whatever reason, the idea I was trying to get across was miscommunicated, then it would make sense that the clarification would take precedence over what had been said before, right? The supervisor in this case specifically focused on _only_ what I had (supposedly) said to Stacy, not what I had said to the rep I ordered from the day before, or the explanation I was giving the supervisor at that moment. Even if I had misspoke and said "I ordered the wrong cables" (which is not even remotely what happened), why is that relevant if I explain in excruciating detail _exactly_ what transpired when I made the original order? The supervisor basically decided that, rather than dealing with the issue at hand, she would force me to either admit that I was lying or call Stacy a liar. [Although she clearly thought the former, what I would gain by lying was never explained -- I certainly wasn't going to _profit_ in either event.]
Needless to say, I find this behavior offensive. When I said that I had "been a customer for several years", she said that she had my history in front of her and that she only showed three orders. [I guess I was lying again.] Understanding that I was attempting to return the third straight order in a row (the two others being the PortJuggler debacle) and that this might be suspicious, I explained that I had moved recently and that I would be happy to provide her with my previous billing addresses so she could look up my customer history. She said she was uninterested. [I guess she thought I would lie about those as well.]
I figure that between myself and those to whom I have recommended MacWarehouse (friends, family, and tech support customers who call in needing particular hardware and software solutions) that I have been directly responsible for three or four thousand dollars worth of business. In return, until today I have received good service, and considered them to be a good company with which to do business.
That reservoir of goodwill has now been emptied by the unprofessional conduct of this one person (with some help from Stacy). I do customer service for a living, and I know how difficult these situations can be. I don't think even the most jaded customer service _professional_, however, will mistake the difference between explaining an unpleasant policy, on the one hand, and calling the customer a liar, on the other. The customer _isn't_ always right, of course, but they better be treated as if they are, because companies live or die by personal recommendations; satisfied customers increase business, and dissatisfied customers decrease business, because they send email to friends, families, coworkers, and the occasional USENET newsgroup or two detailing the problems they have had.
So, my recommendations:
For MACWAREHOUSE: I recommend that you (1) teach your people the difference between a SCSI cable and a Mini-DIN-8 PaperPort cable, and (2) develop some different approaches to customer service.
For MY FRIENDS, FAMILY AND COWORKERS: If you want to use MacWarehouse, I suggest you conduct your business by FAX. That way, both you and MacWarehouse have an _exact_ record of what transpired.
For MYSELF: From now on I am using MacWarehouse as a vendor of last resort (if at all). If at all possible, I will go to one of the other vendors -- such as:
APS 800-304-7416My apologies to my friends, family and coworkers for the length of this email.
Easy Mac 800-613-0622
PCs Compleat 800-210-8348
Here is the reply that I received from MacWarehouse the next day:
Thanks for the recent e-mail. We are taking your message direcly to our customer service director to further research this matter. They will either directly respond to you or will have us relay any further information they have.
Please let us know if you have any further questions.
Allan [deleted], Alice [deleted], Sherill [deleted], Michelle [deleted] and Christopher [deleted]
Online Services Mac/MicroWarehouse
Incidently, as of the date on the bottom of this page, I still haven't received either a "direct response" or "relayed information".
This morning I received the following email from Deb Martin-Bruels [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
I appreciate your frustration in dealing with a catalog company, but I must take exception to your rambling diatribe against Macwarehouse.
First of all, you DID NOT talk to someone named Stacy. You gleaned that information from the mail-order catalog you received because you're a Macperson.
Stacy (or Stacey) doesn't exist in the hierarchy of Macwarehouse and, no...I don't work for them.
You decided (because you didn't write down names, positions, and phone extensions) that you would post a negative review of Macwarehouse because a picture of "someone named Stacy/Stacey" appeared in your catalog. I know this because I called Macwarehouse and asked for any customer service rep named "Stacy/Stacey."
I assume you've heard about "advertising?"
Like, let's choose a lot of wholesome, good-looking photo-ops for our catalog?
I personally know the actor who posed for the "call Stacy" advert. She has never worked for Macwarehouse and doesn't know a computer from a vibrator.
I'm appalled that you decided to devote a page to bashing Macwarehouse when you didn't even know you were talking to a telemarketer who wasn't blonde, buxom, and perky.
You ordered the wrong damn cable, Bub. You deal with mail-order, and you're responsible for YOUR mistakes. Remember, THEY don't know cables from camels, either. It's YOUR responsibility to order the correct item.
I DARE you to post this email on your page in order to correct the misinformation you've disseminated about Macwarehouse. And, again, I don't work for them. I've only ordered from them for about 8 years and, when I call them, I know FOR SURE what I'm ordering.
And I NEVER ask for Stacy or one of the actors portrayed in the catalog.
Why don't you buy a Pentium????
For someone who doesn't know me, did not witness either end of the conversation, and can't spell MacWarehouse correctly, she seems awful ready to call me a liar. She claims she doesn't work for MacWarehouse, but maybe she should -- she already has perfected their if-I'm-too-stupid-to-understand-the-facts-it-must-be-your-fault customer service style.
I sent the following reply:
You are more than welcome to believe whatever you want. The facts of the matter, though, are:
1) I did not ask for Stacy, I simply called the 800 number. I asked for her name when it became clear that I was going to have to talk to her supervisor, at which point she said her name was Stacy. I of course had no way of verifying whether she told me the truth or not. I haven't looked at a MacWarehouse catalog since I stopped using them, so I can't confirm that the character's name is Stacy or not, but for the sake of argument, I'm willing to assume that you may have gotten that one fact correct -- after all, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
2) I did not order the wrong cable. I am a computer professional who has been ordering cables for years, and I had learned while trying to find that particular cable that it was unusual. I described the number of pins on each end, and that I needed it to connect to a Paperport. If the sales rep can't send me the right cable after that explicit a description, then they shouldn't be taking orders over the phone.
3) The behavior of the supervisor was just plain inappropriate. I've done customer service work, too, over the years, including technical support, and frankly, when I was managing technical support, I would have fired anyone who treated a customer like I was treated.
4) Regardless of any of the above, I sent an email to MacWarehouse customer service, telling them I was disastisfied with their service. They said they would get back to me. I'm still waiting.
You can be appalled all you want -- that doesn't change the facts.
I stand by everything I said: I was told by a sales rep that they had Paperport cables, I ordered a Paperport cable, but they sent me a SCSI cable instead, and then insisted that I pay the postage for their screw up. I don't know what ax you have to grind, and I frankly don't care. To date a number of people have written me to tell me that my experience was not unique. To date one person -- you -- has written to defend MacWarehouse (or, more accurately, to attack me personally), and I think your letter speaks for itself.
--Chris Weuve [My opinion, not my employers.]
mailto:email@example.com (wk/day) mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org (h)
"The author regrets that he is unable to reconcile himself to the thoughtful point of view you have expressed. However, it must be kept in mind that being raised in different cultures and different places can result in such differences of viewpoint between individuals. The author is from planet Earth." [author unknown]
It's been over four years since I had my bad experience with MacWarehouse. Since that time I have not bought a single thing from them -- not the two Mac laptops and assorted peripherals I have purchased since then for my own use (around $10k) nor any computers, peripherals or software for my employers. For my current employer alone that totals quite a sum, as it includes a bulk purchased of 20 Mac G4s -- about $50k worth, including SCSI cards and such. Miscellaneous other purchases (software, hard drives, etc.) for my employers probably total around $20k. Most of this business (e.g., the $50k purchase plus a large chunk of the rest) went to MacMall, with whom I have been very happy.
Now, some of that wouldn't have gone to MacWarehouse in any event, but probably about $70k of it would have. That works out, roughly, to about a $1k a month on average that MacWarehouse has lost from me alone. And since I've got about another $40k to spend before this fiscal year is out, I should be able to push that total over $110k within the next couple of months. Good job, MacWarehouse!
Since the above update, I have purchased another 12 CPUs, plus some associated printers and software, totalling another $38k. I bought them from Uptime Computer Services, a local vendor with whom I am very happy. This pushes the total amount of equipment and software I have NOT purchased from MacWarehouse to around $110k. That works out to almost $2k per month of lost potential business.
Now, I'm sure $110k is just a drop in the bucket to MacWarehouse, but it does beg the question -- how many people who are NOT posting webpages about it are also not buying from them because of their poor customer service?
Eleven years later, I still haven't purchased anything from MacWarehouse.
I'm no longer in the same job, so I don't get to make big computer purchases like I used to. I can't remember if that last one I mentioned above was the last, or whether there was one other purchase of around $20k or so. Either way, since then I only have made personal computer purchases for my own use, most of which have come from MacMall or directly from Apple. Those total another $5k or so.
So, the grand total is around either $115k or $135k -- and counting.