Monday, May 11, 2009

Customer service

It finally dawned on me why I was so incensed about the Ikea bed debacle. It wasn't so much that the bed was awful, but the terrible store experience and the almost equally terrible customer service. I thought I had posted that Ikea has offered to refund our money, which is good, but we've got to return the mattress (440 miles of driving), and there was not a word that came close to "sorry" from anyone.

Now, this would have been typical ten or more years ago. The only company that I knew of that had a really good return policy was L.L.Bean, and they were notable because of it. They took returns on items that had been used. I remember being amazed that this was true. I once returned a pair of expensive ski socks to their store because I had accidentally melted them by trying to dry them next to my wood stove. It would never have occurred to me to even return the socks. After all, I melted the silly things. I had just mentioned it in passing when I was there to buy some wool socks (which don't melt) and the salesperson said something like "you should return them 'cause you we didn't label them with good instructions." So I did.

So, besides the fact that actually shopping at Ikea for something large is an exhausting and frustrating experience, when I got home and hated the bed that was so wonderful in the showroom, I expected good customer service. I hadn't realized that things had changed so much since the days when L.L. Bean was the only company who provided such great service. It seems that nearly every company does these days, and my only explanation for it is the advent of online sales. There seems to be more protection for the consumer. There's also more competition for consumer loyalty.

I've been surprised over and again with my paltry complaints being met with service that bends over backwards to make things right. So, that's why Ikea's lousy service was such a surprise.

Today, I got a new, free roll of Kinesiotape from this Amazon reseller today. I had e-mailed them to ask if the black tape was less sticky than the beige tape, and when they sent a reply, saying it was not, they offered to send me another roll. I wasn't even complaining!

This type of great customer service has gotten to be common, in my experience. The truth is, I hate complaining, and the hassles that come with trying to get satisfaction from a company that has no interest in giving any. Some people get a kick out of the fight, but I don't. It just saps my energy.

The Ikea experience is certainly not the worst customer service I've experienced, not by a long shot. In the next post, unless something more interesting pops up, I'll tell you about the bizarre leather glove purchase that almost kept me from being able to get a home loan many years after the incident.

Image note: John James Audubon "Baltimore Orioles" Nail a half an orange to a tree if they're in your area and they'll come. We got our first ones this weekend. Their plumage is so bright and new, it looks like velvet.

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