Thursday, January 3, 2013

Customer Service, American Style

The USA is known for its customer service - speedy, friendly and reliable. On the whole, I would agree. Except when it goes wrong, and then you're on your own buddy.

I have always marveled at how easy it is to return things. You never have to give a reason. As long as you have your receipt and take it back within 30 days, you get your money back. There's no pressure to take a store credit, and there are never any arguments. You can even return food you don't like in restaurants. I would have thought, since you made the choice from the menu under no duress at all, that if you end up not liking something, that's hard cheese. So to speak. I have been out with friends however, who have simply called the waiter over, told him/her that they didn't care for their meal, and ordered something else. I know.

It all goes a bit pear-shaped when there's actually a problem with the merchandise though. A few years ago I bought an expensive pair of boots and the zip got well and truly stuck the first time I wore them. Seriously - I thought I was going to have to sleep in them. I eventually eased the zip down, and tried it a few times. Well and truly unreliable. I took said boots back and the sales assistant had no clue what to do.  First, she tried to say I'd broken them, then she pointed out that I'd worn them (You don't say!), and finally she tried to demonstrate that the zips were both fine - and managed to break the other one in the process. Refund given.

This time, the crap customer service is coming from UPS, that well known parcel delivery company that promises 2-day air delivery for an extra fee. Only mine didn't arrive within the two days, and because I was going out of town, I had to pay an extra $5 for the privilege of moving the delivery date to accommodate my schedule. My new delivery date was confirmed via e-mail and on my tracking record.

Then yesterday I received an e-mail saying they were delivering the parcel later that day. Naturally I picked the phone up, to be assured that it was their error and that it was still on hold for me. About 5 hours later I received another e-mail to say it had been delivered and signed for. Sigh. How did I know that was coming?

For the last 24 hours I have been trying to find out, who signed for the package, and where it is. So far I have been told that 1) it was signed for,  2) there was a note on my door saying it was OK to leave it on the door step,  and 3) it was put in my mailbox (I don't have one). They then suggested I take it up with the vendor which I refuse to do since they're not in the business of taking money to ship parcels around the country. They also suggested that I phone a neighbo(u)r to see if they can go and look for it on my door step. (They have; it's not there nor was it there yesterday.)

Really UPS? I even took to Twitter and Facebook and got some very nice UPS people who were most concerned for me. And yet still nothing.

This is when American customer service gets really, bloody annoying. If I have one more UPS person tell me that they "appreciate" my problem I swear......


  1. Ha! That is an amazing photo. Captures the frustration perfectly. I hope that you get some resolution soon!


  2. It's not just UPS in the US, they are equally as inept and unhelpful in the UK. Try going on-line to rearrange delivery in the UK as it suggests on the card they leave - there's no such option on-line!

  3. Oh how I feel your pain. I've had issues with this exact thing with both UPS and the US Post Office within the last month. So frustrating! No one seems to be able to help. I was lucky both times that the places that I had ordered from were kind enough to replace the lost shipments.

  4. The final resolution seems to be that the package was shoved through my door, with no signature required. No explanation as to why my request for delivery on Monday was suddenly ignored, and if I want my $5 refunded, I will have to get in touch with billing. I have wasted way too much time on this already. I can hardly bear to spend even more time going after $5, but I may do it just because..

  5. I feel your pain and yes have your money refunded and I would also ask for compensation for lost time spend chasing it all up!

  6. Such a love-hate relationship I have with UPS. I have never once successfully been able to get a refund for a package that was not delivered on time. I still remember the time they delivered a birthday present a day late (when I'd paid for 2-day delivery) and went to the UPS store to complain. They told me the package recipient (3,000 miles away) would have to go apply for the refund. Which makes no sense, since I'm the one who paid to mail the package. Of course, now that we're in Seoul, I'm completely out of luck anyway and just have to hope for the best when I mail things.

  7. I generally find customer service excellent in Canada, at least compared to France. I can't believe how lax stores are with returns and exchanges!

    That said, there is always the odd frustration moment once in a while. Happened to me too. I even had to do a charge back on my credit card earlier this year... the first time in 10 years of life in Canada!

  8. I had my own to-do recently with UPS and a package that had to be signed for. I ended up driving around town looking for the UPS truck, because although the driver was less than a mile away he refused to return to my house because it was dark and raining and he wanted to get done with his shift. I was assured that it would be easy to find the truck - hah! Finding a dark brown truck in the dark on dark country roads is NOT easy! Eventually I found it, quite by chance, and after following it for over a mile the driver stopped, got out of the truck and greeted me by my address! Grrr!

  9. I find it interesting that you think, on the whole, that American customer service is pretty good. Because, as an American, I beg to differ.

    Oh sure, most stores are accommodating about returning things; but actual customer service regarding complaints about services rendered, in my opinion, is awful!

    Most companies here seem to have NOT adopted the policy "the customer is always - or even sometimes - right."

    And the whole "I appreciate your problem" thing is BS. They do not. They have been instructed to say that in order to seem sympathetic while in reality they don't give a damn about you, the paying customer.

    *PHEW* Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. Apparently, I have some residual anger related to some recent customer service issues!

  10. WEll, Gigi, I guess I was being too ironic. US customer service looks great on the surface, until, as you say, there's problem. And then they're pretty useless. I think a lot of the time it's because they have no authority to do anything to address the problem.

  11. US customer service beats almost everywhere else easily—watching New Yorkers struggle and sputter in London restaurants or watching the elaborate dance of an old British lady trying to return an item of clothing to a shop was always a show—but is not to say that US service is perfect. My favorite customer service story is United Breaks Guitars. Search for it on YouTube. Watching the customer win might help y'all's current frustration levels.

  12. I really used to like returning things to Target. If you didn't have the receipt, they could look up the purchase using your credit card. So simple.

  13. We get occasional mixups here and is a wonder that things go to the right houses, especially when one delivery man messed up recently and put a card through a mail box with the wrong number and people came to us thinking we had a package & we didn't. Put us in a difficult situation. Luckily it was all sorted but only by knocking on all the doors this end of the street till it was found.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  14. Bill Bryson is always fairly harsh on the US postal service and relatively praising of the Royal Mail in the UK. I lack the experience to make a judgement cal.

    I would agree that US customer service is generally a high standard, certainly in terms of friendliness and obligingness - although it's not always clear when someone is being helpful and when they are trying to sell you a product or service that you have no need for.

    I will say that my wife had a similar problem to you, though, with parcel delivery. The US postal service said that a package had been delivered to her, which it certainly wasn't. She rang them, wrote letters of complaint, requests for compensation (which they are supposed to give), all to no avail. Eventually her package turned up, 2 months later with zero explanation.

    Was it delivered to the wrong address? Did it sit in some dark corner of a postal depot and get forgotten? We'll never know.


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