Thursday, December 08, 2005


In Which There Is Smooth Sailing...

Day Zero: Last Shave


Well, I know how much we all love closure, and so I'll tell you about the phone call I received today.

You may recall that I wrote a rather long and politely scathing letter to the president of the Really Big Home Improvement Store whose managers sold me my faulty window and then more or less accused me of breaking the glass myself and trying to get them to pay for it. Just for effect, I sent the letter via FEDEX, so prez would have had it for a day or so.

For me, one of the great secrets of an effective complaint letter is who you cc at the bottom. Once, when I ran afoul of an airline who refused to refund me on a plane ticket, I wrote them a letter and cc'ed it to the editor who wrote the "Ombudsman" department for Conde Nast Traveler (in this column, the editor acted on behalf of disgruntled readers in order to get them refunds or room upgrades when they felt they'd been cheated). That got me a call-back right away and the airline manager who issue me my refund asked if I would follow up with the ombudsman and let them know I had satisfaction. So, suffice it to say, when I say I'm going to cc someone--say, the VP of customer relations for a Really Big Home Improvement Store, or the head of PR for a competing company, I do it.

So there I am, just finishing my morning shave, when the phone rings and it's my old pal Frank, the manager of the window and door department.

"Um, hi Mr. M," he said, a little stiffly. "I, um, I understand you've been in contact with quite a few people at our corporate office."

"Oh? And how would you know about that, Frank?" I asked pleasantly.

"Well, we, uh, got a call from our vice president of customer relations. You, uh, you sent him a letter about your window?"

"Yes, Frank, I did. I tried to resolve this issue with your and your manager, but I have to say, it seems to me that both of you vastly underestimated how dissatisfied I was with my experience."

"Uh, yes uh-huh. Well, anyway, the store manager and I spoke with the vice president this morning and the manager asked me to call to see what we can do to make this right."

"Oh. Is Les unavailable?"

"Uh, well, he asked me to call and, uh, make sure everything is okay, that we haven't inconvenienced you."

"Frank, you put me through more than a mere inconvenience. I came to you politely, respectfully, and asked you for help. You responded by essentially calling me a liar. Which I find ironic Frank. Do you know why?"

"Uh, well I--"

"See, because I went to the manufacturer and they confirmed there was a flaw in the window. So your accusation was not only completely unfounded, it was absolutely incorrect."

"Oh. You actually went to the warehouse?"

"I take it you don't have a copy of the letter I sent."

"No, they fixed the window?"

"Indeed they did. But more than that, Pete, who is your official liaison, says he received no phone call from you. Which is odd because you told me you called them and they refused to repair the window."

"Oh, uh..."

"Frank. You didn't call the manufacturer, did you?"

I can hear him squirming. "I uh, well, I didn't speak with Pete himself, but I spoke with someone in the front office."

"Frank. Rich was the only other one in the office and he received no phone call. Really, if you're going to go accusing customers of lying to you, I really think you ought to own up when you've been caught in a lie yourself."

"Mr. M, there's no need to be rude."

"Since when is it rude to tell the truth? It IS rude to lie. And to accuse someone of lying when you don't know what you're talking about."

"Well, uh, the important thing is you got your window fixed, so we've taken care of you on that."

"Frank, let's be clear about this. You did nothing to help me except pass me off to someone else, who did nothing to help me either, since your little compromise to split the cost of the glass repair was reversed by your manager. On the whole I feel you've treated me rather shabbily, and I'd like to know how you're going to make that right."

"Uh, what did you have in mind, Mr. M?"

"Well, for one thing I had to take time from my job and make about a 100 mile round-trip to get my window fixed. That represents a significant expense for me."


"More importantly, I have yet to hear the words 'sorry' or 'apology' pass your lips."

"Well, I am sorry for the trouble, and for, uh, for doubting you."

"Oh gee, thanks Frank. Now if you really want to do right by me, have your manager call me and do the same thing. And talk to him about reimbursing me for my time."

"Oh, Mr. M, I don't think we're going to do that."

"Oh, I think you will, Frank, I've got to run and go talk to my team right now."


And I hung up.

My "team" by the way, was the dog, who for some reason likes to watch me shave.

So far no call back from the manager.

But I did get a nice email from the vice president of customer service, telling me a gift card would be coming to me under separate cover. So Frank was wrong again. Talk about bearding the lion in his own den.

And speaking of beards...


...expect more visual updates soon.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

That's awesome about getting some justice from the Really Big Home Improvement Store. It's amazing how quick things get resolved when you go to the top.

I had a lemon-y new car a few years ago, and there is a process customers can go through if a car keeps breaking and the dealer can't fix it. I did this and got a random reply that didn't even answer the questions I asked.

Too bad my dad worked for the auto manufacturer and happened to have the CEO's direct e-mail address. I forwarded my correspondence to him.

I received a call from his assistant the same day, and the matter was resolved to my satisfaction that same week. (And the customer service rep who sent the inadequate, inappropriate reply also had to call and apologize. He didn't do it well, but he did it.)

Yay for justice!
You wouldn't think it would be so hard to utter a simple apology. Whatever happened to "the customer is always right"? Good on you, MM.
Nice job. Speaking of customer service, I'm still waiting for a delivery of free crap.
That's good stuff there. Why does it seem to that telling the truth is considered rude to some people?
You're absolutely right. Like, by lying, you were doing me a favor?
Nice and smooth.
CC'ing always does the trick.

Of course, when I wrote letters I would CC people who made no sense. I'd write a letter to Southwest Airlines and CC the President of the Erik Estrada fan club.

Still, they called me back. AND gave me free peanutts.
Good customer service work, MM!

I used the Cc to great effect a few months ago, during The Great Cell Phone Company War. Nobody seemed to be able to help, so I emailed all of the media contacts on the Website, noting that I wasn't sure the company would want "lies to customers" listed as one of their core competencies. Odd, how I got a call less than an hour later, from a woman who was: a) apologetic, b) willing/able to fix my problem and c) not a completely rude moron.
Do you have any idea how many of your readers are giving you a standing "O" and a "Hell Yeah!" at your success?

A lot.

We "unsatisfied customers" laud your victory and envy your skills.

A collective "elbow and send" to the Really Big Home Improvement Store from the little guy...specifically - the customer.

I've taken notes and vow not to be screwed over again.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Looking forward to a detailed account of your follicular progression. Especially reactions from the Brownie and Art Lad. Oh, and the itchiness.
I was in Customer Service (Tech Support) for 13 years. We were taught: The customer may not always be right, but they are always the customer. I have worked with many people who disagreed with that philosophy, people who were either Machiavellian about their jobs, or those who were just too prideful. Either way, these bad customer support people just need a hug. On the other hand, it would be cool if it were legal to egg their houses.
Oh yay! A sexy topless pic of MM :p

What as that you were saying about customer service??
Justice the write way, MM style. The call was priceless! PRICELESS!

William Hill should take bets on these sort of things. I mean, I had ALL my money on this! I wouldn't have had to work another day in my life. Santa, you hearing, or should I write you a letter?

CC: God.
all I have to say is, we get to see some skin .. baby.

so the dog likes to stare at you shave eh ... most probably thinking ... "why on gods earth would he wanted to be stark naked!!"

as for the justice is served bit ... well ... something was served but justice is a long way coming.
I am doing the Snoopy dance just for you MM- LOVE IT!
WOW, what a response ... I wish I had those cahoneneey's
You're my hero. MY HERO! I think about hunting down the truth in retail all the time but I never follow through. And I was just writing a post about dispassionate employees. 'Tis the season, I guess.
I reiterate... you are my hero.
My long lost friend! YOU ARE GROWING THE BEARD??? What??? What happened? I take a few weeks off from the blog world and you decide to grow an ever-lovin' beard?!

Nice work on the letter...and the action...I LOVE a good complaint letter. We call them Tam's Poison Pen letters.

Hope you're well...
As much as I believe you to be a champion of righteousness, I am miffed at the fact that you have posted a picture of yourself shaving and the fact that will make me look like a Johnny Come Lately for an upcoming post.

I guess that's what I get for procrastinating...

Nice work on sticking it to the man!
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