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more adventures in customer service

Today we'll be looking at Barnes & Noble, so gather 'round, kiddies.

On Monday, August 25, at 12:26 in the afternoon, I placed an order for three books I needed for my fall classes. Since I wanted them in my hands by Sunday, when I had an in-person orientation, I paid for "expedited shipping." One of the books arrived on time, so we'll skip that and get right to the other two books.

According to the B&N web site, those two books shipped on the 25th. The total cost of shipping for the two books was $9.96. Expedited shipping means "3 business days or less," again according to their web site. The books arrived on Tuesday, September 2, eight days after the order was placed, five business days after the order (Labor Day was in there). I sent B&N an email, noting "I paid extra for expedited shipping, but the shipment did not come for eight days." I got an automated reply letting me know that I "should receive a response from one of our Customer Service Representatives within the next 24 to 48 hours."

On September 5, three days later, I got the following reply:

"Thank you for writing regarding your BarnesandNoble.com order ... Please be advised that your order shipped on 8-25-2008 and we expect delivery to be made by 9-4-2008 & 9-8-2008."

Of course, I already had the package when I wrote them, so they were wrong about when delivery would be made, but that was irrelevant, as I noted in my response:

"Thanks for the reply, but it doesn't address my question. I have already received the order. The problem is that I paid for expedited delivery, and it didn't arrive for eight days, more than was promised even considering the Labor Day holiday."

Two days later, I got the following:

"In estimating when your order will arrive, please add 3 business days to the availability message displayed for every item. For example, when an item is marked 'Usually ships within 24 hours,' your order will arrive in 4 business days or less. One of the titles on your order had a processing time of 2-3 business days because it came from one of our partner warehouses."

(Ironically, the only book that arrived on time was the one from the "partner.")

I answered:

"I apologize if I sound frustrated, but I feel like you aren't actually listening to the problem.

"1) On the afternoon of August 25, I placed an order for three books. I chose expedited shipping, paying a total of $14.94. I was told that one of the books would take longer to deliver; it was delivered separately and actually arrived on time.

"2) As for the other two books, you shipped them on the day they were ordered. They did not arrive for eight days. You can adjust for the Labor Day holiday and anything else, and the fact is still that the shipment came much later than expected. I usually go for free shipping, but I wanted these books by the following Saturday, and so I paid for expedited shipping, which should have given you a two-day cushion.

"I think I should be reimbursed for the extra shipping costs for the two books that came late, which totals $9.96 according to the order details on your web site.

"Thanks for your attention."

Two days later, they got back to me:

"Our records indicate that you had selected Ship Items As Available when you placed your order.  However, our free shipping promotion does not apply to orders shipped as items are available. We hope this information is of assistance to you and apologize for any confusion."

I'm ready to give up on these morons. I just sent off the following email:

"Is anyone actually reading my emails? Is there a human being behind your replies, or is this just a robot template?

"I did not order free shipping. I ordered expedited shipping. I was charged for expedited shipping. Two items, for which I paid an extra $10 in shipping costs, did not arrive within three business days. How much more simple can I make this?

"All due respect, but this is crap. Each email you send me has little or nothing to do with the issues being raised. I ask about the failure of expedited shipping, you reply by telling me about free shipping? What does free shipping have to do with the $10 I wasted on expedited shipping?"

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