As a mom, I appreciate a good deal on baby gear. Also as a mom, I appreciate good quality baby gear. And, again, as a mom, I appreciate good businesses who go the extra mile to take care of their customers.
This story, however, is not about that kind of business.
This is the story of my friend Ellen*, a mom to a fellow March baby, who ordered something from BabyHaven.com through Amazon.com. She trusted the Amazon.com history of customer service. It turns out, her problems illustrate something we should all be wary of when ordering: Check out that vendor if it’s not coming directly from Amazon.
Let’s jump, shall we?
But let’s start at the beginning. Ellen and her husband will be taking their baby on vacation in a couple of months. In preparation, she began scouting for various items that would make their trip easier. One of those was a travel bed. She thought she was buying (and in truth, she actually paid for) the Kidco Peapod Self-Inflating Travel Bed. The self-inflating feature was one of the selling points for Ellen, she said, because who wants to lug around an air pump?
So she paid the price for the model she wanted, had her confirmations, and sat back. And sat. And sat. She ordered the bed on Dec. 28. The item allegedly shipped on Jan. 4, but her confirmation said delivery dates were supposed to be between Jan. 3 and Jan. 6. The item was supposed to ship USPS Priority Mail.
January 19 rolled around, and Ellen finally received the product. But lo, when she got it, she realized they sent her the wrong model – the Kidco Peapod Plus with the air pump. Air pump, really? Who wants to lug around an extra air pump?
And this is where Ellen’s real problems began. “I emailed them through Amazon’s channels, to let them know that it arrived woefully late, and that it was not what I ordered. They wrote back and told me to send them the UPC code.”
Ellen did this. The company then confirmed (promptly, she said) they did send her the wrong product, and told her to ship it back to them via FedEx, and that they would not be sending a correct product until she provides them with a tracking number. They give her a FedEx label, and while she thinks it’s screwy they shipped it to her USPS Priority but require returns by FedEx, she complies.
But then it gets a little screwier. “So then I said, wait a minute – how are you going to ship the right one to me?” she said she asked. “They said, ‘USPS Priority.'”
“I was like, wait a minute – so you are going to expedite it when it’s going BACK to you? And you’re going to send it back to me via the same shoddy method as before?”
Now, for those of you playing the home game of Customer Is King, this is the giant step back that gets you stuck in the Ignominy Forest. If you’ve screwed up, expedite both ways. Yes? We all agree? Good. Carrying on…
In the meantime, Ellen tries to call customer service to see if she could possibly have her replacement shipped with a faster method. Each time, the line rings twice, then she is directed to a voicemail box that tells her it’s full.
So Ellen, because she has nothing better to do, takes the box to a FedEx location, but is told there that FedEx won’t accept the box, and she’ll have to shell out $10 for an approved box, even though she never actually opened. She pays the $10, and then comes home to fire off another email to BabyHaven.
In this email she asks why she couldn’t get a clear response about why her replacement was being sent in a slower method, and why she had to pay for an additional box at FedEx.
“Overall,” she said, “I am dissatisfied with the service that you, BabyHaven.com, have provided. I feel that the original shipment was far too slow for a reputable company, and did not meet the original predictions provided upon purchase.”
“I am disappointed that you would not provide a more expedited shipment of the replacement product,” she added, “and I am even more disappointed that I am now charged an additional $10 to ship the product back, even though none of this was my fault to begin with.”
Ellen then asked for them to remedy the situation by expediting the shipment of her replacement product and refunding the cost of the box.
“We are sorry about your experience. We did not send you the wrong product deliberately, because all that leads to is negative feedback and having to pay to have the item shipped back (which means we lose money on the transaction and wear and tear on the original item being shipped back which means we have to sell the first one at a loss. We honestly do not know of anyone who would deliberately set out to make themselves look bad and lose money). The only reason we can think of for FedEx to require you to buy a box is for them to make money as we have never heard of that before. We have had people send items in the same package that we have sent it back to them with no problem whatsoever. If you can email us a copy of your receipt for paying FedEx we can have amazon refund your account that much. And we will be sending your replacement by priority mail (Italics added).“
So uh, what? They’re still sending it priority mail. So basically, “Yeah, we didn’t do this on purpose, and I guess we’ll refund the cost for the box even though that’s not our problem even though we require you to send it that way, and no, we won’t be expediting your replacement.”
Ellen is pretty disgusted by now. “I have yet to receive a tracking number,” she said. “I sent the receipt like they asked, and asked for the tracking number for my replacement product.”
And it seems like Ellen is not alone. A quick flick of my Google fingers took me to this site, where five of six reviews discuss (surprise) the company’s horrible customer service. Their Better Business Bureau rating is an A, but they’ve had eight closed cases. Closed doesn’t mean the customer left happy. Closed can mean everything from they gave the customer what they wanted to the customer got tired of going through the hoops and didn’t want to pay the BBB’s $75 binding arbitration fee.
And all this is ironic, given that the company touts its customer service for anyone willing to read its “About Us” page. I’m guessing, however, that part of the allure of vending through Amazon is that nobody double checks you to see if you are a good vendor.
So for those of you who order from Amazon (and that includes way more people than just moms), double check the vendor from which you are buying. It may be worth it in the end to purchase the same product elsewhere for slightly more if the vendor has a history of poor customer service. And as for Ellen, now that she’s sent the product back, she’s fulfilled her obligation to the company. Theoretically, she could call her credit card company and dispute the charge if BabyHaven won’t give her her money back, or address her claim in a satisfactory manner.
*Name changed to protect privacy.