American Customer Service Downfall

I'm not an expert on customer service. On some level, though, we're all experts on customer service because we all interact with hundreds of different service workers in our regular day-to-day errands. Anecdotally, I believe customer service generally used to be better here in the States. When I was growing up, I feel like service with a smile was the norm, not the exception.

I worked retail at music & movie chain Sam Goody when I was 17 for 7 months for $6/hour (I got a raise to $6.24 near the end). As soon as the holiday season started and I needed to quit for tennis season anyway, I did. Even though Sam Goody's prices were a rip off and the management sucked, the floor people there genuinely cared about the customer experience. Everyone worked hard to make customers happy and "the customer is always right" was nearly true.

I've had an incredibly bad customer service experience amongst six different organizations during the past 24 hours. Again these are just anecdotes, but I believe them to be part of a larger pattern. It all started when I decided I need a new Windows PC. Most of my work is on the Mac, but I have a little bit that crosses over onto Windows. TigerDirect was having an incredible Black Friday sale on DIY bundles, so I purchased one that included the AMD A10-7870K APU.

The shipment email (as you can see in this screenshot)
shows I ordered a bundle with the A10-7870K a part worth about ~$130. The shipment arrived yesterday by UPS with the wrong microprocessor (A8-7670K instead). It turns out the email for the shipment already showed them sending me a different CPU .
What's nefarious is not the mistake, but that TigerDirect changed the bundle (without changing the bundle's item number) and then shipped me the new bundle, even though my order email proves I bought the original bundle. The customer service agent that I waited 65 minutes on the phone to talk to (TigerDirect does not accept returns by chat/email for this part) acknowledged the mistake. The entire conversation was 98 minutes.

She acknowledged that they changed the bundle after I had already ordered. It's a true bait-and-switch! They said they had no more A10-7870K's in stock and wouldn't for a while. So they offered me to send it back and they would refund me for the cost of the A8. The A8 is $25 cheaper and that's not what I paid for! $25 is not going to make or break me, but it's the principle. I contacted Google Trusted Stores and someone higher up at TigerDirect is supposedly going to contact me according to the original customer service rep. I'm not holding my breath.

So to go with this new computer I also ordered several items from Amazon. USPS claims they were delivered yesterday at 6:49 PM (strange because that's after when the mail comes). I told Amazon they haven't been delivered even though USPS has marked them as delivered and they told me to wait a couple more days. So when they say "Thursday delivery guaranteed" they don't mean it.

I went to the UPS Store today to ship back the A8 to TigerDirect. The first customer service rep barked at me "need a receipt"? But I couldn't understand what he was saying. When I  asked for clarification, he didn't reply. The second scanned it in and seemed friendly enough, but as I was leaving I distinctly heard him toss my A8 package across the room.

I then went to the Apple Store to return an item. There are no lines at the Apple Store, you just walk up to someone and ask for help. I asked someone who turned out to be a manager and he found the most disinterested employee you can imagine. The guy was playing on his phone and the manager actually had to chastise him for being spaced out. The guy hardly communicated with me/made eye contact as he returned my item.

I went to T-Mobile on the way out of the mall to change a cell phone plan. Not only did the service representative assume I wasn't a T-Mobile customer, he also told me their cheapest plan for my configuration was $120 (he was hoping to up-sell me it seems), and I had to correct him that it was indeed $90, but he also then acted almost with disdain that I was bothering him to do this switch for me. Then he espoused more misinformation about the plan I had switched to not including Binge-On, even though it does, to again try to up-sell me to a higher priced plan.

I went to MicroCenter to get the right A10 APU. I went to the notoriously commission driven "Build Your Own PC" center. I was obviously lost looking for their poorly marked "processors" section. Nobody came to my aid. Maybe I don't look like the typical nerd, or maybe they were all too busy chatting and on their cell phones. I found a guy and asked him for help. I think he was on his cell phone too. He told me to wait for him at a glass case he pointed in the direction of. I waited quite a bit even though he didn't seem to be helping any other customer. Then he walked with me to the checkout (security procedure there for high price items) and took another call on his cell phone.

I understand being a service worker in retail is a low-paid job with few benefits. But having these kind of experiences is certainly another incentive to shop online. The TigerDirect bait-and-switch, changing the components of the bundle after I had already ordered and paid, is completely unacceptable. That they further refused to refund me for the value of the original item is so ridiculous it's hard to believe. If this post got at least one person to not shop there, that's justice.

About Me

I teach Computer Science to college students, develop software, podcast, and write books about programming including the Classic Computer Science Problems series. I'm the publisher of the hyper local newsletter BTV Daily.

You can find me on Twitter and GitHub. Check out my podcasts Kopec Explains Software and Business Books & Co. You can subscribe to my very low volume newsletter to find out about my future book, media, or software projects.


©2012-2023 David Kopec. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Based on tdSimple originally by Lasantha Bandara and released under the CC By 3.0.