Friday 15 February 2013

Another Friday Rant

A recent post that has stirred up a lot of interest was my article last week on poor customer service and lack of communication. I had a lot of feedback asking me to name and shame the retailer involved but I'm afraid that after a week of thinking about this issue I have decided not to name them. Its far too easy to throw accusations around the Internet these days and I decided that I didn't want to jump on that particular bandwagon just yet. The fact is that no one single retailer has hacked me off to the point where I'd feel justified damaging their reputation online. So rather than ranting about a specific retailer I decided I'd list a few general examples of problems I have encountered over the last few months. You know, just to get it off my chest...

Processing Delays
Some retailers are lightening fast. Amazon are a prime example. I have bought some products and had them delivered the next day even though I had selected the Standard delivery option. Clearly not all retailers have the economic power and resources of Amazon but I have received similar fast service from small retailers and even from online businesses based around a single High Street shop. One recent order was a sad exception.

Firstly it took a whole week for the seller to even begin processing my order. I realise that this sounds very impatient (boo-hoo!), but as already stated many other online retailers I have dealt with dispatch orders within 2-3 days if not quicker. Having said that I assume this is a small outfit, possibly a one-person operation, so I can understand some degree of delay. But then having begun processing my order it them took a further 18 days before my parcel was eventually posted. During the whole of this time I never received any communication explaining the delay and no reply to my emails regarding the delay in my order.

Unexpected Charges
Another issue I have encountered is unexpected or unexplained charges that appear after an order has been placed. I've had this happen several times, usually from overseas retailers, and each time we haven't been talking small change. One particular example added a Shipping charge at the point of order but then emailed a week later to say there would be an additional charge that was greater than the cost of the items being ordered!

Its always worth checking the website of an online retailer you have never used before because they should state if additional charges apply. This isn't always the case and on at least two occasions I felt I was being ripped off and cancelled the order immediately. But on other occasions I have accepted that it was my own fault for not checking the shipping rates at point of sale. The lesson I have learnt (the hard way) is that it is incumbent on the buyer to check the total charges for their order before proceeding with that order.

Poor Packaging
Having paid for your goods the least you would expect of the retailer/supplier is that they send your goods in suitable packaging so that it has a reasonable chance of arriving in good condition. I've had books delivered in regular envelops (not even a padded bag) with bent spines and damaged corners. I've had orders arrive in re-used packing that barely covered the items inside. On one occasion I even received an un-boxed resin figure in a padded bag which arrived in several very small pieces.

One recent example was the delivery of my Mat-o-War. Bare in mind this order was for a 6'x4' gaming mat so you'd expect a 4' long roll to be delivered, possibly in a tube or at the very least rolled tightly so that it would resist bending in transit. Instead the mat was very loosely rolled lengthwise so what I received was a squashed, creased and floppy 6ft long package in an ill fitting plastic wrapper. Some of the creases are so bad I think they will need to be ironed out, although thankfully it doesn't look as if there has been any permanent damage to the mat.

Wrong or missing items
Twice in the last six months I have ordered miniatures from online manufacturer/retailers and either received the wrong items or found items missing. Neither order was particularly large or complex so I find it hard understand how completely the wrong figures could have been posted. On one occasion I ordered two items and only one turned up. When emailed the supplier said the missing item was out of stock and I would get my delivery when they were resupplied. If there had been a note to that effect in my first parcel I would have been quite happy but as I had to chase for an explanation I cancelled the second item (I then found it cheaper and in stock with another retailer!).

Taking your Business Elsewhere is Easy
When there are so many alternative suppliers to choose from online I can easily take my disposable income elsewhere. For many of the companies involved in the above examples, next time I probably will go somewhere else. The loss of one repeat customer might not bring down a business but if others feel the same as me then these companies are shooting themselves in the foot, which is very dangerous in the current economic climate.

Maybe these orders were an exception to the norm for these retailers. It is possible I was just unlucky and they were having an 'off day', but as my money, time and patience is of limited capacity, I won't be returning to find out.

OK. I fell better now for getting that out of my system. I promise to be less grumpy in future. 


  1. I applaud your decision NOT to name and shame. Many games companies are part time affairs with the owner working a full time job to pay the mortgage and running their wargames job at evenings and weekends.
    Bad packaging and additional costs I see no excuse for though.

    1. Thank you. I may be a grumpy old git but I hope I'm not malicious. After all who am I to criticise based on just one order? Just because I received poor service doesn't mean every customer does. That's not to say that I'll allow myself to be twice bitten by the same company and as I said, there are plenty of other retailers out there competing for my money.

    2. No more or less grumpy than the rest of us I think. In everyone's life there are dark clouds and thunder storms. We must all learn to dance in the rain!

  2. Sometimes it depends on how a company handles a situation when something goes wrong, that can really show how good or bad they are.

    1. I said in my article last week, a problem should be looked on by retailers as an opportunity not a disaster. A supplier/retailer should always do their best to get the customers order perfect first time every time. But if a problem does occur (and 'shit' happens even in the best of organisations) it should be looked on as an opportunity to show the customer that you care about them. It's a chance to build a lasting relationship with that customer and create the sort of 'brand' loyalty that no amount of marketing can buy.

      This was one of the first lessons I learned as a part time salesman some 25 years ago, but it seems to be a business ethic that has been lost since then.

  3. I feel your pain Lee; the result will be (I think) punters tending to stick to those suppliers who provide a proven service and turnaround. It is probably worth any additional cost to avoid the frustration that comes from poor service.

  4. Lee, I appreciate you are keen to get our orders asap but to use a multi-national with a warehouse of full time staff (who also manage to cock things up on occasion) is not reasonable. Most wargames companies are part-time run in evenings and weekends. Sometimes they can turn stuff around immediately, sometimes it takes a while longer especially if real world intrudes.

    Up to 28 days is the accepted reasonable standard for mail order in the UK and that is one many full time operations work to as well as part time. To quote one trading standards website on mail orders:

    "goods should be delivered within a reasonable time, usually 28 days or as stated in the advert."

    To complain that 18 days is too long is unfair.

    That said, it is your money you can spend it who and how you wish and if you want it yesterday no doubt you will only spend it with those that can. Personally, I work on the 28 day rule and find that reasonable enough...

    1. As I said above I recognise that not all retailers have the economic power and resources of Amazon but I have encountered fast accurate service from small retailers so its not impossible. And I appreciate 28 days is considered 'reasonable' from a legal viewpoint but I respectfully suggest its hardly realistic in today's competitive commercial environment. This may have been the standard 10 years ago but things have moved on a bit since then.

  5. Amazon in North America, not sure about the EU, makes those shipping dates by using some very exploitive labour practices.

  6. I hear you mate and that's usually what I do by taking my cash elsewhere. Only one company I put up with the long shipping delays and that's because I cannot get their figures from anywhere else and so must grin and bear it as I love the figures(following your example in not naming).


  7. Your take on it sounds quite reasonable to me. I agree that communication is the first link in the customer service chain so to speak. I think it's also wise to keep it to yourself. I'm a firm believer that if you can't say something nice etc.

  8. "OK. I fell better now for getting that out of my system. I promise to be less grumpy in future", why change now?

  9. Too bloody right Lee, I'd moan like hell as well.

  10. You nailed it with the communications part. I ordered a Quality Castings (Battle Honors) Sd Kfz 251/1 from an online retailer back in early December. Long story short, no figures and no response to a couple of emails so I finally had to initiate a dispute through PayPal. Boy, did that get his attention! Same day response. Too bad he promised that he'd ship that day and didn't for a week.

    I don't mind waiting for figures because the nature of the hobby is that there are many small outfits squeaking by. Being ignored and then lied to are completely unacceptable.

    Like you I choose not to name and shame. While I'm allowing for the possibility that everything was actually a mistake, I did place a rather larger order for some more QC figures, but moved to a different retailer. That is the best way to punish bad service.

  11. I agree with most of what you're saying Lee. The key thing is that regardless of scale of the enterprise, I can't see a valid reason to make a promise to do X and then not do it WITHOUT taking the time to contact the buyer and explain why. It's common courtesy and most people are very reasonable when kept informed.

    I wrote a similar posta while ago - have a look if you're interested:

  12. Something that might be of use to anyone living in the UK and ordering from a supplier in the EU are the Distance Selling Regulations. Under these it's an offense to take longer than 30 days to send out a purchased item.

    Also, once you've received your item, if you don't like/want it, you have 7 days from recipt to cancel and you can then return the item to the supplier and get a full refund. (Also, unless the supplier explicitly states to the contrary in their terms and conditions, they are liable to pay the return postage!)


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