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Confessions of an Infomercial Buyer (When Stable Men Want to Go Postal)

Jul 13, 2017


I admit it.

I cozied up next to my wife on the couch so together we could watch the shopping channel.

In my defense, it was an accident. I was flipping channels and got sucked in. They were selling something I was planning on buying anyway. Before I knew it, I was leaning forward with great excitement, and dialing the number.

Weeks earlier my 12” tablet crashed to the ground, causing a web of cracks to spread across the screen. It was done. Since then, I’d been shopping around. Brick and mortar stores had zero selection. I mean zero. (What on earth is the point of brick and mortar stores without products?!) So I searched online.

The 12” screen appeared to have gone extinct though, except within the Apple product line. (Too bad… I’m an Android man.)

Then, glowing like an angelic announcement, the infomercial for a 12” tablet appeared as if from heaven. And for a deal! I saved hundreds of dollars, got the keyboard and case for free.

When the tablet arrived I eagerly opened the box. There, amidst the packing peanuts was the 12” screen. So far so good. The keyboard was there too. Great. Except… it was not the manly navy blue I’d requested. (To match my branding) No, it was this gaudy powder blue thing. I checked the order slip which described the box to contain one “Navy blue keyboard”.

So I got on the phone.


The On Hold Experience

I sat there during the endless menu options, none of which was ‘to speak to a real person, press #’. Instead, the menu was more like,

“To hear about more things you can buy from us, press 1”

“To hear us say more automated things, press 4”

“To enter a state of limbo, wherein you question exactly how big an idiot you are to have stayed on hold this long, please stay on the line. Your call is important to us.”

I guess I made the wrong selection, because I had to hang up and try again. Five times!

Finally I waited long enough and pressed the right combination of buttons to access the secret pathway to a real, living human. I explained how the keyboard was the wrong color and how I needed a new one, so she put me on hold.

*cue horrid annoying music*

(To be clear, it was horrid. The same group of notes rang over and over and over and over again. It was enough to make a stable human want to go Postal…)

After 45 minutes of holding (!!) I was feeling like the biggest (and angriest) fool. But I couldn’t risk losing the magic pathway to humans, so continued to grind my teeth as grade C crooning continuously piped into my ears.

Finally, I heard a faint voice in the background, at about 5% of the music volume.

“Hello?” I called to the voice through the music.

The faraway tiny voice did not reply, but did continue talking.

“HELLO?” I called again.

The line went dead.  

“BLAST!!! What is with this infernal --!!!! ” Well, I’ll save you the ugly details of my ranting as I redialed, pressing numbers harder this time.  Luckily, I rediscovered the magic pathway to humans again and before too long was speaking with a service rep.

After I’d explained my on-hold experience, and how I just needed a new keyboard she said, “I’m sorry. … can I put you on hold?”

Was she serious?! “No, I don’t want to be on hold. Look, it’s been an hour and a half already…”

“It’ll just be two minutes” she said.

With great terror in my heart, I assented to being on hold.


*cue painfully horrid music* 


The Return

“Send it back to us, and we’ll reship your order” she said when she returned to the line.

“No. I’d like you to ship it to me and I’ll ship you this one. I’ve been waiting all this time, I’ve already paid. Please send me the item I paid for.”

Like low-level staff do, she repeated word for word her initial instructions, adding how it was the fault of someone else in the chain of delivery.

“You’re not listening to me. I don’t care about any of the “it’s the fulfillment house’s fault” stuff. I ordered and didn’t get what I wanted. I would like you to overnight expedite to me. If you’re worried about me using or damaging this keyboard, don’t. It’s the ugliest thing I’ve seen since Donald Trump’s hair. I will not be using it, I will be shipping it right back to you. Trust me.” besides, you have my credit card information and could easily charge me should I now return it! 

I apologized for coming on strong, but I was so frustrated by the whole experience.


The whole thing took me nearly two hours.

“When this is done, remove my mail address from your file, all my info, etc. I never want to deal with ya’ll again.”

How to Avoid Making Your Customers Want to Go Postal

As the customer service advocate, I of course have to go to the place where we learn from other businesses’ colossal mistakes.

Don’t be that guy.

Thing to avoid #1: inaccessibility.

When people can’t reach you online or on the phone, it makes them crazy, not loyal.


Thing to avoid #2: unapologetic staff.

You make mistakes. Fine. We all do. But then say sorry. Apology heals many a wound. Blaming or pretending you’re right and the customer is wrong only digs deeper in the wound.

Thing to avoid #3: EMPOWER your staff to make things right.

This is something The Bay does well. I should post about that another time.
Too often staff only have permission, training, and authority to parrot circle answers until the customer finally relents and leaves, defeated.  … is that really your goal? The goal of a business should be to serve customers, not defeat them.


Category: Customer Service

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