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Is customer service dead?

Updated on May 14, 2008

Treated like common criminals

I'm starting to wonder if customer service is dead.

Recently I went with my father-in-law to a large electronics chain store (I won't mention any names but it starts with F uture and ends with S hop) to get a new PC for him and my mother-in-law. Thier PC had completely died and wouldn't turn on.

We chose the big chain store because they would have the product right on the shelf and it was a good deal in the flyer. We got to the store and looked at the other pc packages and found what we thought was a better deal and we talked to the salesman a bit to see if he could include a 22" LCD for $150 (regular $289) and he said he could. Sold. The PC was an Acer brand machine.

We checked out and headed back to the house. As the in-laws are less computer literate than I and she is a great cook, I get voluntold to do all the pc work for them.

I opened the box and took the pc out and it was a Compaq! Very weird indeed. I knew that Compaq was bought by someone but didn't think it was Acer.

I showed the PC to my in-laws and naturally they said that they wanted to return it and get the one that they had paid for. When we got to the store, the salesman that sold it to us saw us walk in and said in an incredulous tone "uh-oh...what's wrong guys?" Needless to say he was quite surprised to see the Compaq in an Acer box as well. He told us to take it to the customer service desk and they'd fix us up. I asked him to get us one of the proper machines to saves us running back and forth. He says "well, you better make sure they're going to take it back first..." Are you kidding me? He must have been kidding me. Did he honestly believe that we were going to be stuck with the wrong machine?

Moving right along, we take the wrong pc up to customer service (that name isn't as accurate as they like you to believe) and the manager takes it into the back to examine. After leaving us standing there for 15-20 minutes, my father-in-law starts to lose his patience. He's a pretty calm and cool guy but has his limits too. He asks the squad of geeks what is going on and can he have his proper pc and the manager says NO. He says "we're trying to figure out how a Compaq got in an Acer box". Father-in-law says he doesn't care how it got in there and to either give us the machine he paid for or his money back.

Long story short, they were basically accusing him of buying a new Acer pc, taking it home and swapping it out with an old Compaq (which by the way, DID not look old....can you say refurbish mix up?) and then trying to return the old Compaq.

Two things to consider here...1) we weren't trying to return the Compaq but were asking for the proper Acer that the salesman helped us pick out and 2) Both ends of the box had Acer tape on them.. When the salesman sold us the Acer it was sealed with Acer tape. We would have had to cut it to get the Acer out and the Compaq in.

Here's why I think customer service is dead...father-in-law was getting REALLY hot because the manager was being snotty to him. I asked pops to cool down so I could have a word with the manager. I asked manager how long he'd been in retail and what he thought his options were with this customer. I asked if he thought he'd fully explained the options to his customer. He said he did. I asked him if he'd told his customer that the procedure would be something like "sir, we will check the serial numbers of both PC's to try to figure how this happened and we'll get authorization from the district manager to just refund your money while we sort it out".

He told pops nothing of the sort. Although I do see the stores point of view as there are plenty of scammers out there, it's just not cool to call a 58 year old customer a thief, offer no explanation of the situation and then expect him to just leave the store with the wrong item to wait while you sort it out.

This is likely a case of a refurbished Compaq accidently getting put in an Acer box and shipped to the store. Too bad the store flunkys never thought of that!

The next day, mother-in-law goes in 10x as furious as father-in-law. Of course she started out calm and was being civil and it had now been passed on to another manager who had the guts to tell her "one more negative thing out of you and you're getting NOTHING". Sorry, wrong thing to say to a customer yet again. I worked in retail....I know it sucks to take crap from irate customers but it's lost on me why these people, especially managers, don't have the common courtesy to assume that the customer is innocent until proven guilty.

This remark made her furious and she was done with him at that point and went from asking for her refund to demanding it. He must have realized there was no way he was going to beat her now and he gave the refund back.

The sad thing is (and I told the first manager this) that due to the staffs inability to deal with odd situations or customer satisfaction, they would be losing thousands of dollars in future profits. We had a guy waiting in the car who plans on buying a new pc in a month or so and my wife and I will be upgrading our home theater in December. The managers ignorance easily cost his store $7000. We'll still be spending it....the local independent shop that thought they had no Future when the big box store opened is still around and guess what? They still have excellent customer service.

That's one long hub...thanks for your patience. If this saves even one person the grief we wnet through, it will be well worth the read.

If you MUST buy from the big guys PLEASE open the box in the store and make sure it's the right item inside.

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