Threatening a customer: BAD IDEA!

Once more I take to the internet to express my views on our interconnected marketplace and the proper management of disgruntled customers. A few months ago I wrote some brief guidelines to vindictive customers with some pointers to make their negative reviews effective (please read: Piece of advise to all vindictive customers). Yesterday I made use of my own advise and wrote an unhappy but fair and objective review about a company called Thompson Moving Inc based out of Sunrise, Florida. 

Here is a timeline of the events that have taken place over the past 3 days: 

  • I set out to hire a moving company on Saturday 11/17/12 for services to be rendered on Sunday 11/18/12
  • The move involved 4 pieces of furniture for a total distance of 4.5 miles
  • After receiving a couple of calls with all-inclusive quotes from various companies I received a call from Thompson Moving Inc.
  • The sales guy at Thompson was extremely personable, friendly and determined to gaining my business and a positive online review 
  • After a 10 minute conversation I was offered 3 hours of service at a $60 per hour rate which according to the sales guy would be more than enough to cover my move
  • I asked if there would be any additional fees, cancellation fees, what their insurance policy was and if there would be any other charges I needed to be aware of…the answer to my last question was no
  • I paid a $100 deposit and went on with my happy life bragging about the great bargain this wonderful company had offered me
  • Sunday at 9:55 AM a driver and a very friendly mover showed up at the pick up location and started the move
  • The move took 3 hours. My boyfriend had to jump in and help because the guys requested his assistance at times, we did not mind this though it was not part of the agreement
  • The furniture was delivered, reassembled and though it suffered some scratches we decided to overlook them since the guys were so nice
  • The driver called the dispatcher to verify the amount due and that’s when all hell broke loose! 

I was informed that my outstanding balance was $183 because we had gone over one hour of service and they were now adding an 18% fuel surcharge. WHAT? This fuel surcharge was never mentioned until that moment and this was the first I heard about an additional charge for traveling time before the guys showed up at my property. 

I was very upset because these charges were never mentioned despite my directly asking the sales guy if there were any additional fees I should know about. I spoke to about 2 or 3 people on the phone to finally come to an agreement: they would waive the fuel surcharge and I had to pay the extra $60 of labor otherwise the movers would not leave my property. I did not want to prolong the argument so I agreed to the $60 with indignation as I did not want to be held hostage in my own house.

I reminded the person on the phone that I had promised the sales guy a review and reiterated my intention to go online and share my experience. The movers left my property very embarrassed by the misunderstanding. As promised, I went online to yellow pages, yellow bolt and ripoff report and wrote a short review asking people to beware of the hidden fees tagged at the end of the service. 

Monday 11/19/12 at 6:43 PM. I received a call from the CEO of the company threatening to sue me for libel and defamation if I did not agree to remove the reviews I posted that day. He claimed that I was messing with a multi-million dollar business and that he would go after every penny I had to my name if I refused to comply with his demands (and yes, I am quoting his words). Half way through the call he advised me that the conversation was being recorded and he would use it in court against me. I listened for a few minutes, offered him to take down the review if he reimbursed me the extra money I was charged ($60). After hearing his endless threats I hung up the phone. A few minutes later a new review was posted online, all in caps highlighting how wonderful this company was and discrediting my opinion about the business. 

http://www.yellowpages.com/sunrise-fl/mip/thompsons-moving-inc-473551917

A few words of advise to vindictive vendors:

  1. Honor your word. If you promise a service and a price stick to it. Nothing infuriates a customer more than being blindsided and surprised with last minute fees hidden in cautiously written fine prints
  2. If there are variables affecting the total cost of your service be upfront about them
  3. Do not avoid answering questions about additional fees, especially when you are being directly asked about them
  4. Take the time to walk customers through your estimate/quote/contract/schedule of fees…those 3 extra minutes will pay off dividends
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver
  6. If things go sour, because they do sometimes, offer an apology and try to find an amicable resolution. Keep in mind that difficult situations offer yet another opportunity to wow a customer if handled correctly
  7. If you have tried it all and your customer is not willing to reason then cut your loses and part ways…you know you did your best. Unsatisfied customers are part of the cost of doing business

Ugh, this silly customer wrote a negative review. Now what do you do?

DO NOT call to threaten the customer. Have you heard that you get more flies with honey? The last thing you want is a negative mark with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) therefore threatening a customer is a terrible idea. 

If the customer has taken to the internet to bash your company there are a few options available:

  1. Contact the website where the review was posted and explain your side of the story. Depending on the level of objectivity and the type of language used in the review chances are you can have it removed by providing evidence to support your claim. Most angry customers are very emotional about bad interactions with vendors and tend to use derogatory words that make their reviews questionable to begin with 
  2. If the review was written in a professional manner and its clear intent is to warn other potential customers instead of ‘ruining’ your business then step one will take a little more work. It’s likely that the site will do a short investigation and come up with a resolution 
  3. You can post a response addressing the concerns expressed by the customer. This is not advisable in most cases since it’s likely that the angry customer will come back with a nasty response and you will have just gotten a yucky pen-pal
  4. If you think that contacting the customer again might yield good results then go for it with the following tips in mind: 

Be nice and courteous

Come up with a new resolution. A future discount, a special rate, a letter from the owner, etc. This is not to say that customers can bully you for goodies. Not at all!

Explain how hard you have worked to establish your business reputation and how you would appreciate finding a resolution so the review can be removed

If all of this fails, move on and procure legitimate reviews from satisfied customers (and notice the emphasis on the word LEGITIMATE)

As stressful and discouraging as a bad review can be it’s not the end of the world. If you really manage a reputable and fair business the bad reviews will be buried by the outstanding ones other customers will leave for you. 

Why is suing a customer for a bad review a bad idea?
You want to put this incident behind you, right? Imagine the heavy artillery you put in the hands of a vindictive customer when you sue him/her for expressing an opinion. Yes, I can see Help Me Howard in the background and an emotionally distressed customer demanding his/her right to freedom of speech. 

When you add to the fire with threats and nasty-grams you are putting a big spotlight on that customer thus multiplying the effects of the bad review…even if you win in court. Furthermore, don’t ever record conversations without advising the customer he/she is being recorded…why do you think banks tell you in advance? 

To sum up this extensive post: If you are running a profitable business, you really should not have time to harass customers. Use that energy to find new ones!

This is free advise from someone who has been a vindictive customer and dealt with a few of her own.

PK

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Piece of advise to all vindictive customers

A few words of advise for all vindictive customers out there:

If you want your cyber voice to be heard, please take into account the following tips from a customer who has experienced both sides of the story.
Make sure your reviews are fair, objective and factual. Lying in a review shows lack of character. Poor language, name calling and subjectivity make you sound bitter and crazy.
  1. Pointing a positive aspect of you rapport with the vendor in question increases your chances of a resolution and being taken seriously.
  2. Keep in mind that some reviews are dismissed by third parties if deemed questionable or inappropriate.
  3. Choose your words wisely. Spam filters will block reviews using bad words and adjectives such as scum bags.
  4. Let it go. You did your duty. You posted a bad review about this vendor in hopes of alerting other customers about bad business practices. The point of a review is to share your experience with others not to tear the business or the business owner apart.
  5. Let it go. Bitterness hurts you more than anyone else.
  6. Beware of vindictive vendors. The internet is a two way street!

PAPA WASN’T IN THE HOUSE!

The Heat is on!! Our team is only points away from a historical championship. I have enjoyed the past few games at home, eating hot pizza and sipping wine, but tonight there is no pizza in this house. Why you might ask. Why, if Papa Johns is offering 50% to Heat fans? Well, because two nights ago, my pizza was handled by a cashier whose hands were full of flour as she received money and gave change to other customers. She then proceeded to prepare more pizzas without washing her hands!! Ew, gross I know. I took the pizza home without putting up a fight, just because I was tired and did not have the energy to deal with the issue at the time.

I have of course sent an email to their customer service department. Papa had not disappointed me before. I can tolerate a rude attendant here and there, a delayed delivery is understandable, but mishandling food at a restaurant in front of customers goes against the core of the business!

I received a canned response thanking me for sharing my comments. I am not looking for coupons or freebies (I already know all of their good discount codes anyway). I am expecting a response addressing my concern and a good reason as to why I should bother going back to them…after all Dominos, Pizza Hut, Steve’s Pizza, and more are just around the corner.

UPDATE: I received a call from the store manager to apologize and to ask for a description of the employee I mentioned in my comments. According to him, there have been multiple complaints about the same issue over the past few weeks and he wants to identify the employee without getting her coworkers involved. I never went back to that store therefore I cannot tell if or how the food mishandling issue was resolved.

Yes, I still buy from Papa Johns but definitely not from that store!

I AM A VICTIM

Of a vicious vindictive customer. I will spare you some details and not give out names due to the ridiculous nature of the event.

In my spare time, I like to help small businesses with their advertising needs. One of my favorite customers (for lack of a better word) owns a property on the beach which I advertise and in many cases deal with the customers from beginning to end. A few weeks ago, I had the delight of being contacted by a nice family who wanted to stay at the property for a few days. Deal was closed, family came over and the nightmare began. There were many red flags I missed. The guy was a little intense, asked the same question 20 times, did not mind calling at one in the morning to say the internet was not working…but, since I have very high customer service standards I let all of this go and took care of him.

The big issue took place at the time of check out. The property owner did a routine inspection before returning the guest’s security deposit. Hell broke loose when the tenant was advised $40 would be withheld due to the many luggage scratches on some cabinets, the dirty condition the unit was being returned in and the water spilled on the couch (cleaning the couch alone could cost $50-$80). The tenant went wild, said he should have been paid for staying at that unit, got feisty…you get the idea. He ended up leaving and agreeing to the $40 charge as he had to catch an international flight.

Two days later I get these nasty-grams from one of the sites where I advertise and my own blogspot!
The guy went nuts, dared to call us scum bags and rip offs! He, of course, trashed the unit down with his reviews, put our characters on the line and threatened to make us regret every penny we took form him.

While I thought his word choice was very poor and demonstrated lack of objectivity and perhaps education, I understood this was a hurt customer trying to express himself. I cleaned up his mess and moved on. Now, when I say I cleaned up the mess I mean that his reviews were deleted. I don’t mind bad reviews as long as they are objective, being called scum bag does not qualify as objectivity in my books.

Surprise, surprise. A week later he contacted my customer’s employer and filed a list of ridiculous charges which of course generated a lot of commotion. Please someone tell me when was the last time you broke and entered your own property after being invited by your own tenant. Furthermore, since when does a $40 fee count as extortion? Is it me, or does this sound like pure madness?

A few words of advise for all vindictive customers out there:

  1. Make sure your reviews are fair, objective and factual. Lying in a review shows lack of character. Poor language, name calling and subjectivity make you sound bitter and crazy.
  2. Pointing a positive aspect of you rapport with the vendor in question increases your chances of a resolution and being taken seriously.
  3. Keep in mind that some reviews are dismissed by third parties if deemed questionable or inappropriate.
  4. Choose your words wisely. Spam filters will block reviews using bad words and adjectives such as scum bags.
  5. Let it go. You did your duty. You posted a bad review about this vendor in hopes of alerting other customers about bad business practices. The point of a review is to share your experience with others not to tear the business or the business owner apart.
  6. Let it go. Bitterness hurts you more than anyone else.
  7. Beware of vindictive vendors. The internet is a two way street!



DAYS INN – OUT AT NIGHT!

Days Inn Forbidden City – Beijing, China

Being the caring and loving lady I am, I volunteered to book a hotel for my bf’s first night in China (why he is there and I am not calls for a whole different blog). I looked up some options and was of course overwhelmed by Chinese characters and foreign currencies. Add to that the horror stories some people share on the web regarding their visits to other countries and you can imagine how challenging I felt this quest was. Well, that was until I saw the Forbidden City Days Inn Hotel!! (http://www.daysinnforbiddencity.com) We have all seen the Days Inn hotels on the side of the road; they look like motels with high aspirations. I, of course, booked the first room I could get since it was a familiar name and their staff speaks English according to their advertisement. 

Well, my poor hunnie gets to China at midnight, asks someone to translate the hotel’s address to Chinese characters, takes a cab to the Days Inn, is dropped off in a dark alley (get your popcorn out this sounds like a horror movie already) and wanders through the streets for a while not finding the infamous hotel. With his gullible smile he tries to find someone who speaks good enough English to give him directions (perhaps you should know he only knows two sentences in Mandarin: How are you? And I don’t speak Mandarin), this takes a while but he finds some sort of officer guy who walks him to the hotel. Surprise, no one opens the door at the freaking hotel, no one! Want another surprise? My card had already been charged for his stay. Anyway, after knocking on the door for some time he gives up and the officer guy takes him to a hostel nearby where he checks in and happily shares the night with another five travelers…not what I envisioned for him after 20 hours of travel. I was livid when he called to tell me the story, was my late arrival note not clear enough? I proceeded to pick up the phone and call the Days Inn customer line to be put on hold for 45 minutes and then be told I had to deal with the property in China directly as it is independently owned. Independently what? Not my problem lady, I said, it is advertised as a Days Inn property therefore it is you I am dealing with. Why would I want to deal with a property that closes its doors at night to expected visitors? (by the way, I checked the website, not a word about doors being closed at a certain time)  http://www.daysinnforbiddencity.com. Now I have to wait three business days for a reply to my concern…oh I emailed them too letting them have a piece of my mind in the politest of ways. I am not looking for shares in their company as compensation but I want my money back and then some. 
Will keep you posted. 
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