I like sharing ‘learn from the mistakes of others' stories for the valuable business lessons they provide, as well as the fact that they may save you from suffering through a similar ordeal on the customer side.
What follows is a timeline account of some of the worst customer service I've experienced to date on eBay – or anywhere else for that matter.
(The people in this story should have availed themselves of “The Insider Secrets to Selling on eBay” by Derek Gehl and the Internet Marketing Center's Advanced eBay Mentoring Team.
To set the scene – the cell for my saltwater pool gave up the ghost in late June. With 100 degree temperatures and no cell, we were pouring chemicals into our pool like there was no tomorrow. Simply cleaning the rapid algae growth took a LOT of time, not to mention made for a high YUCK factor.
My friend found that poolstore-usa had two Autopilot Super Cell (SC-60) w/ Manifold, Cell & base for sale on ebay at $509.95 each, which was about half the price the items were available for here in town.
I bought one cell using “Buy Now”. After the transaction, the listing showed 1 cell remaining (which it still does). eBay's ‘winning notice' email included instructions to call the vendor, which I did immediately. I also sent them a follow-up email.
Their autoresponder reply read, “Thank-You for contacting Pool Store-USA. We will answer your e-mail as quickly as possible. You may also call us at 866-xxx-xxxx for assistance. processing. Sincerely, Pool Store-USA”.
As Pool Store-USA is located in Arizona, I decided to wait until after the holiday long weekend before calling them again.
At 9:13AM, I received a “payment reminder” from Pool Store-USA. I called and left another message, and sent another followup email.
At 11AM, I received an email from Kim Arunski of Pool Store-USA that read “I will be calling you today”.
By 6PM, I'd heard nothing back, so I phoned again and Kim picked up right away. She recorded my credit card details and assured me that the cell would be shipped out the following day.
Three (3) weeks after the order was placed and 15 days after the item was supposed to have shipped, I still hadn't received the cell, so I left a telephone message and sent yet another email to Pool Store-USA.
Three MORE days and still no response from Pool Store-USA, so I left another telephone message and sent another email. Seven (7) hours later I received the following email:
Mrs. Gardner, I have just found this e-mail and going over your order. I am sorry for the delay. I will make sure this is shipped tomorrow and forward you a tracking number. Ted Arunski, Pool Store-USA
My immediate reply included a request for “a rebate on the shipping costs“
I waited ANOTHER 10 days and still didn't have either a reply to my request OR the cell, so I sent Pool Store-USA ANOTHER email:
I have yet to receive the tracking number that you promised — nor have I received a reply to my last email about reducing the shipping costs to compensate for the 3 week delay in shipping. Kindly respond today. Thank you.
Pool Store-USA's reply:
I am just checking my emails today, have been out sick for couple days. I will check for the tracking on Monday (August 6) and get back to you. I am sorry for the delay, but will compensate for it. Kim
I waited until 2PM and Kim still hadn't called with that tracking number, so I left the following negative feedback on eBay – “33 days, product still not received. Lousy communicators. Too many excuses.“
I called AGAIN and when I asked for the tracking number, Kim acted as if she'd never heard from me before.
I then learned that the item STILL had NOT been shipped.
I strongly recommended that she ship the item immediately and contact me with a tracking number THAT day.
Later in the day, she phoned me back with a tracking number. Although she was curt, she did assure me that the shipping charges would be refunded to make up for the delay.
Cell arrives via Fedex. Manifold was cracked in 2 places, however we required only the cell, which was installed that day.
I received 2 emails from Poolstore – USA via eBay.
We hope you enjoy your purchase. Your payment has been received for the following item…
I paid for the item on July 5th (and only because I persisted in my attempts to contact them).
We are sorry you had to leave a negative feedback. Communication was bad. We don't want to leave a negative for you but if you would resind (sp) your negative feedback it would be appreciated.
Let's see, Kim and Ted of Poolstore – USA LIED to me 4 times. Three times about having shipped a product that hadn't been sent, and once about refunding the shipping charges.
Ted then sends me an implied threat that he will leave ME negative feedback if I don't rescind the negative feedback that they so richly deserved?
OK, by this point, I'm wondering if these people are even halfway sane.
You guessed it. I wasn't about to remove the feedback.
Ted ackowledges via email that the communication was poor, and that they should have apprised me of the status of my order daily. He also wrote “if I could make it up to you I would”.
Let's spell it out for him in BIG letters… Try REFUNDING THE SHIPPING CHARGES AS PROMISED, Ted.
Ted complains that the shipping cost him $90.00.
As a customer, all I want from him at this point to put his money where his mouth is and honor his promise to refund the shipping charges.
Besides, it didn't cost Ted $90.00, it cost ME $90.00.
This is where the exchange got completely ridiculous.
First, Ted suggests that I send the unit back for a complete refund. Obviously, Ted is NOT listening. I want only what I was promised… a refund on the shipping charges.
Then, in one of several emails that included a plethora of nasty accusations flung in my direction, Ted finally admits the truth…
Autopilot was out of stock so the part was not available.
He went on to say…
I just can't take it when someone says I am not honest.
He startedthe transaction with a LIE about the stock available and then didn't mention that fact for more than TWO months.
SHAME on Ted.
He then proved that he was completely daft by leaving me neutral feedback that read:
Tried very hard to satisfy her, but she is unsatisfiable. Nothing more to say.
Funny, but all things considered, I am probably the best customer they ever had.
I put up with their considerable B.S. very politely and for a lengthy period of time (mostly because I desperately needed that cell). I left negative feedback so that their potential clients would get a heads up and so they would perhaps learn a lesson about how NOT to treat their customers in future. ie. don't lie and keep your promises. Really simple stuff that most of us learn from our mother's by the age of two.
There IS another lesson here.
Don't piss off a blogger, (ESPECIALLY one who writes about doing business online) and nowadays EVERYONE's a blogger. It is more important now than ever before that business owners communicate thoroughly with their customers through every step of a transaction – and especially when that transaction isn't proceeding as smoothly as everyone would like.
The CAUTION for Bloggers: Make darned sure you can back up every statement you make with documentation.
P.S. to Ted: I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of “The Insider Secrets to Selling on eBay” to learn how to improve your business and avoid negative feedback in future. It also teaches about automation techniques that may save you some embarrassment as well. Good luck to you Ted… you need it.