Beating corporate America at its own game

by Sarah Winfrey on 22 August 2007 10 comments
Photo: Fed Up

For almost a month now, I've been having some problems with the usually-reliable Amazon.com. I love Amazon. I always have. When I was in school, they had my textbooks available for less than anyone else, and I've been loyal ever since. That's why I decided to buy my living room lamps there, even though they were available other places on the web.

To make a long story short (because griping isn't my point here), I ordered 3 lamps, 2 of which came broken. I tried to return them, and that's when the trouble started. For some reason, UPS wouldn't actually show up to pick up the boxes. They sat outside my door for days. I talked with at least 10 customer service agents over two weeks. I was connected to people who barely spoke English, got into an endless loop with an agent who insisted that they could not refund my money until I returned the lamps, which I insisted I was trying to do. I got connected to Target (apparently the origin of the lamps in the first place). I went through supervisor after supervisor. I got hung up on. I got banned from using their automated phone system for potential abuse (when it kept hanging up on me). Still no UPS.

Finally, I was desperate to not be stuck with two broken lamps. I was at the end of my rope. So I did what any child of my generation does when there's a problem (and apparently what I should have done at the beginning): I searched the web. Lo and behold, that bane of corporate America, the Consumerist, had what i needed. An Executive Customer Service email address for Amazon. Still holding on to some doubt, I wrote a calm-yet-steamed letter to them and sat back to see what would happen.

For almost 36 hours, nothing. I waited. And then? Then?!? An email. Telling me UPS was coming. Apologizing (ye gods!) for the trouble I'd been through. But I still wasn't convinced. I set my boxes outside my door yesterday morning with some trepidation. And when I got home? They were gone. Well...one of them was. There was a mixup about how many I had, though they've already resolved that. And thus, my faith in Amazonia was restored

If you, too, are facing some troubles with a company, and you, too, can access an Executive Customer Service number, here are some tips so that you, too, can get what is yours.

1. Be Gentle

Yes, you're pissed. And you have a right to be. But speak gently. Certainly, tell them what has happened. Document it, if that's relevant. But you're more likely to get a positive response if you treat the customer service agents like human beings and not trash.

2. Be Complete

If possible, list the names of people you've been in touch with, or at least the dates you called. Try to remember as many details as possible from the conversation. Don't leave anything out, when it comes to details. The more you can put in, the better they will be able to figure out what happened and what went wrong.

3. Be Patient

Usually, if it's gotten to this point of escalation, there has been some mixup. Maybe more than one. A good customer service agent will tread through all of these before he hands you a solution to ensure that his solution isn't something that's been tried before and hasn't worked. But that treading takes time.

4. Be Persistent

If you haven't heard in a week, call or email again. If the situation still doesn't seem to be resolved, push harder. Unless your sense of self outweighs anything else, there will be a point where you wonder if you're totally off in what you think you deserve, if you should just suck it up and pay the fees or keep the broken lamps. Even then, keep at it. It's not usually hard to figure out what's right in these situations, but sometimes sticking with it is the only way to see it though.

5. Don't be an abuser.

Contact regular customer service first. Give them a fair chance and then some. Don't abuse the Executive Customer Service access numbers. They're for problems that haven't been solved another way, or for when people have been particularly rude. If we all use it for every little thing, these numbers will disappear.

 

I hope you all get what you deserve!

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Guest's picture
Guest

I'm down. I love beating corporate America at "it is" own game.

Guest's picture
Ray

Sarah, I couldn't find the Executive Customer Service email address for Amazon on the consumerist.com site. Can you post it please? Thanks.

Andrea Karim's picture

According to the Consumerist, you can email Amazon executive service at ecr@amazon.com.

Guest's picture
Kathryn

I will start off by saying that I do concur that if you are getting the run around from local or front line staff, you need to take it to the next level and to only resort to contacting the corporate office after you have exhausted other resources, but do not agree that this situation was handled properly in this case.

First of all, Amazon and UPS are two totally separate companies. Amazon has no control over UPS or UPS over Amazon. To blame or praise both parties for the other parties good works or misdeeds is not being fair to either party

What you should have determined and indicated which party was most likely responsible for receiving the damaged lamps and filed complaint/claim with that party.

It is not indicated whether it appears the lamps were shipped defective or the packages were not being packaged or labeled properly, which could have happened and Amazon would be responsible, but the higher probability is that they were damaged in transit either properly handled by UPS.

If the lamps were damaged in shipment, the writer should have filed a Claim with with UPS and this could have been done online.

From personal experience I would NEVER advocate leaving packages outside your door unattended for UPS to pick up because if someone decides to steal them, you would have no recourse in getting your money back from either Amazon or filing a Claim with UPS. If you cannot leave the packages where someone can witness the packages being picked up by the UPS agent, go to your closest UPS vendor on and return the items yourself and be sure to get the receipt with the tracking number that proves you mailed the item(s) back to UPS if sending back to Amazon.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

Kathryn,

Thanks for your comment and let me clarify--the fact that the packages were not getting picked up was Amazon's fault.  Through my myriad of phone calls, it was determined that it was their system that was not communicating with UPS's system.  It's a long story, but sufficient to say that they're supposed to generate a tracking number and the system wasn't doing that, and no one could figure out why.  

As to leaving the boxes outside my door, well, I don't have a lot of choice.  Amazon also couldn't generate drop-off vouchers for these particular packages (that whole system problem again) and my husband and I both work full-time so couldn't be there for the pickup.  I don't feel great about it, though if they stole the lamp at this point I think I'd just be glad to have it off my hands ;)

Andrea--thanks for posting that email for me! 

Julie Rains's picture

Though I think it is fine to talk with the shipping company -- I'll clarify something about shipping. Whoever hires the shipping company is the responsible party; this case is slightly more complicated with pick-up, etc. But in general if Amazon or whoever hires UPS to be its shipping agent, then Amazon is accountable for the shipping. If Amazon authorizes the pick-up and will pay the tab, then Amazon is accountable, again, for the shipping. If there is damage in the shipping process, then Amazon needs to settle that with its shipper.

Guest's picture
yuppy

Just a reply about your comment saying "2 separate companies...."

UPS gets such a significant portion of their business from amazon im sure there is some sort of special arrangement there. Just as Wal-Mart gets deals for buying in bulk, Amazon gets special customer service from UPS.

Guest's picture
Guest

I find complaining calmly and rationally usually works anywhere. Written email outlets for complaints are usually the most effective.

I had a problem with my iPod, then had a problem setting up service for it online. I found an email address to send my complaint to, and immediately got a response and totally free service - they actually replaced my iPod with a newer generation iPod.

Never hurts to write a calmly worded letter...

Guest's picture
Guest

If they were purchased throuh Target on Amazon's site, couldn't you have just returned them to your local Target?

Guest's picture
Ned

As someone who worked in internet tech-support I can not stress enough how important it is to be NICE to the person you are talking to. Here's why!: They don't get paid enough to put up with your ****, really. So if you are some pissed off caller helping you goes down in priority and not talking to you anymore goes up to #1.
Actualy I could write a whole post on how to talk to SPs. If it's not too hard to get posted on this site I'll have one up by weeks end.
Thanks for your tips!