I’ve learned a few things over the years. As a retail manager I began to understand that the customer is not always right but that doesn’t matter anyway because the customer believe he or she is always right. In the balance, if you fail to take care of the customer you lose. Some of the companies I’ve worked for got that, others did not. And those that found a way to say NO to a customer are no longer in business. That is the bottom line, isn’t it? Doing whatever you must to stay in business – or on a personal level, remaining employed.
I have examples of what to do and what not to do, but this blog isn’t about that. It is about one strange situation from which I have, apparently, learned a lot more lessons than those with whom I have been dealing. Foremost lesson: don’t buy anything online from a big box retailer that does not understand why people use online ordering.
Every retailer wants to cash in on a share of the Internet business but few are willing to change their policies enough to accommodate the special demands of online customers. And that is one huge reason why so many brick and mortar businesses are going out of business. Only those willing to adapt survive against the 800-pound gorillas of the world who operate on razor-thin margins an extremely high volumes.
It is ironic that the very reason people would go to a storefront over ordering online – having direct personal contact with store personnel – is also the source of a store’s greatest potential failure. Unless a store is willing to do everything in its power to serve customers needs it will lose that customer.
Best Buy has lost me as a customer, at least as far as online purchases go. It is very likely that I will think twice (if not more) about casting a shadow upon the threshold of any of their physical locations. And that is a very bad thing for both of us. I know that. I’m not so sure they do. Negative word of mouth travels at the speed of sound – at least – and possibly the speed of light if the disgruntled customer is connected to the Internet and active on social media. For the record, I have nearly 5000 friends on Facebook. I have over 23,000 followers on Twitter. I’m a published author and publicist. I’m not the best choice for someone to piss off. Just saying.
Here’s the condensed version of what happened. A year ago,I bought a MS Surface Pro 3 and a package of software from a guy in Texas whose name is Zach – something or the other. He decided shortly after trying to run a version of Linux from a flash drive on the device that it was not right for him. He bought MS Office with the computer. He never installed it because he discovered Linux would not work as he wanted it to on the computer. He advertised it online and sold it to me. Unfortunately, everything in his purchase, in Best Buy’s system, was linked to his name by its serial numbers.
I installed MS Office, registered it with Microsoft and used it for almost a year before it began to alert me that I needed to renew my subscription. The alert contained a link to Best Buy’s Geek Squad website offering me a $10 discount if I renewed through them. (It actually amounts to about $6 and change after applicable taxes are applied as buying directly from MS costs exactly $69.99). The $59.99 became $63.74 after the additional charges. Still, it looked like a slightly better deal. I provided my billing information and debit card number. Transaction complete, right? Wait until the expiration date, the charge would be applied to my account and I could continue to use my MS Office seamlessly. A print out was recommended that explained everything – except it started out “Thank You Zach”!
Okay, so it got my name wrong. With a name like Elgon I’m kind of used to that sort of thing. But when the appointed date of the renewal came and my MS Office stopped working and prompted me to renew it, I did exactly what the print out told me to do, call the Geek Squad.
I’m not sure why it was highly recommended to print out the confirmation. There was nothing but the Geek Squad’s phone number on it – nothing giving any real evidence of a purchase. Fortunately, I kept the card from the original software license. That was the only link I had to give over the phone that linked me to the actual transaction. As far as Best Buy was concerned, Zach renewed his subscription. And, as far as MS was concerned, the product installed on my computer had never been renewed.
After spending an hour or so on the phone with the first Geek Squad person I contacted about the problem, I was directed to a Geek Squad Tech Support person to see if there was anything they could do. After explaining everything to him (which took another fifteen minutes for questions and answers – during which I was asked several times what my relationship was to this Zach guy – I was directed to place the order for renewal directly with Microsoft, mainly because I have drafts of novels, personal financial records and irreplaceable historical family pictures stored on One Drive. He told me if I tried buying a “clean” license from Best Buy with a discount I might lose access to that. So, not an option. He also assured me I’d receive a full refund back to my card from Best Buy for the $63.74 I paid and that would take from 7 to 10 business days.
The secondary thing big box retailers don’t get about dealing with online customers is that their major competitor may state the same refund policy but in practice it is much shorter – like 3 or 4 days max. But whatever. I’d wait for the refund to appear on my bank account, figuring it would show up in a couple of days as a pending transaction, just as always happens with refunds from the 800-pound online gorilla. When this did not happen, I called Geek Squad again. Had to explain everything to yet another associate who, yet again, was asking me what my relationship was to Zach. I was getting better at the storytelling, though. This time it only took 35 minutes. However, it took another ten minutes to find the record of my purchase’s existence. That was only marginally referenced in Best Buy’s computer by the original product serial number and, of course, was still associated with Zach, not me, even though my card number was referenced as having paid for the renewal. At this point I asked for a confirmation number that would help find the refund. Again, I was assured everything was fine and I’d be receiving a refund to my card within 7 to 10 working days.
Seven working days have passed and still no indication that anything is in process. I called my bank and have been assured that they have no record of anything in transit and they told me that I’d need to contact Best Buy to confirm that it was actually sent to them. And so I called Best Buy again. Told my story to one person who couldn’t help me confirm anything. I asked for a supervisor and was routed “cold”, as the lady referred to it, to someone in charge of appliance problems not computers. She transferred me to another person, who assured me he was the right person to talk to. At least he took down my information and created a record in their system so others could find me by my phone number or email address. Again, I had to explain I wasn’t Zach, had never been Zach and was not related to Zach except for the purchase of stuff he’d originally obtained from Best Buy.
Before we could resolve anything at all, the phone connect we had died. It was full of interference from someone else talking to a customer who has bigger problems than I did – yes, I could hear what they were saying better than what the person I was supposed to be connected with was telling me. Finally, I lost contact altogether.
Another call to yet another associate to whom I explained everything again, in about 25 minutes, this time around, and he put me on hold for fifteen minutes before connecting me via a conference call, to Bonnie who allegedly handles billing and refund problems. After correcting some of the misinformation the other guy gave to her, she at least confirmed that my information was now in their system. She then cited line and verse what the first person I ever talked to told me about one to two billing cycles. She couldn’t confirm what a billing cycle was, though, saying it depended on my bank and that I was actually dealing with two billing cycles, Best Buy’s and my bank’s and that it might be another week or two before I receive my refund, just because of these billing cycles. I told her THAT was unacceptable but she said there was nothing she could do for me. I told her I’d make her famous as Best Buy Bonnie. I’m not sure she took me seriously. And I’m unequally certain whether Best Buy takes me, or any other customer, seriously.
And I’m still waiting on a refund that no one, Bonnie included, can absolutely guarantee will show up in my account – and not this guy named Zach, whose information including his credit card number, was still attached to the transaction on 4/26, when the refund was allegedly initiated. I’m not sure why no one can confirm anything anymore. I suspect it has something to do with credit card fraud. But what should be a pretty simple refund has turned into a source of great personal aggravation.