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Customer Service Tales

We don’t like to continually pass on tales of customer service bliss and woe, but we do receive a fair number of them, and every now and then it seems appropriate to pass on the more interesting ones.

Chad Magendanz <[email protected]> writes:

I recently received 50 copies of the MacZone catalog. Actually, I didn’t receive them directly. They were all addressed to me, but delivered to my in-laws. (Apparently, my last order was delivered to that location.)

I called MacZone to inform them of the error and ensure that they won’t repeat the mistake. They told me they were sorry, but they couldn’t access the database from sales and they couldn’t transfer me to someone who could. In order to ensure that my in-laws don’t get another 50 copies next month, I’d have to send in all 50 of the little enclosed envelopes with copies of the back page of the catalog and ask that they remove each entry from their database. (Unfortunately, I’ve already sent the spurious 49 copies of the catalog to recycling, making this impossible until the next iteration of the error.)

I like to think of this as natural selection at work in the free enterprise system. With outfits like MacConnection and MacWarehouse, survival of the fittest will almost certainly mean death to MacZone with this kind of administration. I find myself wondering that if I should ever again feel the urge to order from MacZone again, will I receive 50 times my order? Will I be charged 50 times?

For the present, I’m going to see how many catalogs I can collect from MacZone until I run out of storage space. Then I’m going to label them all "Return to Sender," drop ’em off at the post office and see if that grabs their attention.

Raja Hornstein <[email protected]> writes:

I bet you’ve seen the ads for Microsoft Office. I get about one a week in various catalogs or computer magazines. Have you noticed that they are offering a CD-ROM version of the Mac/Power Mac software? I loved that idea back in, oh, September when I first placed my order. I just didn’t want to deal with all those floppy disks. Well, I wasn’t surprised when they delayed the ship date to December. That’s ol’ Microsoft, you know. In December, I got a little postcard (very little, plain brown) asking me to call if I was still serious about getting the CD-ROM.

I had an interesting talk with someone about easy it would have been to miss that card and then they would have dropped my order without telling me. He agreed that was dumb, but you know….

So then they postponed ’til February, and my last call revealed that Microsoft won’t ship ’til April. The reason was interesting. They don’t expect the patch to deal with Word 6.0’s lethargy until March, and they didn’t want to send out an imperfect CD-ROM because you can’t patch a CD-ROM. I pointed out that the program will find its home on my hard disk which wouldn’t know whether it came from floppy disks or from Mars and could be patched either way. And since when are CD-ROMs so expensive that they couldn’t send out a new one? The person on the phone wasn’t into technical stuff, so….

The reason I mentioned those ads at the beginning is to question whether or not it’s legal for those catalog companies to advertise something that doesn’t exist. Isn’t that false and misleading? Wouldn’t people be up in arms if Microsoft had placed ads for Windows 95?

[Catalog companies probably fall under the rubric of "publishers;" like MacUser or Macworld, they can’t necessarily know if the products advertised are available or accurately described. However, Microsoft has been chastised by catalog companies, resellers, and other vendors (both Windows and Macintosh) for advertising the availability of products and then delivering several months after the promised date or (in some cases) not at all. For instance, just try to purchase Encarta 1995 or Ancient Lands for Macintosh, although they’ve been advertised as available for months. Although slips seem to be unavoidable in the software industry, Microsoft’s product announcement tactics are currently one subject of a U.S. Justice Department investigation. -Geoff]

A little story. I ordered some software from a company called Transparent Language. It’s a foreign language study program. They were a month late in delivering it. They sent me a check for $6.00 as an apology for not living up to their promise. I was flabbergasted. One month late!

Can you imagine a law required companies to pay a fine to customers when their vaporware doesn’t materialize on time? Bill Gates would be squeegeeing windshields on the Bowery.

Michel Donais <[email protected]> writes:

I need to congratulate a company that really thinks customers are important. I completed a WWW survey for Hayden Books a few days ago. I’ve just received an email message saying they lost the survey data because of a bug, and they’d like me to fill it out again. In exchange, they’ll send me a free book.

Now, this is something. Most companies would say "Eh, it’s just a survey. We can get more responses where that one came from," but Hayden obviously felt that my survey response was important enough to ask me to fill it out again in exchange for a free book. This is exceptional behavior in these fast food days.

Bill Wing <[email protected]> writes:

Two years ago I purchased a La Cie 3.5" magneto-optical drive for my IIci. After a year and about three weeks, it failed with symptoms that seemed to indicate a bad power supply (it wouldn’t power up when I flipped the power switch – no indicator light but the fuse was okay). I called La Cie:

"I know the drive is out of warranty, what do you charge for repairs?"

"We don’t offer a repair service."

"Say what? You repair drives if they are in warranty don’t you?"


"So OK, I’m not after free service, I want to pay to have the drive fixed."

"We don’t offer repairs."

"You mean I can’t pay you for a repair job?"

"No, we don’t offer repairs."

I eventually managed to convince myself that they weren’t kidding, they simply don’t want to mess with repair service for their drives. The drive was purchased early enough in the 3.5" magneto-optical technology cycle that I had some concerns about being able to read the disks (I had a drawer full) written on that drive with a drive from another vendor – which was why I had a strong interest in fixing that particular drive. They wouldn’t fix it. They would, however, sell me a new drive with the same "guarantee." I said thanks, but no thanks, and ordered a drive from FWB.

It came, I put it into service, and breathed a sigh of relief when I found I could read my old disks with the new drive. This year, three weeks after the warranty expired, the FWB magneto-optical drive went belly up, or rather started making a noise that sounded like a bad bearing. I checked, and it wasn’t the fan, so I called FWB:

"I have this 3.5" MO that is about three weeks out of warranty. How much do you charge for your repair services?"

The nice guy on the line gave me a run down on their pricing, but then said,

"Let me see if I can get an OK for a return authorization. We really ought to fix it under warranty."

He did, they did, and I now have my FWB back and in service with a replaced mechanism. FWB has earned a lot of my future business.

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