found drama

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tweet my customer service issues

by Rob Friesel

Or:  on not listening, retail communication break-downs, and getting help via so-called social networking.

In case you haven’t been following the thread1, our family just enjoyed quite the roller coaster ride thanks to a broken dishwasher and our (ultimately, eventually successful) attempts to replace it through Best Buy.  I’m sure that there’s a lesson to be learned buried somewhere deep down in the bowels of this tale.  Take extra caution when purchasing from a box store?  Wow, Twitter is actually good for something?  I’m not exactly sure.  But perhaps you can extract that nugget.

Back in December, just a little before Christmas, our dishwasher broke.  Nothing that put it totally out of commission—just that the handle broke off and in order to get the thing open you had to jam two fingers up into the recesses of the door and use a whole bunch of leverage to unlatch it.  So that was frustrating.  Our initial over-reaction was to gut the entire kitchen and start from scratch.  When we came to our senses, we realized it should just be a simple matter of replacing the dishwasher.

All other things being equal, we decided to go through Best Buy as a cost-saving measure—we had a gift card, for one thing.  With that part decided, I headed down to the store with my mission:  find the cheapest dishwasher that will at least “replace” the one that broke.  At the store, I reviewed my options and after speaking with a salesman, decided to go up a notch to something that would meet our needs just a little bit better—and for not that much more.

Now a little bit of back-story:  In the fall we had a microwave replaced (using a different vendor) and it turned into a nightmare.  Delivery went fine but the vendor failed to mention that the installation (which was paid for) was not something they did for over-the-range microwaves.  So we wound up having to install it ourselves.  And then even after multiple phone calls, they never bothered to send their truck around again to haul away the old one, despite the fact that we’d paid for haul-away as well.

Needless to say, I made a really big deal about the delivery, installation, and haul-away aspects while discussing the dishwasher with the Best Buy sales representative.  He assured me that everything would be fine—even referred me to a “worry-free” poster right there over the register.  “Sounds good,” I said.  And though he warned me it would be a few weeks before the delivery/installation could happen (“…about four weeks, what with the busy holiday season and all…”), we agreed to terms, signed some paperwork, ran my credit card, and off we went.

Fast forward to the day before the scheduled delivery.  I get a phone call from someone at the Best Buy store.  She explains to me that she needs to apologize on behalf of the store but it seems that my original sales rep failed to mention that the dishwasher I’d paid for was in fact a special order item (“normally 6-8 weeks”) and that there was no way that they could get it to me the next day.  This was unexpected but it wasn’t a tragedy2.  We explored a few options:  wait four more weeks?  buy up to the next model “at cost” for another hundred bucks and get it within the week?  or get a comparable item from the clearance line and get it within the week?

We settled on the comparable item from the clearance line (since even “at cost” I didn’t feel like I should have to pay more) and set up the delivery/installation date3.

Fast forward to the next week.  I jet home in the middle of work one day to meet the delivery guys.  They show up and ask:  “Where do you want us to leave this?”  Leave it?  Immediately the delivery guys look a little sheepish.  They explain that while Best Buy performs the installation for a variety of “drop-in” items (e.g., refrigerators, washers and dryers), that there are also a bunch of more complicated installations that they sub-contract (e.g., dishwashers, gas ranges).  So the delivery guy (who was really quite nice, nothing against him) tries to make a few calls to find out about the installation.  But he can’t seem to get in touch with anyone—no one at the store, and not the installer either.  He assures me that I’ll probably hear from the installer in the next day or so but leaves me with his number in case I need to follow up with him.

In case I need to follow up with him?

I’m immediately on the phone with the store trying to reach the woman that helped me with this last round of mix-ups.  I needed to know what was going on.  How is it that no one told me about this before now?  Only, the guy that (finally) picks up the phone tells me that she won’t be in until one o’clock and though he doesn’t offer to take the message (not that I expected him to), he did eventually agree to have her return the call after she got in4.

The rest of the day passes.  No call back from the store, and no call from the installer.  And thus out of Sisyphean frustration, this tweet.

Allow us to pause there for a moment.  About that tweet…  Frustration sparked it.  Actually doing it?  Maybe I was thinking I should be charitable?  Warn my pals, I suppose.  Help prevent others from having dishwashers land in their dining rooms that just… sit there.

I was not expecting anything like an @reply from @ApplExpert50 with a few suggestions on how to remedy the situation.  Most of which I’d tried… but that was beside the point.  Someone was listening.  A most unlikely set of ears—but someone was listening at least.

It seemed that a little follow-up was in order for me—but I had that in my future either way.  Next thing I knew, some emails and phone calls started coming in about my order and about the installation which was requested but (apparently) never paid for and therefore never requested…

Long story short?  Took another couple of days but we arrived at a satisfactory outcome, and I got my dishwasher installed5.

So we landed in a good place.  But it was a long and bumpy road.  Still unpacked the whole affair.  Lessons learned?  Anecdotal evidence for the success of social media campaigns in managing customer service…?  Perhaps more?  Like I said:  still unpacking it.

  1. And why should you?  It hasn’t really been posted on this here blog. []
  2. Not yet. []
  3. It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that this has involved a lot of schedule juggling, what with being busy at work, being a one-car family, and having a kid dealing with a series of ear infections. []
  4. Come to find out later she was vacation for another couple of days. []
  5. And the old one got hauled away, too. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

2 Responses to tweet my customer service issues

justin says:

With that “buy up to the next model” option, it almost sounds like a bait-n-switch. That would be a sneaky, clever twist on an old scam: sell the lower cost model, but on delivery push an upgrade because the promised model is “unavailable”. That kind of stuff is hard to prove, but VT does provide a consumer hotline and a collection of information that might be worth a look in this type of situation.

found_drama says:

If the only thing that happened was “oops that model is unavailable” then I might be inclined to think that something was up there. But because they also failed to charge me for the installation (and hence failed to set it up at first), I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, in a business, every service call is also a sales opportunity right? I don’t blame them for trying. I’m just also not the sucker that’s going to fork over another $100 just because it sounds like a better deal than I might otherwise get.

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