Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category.

How not to do social media

So in my nonlibrary life (which keeps me so busy that I hardly post here any more), I run a frugality and money-saving blog over at Mashup Mom. This has been fascinating in part today because of the lessons for libraries, and for all of us, from companies that don’t do social media well. Bear with me for a minute, here.

Exhibit A: Safeway (Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Von’s, Randall’s, Tom Thumb, other sister stores…)

This past weekend, the Safeway chain blasted subscribers with an email stating that if they became a fan on Facebook, they could come back on Monday the 7th for a free box of clementines. Cool, right? I like clementines. :) Here’s the original ad:


Pretty straightforward, no? Here’s what the promo turned into on 12/7:


Hmm. That’s not the same at all, is it. Not only that, earlier in the morning people were able to load the coupon to their cards, but it didn’t say on the coupon that it was only valid 12/8 — they went shopping, and guess what happened? No free box of clementines, that’s what happened. On Safeway’s Facebook Wall, people are reporting hold times of upwards of 30 minutes with customer service and arguments at their stores. (This begs the question of who holds for 30 minutes for a “free” $5.00 box of fruit, but…) Some people were unable to load the coupon because of technical glitches, others did their big grocery shop already for the week and were miffed about the $25 purchase requirement. Here are a few choice comments from their Wall:

  • “Not a happy customer. The coupon would not let me complete it because it was too low down on my screen and I could not submit it.”
  • “Yes, I find it interesting the way Safeway went about this promotion! Why not just say: “shop tomorrow,spend $25 and we’ll throw in a box of clementines” ?? wouldn’t that be alot easier than pissing off loyal shoppers?”
  • “”With $25 min. purchase.” is a bunch of B.S.! NOT what was advertised earlier! To say I’m displeased would be a GROSS UNDERSTATEMENT!!!”
  • “Time to un-fan. This “coupon” is not what was promised days ago. Plus, I do not have the kind of time/money where I can just zoom off to a store and spend $25 for “free” clementines.”
  • “Too difficult. Another convoluted Safeway gimmick.”
  • “This sucks with a capital S…Shame on you Safeway. I thought youu were above these underhanded tactis.”
  • “This is a horrible promotion. Why would you go through the hassel for some clemintines when you have to pay $25 for them. They are not free.”
  • “Safeway’s “FREE clementines” offer = FAIL”
  • “Incredible! I go to the link and try to register my card. The little pop up doesn’t allow me to move it so I can’t even register my card. I will by the Clementines on sale at Fry’s instead!”
  • “Does your company have anyone who checks continuity on your offers? There was no mention of a 25,000 limit on the email you sent and no meniton of haveing to buy them a certain day or with a $25 purchase. This is not responsible advertising and makes me think the people in charge of your Facebook ads are doing your sto…re a disservice by alienating us, the customers. Rethink this process. I think it backfired on you.”

Now, Safeway has started to respond to the negative comments with a generic:

Hi ____,
You can view all the details of the promotion here:
Please let me know if you have any questions!

Think that’s making people happy? Anyway, you can read hundreds more here if you enjoy this sort of thing….

Exhibit B: Walgreens

Everyone’s jumping on the Facebook bandwagon lately. So Walgreens puts out a promo yesterday: Fan us on Facebook, and then come back Monday for a “special offer.” Ooh! Mystery special offer. What could it be? Well, it turned out to be free shipping, today only, not good on photos. Yawn. Apparently it’s not even working for a lot of people, and then their site went down for “system upgrades” shortly after they released the code. Here’s what their Wall now sports:

  • “Boo…this kinda sucked…not impressed or excited about this “deal!”"
  • “The code applies but then when you go to next page to put your payment info it puts shipping charge back on! This is so screwed up!”
  • “I’m taking my name off the list…very disappointed!”
  • “i signed up for this crap?! booooo”
  • “It’s not that we are ungrateful, it’s just that free shipping it’s pretty much something that most comsumers already expect – because most retailers already offer this – especially around the holidays. Sorry Walgreens – I must unfriend you as well.”
  • “Yes, bogged down and now closed…Merry Christmas Walgreens. Your sale is mega lame as everyone on the planet lives within walking distance of a Wags so free shipping is a slap in the face and now your website cannot handle the “load” of the seven people who actually want to take advantage of your “sale.” Unfriend.”
  • “Walgreens site is down. Gee thanks for the “Today Only Free Shipping”. Jerks.”

It’s not making people quite as mad as the “free” clementines, but it’s not making them happy, either. Read more here, if you’re so inclined.

Lessons for libraries (or anyone else):

So here’s what I take from this:

  1. Deliver on what you promise. If you are promising something for “free,” there had better not be a catch.
  2. Be clear as to what you’re offering. If the original Safeway promo had specified a free box of clementines with $25.00 purchase on 12/8/09 when you become a fan, people may not have liked the idea as much as “FREE CLEMENTINES.” But they would also know what they were signing up for, and could choose to fan or not fan Safeway based on accurate info. As librarians, we should be all about the accurate info, right?
  3. Don’t overhype what you’re offering. People felt let down by Walgreens because the whole idea of “mystery special offer” promised something better than a free shipping code that excludes a huge category (photos and photo gifts) of what you’d want to buy from Walgreens online.
  4. Make sure your site is robust enough to support what you’re offering. If you create a promo intending to attract thousands of fans, this probably isn’t the time to take your site down for maintenance.
  5. Check your technology across browsers and platforms. If your submit button for a major promo, for instance, is off the bottom of the screen and unclickable on some users’ machines, that’s a problem. If you use pop-ups that refuse to clear, that’s a problem.

Examples like these make me think about my own online presence and need for clarity. How does your library look?


(xposted mostly at Mashup Mom. Because I’m annoyed.)

I just spent a frustrating 1/2 hour at Chase. Why? A few months ago I registered as a DBA and opened up a business account, mainly to deposit some very small checks from things like Google ads. I chose Chase because we have a personal checking account there, and I saw an ad on their site that they would waive business account fees for accounts linked to personal accounts.

The banker I signed up with (who of course wasn’t in today) assured me that this was the case, that I wouldn’t be charged any service fees, no worries.

This month, a $10 monthly service fee showed up on my business account. This is pretty significant, given that I have under $500 in there and they of course don’t pay any interest.

So, into the bank I go. No, they’re so sorry, they don’t have any such deal, and I obviously didn’t read the fine print. There was only an introductory 90-day fee free period. They’ll waive it just this once but it will keep being charged each month. Fees are only waived if I use my business credit card with them every month, or if I link to a “premiere” personal checking account in which we need to maintain a $15,000+ balance or be charged a $20 monthly service fee, and this of course has to be what the guy told me.

Now. I didn’t have a $15,000 balance in my checking account in March. I don’t generally maintain a $15,000 balance. I do not nor have I ever had a “premiere” checking account. And, this is not what the guy told me, or I wouldn’t have signed up for the account.

OK, fine, say I. Close the account and move the money to my personal checking account. Oh, sorry, they can’t do that today. Why? Since they waived the $10.00 fee “just this once,” it’s showing up as a pending credit to the account so I can’t close it until that clears, I have to come back another day.

Lesson learned: Get it in writing. I went home and checked my original paperwork, of course, nothing about the fee being waived. Too bad for me! And, way to be unfriendly to home businesses, Chase — Thanks!

Hanging out in Albany

Just gave a talk to UNYSLA this morning, and now I’m delayed in the Albany airport. I must say, though — if you’re going to be delayed, free wi-fi is a definite plus. (And I found a little desk area with an outlet! Take that, Barnes & Noble.) Smaller airports, bonus.

What I enjoy about airport customer service, though — the screen at the gate just says “delayed” — no reason, no time estimates, no agent here, no nothing. I have to go online to find out that it’s delayed at least 2.5 hours, so I could go grab dinner or something if I wanted. It’s little things that help people not get angry — rather than making people hang around just in case there’s an update, take a page from librarians and SHARE THAT INFORMATION.

But anyway, this is mainly just an excuse to post about this sign for the “Meditation Room.” I’m tempted to go check it out (balance is sorely needed right now), but can’t give up my little workspace spot here. So instead, I am practicing blogging as meditation — does it work for you? :)

B&N emailed me back…

And here is what they had to say about their outlet sign

Dear Rachel Singer Gordon,

We strive to create a friendly, inviting atmosphere and welcome customers to study in our stores, provided it does not prevent us from properly serving other customers.  We discourage the use of laptops plugged into electrical outlets primarily because it presents a potential trip hazard to other customers and our Booksellers.

We respectfully request that all customers refrain from using our our electrical outlets for personal items. Our customers’ safety is of paramount importance to us, and we certainly want to do all we can as a retailer to prevent accidents in our stores. However, you may certainly use your laptop provided it is battery operated with no hanging cords.

We value your patronage and hope to see you in our stores again soon.


Customer Service Representative
Barnes and Noble Customer Service

Dear Barnes & Noble: I’m trying to envision how plugging my laptop into the wall next to my chair presents a trip hazard, but nevermind the logic here. If everyone from Panera to your local library can provide outlet access without people tripping wildly all over the place, I think you could probably manage. If you’re really worried, let’s think about ways to make your signage a teeny bit friendlier, shall we?

Still annoyed and out of juice

(xposted at

Speaking of unfriendly signs…

Here’s some seriously bad customer service — and for no real reason. My son has a 2 1/2 hour class this morning, so I hopped over to the nearby Barnes & Noble intending to get some work done, drink their coffee… Not only are there NO OUTLETS in the cafe area, which I can only imagine is a deliberate oversight, the only outlet near a table anywhere now sports this sign. Talk about customer disservice — next time, I’m going to the Starbucks across the street. Dear Naperville B&N: You’ve just lost yourself a customer.

(Please tell me your library doesn’t do this…)

Credit where credit is due

If I make it a point to complain about bad customer service, I figure I should give credit for good customer service as well. Yesterday, craving a burrito, I stopped by Baja Fresh to find them closed, the floor half torn up, and a sign on the door saying “closed for repairs.” I started back to my car grumbling, got halfway there, and the manager tore out the door, apologized, and handed me a coupon for a free burrito. Apparently, their pipes froze and burst — yet this person who’s losing I don’t know how much business took the time to try to keep a customer and turn a bad experience into a positive. Yay on Baja Fresh.

Stay on Target

So, I’m inspired by Meredith Farkas’ recent post on her poor customer service experience with Pottery Barn Kids to share my experience at Target this morning.

Cashier: “We don’t take these [Internet-printed] coupons.” Calls a manager. Manager says they don’t take any Internet coupons because of coupon fraud, that one of my coupons was “too good to be true” because it made the product almost free, and that “things like this make prices higher for the rest of us.” I say I got the coupon from the manufacturer’s website, so how could it not be legitimate? She says, no, it couldn’t be, it’s fraudulent.

So, I go home and call Target customer service. The good: It only takes a minute to get to an actual person, who says that yes, they do take Internet printed coupons. The bad: She puts me on hold for 15 minutes while she calls the store. The ugly: The manager claims that the coupons were fraudulent because “they didn’t scan.” I mention that they didn’t even TRY to scan them. Customer service person says, well, that’s what they are saying, and we can’t take them if they don’t scan. I say, they DIDN’T SCAN THEM. She says, well, they are claiming the coupons wouldn’t scan, and I’m sorry you had an unpleasant experience, but all I can say is to make sure that the coupons scan.

Big. Target. Liars. Here’s a tip: You don’t keep customers — and I’m in Target weekly — by calling them liars and thieves.

I won’t make the comparison to libraries, since Meredith has already done so quite ably. But I will say that this morning’s experience has gone a long way toward souring my view of Target, and that a single negative experience can have a huge impact.