Customer Service

2 Jun

Shopping online always makes me think of how mail order shopping worked in the early 1900’s. You went to the Sears catalog, made your selections from products that included a pair of socks to a full new house construction kit and then waited for the mail. Delivery costs were balance with how accessible that item might be in the local area. I do the same thing but I rarely shop Sears. They try hard but really can’t compete with the selection from Amazon or WalMart. The price and delivery costs are balanced with each other as well as local options. I shop online for the same reasons many people turned to that catalog – local availability is not a good option in a rural environment.

My most recent purchase was for an above ground swimming pool. It is a fairly large pool (12 x 24) and comes in 2 boxes that weight 450 each.  I found the pool at both WalMart and Amazon. We could purchase the same model within 25 miles but at a higher price. More importantly we would have to pick it up and then unload it once we got it home. Having the store load it just didn’t compete with having it delivered to our carport for unpacking. I placed the order from WalMart with delivery date set for less than a week later. I included a saltwater ozone system so we don’t have to add chlorine to the water. That system arrived within 5 days. A day before the expected delivery date, a large truck pulled up in front of the house with our pool. As promised the order was delivered to our carport. The single box was clearly marked 2 of 2. When I asked about the 1 of 2, the driver said he only had the one box and that maybe it was coming by a different delivery. That didn’t seem to make much sense but what could I do?

I waited 10 days before contacting customer service. Their web site showed that the saltwater system had been delivered but the pool only showed the expected delivery date and a phone number for the delivery company. I called to confirm there had only been 1 package. Time to deal with and the fun began. There is no phone number only an email contact. That might be better than someone in India who really does not speak English. No such luck. The email response was a form letter that told me to contact the delivery company. The next 10 said I could return the saltwater system by mail or the store once I has accepted the return authorization. The last 4 emails gave me the option of returning the pool as well as the saltwater system. At that point I gave up.

We loaded the 4 boxes that were inside the 1 large box. We drove 22 miles to the Paris WalMart to return the pool. I had taken the shipper’s confirmation that there was only 1 large box. I explained my difficulty with the online customer service to the store customer service lady. She smiled and said she had heard that before. She credited my charge card and we headed home. I had called the local farm store that advertised the same model pool. They didn’t have one in stock but were expecting a new shipment within 3 days and would call me when it came in. I was shocked the next day when she called to say they had put my name on the pool and asked when we would be in to pick it up? The cost was now the same price as WalMart and there were no shipping costs to be added.  We headed out once more to fill the pick up truck with 2 large boxes that we successfully unloaded into the carport where I unpacked them. I don’t believe that 2 people can do the set up in 90 minutes but that will be another story.

So my adventure into online customer service failed completely when compared with 2 examples of real people. Makes me wonder how customer service worked with the Sears catalog mail order?


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