customer serviceI had a bad customer service experience this past week, and it soured me on a vendor I have sunk a lot of money into over the years. And it also highlighted for me the reason why customer service is even more important than ever in the digital age—because the rise of social media has given the customer places to vent on other than your inbox! Satisfy the customer yourself, or they will go elsewhere looking for the satisfaction. And that elsewhere will be public, prominent and outside your control.

I’ll withhold the name of the vendor, because they did make some token efforts to resolve this for me after I pushed them on it. But the short version is this: it is a cookbook author who has been traditionally published, and has recently gone indie. She sells a variety of products, ranging from ‘meal plan of the week’ PDFs to fuller-featured eBook ‘guides.’ I have several of her print books, and I buy the meal plans from time to time. The product which precipitated this whole sorry mess was a self-published eBook which had a ‘bootcamp’ plan for 2015, which came with email support, access to a special email list and Facebook group, and a 14-day menu plan ‘custom-designed’ for the program.

I am a sucker for both ‘bootcamp’ plans and special Facebook groups, so I bit. The eBook part was a PDF, which is not my favourite, but I can live with that. The ‘custom’ meal plan was a huge disappointment though. Six of the ten breakfast options featured banana, to which I am allergic. Yuck!

I can hear you saying so what—this is my problem, right? She can’t anticipate every customer’s allergy issues. And that’s true. BUT…this was supposed to be custom-written for this specific program, which starts in January. It’s not exactly Mango Smoothie season, and I guess I had expected that a plan which claimed to be designed specifically for this book (and not just rehashed from her other stuff) would be a little more seasonal. And, since she was claiming it was allergy-friendly, I supposed I expected that if there WAS one ingredient which dominated (such as banana in the smoothie recipes) then she would make some efforts to provide other options for the remaining recipes. So, for instance, the non-smoothie breakfasts would exclude the banana. This did not turn out to be the case. The non-smoothie breakfasts were all oatmeal-based and two of them involved banana.

And…I got the runaround. Firstly, she suggested that I don’t make the smoothie per se, but rather take the ingredients from them and just eat them plain. Since people “love smoothies in the winter” I could still enjoy them that way. When I inquired as to where exactly she suggested I buy fresh mango and cantaloupe in the dead of winter in Toronto, she hedged again and sent me a link to a blog post she wrote about replacing banana in baking recipes—under the smoothies section in that one, she herself says that often, there is no replacement when that’s what you are using them for.

At that point, I went a little nuts on her. I wrote her back and outlined in detail how much money I have spent on her stuff over the years, how I felt that this merited a little support from her given that I truly felt I could not have anticipated the issue given the nature of the product offering, and how she could maintain me as a satisfied customer with either a refund, or a replacement product. I also mentioned that I owned several of her other products, which I had left good reviews for. I implied that the future purchases would stop—as would the good reviews—if she did not address my problem.

After a few days of back and forth, she offered me the most recent weekly meal plan for free as a compromise, and I took it. I am still not completely happy with how this all turned out, and how much work it took to get it resolved. But she did in the end see the wisdom of preventing a previously happy customer from taking to Amazon and Facebook with her dissatisfaction. So…a win, I guess. But I still came away a little sour on the whole thing.

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. Customer service is everything, that’s what gives Amazon their edge.

    I had months of terrible treatment last winter by Target, despite spending thousands per year for years, including making them my main grocery store even though it was father away. I haven’t stepped foot in one of their stores and never will again. I’ve moved my business elsewhere, including a lot of it to Amazon and their Subscribe & Save program.

    I would have thought that after the data breach, they would have bent over backwards to keep customers. I was wrong. I didn’t even get polite common courtesy. They were truly some of the rudest so-called customer service people I’ve ever had to deal with.

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