Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: - Poor Customer Service

This experience took place last December (2011) as I attempted to purchase a Christmas gift for 374.

Last summer I found a website - Our Designs, while looking for a Father's Day gift for my volunteer firefighter husband. After making that initial purchase on their website, I made two or three more purchases through the summer and fall. Shipping was always a bit slow, but it was coming from the west coast and I was receiving free ground shipping.

When I started asking 374 what he wanted for Christmas, I would often get the same response. He really wanted a nice flashlight and bracket to mount to his fire helmet. Being a volunteer firefighter, we purchase a lot of his tools and gear, aside from the obvious bunker gear that the station provides.

I started looking around mid October, trying to find the website that offered the best product at the lowest price plus shipping. I found a handful of sites that offered competitive prices, including Our Designs. Their price was not the cheapest I had found, but I had ordered from them before so I felt safer ordering from them.

On December 6th, 2011 I was ready to order the items. I called their customer service number before ordering online to insure I purchased the shipping option that would guarantee an on time delivery before Christmas. The gentleman I spoke to was very helpful and directed me to the appropriate shipping option. I then went online, and made my purchase. Before checking out, a screen came up with last minute items you may want to add to your cart. I saw an option for a firefighter stein, that I knew would be perfect for 374's stocking. I went ahead and added it to my order, and proceeded through checkout.

Later that afternoon I received my order confirmation email. The email broke my order up into two lists. The first list was an invoice of all the items in my order - the flashlight, the bracket and the stein. The second list had a heading that read "OUT-OF-STOCK-ITEMS SHIP WHEN AVAILABLE" and underneath it listed the firefighter stein. When I read this email, I was under the impression that the stein was out of stock, and that item would ship when it was available. It wasn't a big deal to me, as it wasn't the main item I was wanting. It really didn't matter whether that came on time, I could use it for another gift at a later date. No where in the email did it say anything about the other items not shipping out on time.

Around the 4th day after I placed my order, I realized I had not yet received a shipping confirmation email. Usually they were pretty quick on shipping items out in a timely manner from the time you placed your order. I took into account that it was the holiday season, and those times may have been a bit delayed. I made a mental note to start watching my email account for the shipping email.

On December 13th, 2011 (one full week after I had placed my order) I called and asked customer service what the delay in shipping was. The lady I was speaking to told me that the firefighter stein was on back order, and it's their policy to not ship an order until everything is in stock. She also informed me that a customer can request items be sent separately, but there will be separate shipping charges for each shipment. I immediately asked her to cancel the stein. I also told her that had I been aware of this policy, I would have cancelled the stein the day I got the email stating it's back order status. I mentioned to her that no where in the email I received did it state a policy like that, and that in fact I got a completely different impression from the wording of the email. She cancelled the stein for me and assured me that because it was later in the business day my items would not ship that day, but would ship out the very next day.

December 14th, 2011 I waited for the shipping email. The day came and went with no email. So on December 15th, 2011 - the ninth day after ordering, I called and asked if my order had shipped. The gentleman I spoke to informed me that my order had not yet shipped. I began to express my frustration with the situation. I told him that I originally had called before placing the order to ensure that the shipping I purchased would get my items to me before Christmas, as this was an important gift. I asked him if there was anything he could do - refund my shipping, upgrade my shipping option, etc. He informed me there was nothing he could do because my order "was already on the floor". I asked him to then please inform someone that the wording in their emails needs to be changed because had I been aware of the situation from the beginning, I would have taken the appropriate action the day I had received the order confirmation email. He told me he would pass the feedback on to the appropriate people.

On the 10th day I called again because I still had received no shipping notification. This was now Friday December 16th, 2011. The gentleman I talked to that day told me my order had shipped. I was out and about that day running errands. I had multiple things on my mind that day, and didn't even think to ask him for a tracking number or shipping information. I just figured I would get home and check the email that I should have had waiting for me in my inbox since my order had now shipped.

When I returned home that evening, I had no email waiting for me. I checked my online bank statement, and I had not yet been charged. At this point frustrated was not even close to the emotion I was feeling. Why had this customer service representative said that my order had shipped? Of course this had happened on a Friday, so there was nothing I could do about it until Monday. Add in the fact that they are in the Pacific time zone so I had to wait even longer to call them, and you have one very disgruntled customer.

Monday rolled around and I called customer service AGAIN. I was put on hold. I was disconnected a few times. At this point it's getting comical, because laughing was all I could do to suppress my anger. Finally I got in touch with a live person, who was the first to take a moment to start looking into my problem. She sent an email to the shipping department and informed me I would have an email from them with answers by the end of the afternoon, or at the very latest the next morning. She said the only thing that made any sense to her was that their inventory counts were off when I placed my order for the flashlight and bracket, or that after the hold up over the stein and my order finally got to the floor for packaging the flashlight and bracket had become out of stock.

Tuesday morning came and no email from the shipping department, and no shipping notice. So I called them AGAIN and was informed that, of course, my items still had not shipped. No one could give me ANY explanation of the situation. I asked the man on the phone to cancel my order because I was disgusted with the lack of customer service at this point. There was no reason that 14 days after I had placed my order that it had not shipped, and that no one could give me any insight as to why.

Looking back, the only thing that makes sense to me is that they HAD my items when I initially placed my order. But in the days that passed before I realized my order was on hold due to the stein, the flashlight and bracket had to become out of stock. I am appalled with their lack of customer service. The first time I placed an order with Our Designs, I even paid an extra fee to have a V.I.P. membership which gave me discounts on items and free ground shipping.

Because of their lack of customer service, my husband did not receive his Christmas present. I had to spend the last few days before Christmas scrambling to find something for him to have under the tree Christmas morning. I am the first to admit that Christmas is not all about the gifts - but when you have a man who works a full time job out of the home and in his free time off volunteers to serve and protect his community, you just really want to show your thanks and admiration any way you can. Had this situation happened any other time of the year, I would have been equally disappointed. My frustration was not over the missed Christmas gift, it was all about the poor service I received. I felt like, and still do, that my problem did not warrant anyone's time and energy to remedy.

I took my issues to their Facebook page, and was surprised to see there were many other comments left on their wall just like mine. I was even more frustrated to watch these comments be left unanswered by the Our Designs team. I have never received an apology, explanation, or offer to make the situation right. I will never again make a purchase from this website. I have never been treated so poorly as a customer.

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