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How horrible customer service is going to save me money

The kids have no idea the hell I went through to get this trailer!

The kids have no idea the hell I went through to get this trailer!

I had the worst shopping experience of my life this week. And it made me realize I hate shopping. And I will never, ever, ever, ever, step foot in a Hell-mart** again. Never. I don’t think this is a bad thing, either, its not my favorite store, or a place I frequent often.  But having such a horrid experience made me realize I have the power to boycott a store, and I feel somewhat vindicated from my experience knowing they will never, ever, ever have my business again.  All their signs about customer satisfaction posted everywhere – phooey!  LIES!!!!

So what happened?  Well, I had been pondering getting a trailer to pull on my bike for the kids for when Mr. SSC isn’t around. Usually we each bike with a kid in a bike seat on the handlebars, but that’s not an option with two kids when he isn’t around. I found some other options but they were above my price point for this sort of item. After some internet research, Craigslist perusing, and deal comparisons, I finally pulled the trigger for an online purchase at Hell-mart mainly due to the “pick up today at your local store” offer.  I thought, “Great! The store is on the way home!  I can quickly pop in and pick up the trailer and have time to set it up to surprise the kids with when I pick them up at school.” Little did I know how naïve I was in thinking any of this would go right…

I skip out of work an hour early because I am so darn excited about this trailer.  I arrive at Hell-mart and after a few minutes of lines and customer service I  finally get directed to the online pick up area.  There are five people in line and no one behind the desk.  Ten more minutes later two employees come out with items for the first two people in line.  Then they speak to the next people ahead of me, and disappear in the back for about 10 more minutes – apparently searching through a labyrinth of merchandise for items that were theoretically all ready to be “quickly” picked up.  Finally, after 30 minutes in line my turn arrives, and the surly employee disappears for 15 minutes.  She emerges saying “I can’t find it”. I ask her, “So what should we do?”, and she is like “I dunno”. After a few moments of trying to elicit more of a response out of her, a spark ignites and she takes me to go look on the shelves of the store for the trailer – not there. She then says “well there is one in the back but it doesn’t have your name on it, but it was ordered today, so maybe the names got switched.” After ten minutes in the back (seriously, I think they have and Arcade or bowling alley back there where everyone goofs off) she realizes the morning-shift employee had tagged it with the wrong name. I take it and go home.

As I pull the trailer out of my car to set it up, I notice its not orange. I thought I ordered an orange one. So I look at the receipt and it’s not even the right model!  (OK, partially my fault for not noticing at the store, but after dealing with crap-tacular lines and grumpy employees, I was not in the right frame of mind to notice this mistake.) I guess I thought all that electronic scanning technology stores have now make sure the right items go to the right places. So – I go online to check out the trailer that I did get sent home with – it was the same brand and roughly the same specs – but cost $30 less then what I paid!!!!!  WTF?!?!  I pick up the phone to call them to see if they can just give me a credit. After being disconnected twice and put on several infinite hold and transfer loops, I hop in my car to drive back to Hell-mart, about 15 minutes away from me… all while being on hold in my car.

I walk back into Hell-mart with the trailer, and stand in the customer service line for 35 minutes. Then they tell me that they can’t help me because its an online purchase and the receipt and my order don’t match.  So, they escort me back to another customer “service” area, where the employee who helped me earlier is just like “its not my fault, I should be working layaways”, and eventually an assistant manager takes both my receipts and disappear into the back of the store for 27 freaking minutes!!!!  At this point, I want to just leave and swallow the $30 because I need to pick my kids up, but I know they won’t let me out of the store with the trailer since I don’t have my receipts anymore.  Anyways – Mr. Asst. Manager shows back up and is like “Hmmm… I don’t know what to do with this”  Seriously? 27 minutes in the back room and you have no idea?!?!?  Yeah, they totally have an arcade set up back there…  Exasperated, I tell him “if you can just refund me the price difference, I will leave and we can call it all even, since you can’t seem to let me return this item that you mistakenly gave me.”  I mean – that seemed like my only option, even though about an hour ago, I swore I wanted my money back because Hell will freeze over before this horrid store gets one more penny of my money.***  So, as any manager at Hell-mart would respond, he said “Well, I don’t know how to do that – let’s go back up front.”

So, we march back to the miserable “customer service” line in front of the store. Luckily, after being in the store for almost 90 minutes on this second trip, they let me skip to the front, in front of the dozen other poor souls waiting in line.  The Asst Manager who had been helping me just tells the woman to return the trailer at the price I paid, and then resell me the trailer for $71, and the transaction takes 2 minutes!  SERIOUSLY!?!?!  She scans the receipt returns the item at full price and then sets my card to buy it for $71… Why couldn’t I return the freaking trailer 90 minutes ago?????  At this point the fight was out of me… and I was 30 minutes late to pick up my kids (without having gotten to set up the bike trailer), so I was just happy to escape the store with some sort of refund and a bike trailer and my soul.  Luckily, this last customer service employee was a sweet little old lady, and so my last experience for the rest of my life with a Hell-mart employee was a good one.  And as I walked/ran out of the store, I silently praying that all the pieces were there and it worked so I wouldn’t have to send Mr. SSC to the store to return it for me…

And to top it all off, I threw out my back trying to set up the bike trailer later that evening…



**Being new to blogging, I have no idea what rules there are about relaying a true story about a rich company with lots lawyers.  So, insert the name of your most hated corporate empire here.

*** Of course, VTSAX holds shares of Hell-mart, so technically, I am giving them my money.  But, I will never shop there again.

12 thoughts on “How horrible customer service is going to save me money

  1. Mr. Maroon

    I experienced a similar result through a much shorter incident at a popular Texas-based sporting goods retail outlet. In search of camo overalls, I found my desired three pairs and, comparing the price tags of each, noticed that one of the pairs was significantly cheaper than the other two. With my interest piqued, I approached an associate and inquired if all three could be bought for the low, low price on the one tag. After all, they were all exactly the same. “No problem,” came the response, “Follow me up to the front and we’ll get you cashed out.”

    I don’t know if it was the hunting department associate being out of place at the registers or the fact that my chest was puffed about three times larger than normal, proud that I’d gotten a smoking deal, but we quickly drew the attention of an Assistant Manager. With a menacing grimace, she approached the register and demanded to know what was going on. At this point, I still had the items in my arms. After the explanation, she insistently ripped the overalls out of my possession and told me they were mismarked. I eventually learned that she would only allow me to buy the one pair at the discount while paying full price for the others. Screw that!

    Fuming mad and feeling mistreated, I asked for them back and told her I would like to continue shopping and think on it. I carried them right back, put them on the rack for someone else to get the deal, and headed for the exit. I damn sure wasn’t going to leave them with her so she could correct the pricing error.

    Then, as I was leaving the store, she had the nerve to offer an apology. Let me just tell you how much it meant… I didn’t shop there for a year.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Yeah- I think managers must get bonuses for cheating people out of a deal – just before Thanksgiving, I was shopping to buy a pair of PJs for my niece. I found an adorable – pair but with no price. Long story short – they did a price check and tried to sell them to me for a price that seemed outrageous. So I said no. After depositing the rest of my items in the car I went back in, grabbed the pajamas from the manager and another pair with a tag from the shelves and showed the manager that had helped me that they were 2/3rds the price of what she had tried to sell to me 10 minutes ago. They spend 10 minutes trying to find a pair to ‘price-match’ while I found one in 2 minutes. Its so infuriating.

      Yeah – you probably looked way too happy to be shopping. Next time you find a good deal, punch yourself in the stomach so you look miserable, and then maybe that will keep you from attracting attention :)

  2. Tawcan

    Sounds like a terrible shopping experience. I don’t like dealing with customer service departments in most of the big stores. I usually have to wait forever to talk to someone and half the time the person in charge have no clue. I do like Costco’s no question asked return policy though.

  3. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    Some days things just don’t work out. I would have been so frustrated!

    We bought our bike trailer from a big box store. It took about an hour with the employee going in the back and reporting back to me. He was new and was really trying to help, so it was a pleasant experience, luckily.

    I still don’t really get the differences between online and in store items and systems, but I know they can piss me off!

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      Yeah – I think my experience would’ve been so much better if any of the employees had even bothered to smile or be nice. I even tried working my smile-magic with them in the beginning, and it didn’t work either.

  4. Bella

    I am so sorry about your experience with hell-mart but that seems to be the norm not the exception with most stores nowadays.

    I tried the online buying with the in store pickup with office depot and never again. bought, paid, received email confirmation and the store fussed at me because they had orders for products they did not have. Then because office depot “charged my card” I had to wait a week for the charge to fall out of my pending file. I will not even buy and in store pick up again.

    These ideas only work most times in theory.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      I agree. It is sad that that is the norm, and we are beginning to expect nowadays. Theoretically it is an awesome idea. Too bad it rarely works!

  5. Even Steven

    This story is a reminder for me to buy local and stick with mom and pop small businesses or online stores you trust, it might cost a few dollars more but it might just keep your sanity. Sorry you had to go through that.

    1. Mrs SSC Post author

      That is a good point. I probably should’ve gone to a local bike shop instead – I was just too impatient to wait a week or so for them to order. I do miss there being more mom and pop type stores…

  6. Mrs. Frugalwoods

    Oh wow–that sounds awful! What a royal pain! I’m an online-only shopper and I cringe when I have to do the pick-up-in-store option. I would almost rather not buy something than have to go into a store to buy it. All that to say, I seriously feel your pain. But on the bright side, looks like you’ve got a great kiddo trailer now–nice!

    1. Mrs SSC

      Yeah, the trailer rocks! So in all it ended well, but I think I would walk over hot coals before going back to that store or trying the in store pick up.

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