mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Customer service and the internet....

I buy a lot of stuff online. Partly because there are certain items I don't really like shopping for in person, partly because I work 6 days a week and don't always have time to buy stuff at brick and mortar stores, partly because I spend so much time in front of computers both at work and at home, and partly because online prices are frequently ver good.

One thing I've noticed companies still love to do is advertise free shipping all over there site, but default to some sort of paid shipping. Amazon and are guilty of this. I placed an order today with and used a coupon for $5 off. As soon as I hit the confirm order button, I realized I had forgotten to pick free shipping. I couldn't find any way to change my preferences, so I cancelled the order and reordered. It wouldn't let me use the coupon, saying that I had already used it - which I had, but on an order that was cancelled.

I've emailed and we'll see if they credit me back the $5. While I am pretty cheap, the cost isn't so much the issue as the principle. On the internet, there are many companies selling the same things, with only price and customer service distinguishing them. While I firmly belive people should read the fine print when making purchases and check that everything is correct before hitting OK, I also think that a truly customer-focused company won't advertise free shipping all over their site and then hope that people forget to select it.

There are a few companies online whose customer service impresses me - I recently had a really good experience with I decided it was time to get a pair of sandles, and I had a 20% off coupon for them (plus they are a generous fatcash merchant and have free shipping on everything. I got a pair of Birkenstocks (I know, they are for hippies, but they feel so comfortable), but they were too big. You can automatically request an exchange from their site, and I did this - it's supposed to give you a UPS label as a JPG. Label didn't show up, no matter how many times I refreshed or did "show image". Emailed them (on a Friday night, mind you) and had an email with a shipping label in about 45 minutes. Got the replacement Birkenstocks in about a week.

Granted, companies that sell stuff like shoes HAVE to be more customer focused than book/electronic retailers, because they sell something that people frequently need to try on and thus are reluctant to buy online. Still, I think there are lessons to be learned from these retailers


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