Amazon.com, A Winner. Target Stores, A Loser.
This is a story about customer service and how the same problem was handled by two different retailers, one a leading bricks and mortar operation and the other, an on-line business.
I’m talking about Amazon.com, Inc., the on-line business headquartered in Seattle, and Target Corporation, based in Minneapolis.
Here’s my tale of how the two major retailers, using totally different business models, provided service to a customer, me, when I had a problem with a defective product. Amazon, the on-line retailer, did it correctly, beyond my greatest expectations, and will continue to receive lots of my business. Target, the hugely successful bricks and mortar retailer and one of my favorite local places to shop, completely dropped the ball, to the point of rudeness and stupidity, and has lost a big chunk of my business forever.
On June 24, 2010, I purchased a Kindle digital reader from my local Target store in West St. Paul, Minnesota. I paid $189 and change for it and was happy to get it. I added a nifty leather carrying case to protect it and was off and running. The service I received from Target electronics people was helpful, and everything was good. I spent money with my local retailer, and I got the product I wanted at the price I wanted, all without the problems sometimes encountered with on-line purchases of sophisticated electronic products. Life was good.
And it stayed that way for several months as I downloaded book after book to my Kindle quickly, easily and at prices I liked. I read three novels during my week’s vacation at the lake without a problem. I read in bright sunlight with no difficulty, and I added a neat little night light that I purchased from Target for less than seven bucks so I could read at night in the cabin while everyone else was sleeping.
But then, on Sept. 14, my Kindle developed screen problems: ghost images, lack of contrast, and blacked out areas. I tried everything recommended in the Kindle manual, but nothing helped.
Well, good thing, I thought, that I bought the Kindle locally at my friendly Target store; the company’s well known for its customer friendly attitude, and willingness to accept returns. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with Target customer service people in the past. But not this time.
I started out by visiting the Electronics Department and talking with a knowledgeable sales person, who told he couldn’t help me directly, that I would have to go through Customer Service. He did say, in passing that, they would probably just give me a new one since there had been some problems with screen failure.
Next stop, Customer Service.
Even though I didn’t have my receipt, I did show the nice lady there a copy of my credit card statement containing the June 24 purchase at Target. That’s fine, she said, get one from Electronics and we’ll make the exchange.
Back to Electronics. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any Kindles of my model.
Return to Customer Service. Could I just get a credit, I asked? NO, interrupted another, very unpleasant, woman behind the counter. You don’t have a receipt and it’s longer than 90 days, anyway.
Not exactly, I pointed out. My purchase was June 24, and this is only Sept. 15. Well, do you have the original box, she hissed, moving quickly beyond the 90-day point. We can’t take it back without the original box and materials. Wow, I thought, that’s crazy.
I don’t think I have the box, I said, but I’ll check. I don’t normally save boxes for three months. Who does? I would need an extra garage if I saved every box for three months. Do you save all of your packing materials, I asked her? Would you like to speak with a supervisor, she demanded, obviously tiring of dealing with me.
No, I said. Let me check on the missing box, and if I don’t have one, I’ll be back. What a horrible person.
Several hours later, about 10 pm Minnesota time, I was slouched over my computer still thinking about my really nasty experience. You don’t suppose, I thought, that maybe, just maybe, Amazon could help me, do you think? Really, not very likely. It’s 8 pm in Seattle, and if their retailer is so unhelpful, what are they going to be like? Gads, I can’t face it.
But then, I thought, what the hell? I’ll go to the Amazon. com site and see what I can find out. Quickly, I moved to a section that asked if I would like Amazon to call me, and if so, when would I like a call? This is too good to be true, I thought. I punched the NOW button, wondering how long I should wait. Moments later the phone rang.
I won’t go through the entire conversation, but here’s the bottom line result: If you have a problem with your Kindle, said Amazon, we’ll fix it. I provided my serial number, and the rep said they would ship me a new Kindle. Just, please, return my defective Kindle within 30 days. I would receive an email containing a mailing label and shipping instructions. And thanks for your business.
This is unbelievable. The problem is totally solved in minutes by an on-line retailer after I was stonewalled by folks at my friendly Target store. Now I just have to wait for my Kindle to arrive; being the cynic that I am, I figured it would arrive, maybe this month some time.
The next morning I received an email from Amazon. It contained a UPS shipping label and complete instructions on how to return my defective Kindle. And, oh yes, we’ve shipped your new Kindle overnight so you can get it as soon as possible. It should arrive on Sept. 17.
It’s now Friday afternoon, and I’m holding my brand-new Kindle, just as Amazon promised. What more can I say? Amazon, 10 points; Target, zip, nada, nothing. JD
Contact me with news tips and story ideas at
952/893-6876 or email@example.com