Saturday, March 30, 2013

Helpfully Unhelpfull



After eight years of faithful service, the motherboard on our home computer finally bought the farm. This placed me in the position of purchasing a dependable (yet cost-effective) replacement. Based on past experience with their desktop hardware, I selected Dell and had been perusing their website for several minutes when a small pop-up asked if I would like to chat with Dell employee. I was connected to April, who was undoubtedly a 55 year-old male inmate at a state penitentiary, but who nevertheless proved helpful and generated a quote for a tower and monitor.

It was several weeks later before we had the funds to order said PC, so by the time I plugged the quote number I was not sure it would still be good. Fortunately, everything went through fine and a few moments later I received an order confirmation e-mail and a promise that I would receive further correspondence once my order was on its way.

A few days later, I received an e-mail from a Dell employee identified as Shravani who seemed to be informing me that the monitor I purchased was not available. I replied that they could simply cancel the order for the monitor and send me the tower. Having waited until the next day and received no response, I called the customer service number and was bounced around between a handful of unfailingly polite employees before the matter was resolved and I was told that my tower was on the way and the monitor order had been canceled.

It was at this exact moment that Shravani responded to my e-mail to tell me that the tower was unavailable and they had shipped me the monitor instead. When I relayed this dismaying turn of events to the phone representative I was placed on hold after which I was informed that Shravani was correct and that the tower was no longer available. He reiterated the “good news” that my monitor was still already on the way. I replied that I am sure it will look amazing once it is “plugged into the imaginary computer I just bought.” I was immediately placed on hold while he conferred with the shift supervisor. 

When he reappeared and I pointed out the tower was still available according to their website, I was told that it was no longer available at the price on my quote (it had elevated $140). It was as if I was trading commodities instead of purchasing a computer. On top if it all, no one seemed to have any idea of who “April” was and how she had been given authority to perform arithmetic on behalf of the company.

A few hours (and three employees) later, Dell finally agreed to “do me a solid” and honor their own quote. I even managed to get them to send it next day shipping. Since it would require an adult signature, I asked them to ship it to work. When I received my shipping notification I noticed that FedEx was estimating that it would be delivered on President’s Day. Since the office was going to be closed, I simply went online and had the delivery redirected to the nearest FedEx/Kinkos location. I even took time to brag to my co-workers about how cleverly I had circumvented this logistical delay.

That Monday, I checked FedEx’s website and was chagrined to discover that the package showed undeliverable because the business was closed. I called the main FedEx number and spoke to a customer care specialist who told me they had attempted the delivery at my work address but that no one was there. When I responded that I had redirected the package several days ago for that very reason she replied that they would redirect it to the FedEx/Kinkos location tomorrow.      

I responded that this would defeat the purpose of the re-direct since I would actually be at work the next day thus making a Kinkos delivery less convenient than the original destination. She advised that I drive to the nearest distribution center and pick it up that day before they transferred it.

I arrived at the distribution center and informed the woman at the front desk that I was here to pick up a package. I gave her my name and tracking number after which she informed me that it was to be delivered to Kinkos tomorrow. I assured her that I was aware of the box’s destination and wished to prevent it from getting there by picking it up now. She grimaced and apologetically explained that I could not get the box now because she “was the only one here” and apparently FedEx has a very strict parcel buddy-system I was unaware of. She requested that I leave and come back in a half-hour.

On my return trip, I was finally able to procure the package. On the drive home it occurred to me that both FedEx and Dell had created an intentionally unhelpful infrastructure staffed by ceaselessly polite employees. This allowed each company to be as infuriating as possible without presenting the customer with anyone acceptable to yell at. At each and every juncture I was apologized to and reminded that I was a valuable customer just before being told that they were unable to accommodate any reasonable requests I made.

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