Posted On: Saturday - December 14th 2019 10:12AM MST
In Topics:   Websites  Salesmen  Curmudgeonry
I don't mind at all showing this logo here, but I won't link to them. I hope they somehow read this post too, the idiots!
This anecdote is about the importance to us curmudgeons of human beings being involved in customer service and the beauty of the free market. It involves an old shower mixer that has been leaking enough water to cause a 25 to 50% rise in our water bills for many months now. Yes, I have fixed it before with rubber washers that I was able to find 16 years back (from looking at a receipt), but my money-losing procrastination was due to my knowing about how poor American industrial and DIY infrastructure*, and how much trying to find parts would raise my blood pressure.
This whole assembly was going to have to be replaced, as we were torquing on it enough to mess up the power-screw threads. This put an urgency to it, meaning, I got on the web. No, first, I called the original manufacturer, Kohler, in Wisconsin. After 5 or so key-presses and some hold time, you do get a live human being. That was a relief. The bad news was that it was a lady who knew nothing about the hardware and wanted pictures sent - that's fine, but I still never heard back and was pretty sure she didn't give much of a damn to figure it out either.
Water was still heading down the drain, so I did get on the web. Wow! There, before my eyes, was this 50 y/o assembly for $160. Why didn't I do this months ago?! I'll tell you why. I needed to talk to a person still. Wait, the young reader may say, "you just click on this, enter your card, and Viola or Violins or something. If you've got a question, send an email."
Listen, young people, this may sound like it's because I just can't keep up**, but let me explain why that's not the reason. The unit was to come from China obviously, not just manufactured there, like everything, but drop-shipped, as the delivery time was in weeks. That's what I wanted to know about, exactly. Then, I had a few questions to make sure this was the right mixer, that any savvy mechanical sort could answer quickly.
It really comes down to the following though, not just for this specific shower/tub faucet, but for all dealings on-line. For most websites out there, I initially have no confidence in what I see on the screen. I don't know for sure that the information I input will really result in the right things going into the database and the right things being shipped to me. I have no confidence that an email will be read by a human who will actually think about it and answer, rather than be replied to by a piece of software or by a human that simply pastes in stuff from the FAQ. (I've read the FAQ, assholes!). No, automated stuff does what it is programmed to do, and I have no confidence that anyone or thing on the other end will do what I paid for until I talk to a live human being, period. That's what it comes down to for me.
For amazon and a number of other sites I know, such as internal company ones, well, I've seen them work right, over and over, and I also know that I can call people when something doesn't. For some unknown "Faucet Shark" supplier, I just wanted to get a person to nail down that delivery time (might have been a problem, as the current faucet was getting precariously close to failing completely, running water through with no shutting) and get a little more information to be confident this was the way to go.
There's that phone number on the Faucet Shark website you can see above. I called it.*** Sure I got the treatment that one mostly gets from small business today, as humorously related in "Please continue to hold .. a Peak Stupidity blogger will be with you in a moment ...":
The next anecdote is fairly amusing, as I had called this small operation that makes, or at least probably just sells and ships anymore, a type of specialty battery. The thing is, it'd be a 3 year-period before I'd have any questions each time. Hey, I learned after some time it's always Hector! I started remembering every few years that, yeah, he's the one guy, he knows his stuff, and he's a pretty fun guy to talk to. "All of our associates are busy right now. Please press 1 for a call-back or stay on the line.", I'd get some of the time. "Hello, Hector, what happened, did you have to go take a dump?", I'd inquire, when he got a chance to talk. He was kind of amused and in no way did he deny that either.Fine, act like you have 50 cubicles with Indian guys named Josh, Jeremy, and Justin with headsets on answering 100 calls a day on rotating 8-hour shifts. That's amusing, I know better, but just answer. Nope, you go through (mercifully) only 2 button presses than hear hold music for a minute, then get voicemail. "OK, I got it", I thought, "it's just the one guy who's at lunch or in the bathroom." He didn't call back the one day. I called 5 more times with 2 more messages left over 2 business days ... while the water was dripping, dripping, dripping. Nothing.
I guess it must be advantageous for most businesses to seem like larger operations than they are in reality for customer confidence reasons or what-have-you. Myself, I am glad to hear a business is small, most times, as I know I can deal with them as human beings and not corporate drones. Ever try to get 10% off your meals at McDonalds, even if you are their best customer*? It won't work.
This was the 3rd message: "Nice job losing the $160 order. I'm getting it elsewhere." I did a little more searching and got another site showing this old Kohler assembly. It was 30 bucks more. I tried the phone number. Bingo! No button presses, no holding, just a freaking guy on the other end, and of all places in downtown New York City, Manhattan, that is! Wow! What a pleasure it was, and I told him so first thing. Then we chatted about the items in question for 2 or 3 minutes****. The part was on hand and came in 3 days (no tax, free shipping). 15 minutes later, it's all fixed.
It was 30 bucks more. Time is money. Stress costs money (in the long run). NYRP.com, you guys rock! Faucet Shark, you don't wanna answer the phone? Go fuck yourselves!
* See China vs. America and the local hardware store and DIY and mechanical aptitude in Americans vs. Chinese - self rebuttal.
** No, I am fairly computer savvy and even worked in the business for a while. Yes, I can "chat". Yes, I can send emails with attachments. Yes, I can tab through an html form quickly. I can even make my own emoticons ;-} Read on, back up there ^.
*** Try it, readers. If you get someone, please let me know in the comments (Type in "PS" before any other writing, in the comment body.)
**** Think about it. Even if you are just one guy in a studio apartment with a website and manufacturers in China that you drop ship from, or more likely, a small office, get one guy, just one guy! (OK, it could be a girl if it's nothing too technical.) It could even be someone who just carries the specific cell phone around and works elsewhere or in other aspects of the business. You just lost $160 that you probably made $100 on. Do you know how many times that happens a day? I guess not, if you don't check the voice mail.