Thumbs Up Or Thumbs Down: I’ll Be The Judge

I figured I’d start off a new week and a new month by compiling a few experiences with various companies, departments, or industries that have given me a favorable or unfavorable experience.  I’d love to hear any stand out experiences, positive or negative, in the comments.

Without further ado:

  1. Citi Cards – My wife and I both use the Citi Dividends card for a cash back card.  I check our balances nearly every day so that I can keep on top of our balances and make sure that we’re in line.  As such, I can honestly say that there’s probably not a website that I hate more than Citi’s.  At least once a month the account access is simply unavailable.  Many times it won’t load without presenting an annoying offer, but the button to say ‘No thanks’ doesn’t appear.  I have to ‘find’ where it is by looking to see when my cursor changes.  Now they’ve added insult to injury and they present offers that prevent you from logging out when you’re done.  Yep, that’s secure.  If it wasn’t for the fact that American Express is still not universally accepted, I would cancel them simply for their awful website.  THUMBS DOWN.
  2. Red Robin – My wife and son both have birthday’s in the month of May.  Everybody in the family loves Red Robin, though we usually only go when we have some sort of mb-2014-06thumbsupcoupon or freebie, because while the food is good, I find it’s overpriced.  Red Robin offers free birthday burgers during the month of your birthday, so we always go during May.  My wife let me know that we’d never gotten an e-mail for my son’s (that’s how they distribute kids freebies).  I contacted them through Facebook and they re-sent it within an hour.  On top of it, the service at our location was excellent.  THUMBS UP.
  3. Job recruiters – When my cell phone rings during the day, I always ignore it if it’s an out of state number, but if it’s a local number, I usually answer, even if I don’t recognize it.  I may have to change that, as I’ve been getting more and more calls from job recruiters, who don’t seem to understand that my slightly abrupt answering of their questions is BECAUSE I’M AT WORK. And the kicker is that they all have my e-mail address, but they only send an e-mail after the phone call.  Argh!  THUMBS DOWN.
  4. Vera Bradley – A while back, my wife hinted that they were running a deal on a beach bag plus a pair of flip flops.  I decided to order it for her to give as a later gift.  My sister-in-law wanted one as well, so I placed the order for both, and added the embroidery of their initials to both.  The bags came in and because of the wait between when I ordered it and when I gave the stuff to my wife, neither bag was inspected closely.  My sister-in-law noticed an imperfection on her bag.  She called, and they immediately offered to send a new one, and said it would take around two weeks.  Two days later the bag, with new embroidery, showed up!  Awesome customer service.  THUMBS UP.
  5. Meijer – We do our local shopping here, and have a favorite store that’s actually not the closest one.  We had a string of incidents that really bothered us, including getting double charged for two items on the same order by a cashier that was rude to my wife, getting dairy that was expired long before the stamped date, and other problems with expiration dates.  I wrote them a long e-mail and got a call from the store director who apologized for each of the problems, addressed every concern individually, and offered us a $20 gift card with the promise to take our issues into consideration for how things were handled.  THUMBS DOWN followed by a THUMBS UP.
  6. State of Michigan – Every government has things that make you shake your head, but our road situation and funding takes the cake.  Michigan pays one of the highest per gallon gas taxes in the country.  So you’d think that we would put a high amount of funding into our roads and probably think that we have good roads, right?  Wrong!  We are at or near dead last in road condition, and spend in the bottom 20% per mile of road in the country.  All because Michigan takes the sales tax portion of gas purchases and puts them into the general fund.  Most states allocate both the dedicated gas tax and sales tax on gas purchases toward roads.  They’re looking at increasing the funding, but it’s too little, too late, and they have no plans to change the way the sales tax portion is handled.  Government at it’s dumbest.  THUMBS DOWN.
  7. L&L Tree and Landscaping – These guys are local so most won’t even use them (in fact, I didn’t use them) but these jokers still hit a nerve.  My neighbor had a dead tree and used them to have it removed.  They had quite a few cars from workers, trucks, and the chipper and the like, so they were parked in front of my house.  Which isn’t a problem, except after they pulled away, there were two giant oil stains in the street, almost the size of a dinner plate.  I can’t stand oil stains in my driveway and while the street isn’t mind, it still looks awful.  I called and explained the situation and asked them to look at it, and while they said they would, they also said that nobody else has ever complained, and didn’t seem too concerned.  The funny part is that they’d left a flier on my door looking for business which is what clued me in on who had left the mess.  THUMBS DOWN.

Any thumbs up or thumbs down stories to share?  I always love reading a good one.

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Great Products Plus Great Customer Service Equals A Resounding Success

It’s so much easier to write a blog entry about a complaint than it is to share a good story, but when a company steps up to address a problem in a way that thoroughly satisfies a customer, they deserve to hear the kudos associated with that.  Today’s story is about North Face.

I fought North Face for a long time.  It seemed everybody I knew or didn’t know was wearing a North Face jacket.  For years, I was willing to stick it out with knock offs, figuring I was wiser and more financially responsible than anybody who would have wasted their money on those coats.

Then I tried one one.  My wife got me in a moment of weakness and handed me this ‘winter coat’ that was half the thickness of the one I was used to wearing.  I wondered how this could keep anybody warm.  Then, I put it on and was instantly to the point where I almost passed out from the immediate warmth.

(Hey, we were indoors, after all)

I decided to give it a try and asked for one for Christmas last year.  I liked the coat I got but I actually wanted a warmer one, so I traded it for a ‘better’ model using some gift money to cover the difference.

Loved it.

Earlier this year, my wife and I found a seasonal store that was selling everything they had at 40% before they closed for the year, including fall jackets.  We both found coats that we loved, and we both used gift money that we had not yet spent to pay for our coats.

All was well until a couple of weeks later when Mrs. Beagle called and said that one of the zippers on the pockets had broken.  She was disappointed.  I came home and took a look and sure enough, the zipper was only attached to one side and there was no way to reattach it.

My wife looked online and found that there was good news and bad news. The good news was that they would repair coats for the lifetime of the coat.  They did specify that the repairs would be within reason, meaning you couldn’t trash the coat and then send it off to them expecting them to fix it.

The bad news was that you had to pay to send the coat in.  On top of that, they highly suggested that the shipment be insured and that you pay to have signature verification on the package.  When I looked at the USPS website for their pricing, I estimated that this would be roughly $15.  In fairness, they do pay for the costs associated with returning the coat to you.

Now, we saved $45 on the coat (give or take) with the great price we got, so I was not really excited to give up a third of that to pay for a repair on a coat that was less than a month old and had probably been worn less than half a dozen times.

So, I contacted their customer service department (via e-mail), explained the situation, and they agreed to send us a shipping label so that the cost would be covered.

It was easy as can be.  I printed the label, we packed the box, had FedEx grab it, and we had it back within a week and a half, with a repaired zipper.

I love when companies step up and take ownership in situations where it makes sense for them to do so.  All too often, you hear of stories where a company wants to argue their point, all for a little cost.  I see their point in that they just can’t bend over backwards to address every complaint, but at the same time, they have to strike a balance between saving a buck and the lost sales that could result from turning a customer away.

North Face seems to have that down pat.  I’m very pleased to be a North Face customer.  Hats off for a great experience.

Have you had a great customer service experience lately?

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A Tale Of Two Customer Service Experiences

I believe that customer loyalty is something that should not be given lightly by consumers, but should be cherished by a business when it is rewarded.  A loyal customer is not only to give repeat business time and again, they will likely tell friends, family, and even complete strangers to go do business with the place that they have grown to love so much.

With this said, I thought it was worth it to share stories about two businesses which have had our loyalty for years, but with dramatically different outcomes.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend…and so was this jewelry store….

While we’ve shopped at other jewelry stores, Store “J” has always been our go-to store of choice for our jewelry needs.  We don’t buy that much jewelry, but when we do, Store “J” is always given our first look and has ended up with probably 90% or more of our jewelry purchases.

Our first major purchase was a big one.  The engagement ring and wedding band were purchased as a set back in 2006.  My wedding ring was also purchased at the same store.

When we got married, my wife was surprised when my gift to her was a nice set of diamond earrings, purchased of course at Store “J”.

A Pandora bracelet found its way into our home from Store “J” when they started to take off, and a few charms have been purchased along the way.

I gave my wife a ring and a necklace, respectively, at the birth of each of our children.

None of these were overly extravagant, and over the course of seven years or so, it’s about one purchase per year.  The point is that we always looked to Store “J” first.  We always talked about Store “J” and recommended them for our jewelry needs.

So, we were disappointed when we had a very negative experience.  There are several locations near us.  One has always been stellar, but we when we needed to drop our jewelry off for their semi-annual inspection (required by the extended coverage plans that we purchased on many items), we decided to drop them off at a different location.  When we went in, people were busy, but we still had to wait several minutes before anybody could even look over at us to acknowledge that we were in the store.

Other people walked in after us, and when the salespeople started finishing up with their current customers, it seemed that people that came in after us were helped first.

Finally, someone from the back, where the lab and cleaning area is located, came out and asked what we needed.  My wife explained what we were there for at which point the woman that was helping did not say anything, but basically held her hand out to take the jewelry…mmm…kay.

Usually the process of writing up the jewelry takes about ten minutes.  This time it took over half an hour.  The woman went through our paperwork, and even though everything was clearly there, she acted as if we were missing stuff, then would get annoyed with my wife when it was pointed out that the information was right there.  As if my wife was being the rude one.

My wife had a couple of questions and the answers she got were short, abrupt, and made to seem almost as if she was in the wrong for even asking.  Long and short, the experience was horrible.

I wrote a letter to their customer service center, outlining the experience and our dissatisfaction.  I indicated that although we always got great service at the store we usually go to, that any store with the Store “J” name should be expected to deliver the same great service.

I got a response three days later.  They did apologize and that was it.  I thought a nice touch would have been a phone call or e-mail from the store manager, but nothing of the sort came through.

We walked away still happy with our product, but a good portion of the loyalty built up over seven years was erased with that experience.  Now, if friends and family ask, instead of glowing reviews, they’ll be told to avoid that particular location, and you can bet that if we buy jewelry from somewhere else and have a great experience, then Store “J” may fall right off the map.

Girls love handbags, too….

Vera Bradley came into our sights over the same weekend.  For those who don’t know what Vera Bradley is, they make handbags, wallets, duffel bags, and other assorted ‘carrying things’.  Most have patterns of flowers or other designs in bright, colorful layouts.  My wife has been a fan for as long as I’ve known her.

The stuff isn’t cheap, but it usually lasts a long time, and I love it because, if I’m ever at a loss for a gift idea, I can just pick up a Vera bag or accessory, and I’m all set.

Before our daughter was born, my wife wanted a Vera Bradley diaper bag.  She got one and it worked pretty well…until it didn’t.  With everything my wife has, she never once had a problem with a bag, until the zipper started to go on the diaper bag.  Basically, the clasp started to come apart making it harder and harder to unzip until the last piece of the clasp came out altogether.

My wife called explaining what had happened.  Even though the bag was almost a year old, they told her to come into the store.  She did.  They looked at it, and even thought it was well past the normal return time allowed, and even though the bag was being sold now at a less price (as it was last years ‘model’), they took the bag back and offered her a full credit toward a new one.  Which she got and she loved.

If my wife didn’t love Vera Bradley enough before, it went up about tenfold after that experience, and if she didn’t talk about Vera before to anybody that would listen, well, anybody that mentions the diaper bag or any other Vera bag is going to get a glowing recommendation.

Two businesses had our loyalty.  Both had issues arise.  They handled it in two separate ways, and now one is on the outs, while the other is at or near the top of the list.

Both keep track of our purchase history. Store “J” and Vera Bradley both could look up what we’ve purchased over the years.  Both likely did when we started our requests.  Seeing the loyalty developed meant something to Vera Bradley, but a similar sense of importance was not conveyed by Store “J”.

Store “J” got made to look even worse, and Vera Bradley was made to look like more of the superstar, simply by the fact that both of these experiences took place on the same weekend.  Because there was such a contrast, Store “J” came out smelling that much worse and Vera came out smelling like roses.

Have you ever had a company that you’ve been loyal to completely knock it out of the water or fall flat on their face?

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How Recycling Gets Us Free Milk

Our city is part of Recycle Bank, a great curbside recycling program where the more you recycle, the more free stuff you get.

Since the program was instituted in our city a couple of years ago, not only has recycling gone up like 200%, it’s also given residents valuable coupons that can be used at local and online establishments.  Your recycling bin is weighed every week, and you get points based on the weight of your bin.  Those points can be redeemed for lots of things.  We’ve gotten free 2-liters of Coke products, discounts on yogurt, $10 off coupons on our annual flower purchases, and much more.

Lately, we’ve been taking advantage of a local market offering a coupon for a free gallon of milk.  Both my wife and I drink milk daily, plus our two year old loves it as well.  You’re limited to three free gallons a month. We go through much more than that, but three free gallons a month is still pretty awesome.

Note: This post was in no way solicited or sponsored by Recycle Bank.  I just think they’re awesome!  If it sounds good, then approach the leaders of your municipality about partnering up with them.  Free stuff plus more recycling.  Everybody wins!

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