In honor of Father’s Day, I offer you a letter I started writing to my pater familias, which turns into a major, hissy fit rant. Enjoy.
I recently purchased a bed through Amazon. Wait, scratch that, I ordered what I thought was a bed through what I thought was Amazon. When, in fact, I received three-quarters of a bed from a third-party seller. The seller—Home and Living—omitted sending the portion of the bed that actually holds up the mattress. (Turns out I have woefully high expectations of the number of pieces required to make a bed.) If you have already had dealings with on-line purchases backfiring on you, you may skip ahead to the picture of the burning bed. If not, steady yourself for an ad nauseum retelling.
BRING ON THE IRRATIONAL OUTRAGE!
Upon discovering the perfidy of the missing ‘link spring’, I attempted to return said useless item or request that the seller send me, free of charge, the part of the bed that was in absentia. Emails and phone calls flew, mostly in one direction. I managed to finagle a $20 credit for the cost of return shipping in one phone exchange with Amazon. Then I found out shipping these items using UPS would cost, at a minimum, $100.76. Did I mention the purchase price of the item was $241.00? (That, after getting a special Amazon Synchrony credit card to save about $40.00.) Or the $75.00 restocking fee the seller wants to charge for grudgingly taking back their non-bed? So, this almost-a-bed which I paid $241.00 for could cost over $175.00 to return. Now, most people at this point would throw up their hands and say, “I give up. Sell me the missing part for $150.” Most rational people would take this approach. I am not most people. Nor am I all that rational when I feel someone has deliberately duped me. Thus commences weeks of my fiendish plan: ‘Operation Threaten and Wheedle’. (This is where working in law offices and knowing terms like ‘misrepresentation of product’ and ‘consumer fraud’ are helpful. And regardless of the situation, Res Ipsa Loquitur always wows a crowd.)
BOIL WITH RAGE – SPIT LIKE A VIPER
First, I bombard the Amazon retail customer service with demands for satisfaction based on their A to Z policy. (Which, I have not read but assume has alphabetical significance hereto.) I politely, but sternly outline my position: “I bought a bed. They did not send me a bed. I want my money back.” I may have thrown the words ‘I hate to be litigious…but’ into one email, I am not entirely sure. In return, I received a form letter from India which stated:
“Amazon is looking into your claim. Amazon has until June 21, 2015 to investigate your claim. Please standby.’ [Does anybody else hear Apu from the Simpson’s voice when reading this?]
So I wait for someone to contact me. And I wait. And wait…After a few days, I send another request for review. And then I make a call asking, “What’s happening with my case?” This is where I find out that further replies came in the form of Junk Mail—informing me that I had three-days to reply before my complaint would be shredded and used to line the cage of a particularly flatulent rodent. (Can you guess how many days too late I was to reply? Answer: enough.)
I am starting to seethe at this point. I am feeling great outrage at the anonymous corporation which has blindly dismissed a small, pathetic customer in favor of profits. I am irritated by the generic customer service form letter factory in India that doesn’t actually read my question but sends responses such as:
This transaction is with a third party seller and before they can proceed with your refund or replacement, they will need to have the item returned. Please contact the seller directly for any further details.
I think I read this sentence in almost every email I received—or at the very least, a running subtext to the effect: “Look, you buffoon, we’re just going to keep stringing you alone until sciatica forces you to give up and buy the damned ‘link spring’ or alternately we force you to pay for your mistake twice over by requiring you to pay the shipping cost, a $75.00 restocking fee, AND demanding your first born child. Mwua hah ha ha ha!” So, I snapped.
I started fantasizing about how I would avenge my consumer outrage by getting a wood chipper and reducing the almost-but-not-quite a bed to so much mulch. I decided this was a bit dramatic, and expensive, whereas lighter fluid and a match would do the job just as well and provide a much lighter pile of ash to ship back to the seller. (Bonus: I could also roast marshmallows to toast the bitter-sweet satisfaction of pointless revenge.) It was at this point that a friend of mine suggested that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t being terribly reasonable about this.
“Yes, they sold you crap. You were screwed, blued and tattooed; but, they aren’t going to fix the problem and you still don’t have a bed. Just go buy the damned support and be done with it.” This is what a rational person would do. (See above regarding rational behavior, and likelihood thereof.)
Be rational? Okay, I could do that. I could suck up my outrage and my ire and submit like a whimpering dog…OR…I could do what I did.
I got all of my facts in a row. I contact the Amazon Synchrony credit card company. They do not offer the option for a consumer complaint and redress of consumer fraud. (And yes, I will be canceling this card just as soon as this is resolved. They are too closely in bed with the pimp who sold me the trashy furniture. Goodbye Pimp Card.) Their customer service rep in India transfers me to the same exact Retail Customer Service professionals I have been tangling with for the past couple of weeks. Operation Smooth Talker to commence in t-minus 10…9…8…
“Hi, I’m Adam. How can I be of service.” A man’s voice purrs to me.
“Ohhh, yeah.” Wait…did I say that out loud?
Adam is my representative. He sounds like a hip young man who drinks Southern Comfort and rocks a bolero tie. He speaks smoothly with a hint of Georgia in his syllables; I want to melt listening to him. “Okay,” I think, “so they brought out their big guns. Two can play at this. I see your Southern Gentleman and raise you an Earnest, Disabled Widow with a Special Needs Child…and a blog”. We both put on our genteel, company-is-coming manners and exchange points of view with sugary assurances that: “Ha ha, I know how frustrating it is…blah di blah blah.” “Yes, I’m sure Amazon is doing all it can… Yaddah Yaddah.”
Our exchanges were terribly polite and, probably, totally superficial. But, once he spoke to his overlords, I did get a promise out of Adam. He would make a one-time exception regarding the return of the item. He was authorized to cover the cost of shipping…but there was a catch. The money won’t actually appear in my account. He is now emailing me proof of a secret credit to cover the expense of the shipping. It won’t be a reimbursement, per se, but the next time I go to spend money on Amazon, a magical amount will appear cloaked by a shield of invisibility until the one true king returns….or words to that effect.
Upon hearing this, I sat up straight. “You mean…it’ll be like an Easter Egg?”
“Ha ha. Yeah. Like that.” Adam says, probably thinking the batty old broad is referring to colored eggs which turn rancid over time. (Not that that would be a bad analogy.) He further reassured me that this money would never expire. It will live on in infamy…but only as a credit on Amazon…and only coming into existence when I spend money. It sounded fishy, but I’ll admit, it also appeared to be the compromise I swore was my goal. Continuing this argument would be small-minded and mean, even if it meant I could listen to Adam grovel so nicely on behalf of his superiors.
As much as I would like to say I was willing to fight the good fight, I recognized a concession when I heard one. I asked a few questions more, and have come up with a list of recommendations for anyone who is even considering a large-ticket purchase online:
- Read the product description three, four, maybe even a dozen times. Look for very tiny print in inscrutable language that might possibly be offering you a lower-price at the cost of your soul, your sanity or both. If you read stuff you can’t understand…walk away.
- Check out something called the Seller Feedback page. This is where you can itemize exactly where, how and in what creative ways the seller screwed the pooch. (You, being the pooch in this particular analogy. Probably a female one.) A link to the Seller Feedback page can be found in the section of text below the item listed following the phrase: Ships from and sold by (insert scurrilous villain’s company name here – Home and Living** in my particular case).
- Lastly, I highly recommend you avoid third-party sellers*** if you can at all manage it. While Amazon promises to back all of the items purchased ‘through’ Amazon, not all third party sellers actually fall into this category. You have to read their customer service policy. If it states that it abides by Amazon’s A to Z policy, then Amazon can work to get you customer service satisfaction—eventually. However, some of the third party sellers require expensive returns, as in my case, and are thoroughly unpleasant to try and deal with. The phrase you want to see under any item you buy is “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com”.
So, Dad, when I finally do get my imaginary money, I am planning on buying you a CD: Bouyer’s Silver Fanfare. Since I know this will be a vile use of funds, try not to grind your teeth into a powder and know that at least I am paying for it with hard-earned revenge. And that’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Yes, I am just that cheap that my entire gift to my father is a letter ranting about online purchases. It’s still better than a tie.
**I will be linking this post to my Seller Feedback–F*ck ’em if they can’t be bothered to call me back. They deserve $75.00 worth of retribution. Feel free to pass this around.
***Here is the ‘bed’ in question. See if you can find the tricky lawyer-ese that explains this is missing the bottom. This Is Not the Effing Bed You Are Looking For!