Sunday, February 07, 2010

Borders, Welcome to the Customer Service Hall of Shame

On occasion I use this blog to point out the shockingly bad customer service of various companies I've had the displeasure to do business with.

Today's entry has to do with Borders.

It always surprises me, although it probably shouldn't, how so many of the companies that make this list are second or third banana to some major competitor. One would expect, as the slogan goes, for number two (or three) to "try harder," to attempt to make up in service for what they cannot match in price, location, or convenience. Alas, no.

Through taking some online polls, I got a reward of $15 in "Borders Bucks" added to my Borders Rewards card. I waited until I received my e-mail confirmation and headed to the store--about a twenty minute drive.

After perusing the shelves, I took my items to the cashier, who swiped my rewards card and told me that I did not have any Borders Bucks on it. I told her about the reward, and she said that this had been a problem--if I had a print out of the e-mail she could "give it to me." (Hmmm, "give it" like a gift, see.) Of course there was no printer or e-mail access there, so I went home and printed the e-mail.

The next day, my friend and I were going to the movie, so we stopped at Borders to pick up a book for my wife. I got it, took it to the cashier, who again told me that despite my e-mail confirmation, my card had no buck on it. I explained that I had been in there yesterday, had been told to bring a copy of the e-mail, and presented it. She then informed me that the e-mail was not acceptable because too many people printed them off and tried to use them to double dip. Why had I been told to bring it, then? (Perhaps to get me back in the store in hopes that, when I had book at cashier I'd just say, "Oh well," and pay cash?)

She said I had to call Borders "customer service" number. I used my cell phone, and well, you know that score. Some call center in India with a voice activated menu that told me call volumes were high, my call was important, but it could be a thirty minute wait to talk to a representative. Couldn't miss the movie, so for the second day in a row, I left without my item. (My wife wanted the book, so I actually went down the street to Barnes & Noble to buy it.)

Anyhow, I finally called the customer service center and spoke to someone. They took my card number and said, yes, my account had $15 on it. Why wasn't it showing up at the store? Well, I had put the money in around the 20th of the month. Borders Bucks expire at the end of each month. (That this is so is, in and of itself, a horrible customer service thing, but let that pass...). Since many people did not know they expire, Borders decided to wait until the first of the next calendar month for my reward to be available. That way, the representative explained, I had a whole 30 days to spend my bucks before they expired unbeknownst to me and there would be fewer people who showed up at the store only to find out that their bucks had expired. Wasn't that nice of them?

Well, no.

For one, I can't imagine the majority of the people don't go to the store (or the web site) soon after they get their bucks. For another, this wouldn't be an issue except for the stuff expiring to begin with. But the real issue is, why not just TELL the customer when the reward is issued? My e-mail specifically said the reward could be redeemed for 30 days after the date of issuance. Silly me, I thought that meant the next 30 days, not some random 30 days after the issuance. Gee, what we meant is that we pick 30 random days without telling you in the year 2015 and they'll be good then. Those are, after all, 30 different days AFTER the date of issuance.

Again, could it be that their hope is to get people in the store who will then buy something because they are there and come back later to use the bucks? I sure think so. Sad thing is, they achieved the exact opposite--due to lousy customer service, my resolve is to never shop at Borders again unless I have to. It's not worth the headache, and why reward a company for treating its customers so shabbily?

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