28 March, 2011

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Dear Friends,

Let me take you waaaaaaay back to December 24, 2010. Can you remember back that far? I know, it's tough for me, too.

Tika 2010 is sitting at her family's table after Christmas Eve dinner, a few glasses of wine in and poring over the IK Winter 2010 issue when she gets an email: Today is the last day for a 25% off bags of Malabrigo sale at a Certain Website! Visions of a gorgeous Thandie Funnel Sweater begin to dance in her head, and soon her cart is full of bags of delicious Mmmmmmalabrigo lace and Rios and worsted. She trims the cart as much as she can bear (25% off!) and places her last yarn order of 2010. 'This is it,' she thinks to herself, 'the Yarn Diet starts... tomorrow!'

Trip forward with me just 48 hours when, curious as to when her card will be charged for enough wool to smother a small Arctic village, Tika 2010 receives the following "confirmation" email for her order:

On Dec 26, 2010, at 9:05 PM, A Certain Website wrote:

Hi Tika,

We'd like to update you on the status of your order #26306 placed on 2010-12-24 13:06:02.0.

Your order #26306 is being processed and is expected to leave our shipping location within the time specified on our website.  Your "ships within" time-frame is located on each product page of the item(s) you ordered.  Did you overlook the "ships within" time-frame for your order?  No problem -- a "ships within" time-frame chart is attached to this email for your convenience.  Please remember to add 3 - 5 transit days to the "ships within" time-frame.

A Certain Website makes every effort to ensure that the products available for order on this site are current and available from the manufacturer.  There are times however when a manufacturer discontinues or backorders an item without immediate notification.

Once your order has shipped you will receive an email with your tracking information.  If you do not receive your tracking information, please be sure to check any SPAM folders you may be using.

If you require additional information regarding the status of your order, please feel free to respond to this email.

Thank you for ordering from A Certain Website.  We appreciate your business!

Customer Support
How very timely, if not very polite. And yes, Tika 2010 had overlooked the "ships within" timeframe on the website in a haze of projected wool fumes - otherwise the order may not have taken place, as the "ships within" time frame mentioned was 4-6 weeks. 'No matter!' she cried, 'I have plenty of wool to keep me busy until then!' And so it was.

Four to six weeks later, having been curious but not of the chewing-on-knuckles kind, Tika 2011 receives her next communication from A Certain Website:

Hello Tika,

We are happy to inform you that the order with Order ID - 26306 which you ordered on 24 Dec 2010 has been shipped out. It was shipped out on 04 Feb 2011 using UPS -- UPS Ground.
If you have further enquiries about your order, please email us anytime. Thank you for ordering from us and have a great day.

Well, that was six weeks to the day after the order, so hurrah! The yarn is coming! And yet the amount charged on the card is not right; some significant portion of the purchase price is missing. Worried that A Certain Website may be shorting itself, Tika 2011 sends an email asking about the discrepancy and receives the following reply:

Hi Tika,
Thank you for your email.  The Malabrigo that has not yet been shipped is:  Malabrigo Rios 69 and Malabrigo Lace 32. 
Thank you,
A Certain Website.com

Well, that explains it! Surely the missing yarn will show up both on the credit card and on the doorstep shortly. Meanwhile, some of you may recall this little Yarn Incident. What Yarn Diet?

And now I bring you forward in time once again to only 2 weeks ago. Tika 2011, in medium dudgeon about the lack of Thandie Funnel Sweater she is capable of making with only half of her yarn order still present - after all, one cannot brioche with only one yarn, can one? - sends the following email to A Certain Website:

Dear Customer Support,

On December 24, 2010, I placed the order mentioned in the confirmation email below. 
On February 4, 2011, I got an email stating that my order had shipped, but there was a discrepancy between the original amountand the amount charged on my Visa I emailed your sales department to ask why there was a difference and on February 7th was informed that two bags of yarn had not yet shipped: 

[Joe's Email here]

I understood from the phrase "not yet" in Joe's email that the yarn would be shipped close to within the 4-6 week timeframe listed on your website, which should have been immediately after the first shipment, February 4th being 6 weeks to the day after I placed my order. However, this was not the case, and since then I have heard nothing from your company. I logged in to my account today to find that my entire order is marked as "shipped," but as I have 1) not been charged and 2) not received the missing bags of yarn, that cannot possibly be the case. 

I would like someone to contact me immediately with information on when I can expect your company to fulfill my order. I am highly disappointed by the customer service I have received and look forward to an explanation as to what went wrong. 

Order #26306
Forceful and slightly annoyed, but certainly not the cruelest or most vitriolic of letters. I have been in customer service, after all. This is the response:

Hi Tika,

Thank you for your email.  Due to the overwhelming success of the Malabrigo sale we ran in December, our supplier became somewhat backlogged.  Per our supplier, the remaining portion of your order is still being processed at this time.  We will have the rest of your order shipped to you the same day it arrives at our shipping location.
Your patience is greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
What a great cut and paste job you've done, Joe! Clearly you've gotten a lot of emails about this issue, but did your company bother to use the mailing list to explain the situation in one simple step? Apparently not. Tika 2011 is losing her patience.

Hi Joe,

Do you have any idea when that might be? I - and I'm sure your other customers as well - have been waiting for over 3 months for yarn I expected to have within half that time. If I had known it would take this long, I would have ordered from somewhere else; now half of the yarn I need for my project is here and the other half is stuck in the backlog somewhere.  I recognize that you are a small business, but an email explaining the situation back within your original timeframe of 4-6 weeks would have been welcome. 


 Hi Tika,

We do not have an ETA.  We have tried contacting our supplier every week asking for an ETA, and none yet.  If we had known the special sale we ran was going to take this long, we would have either forewarned our customers or not have run it at all.  We sincerely apologize for this, and understand your frustration as we are also very frustrated – and losing business. 

We are hoping it is not going to be much longer.  We will let you know as soon as your order has shipped or as soon as we find out an ETA.

Again, we apologize for this delay.

Thank you,
Aaaaand there you have it: the "poor us, we're losing business" excuse. Now, I have no doubt that they are indeed losing business, but not for the reason they think. No indeed; the reason they are losing business is because they did not bother to contact their customers over the course of three months to tell them that the product they ordered wasn't, in fact, available in anything like the (ridiculous) time frame given.
I replied that if I had not heard from them in two weeks, I would be contacting them to cancel the rest of the order. That's today, and just look what was in my inbox when I came home from work!
A Certain Website has sent you a shipment via USPS
The tracking number is: [redacted]
 Surely not! Can it be? The timing is, to say the least, suspicious. And having played this game once before, I checked my credit card. Sure enough, only one of the two missing items was charged; in my account on the website the whole order shows as shipped, and there is no information in the email as to the one lingering bag of Rios that was missing - the CPH That Wasn't, if you will. /sadface

Dear A Certain Website,

Thank you for the update on my order. As it has been over 3 months since I placed the original, please cancel any remaining parts of the order that have not shipped. As I understand it, that would be the bag of Malabrigo Rios. Please cancel the remainder of this order immediately.

Two weeks ago I corresponded with Joe, who explained your company's situation in regards to the Malabrigo sale from December. While I understand the dilemma and I am sorry that you are losing business, I want you to know that the reason I am canceling my order and will not be buying from you again is NOT because of your difficulty in getting the yarn from the supplier. If I had received any sort of communication from your company explaining the situation and giving me any kind of update whatsoever, I would have been happy to remain a customer. Even this email today did not contain the information that only one of the remaining two bags of yarn had shipped and neither did my account on your website; I had to check my bank statement in order to discover that both bags were not on their way to me. 

I do not expect you to take any recommendation I might have into consideration since I will no longer be a customer after today, but I do urge you to consider being more clear in your communications with your clientele. A simple proactive email would have ensured my loyalty and patience.

Order #26306
 So I hope I made myself clear to you, dear reader, if not to whomever reads the website's emails. Annoyed Tika 2011 is annoyed! But wait! What should appear in my inbox but the following:

Hello Tika,

You have received a gift certificate from A Certain Website. You can use the gift certificate whenever you are shopping at our store within the duration specified. You are entitled to a reduction of $  10.00 with any $100.00 purchase (excluding shipping) at our store when you use this gift certificate.

Below are the details of your gift certificate :-

gift certificate ID : FE9AC0D3-00EB-9ACC-1FC857B98EADB3E6
Validity of the discount coupon : FROM 28 Mar 2011 UNTIL 04 Apr 2011 with any $100.00 purchase (excluding shipping).
Discount Value :$  10.00
Gift certificates used on any purchase less than $100.00 will not be honored.

It is easy to use your gift certificate. Just enter the gift certificate ID listed above when adding items to your shopping cart and your discount will be applied automatically.

So, what are you waiting for? Go on over to A Certain Website now and start shopping and saving immediately!

I... I don't even... WHAT AM I WAITING FOR?!?

You might well ask, Sumptuous Yarn Sale dot com. You might well ask.


  1. WOW, that is really bad customer service!!!!

  2. Holy crap. Polite, clueless and terrible all at the same time.

  3. aHAHAHA This is exactly the kind of thing I went through at E.L.F. a number of years ago:)

    They try (I use that word loosely) to be good at customer service but clearly they plain suck at it. Why is it that former customer service employees know how to give good service yet the ones that remain are so BAD at it?!

  4. seriously shocking bad customer service. i recently ordered from jimmybeanswool.com AND! they were kind enough to inform me that out of the 9 skeins of madelinetosh vintage i ordered, one was of a different dye lot. they then offered me a choice as to receive the other portion of my order now, and wait to get the entire 9 skeins from the same lot, or wait to get the entire order. excellent customer service:) and i got emails telling me what shipped and when. it was awesome, and i didn't mind the wait of a few months for the vintage.

  5. What is the website so Annoyed Tika 2010's brother can hax it to teh ground!

  6. Hahhaha! It's at the bottom of the post, mysterious anonymous hacker type sibling!