Archive | December, 2011

Wednesday Weeping – How Crappy Customer Service Might Ruin Christmas

21 Dec

I love bargains. Love ’em. Live for ’em. Won’t buy a thing full-price. I have purchased deals from Groupon, TeamBuy, DealFind, etc. and experienced minimal problems. Ergo, when TeamBuy had a great Holiday deal on Android tablets, I thought “what a great idea for a Christmas present.” I know the ipad is the ultimate in tableture, but at a bargain price, I figured why not try out the Android, and then take it from there.

The site stated that all orders had to be placed before December 9th if you wanted them to arrive before Christmas. Using my TeamBuy certificate, I placed my order with CoolDroids on December 7th. Then I checked my account. I checked it every day. On Monday the 19th of December, my account still said “Awaiting Fulfillment”. This did not bode well for the timely delivery of Christmas gifts, considering the CoolDroids website says it will take 7-10 business days to arrive once an order is shipped.

I called CoolDroids. I pressed 2 for “Support”. I was told “This is not a viable option”. I could feel my chest tightening. Had I been scammed?

I called TeamBuy. I spoke to a nice-enough guy, who assured me that all orders placed in time would be delivered by the 23rd. I asked if there was a phone number where I could speak directly with someone at CoolDroids. He said no.

I checked the “Q&A” section of the TeamBuy website. Hundreds of people were on there voicing the same concern as me. (Scroll to the bottom of the thread for the really angry posts). We had all placed our orders on time. We had all tried to contact CoolDroids, and TeamBuy, and anyone who might be able to answer the question “WILL I GET MY DELIVERY IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS?!”. We were all given the run-around.

I went to the CoolDroids website and waited for an “online operator”. I started chatting with “Geraldine”. I’m 99% sure that Geraldine is a chat robot. Here is the transcript of our conversation. (You probably have to open this image in another window and enlarge to see the text of the chat). Basically, the response was “yeah… we’ll get back to you on that.”

My chat with "Geraldine" - and my internal monologue.

Anyway, it’s been 48 hours. No reply from Geraldine. No communication from TeamBuy, so I tweeted at them. And they tweeted me back. TeamBuyHalifax was on it immediately (thank you for that), and TeamBuy_Toronto (where the head office is located) responded within 24 hours. Their customer experience team is working on it.

Fair enough. But why hasn’t anyone been on this TeamBuy thread where so many of TeamBuy’s customers are upset about having no effin’ clue what’s going on with their Christmas presents? Some of the complaints came from parents voicing concern over the fact that these were gifts for their kids. How do you explain that one on Christmas morning? “Sorry kids, Santa won’t be showing up with your presents for a few more weeks, or possibly not at all.” It may be out of your hands TeamBuy, in fact, I’m quite sure at this point it is – but people bought the deal from you, and they want answers to their questions.

Not everyone uses Twitter, and I was getting frustrated with TeamBuy’s lack of activity on  their own forum. Anyone in any kind of social business will tell you that it is part of someone’s job (if not everyone’s job) to engage with customers over issues of this nature. Why wasn’t anyone doing it?

I know that small companies sometimes get overwhelmed by immense TeamBuy/Groupon/DealFind responses and that can slow things down and screw up business for them. However, CoolDroids also placed similar ads on other group-buying sites, so one would have to imagine that they were looking for a surge in orders.  If you guarantee that something will be delivered by Christmas, you better be ready to follow through with the customers who placed their order weeks and weeks ago when their order status says “Awaiting Fulfillment” only a few days before Christmas. When things are going poorly and orders aren’t making it out the door – you get EVERYONE on the phone and on email and on your support forums and you DEAL WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS. Don’t leave this task to Geraldine the Robot. If you do you, then please be ready for a crap-ton of reports to the Better Business Bureau.

If all of this wasn’t enough, it appears that CoolDroids.com is actually a re-seller/alias for another site – http://kascadian.mybigcommerce.com/ CoolDroids/Kascadian seem to be the exact same site, but with different names. One thing that leaps off the page is that the prices at Kascadian are cheaper, with the exact same tablet retailing for $94.99 instead of the $389.99 (discounted to $119 + $16 tax). Either way, it still looks like the TeamBuy purchasers are paying more than what the tablet is worth. What the hell is going on here?

CoolDroids... Kascadian... it's all the same, and it's all bullshit

Teambuy – I’m sure you didn’t want this. Did you research this company particularly well before signing them up? Probably not. Did you notice that Kascadian Electronics has an “F” rating from the BBB? Probably not.  But I’m sure you didn’t want this. Ideally, the orders would be shipped, we would all have our tracking numbers, and everything would be right in the world and your customers would be happy. But that’s not what happened, and by abandoning your message boards and not addressing the 2000+ customers who purchased this deal, you aren’t doing very much to instill faith in your brand.

So that’s where we are right now. As it stands, my order says “Partially Shipped”. I don’t know what that means and I have  not received a tracking number from CoolDroids, or Kascadian, or anyone. If my order does arrive in time to make it under the tree, I will chalk it up to being a Christmas miracle, but I’m not holding my breath. Next time I’ll know that when buying any physical product from a group buying site… buyer beware!

Christopher Hitchens – 1949-2011. Thoughts on my hero and inspiration.

16 Dec

A memorial, by Joel Kelly

Today will be filled with memorials of Hitch, and likely more than a few cheers that the strongest opponent of religious tyranny has finally quit the fight.

My memorial offers little to this conversation, I know, but if Hitch inspires us to do anything, it is to write.

I’d like to think Hitch had a more profound effect on my life than most. When I first discovered him (YouTube videos of his debates and Hitchslaps, actually) I had recently left a cult.

I was young, and had been convinced since childhood that I knew the “truth”. That I was a part of it. I questioned this, and had begun to see less and less truth and more and more control and insecure intellectual bullying, but I was still stuck, somewhat.

I was still stuck going through the motions of life, anchored by teachings that I didn’t truly believe anymore, but could not see a path away from.

And then, Hitch.

Christopher Eric Hitchens, the Oxford-educated journalist, debater, and most of all fierce intellectual, passed away yesterday from the pneumonia caused by his stage-4 esophageal cancer (he would remind us, “there is no stage 5”) and treatment.

But not before changing the lives of people like me, all around the world.

Hitch’s debates (and then his books and articles in Slate and Vanity Fair) showed me the alternatives to the wicked preachments of religion, and the tyranny they enforce and stem from. He was a champion of, as he said, “taking the risk all the time” that one doesn’t know enough yet, that one can always be learning, reading, and struggling for truth.

What a thing to say, and shouldn’t it be obvious? But clearly, in a world where people can still be beheaded for “witchcraft” or politicians can be openly bigoted, or, frankly, that there can still be arguments over which human beings deserve more rights than others, this fight must still go on.

Christopher always insisted, to anyone who would credit him for motivating them to make their break from religion, that they would have gotten there on their own eventually. In my case, certainly that’s true. But I don’t know how long it would have taken, how many more years I would have wasted.

Christopher (never “Chris”) leaves this world better than the one he’d been born into. From his books exposing the bubble reputations of Henry Kissinger, Mother Teresa, and Bill Clinton, to his debates against the religious, to being an experimental case for cutting edge cancer treatment, he has contributed more to the world than most could ever dream of.

In his Vanity Fair article Tumortown, he notes: “‘Until you have done something for humanity,’ wrote the great American educator Horace Mann, ‘you should be ashamed to die.'”

Christopher Eric Hitchens, my hero, my constant inspiration, and one of the best human beings to live on this planet, had no reason to be ashamed to die.

Goodbye, Hitch.

And thank you.

Here is my favorite  video of Christopher: his closing debate remarks, to what had started as a hostile student crowd, while he was suffering from cancer:

Celebrities with Celebrity Doppelgangers

6 Dec

It must be hard to be a celebrity. What with all the attention and fortune and whatnot. But it must be even harder to be a celebrity with a celebrity doppelganger.

For years I have struggled with distinguishing a few sets of stars. Let’s start with the first.

Keira Knightly & Natalie Portman 

Yes, I know they are not the same people BUT they do look shockingly alike. Can you imagine auditioning for a role and knowing you were up against each other? It is one thing if you’re Natalie Portman and you lose a role to January Jones. Clearly they were not looking for what you had to offer. But if Keira snakes a role out from under you? Well I would have to think you’d be pretty ticked.

Next up and the duo that really gets my head spinning: Christopher Walken & Jon Voigt

I’m not entirely convinced that these two aren’t the same people. Have you ever seen them together? Have you ever seen Walken look really mad? Or Voigt extremely hilarious? No. I stand by my theory that they are just alter egos of each other.

And now, for some more obscure but equally convincing doubles…

Salim (Madhur Mittal from Slumdog Millionaire) & Bruno Mars

I’ve been ruminating over this one for a while. Slumdog Millionaire came out before Bruno Mars was a big success. When I first saw Bruno popping up places, my initial reaction was “hey, the mean and then self-sacrificing brother from Slumdog Millionaire is a singer now.” Turns out that he’s not. But that doesn’t make them look any less similar.

Jason Trawick (aka Britney’s man) & Sam Tramell

God these 2 are alike. Shaggy hair? Check. Manicured stubble? Check. Affinity for plaid shirts? You know it. These scruff muffins also clean up really nicely too. It must be a relief for Britney to know that if she continues to go through men like she goes through money, that at least she has a pretty bang-on stand in. (PS – I love you Britney).

So what do you think? Any celeb doubles that really throw you for a loop?