When policies and legalese ruin consumer confidence

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A little something different today. I want to talk about customer service, consumer confidence and marketing.

If you sold the best no-bake cookies around, would you take your cookies to market and lead with a warning about ecol i and raw eggs causing illness and sometimes death? Of course not! That would be, in a word, STUPID.  It would put people right off and make them second guess your products and move onto someone who’s marketing shows a no-bake cookie being devoured by a bunch of happy kids and maybe some sort of cartoon mascot or something, right?

packaging_warningSo imagine my surprise when my new USB mic arrives yesterday and I am assaulted by messages about defects and warranties and return policies. I was stunned.

As I may have mentioned here or on the Twitter feed, I ordered a new Alesis podcasting kit from amazon.com last week. Only, Amazon didn’t stock it, so it was shipped from JR.com. It arrived just yesterday and I was really excited about it, so I snatched it up and went to find a knife to cut the packaging.

This was my first assault: the box was wrapped in what was essentially a heavy plastic bag and then taped up. Repeated across the bag in bright, big letters was a warning to REFUSE the shipment if that bag had any rips or tears in it because JR.com wasn’t taking it back nor responsible for damage during shipping if I didn’t refuse it.

Odd.

Obviously, this made me pause.  I checked the packaging; no tears.  Plus, UPS just dropped it on the porch, so it wasn’t like I could’ve refused the shipment. Deciding to move on, I slit the bag up the side and pulled the box out.  Two pieces of paper fell out.  I picked them up.

Assault #2: On a sheet of orange paper, I find another warning about warranties and returns.  There are three or four paragraphs talking about how, if there’s something wrong with the contents of this shipment, don’t bother JR.com with it – the manufacturer is responsible for all warranties and for missing components! ‘Call the manufacturer first’ it says in bold letters.

What.The.Hell?

On the bottom of the page, there is a little blurb about how there are certain situations where they will accept a return, but only if whatever it is comes back in its original packaging including all plastic bags, ties, etc.

HOKAY THEN!

At this point, I’m starting to get nervous.  What in hell has Amazon gotten me into?  I look at the other piece of paper that fell out, dreading what it might possible contain (a warning about Anthrax? Metallica? – okay, sorry couldn’t help myself…).  To my relief, it’s merely the packing slip.  Whew, right?

I set these aside and go to open the box.  After all, this is what it’s all about, right? My new podcast kit?  New mic, new headphones – eeee!

packaging_warning_2Assault #3: a bright sticker, not unlike something you’d see, oh, on the side of a TOXIC NUCLEAR WASTE CONTAINER, with a giant STOP! sign on it, again tells me that I need to be careful in opening the box lest I need to return it for some reason.

Holy Crap.

At this point, I’m thinking that I have been so very screwed by Amazon and this JR.com.  With all of this stuff about warranties and returns and what not all, they must have a horrible customer satisfaction rating because EVERYTHING YOU ORDER FROM THEM MUST BE RETURNED!

I take a deep breath, go ahead and open the box, hook up the mic and test it out, try on the earphones – everything seems to be working well.  But I find myself looking for a place to stash the gd box because I am now extremely worried that I have purchased a lemon that I will be fighting to return for months from the point that it stops working (probably in 31 days).

I have to tell you, from a marketing standpoint and from a customer service standpoint, JR.com has failed, horribly, to inspire any sort of consumer confidence or loyalty from me.  And I buy a lot of shit online.

I decided to send them an email about this.  Here it is:

I have to say, you do not inspire confidence in the products that you sell.

If anything, you’ve scared the hell out of me.

I ordered the Alesis USB mic podcast kit from Amazon.com last week. It shipped from you and arrived today. Upon opening the package, I find myself staring at a sheet of paper explaining the return and warranty policy on the item I’ve purchased – it’s the very first thing you see. It basically says, “Don’t bother us – we didn’t make it.”  It’s not until you get to the bottom of the sheet do you accept any responsibility for the item and even then, you have caveats and CYA statements.

Moving on, the box that the item comes in has a massive sticker on it also detailing warranty/return information and warning the purchaser to think about what they are doing before they open the box and discover damaged items you won’t take back.

Does everything you sell come back?

Is everything in your stock defective?

Should I bother opening the box or should I simply return it now before the 30 days are up?

From a marketing standpoint, you are failing, horribly, at providing me, the consumer, with any confidence in you as a company or a retailer. And you’ve ensured that this is the only thing I will ever purchase from you. Nor will I be telling people about your company except to warn them to think twice before dealing with someone who has zero confidence in the products that they sell.

What a terrible message to lead with.

~P

I sent that off last night never expecting any sort of response.  So, imagine my surprise when I did get a response:

Dear Mr Hester,

Thank you for writing. We apologize that you were troubled by our Return policy information. We put the sheet at the top of the box because many customers throw out all the packaging before testing an item to make sure that it works or that it meets their needs. We want to make sure that customers under stand that we need everything returned.

We receive back only a small percentage of defective items. J&R will always assist our customers. We truly apologize again is this information upset you.

We hope we have addressed your concerns. You can reach us at (I’m taking out the numbers just in case) Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm Eastern, Saturday 9-5 if you require additional assistance.

Thank you

This did not address my concerns.

I’m sorry, but it didn’t.

They really have a problem here and I don’t think they even realize how bad it is.

I can’t imagine that anyone in their marketing department is aware nor condone’s this idiotic spamming of doom and gloom messaging going out with their products.  Nor can I imagine that they have any sort of repeat business given the messaging that’s going out with their products.

How do companies like this survive?

~P