A Tale of Two Online Retailers – UPDATED


Image representing Shutterfly as depicted in C...Image representing Shutterfly as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

If you have read the reports, you know that the 2008 Holiday season was less than stellar for retailers with the one exception being those online.  I helped this year with gifts from a couple of different websites. We had issues with each site, but how did the online retailers handle the issues?  It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

I’ll start with the exceptional – Shutterfly – we uploaded our digital pictures and put together several photo albums for ourselves, our extended family, and friends.  Easy. Fun.  We knew we’d be ordering a bunch of stuff so we signed up for one of their annual print plans.  We had a brief hiccup with using that plan when we made our first purchase, but a single phone call to their customer service solved the problem.

Shutterfly shipped when they said they would, sent an email letting us know the orders had shipped, and gave us tracking information.  Everything arrived as expected and the photo albums got rave reviews.

Then it came to the not so exceptional (and still unresolved) – World Market – for some gift certificates to use online.  My family lives out of state and nowhere near a physical World Market store-front, but they’ve enjoyed the store when they’ve come to visit.  So we thought the gift certificate would be a fun, easy way to complete the Christmas shopping.

WorldmarketWorldmarketChristmas day I went online and ordered the gift certificates – within minutes of the order, I got the expected order confirmation email.  A short time after that, I got the shipping confirmation email.  Excellent.  Let’s enjoy the day.  I let my family know to look in their email for something else for Christmas.  That was Thursday.

On Saturday I got an email and a phone call and 100% of the recipients had not received the World Market gift certificates.  Spam-folders checked, deleted items checked – nothing.  A call to World Market and I heard "there’s no one here on the weekend to handle your issue."

I was told I would have a call from World Market on Monday.

A week later, there had still been no call and no gift certificates emailed so I call again.  This time I was told "everyone was on vacation last week and you should have your certificates this afternoon"… 

Waited…and nothing.

Another call, another explanation to the customer service rep and he tells me "the escalation department has not looked at your case yet."  I ask to speak to someone who can help me, am placed on hold, and get hung up on after 10 minutes.

I call (again), explain the situation (again), and ask to speak to someone who can help me (again).  This time 12 minutes on hold before speaking with a supervisor who says "there’s no one here who can help you. I need to send an email to the home office."

Words pretty much escaped me at that point.  I was assured of a call later today and resolution as soon as possible ("today or tomorrow").

I will say that each and every person I talked to at the World Market phone center was polite.  Most wanted to help (one just wanted me off the phone), but it seems that internal processes tie their hands when call center personnel cannot re-issue gift certificates. Their website could also use some help.  I’ve had issues with Amazon gift certificates not arriving before, but the difference is Amazon has a link that lets me re-issue the certificates.  Big, big difference.

It is a tale of two online stores – one able to print on demand and ship as scheduled, the other unable to send a couple of e-gift certificates.

So…will the Christmas gift certificates I ordered nearly two weeks ago arrive?  Will there be a happy ending to this story?  Eventually?   I don’t know…

UPDATE 07 Jan 2009:  World Market has won.  Two additional phone calls, more than twenty minutes on hold to be told "they are working on your order for you right now.  You’ll see it in an hour."

three hours later…nothing…so another call.

This time I was told "there was a system error on your order."  I waived the white flag of defeat and asked them to cancel the order completely and refund my money.

My guess – there’s another call in my future on Monday when the money hasn’t properly been credited to my card.

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