24 October, 2013

The Ballad of JC Penney

The following is a copy of the e-mail I just sent to JC Penney "customer care" following a series of ridiculous service failures.  It's long, so I'm going to put it behind the jump, but if you're interested in call center or supply chain logistics, then this is the post for you!

Dear JC Penney Customer Service,

This email is in response to a Twitter conversation we had yesterday afternoon.  It’s going to be long, and for that I apologize, but I really feel that I need to document my entire customer service experience for you to understand just how badly my situation was handled.

My original order, #####, for a queen bed frame, was ordered online on Monday 10/14, shipped on Tuesday 10/15 and arrived at my home faster than I expected on Thursday 10/17.  Unfortunately, this frame arrived in a severely damaged box and was missing parts.  There were two nuts & bolts and four “sockets” that connect the frame to its wheels missing from the box.  I would have just gone to the hardware store for the nuts and bolts, but there was nothing I could do without the sockets.  So I called Customer Service.

My initial contact was on 10/17 with Bianca, possibly in Kansas.  Bianca and I had some trouble because I didn’t understand why the warehouse couldn’t just open up another bed frame box and stick the small pieces I needed into a padded envelope and mail them to me.  Instead, I was initially told I would have to ship back the bed frame at my own cost and they would then ship a replacement.  I had ordered a mattress to be delivered on 10/22 and needed the bed frame by then, so I said I would rather just have them figure out a way to pick up the broken frame from me and cancel my order. I figured I would just pay the extra money to get a frame from the same company as the mattress.  In order to keep my business, Bianca made the following offer:

1.       A truck would be sent to pick up the broken frame.  This was needed because the original box was too damaged to reuse.

2.       An order would be placed for a new frame, which would be express shipped in 2-3 working days.

Imagine my surprise when I came home from work on 10/18 to find a UPS “missed attempt” shipping label under my front door.  I didn’t try to contact UPS until the morning of 10/19, when I learned that a) they would not accept my box-less bed frame pieces and b) the shipping was being paid for by JC Penney but that I would need to pay extra for the pick-up.  Of course, the second point was moot because I didn’t have a box!

I also at this point looked more closely at the order Bianca placed on 10/17, #####, and realized it included an invoice total.  I checked my credit card statement and at this point realized that my credit card was charged for the second frame, without my knowledge and without my authorization.  I’m not 100% sure about this, but I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.  At the very least, I have to imagine that it was Bianca’s attempt to get me off of the phone and make me someone else’s problem.

And so, on the morning of 10/19, I called and spent another 25 minutes on the phone with Doris in Milwaukee.  Once I got Doris to understand my whole story, she was able to start to correct the problem.  Multiple times during the call, she made comments to the extent of “I have no idea why that girl did what she did!”  Doris got me scheduled for pick-up from a trucking service for Thursday (the first available day) and told me her work schedule and that if I had any further challenges I should contact her.  I also had a phone survey after this call where I indicated that YES I would like to speak to someone, left my phone number, and said the best time to contact me was weekdays after 3pm.  I received a call 20 minutes later – around 9am on Saturday – and didn’t answer the call.

For some reason, your “express” shipping took longer than the standard shipping I had on my original order.  My new mattress was delivered on schedule, which means I currently have a mattress leaning on its side in my spare bedroom waiting for a frame to put it on.

The second bed frame didn’t arrive until yesterday, 10/23.  It arrived in a box that was open at both ends and had a giant hole (about 4”x10”) in the side.  This box was missing exactly the same pieces as the first package.  At this point, I thought I should return the call from Saturday and speak directly to JC Penney Corporate Customer Relations, making the assumption that these were the people who would have the power to correct my problem quickly and satisfactorily.  The woman who left the voicemail on Saturday said my reference number was #####, which I attempted to give when I called yesterday afternoon only to be told that it wasn’t a valid case/file number.  The person who took that call tried to give me to someone named Barbara but I was told she was not at her desk and would call me back.  I was also told that they were “just calling back regarding the survey,” which lead me to believe that the person returning my call wasn’t actually going to help me with my situation.

This is the point in the story where I took to Twitter.

When I didn’t hear from Barbara within 10 minutes, I called the regular customer service number again in an attempt to track down Doris in Milwaukee.  Instead of Doris, the representative who took my call blind-transferred me to Theresa in Ohio.  Theresa seemed as surprised as I was that we had been connected, but truly did the best she could with the situation.  She told me that the Milwaukee call center was having computer problems, but she managed to reach them and then call me back within 10 minutes with the following resolutions:

·         She refunded my credit card for the possibly illegal charge made without my permission for bed frame #2.

·         She ordered bed frame #3 for me, offered me a discount, and arranged for special handling – that the box would be opened and inspected at the warehouse and then double-boxed and securely taped before being express shipped to me. She explained the handling would add a day, so I should have it in 3-4 working days.

·         The only thing Theresa really wasn’t able to solve was how I would return frame #2.  The shipping company is already coming this afternoon to pick up frame #1, but she didn’t have a way to contact that company.  She gave me the phone number direct to Milwaukee and asked me to try them in the morning.  Hopefully both frames will leave my home this afternoon.

Aside from the complete ineptitude of Bianca, the lack of actual service has been the most disappointing aspect of this entire process.  Every time I started over with a new representative, I had to tell my story from the beginning.  Either your system doesn’t accept customer notes, your call centers can’t read each other’s notes, or no one was taking notes.  Theresa was the first person to actually use the words “I’m sorry.”  She was also the only person willing to make an extra phone call, resolve my issue, and offer me any sort of discount for my troubles.  Doris was professional, and didn’t add to my problem, but Theresa was empathetic and proactive.

So here we are.  It has been ten days since I ordered my bed frame.  I received an email around 1 am saying that the third frame has shipped.  That order number is #####.  The notes on the order explicitly include the inspection and overbox requests, so I am hopeful that this frame will arrive intact.

At this point, I am tentatively hopeful that the issue has been resolved, even though the following concerns are still outstanding:

1.       I still haven’t received an intact version of the product I ordered.

2.       Though I have been promised an immediate refund for frame #2 (to be posted in 3-4 days), I still have payments for frames 1 and 3 charged to my card.

3.       Returns! I’m at this point not sure that the truck coming today will accept both frames.  At the very least, I’m going to need to call Milwaukee again this morning and tell my story to yet another representative.  If the truck can’t accept both today, I will have to spend more time at home waiting for another 2-hour pick-up window.

I am not writing to have you address my original issue.  I am really only writing to explain to you in detail how you lost a customer of many years and many orders, and so that maybe my story can be used to coach those involved, and maybe others, on how not to handle a simple broken item return.  I genuinely believe that, had I spoken with Doris or Theresa on my first call, that I would have a complete frame at this point, and would be significantly less frustrated. 

Though I may return to a JC Penney store in the future, I don’t foresee any circumstance where I would order another item from your website.  I will also be giving the frame a one-star review, if I ever get a complete frame, and will attribute the review to poor shipping & handling and abhorrent customer service.

Thank you for your prompt response on Twitter.  And please also pass along my thanks to Theresa.  The rest of your organization, however, obviously has some lessons to learn.



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