The UPS mess continues

In some ways, social networking seems like it can be a great way to address customer service issues with a company. In fact, in the latest issue of Consumer Reports, they list it as a sometimes effective way of addressing concerns.

Afterward my unsatisfying UPS experience, I tweeted this:


I quickly had responses despite the holiday weekend. First a Tweet:

And then a blog comment:

I really felt as if maybe, just maybe, they’d help me figure out what was going on and ensure that I could get the package redelivered successfully.

Notsomuch.

I e-mailed Twitter@UPS.com with my tracking number and an overview of what other UPS reps had told me already. They confirmed–as I suspected–that UPS doesn’t have a policy to return a damaged product. And then they thanked me for letting them look into the situation and confirmed my address. An incomplete address that did not match any of the order or shipping confirmations that I received from the vendor.

I corrected them and copied the information I received from the vendor and received this in return:

Thank you so much for your response. In keeping tabs of the package’s current whereabouts, I saw that it was re-delivered to the shipper as of 5/23/2011. Since the package is unfortunately no longer in our hands you will need to contact the shipper and advise them that you need the package resent and that there was imperative information missing in the address which prevented timely delivery. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please let us know if we may answer anymore questions or follow up on any additional concerns.

Now… I know this is more “information” that shows inconsistencies with UPS practices. My delivery address requires one extra line than my mailing address. In the past, when that additional information wasn’t included, UPS sent us a postcard indicating we had to pick it up at the local distribution center. Since that has happened at least three times, I think it’s safe to say that is probably a UPS practice.

We didn’t receive a postcard alerting us about the delivery attempts this time.

And now UPS is saying that this is the fault of the vendor and they can no longer help us.

My response to UPS later that morning was as follows:

I have reached out to CafePress to see what they can do, but I do need to tell you that your response simply isn’t good enough. It’s just another example of what appears to be really poor customer service from your company. I’m not happy, and I will not accept your “help” if that last e-mail is all you can offer.

UPS didn’t respond to that post. They ignored it for days. Additionally, the Hamilton UPS branch had promised to call me back with information the Tuesday after Memorial Day, but didn’t. I tweeted UPS again on the Thursday after Memorial Day–this time to @EvanAtUPS, a social media customer service rep who appeared to be pretty active on Twitter.

He was able to get the local branch of UPS to respond to my concerns, but again they attempted to pass blame on a closed office. Again I explained that it wasn’t closed–in fact, it was quite well-staffed with multiple people–and told him that the last time this happened, his delivery driver went to the wrong office, an office down the hall and not the one represented by name and room number on the label. He said he’d follow up with the driver and prepared to end the call. I told him I wanted to know what was going to happen to ensure that I wouldn’t have continued UPS issues and I wanted to be reimbursed for the original shipping. He told me I’d have to request that through CafePress and then they would have to petition UPS for reimbursement.

So, essentially, I got one long runaround and wasted a lot of my personal time trying to get an issue resolved. And I don’t think I have a resolution. They did not reimburse me for failed shipping and they did not tell me how they would avoid this happening again. In fact, they hadn’t even spoken to the driver a full week after the incident. I don’t think my expectations were unreasonable. But I still think UPS’s service was miserable. In all, I had contact with, I think, EIGHT different UPS employees PLUS a couple people from CafePress. It entailed multiple Tweets, a blog post, three different phone calls and at least a half dozen e-mails (including the follow-up that UPS told me I had to do with CafePress).

The end result: CafePress reshipped my order (2 day delivery) at no cost, and I’ve decided NOT to e-mail into them requesting I be reimbursed for the original shipping fee. It’s exhausting and frustrating and I don’t think I’ll get anywhere–which is partially why this post is so delayed.

I am disappointed that CafePress used UPS for my reshipment despite the fact that I requested they use another shipping vendor.

My impression:

UPS employs a vast team of customer service professionals to respond to issues and smooth over dissatisfied customers but they do not do it effectively. It’s time consuming and they seem to spend more energy suggesting reasons for problems instead of investigating them, fixing the issue and simply apologizing for it.

I will NOT be using their services for any personal business; however, based on my CafePress experience, I suspect that consumers are unable to make their own shipping decisions when ordering from online companies, so I may be stuck using them again.

This isn’t simply a UPS issue. In the time since, I’ve had a series of dissatisfying experiences as a consumer, including:

  • Returned something at Barnes & Noble that I only had a gift receipt for and only was able to receive store credit because there was no proof regarding how the person paid.
  • Returned a book I purchased (and had a receipt for at Barnes & Noble) and was told that only supervisors and managers could process returns. So, I had to wait 7 minutes at a cash register that was littered with a half-consumed, drippy and melted Frappucino for the supervisor to process my return. In the meantime, the cashier processed a couple customers and sat there twiddling his thumbs as he waited for more.
  • Bought some registry items at Babies R Us after the shower. We checked in with Customer Service to find out how we could get the 10% discount we were promised when we signed up. The rep told us we simply needed to show our registry paperwork. We did. Upon getting home, we found out they never processed the 10% off. I went back and was told by a different customer service rep that I didn’t do it right and should have known that. She said she couldn’t do anything about it until I closed the registry, proceeded to give confusing instructions about how to do that and then told me that I’d have to bring everything back, return it and repurchase it in order to get the discount. We had already started unpacking and washing things, so that was impossible. Fortunately, another customer service rep was more helpful and was able to give us the 10% off simply by me providing her the receipt (which I had given to the first rep, but she said she couldn’t do anything with it).

All of the people I worked with in these situations were adults in their 30s and up. I make note of that because I was surprised to get the best customer service by a teenager who was working at Carters. (I know this because she was talking to a colleague about her upcoming prom.) I went to Carters to try to return a duplicate outfit we got for Charlie. The teen told me they didn’t sell them and I asked her if she knew who–since I had already tried 5 other stores. She investigated the package further, identified an 800 number on the back and cheerfully said “Just call that number during business hours and they can tell you where they distribute too!” And she was right. I could have hugged her.

The thing I find amazing is the hoops stores want you to jump through to be a customer. In this economy, they should be courting us–NOT the other way around. It has definitely caused me to be more careful about which stores I give my support to, and it certainly provides incentive to support small local businesses.

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