Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Test of Service

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The following is from a letter I sent to the Head Office of Fry’s Electronics today: I am blogging in in a chronicle of the store’s response, and as a warning to anyone considering buying appliances from Fry’s, who has a national chain of stores.

“There are literally hundreds of stores in the Houston area which offer appliances for sale, all of them boasting about their prices and selection. In the end, the largest difference between them is determined by the service of their staff. I am writing to you to let you know about some very bad failures, as well as some very shining successes, in that area, along with the name of an employee who is doing extensive damage to your company name through her deceitful practices and offensive behavior.

My wife and I recently set out to purchased appliances; we took care in selecting appliances to avoid any complications in the quality of their performance, and so set out to get a Maytag washer and drier, and a Maytag refrigerator.

On Tuesday, September 27, 2005, my wife and I visited the Fry’s Electronics store at 11565 Southwest Freeway in Houston. During our visit, we met Josie Ames, a Fry employee in appliances who is a persuasive seller, but as we would learn, not an honest one.

Josie was unable to show us a Maytag washer and dryer we liked (I tend to mistrust the digital display machines, knowing how quickly those can wear out), but told us the Amana washer and dryer were basically the same thing, as they were made by the same company as the Maytag washers and dryers. Josie assured us that Fry’s offered prices as low as anyone else we would find, and since we were asking about delivery on Saturday October 1, Josie said she could “guarantee” we would get delivery between 10 AM and 2 PM that day, of the washer, dryer, and refrigerator if we purchased them on Tuesday night. On those two very specific promises, my wife and I purchased Amana washer and dryer, and a Maytag refrigerator on Tuesday, September 27 (Store #29, Invoice #466315, total $1,558.61 with tax).

On Thursday, September 29th, my wife and I began to move from our old place into our new. As I was leaving my old residence on the 30th, I did not need the refrigerator or washer/dryer until the Saturday promised, and so on the 30th I put our perishable food in some coolers with ice for overnight, and we got ready for the Saturday delivery. I called the store Friday to make sure they had the necessary information for the delivery, and was assured everything was good to go.

On Saturday October 1st, I called around 10 in the morning, to once again make sure the store had the correct instructions for finding our home, as Josie had not asked for directions when she wrote up our sale. At that time, Josie told me (for the first time), that there was a problem; the store could not deliver my refrigerator as promised on Saturday, and did not immediately know when they could deliver it. This created an immediate problem for me, as the ice in the coolers had pretty much melted overnight, and while I was comfortable keeping the perishable food in ice chests overnight, I would not be able to trust food left out of a refrigerator for more than 12 hours. This fact, in addition to her specific promise that the problem she had “guaranteed” would not happen, was happening anyway, did not concern Josie, who now expected either my wife or me to take an extra day off work to be home for the eventual delivery of our missing refrigerator. As for the promised washer and dryer, they did arrive on Saturday, though not in the promised ‘10 AM to 2 PM’ window that Josie “guaranteed”; the truck with those appliances did not arrive until 4:30 PM, further delaying other things we needed to do.

Because of the broken promise by Josie, we had to reschedule for a delivery on Tuesday, October 4th. When I called Tuesday morning to try to get an idea of when the delivery would occur, Josie again said they could not deliver as promised; they did not, in fact, even know where the refrigerator was, even though the day before, Josie had assured me it was on the dock, ready to go. I made a number of attempts to contact the Store Manager, during which time Josie deliberately hung up on me when I reminded her that she had specifically promised this problem would not happen, and therefore she should take responsibility to correct the problem. I eventually spoke with Demond Burfitt, the Department Manager for Appliances. We spoke at about 4:30 PM, and he promised to personally bring out the refrigerator, which he did, showing up at the house around 7:00 PM. I want to stop at this point and highlight the difference between Josie Ames, who does not mind lying to customers or treating them rudely, and who feels no sense of responsibility, and Demond Burfitt, who took up the challenge caused by Josie’s criminal behavior and worked to resolve the problem.

There were, however, two problems caused by the delivery of the refrigerator. First, while personally bringing in the refrigerator, Mr. Burfitt and Joseph Cupidor (whom I was led to believe was the Store Manager) banged the refrigerator into the dishwasher, leaving a dent and scratch in the face of it. Bear in mind please that the dishwasher is brand new. Also, they had trouble attaching the handle to the freezer door, and stripped the door threading while trying. Consequently, while they brought the refrigerator on October 4th, it was necessary to repair additional damage they caused. On Saturday, October 8th, Mr. Cupidor brought a freezer door for the same model, to replace the damaged one; this came from a floor demo model. At this writing, the damage to the dishwasher has not yet been addressed.

Mr. Burfitt, at the time the dishwasher was damaged, promised to get the face replaced. He made a show of getting the make and model information, but as the days passed nothing happened. On Tuesday, October 9th, I came home and found a phone message from Josie Ames (the salesperson who had repeatedly lied to us, and who had hung up on me deliberately when I said I needed to speak to the Store Manager), saying that they needed me to find the model number and call them back before 6 PM. Since I arrived home at 6:45, I could not get that information to them until Thursday morning, which I did. I spoke on Thursday and Friday with Mr. Burfitt and Mr. Cupidor about the matter, and in short, there seems to be a continuing problem getting the damage caused by the Fry’s employees repaired; at this writing I do not know, in specific, how Fry’s intends to repair my dishwasher. On Thursday, Mr. Burfitt said it would be necessary for Fry’s to send out people to take photos of the damage, which would then be addressed by Fry’s insurance company. How long this will take, and why I am required to wait while Fry’s decides what to do, was not answered. When I called Saturday morning to speak to Mr. Cupidor, Josie Ames answered the phone, and when she discovered it was me, immediately hung up on me again. The people scheduled to come take the photos were due between 9 AM and 1 PM, but failed to arrive in that window.

On Saturday, October 15th, I tried repeatedly to speak with either Demond Burfitt or Joseph Cupidor on the matter, without much success. I spoke with Mr. Burfitt by his cell phone, as he was not at the store that day, and he assured me the people coming to take the photos would be there, and that he would call them. I was unable to get through to Mr. Cupidor; despite six calls, I was either put on hold and forgotten until the phone disconnected ten minutes later, or else I was told he was unavailable and would call be back “in a few minutes”. When I called again at 12:30 PM, I discovered from the receptionist, for the first time, that Mr. Cupidor was not in fact the Store Manager but an employee in the Appliances Department. I spoke then with Daniel Torres, who was in charge of Store #29 at the time I called; Mr. Eddie Ashcroft turns out to be the actual Store Manager. He listened to my account of everything which has happened in the past eighteen days, and has promised to set things straight.

So, to sum up the matter: A Fry’s employee, Josie Ames, specifically and deliberately made false statements to me and to my wife regarding the price and delivery of our appliances. I say this, because at this moment Home Depot is running advertisements for a washer and dryer by Maytag which are, in almost every respect, the same as the Amana washer and dryer we purchased at Fry’s, except that Home Depot is offering them for a combined price more than a hundred-fifty dollars less than what Fry’s charged us, plus they offer a $150 Gift Card for any purchase of more than $299. The refrigerator we have is not really the new refrigerator we were promised, as it was damaged during installation and had to be repaired with parts from the demo unit. Damage was done to our kitchen by the installation of the refrigerator, which has not only not been repaired in the eleven days since it happened, but no date or time has been scheduled, even tentatively, for when it will be done. In addition, we have lost food which had to be thrown out because the refrigerator was not available until three days later than “guaranteed”, we have had to take additional time off from work to be home for the later delivery, we have had additional stress from waiting for people who have, in four tries, not yet arrived within the promised time window, I have made over thirty telephone calls trying to resolve these problems in the past two weeks, and have been deliberately hung up on twice, disconnected (possibly by accident) another four times, put on hold more than a dozen times only to be told someone would call me back, which usually has not happened, and still I am left with a situation which is much, much different than the smooth delivery and installation of competitively-priced appliances I was promised back on September 27th. While Mr. Torres has promised to take care of the matter, I still think it is important that your head office should be made aware of the Customer Service conditions and opportunities at your Southwest Freeway store in Houston.

I know from my own experience, that the success or failure of a business share of market segment often depends on the quality of your customer service. That’s more than just answering the phone and smiling a lot; it really comes down to the test of addressing problems and concerns. In short, a successful business has to train and motivate their staff to fix problems and pay attention to them while they are immediate and small; putting someone on hold, telling them to call back later or that someone will call them back at some later time, or worse, neglecting a problem or showing resentment to a customer with a problem, these all make things worse instead of better, and can cause serious damage and a bad reputation that never quite goes away. To be blunt, the Southwest Freeway store has a problem with integrity; one employee at least is lying to customers, the staff makes customers wait for delivery windows that they do not follow through on, and there is a clear sense of not caring when the store creates a problem or fails to keep a promise. That combination will inevitably prove deleterious to a store’s long-term success. How you address it is largely your own concern, but I am sure that you will want to take care of such a serious matter. Speaking for myself, my next actions will be decided by how well the local store’s management deals with their responsibilities.”



Buyer beware, indeed.

2 comments:

Flint said...

It looks like you already sent this letter - I hope you didn't cut and paste a copy of it into this blog - but rather retyped it - because I noticed a couple of typos.

Also - I would have reccomended against saying that one of the store employees engaged in criminal action:

"who took up the challenge caused by Josie’s criminal behavior and worked to resolve the problem"

Josie's action may or may not have been criminal - but by calling it such - you make your letter much, much easier to dismiss. Possibly even allowing Fry's Legal Department to play hardball with you - threatening you with legal action for calling the actions of one of their employees criminal.

Also - you state that Home Depot has a "washer and dryer by Maytag which are, in almost every respect, the same as the Amana washer and dryer we purchased at Fry’s".

Guess what - it's not going to work. Despite Josies saying that Amana's and Maytag's are essentially the same - they'll say that they're not the same model. Also - Electronics Retailers (i.e. Best Buy, Circuit City etc.) play the same game with tv's - you'll be hard pressed to find the same exact model number at two competing chains because electronics manufacturers will give them different numbers to help retailers not have to price match.

While I sympathize with your problems in this matter - I'm betting it will never get resolved to your satisfaction. Part of that is because it has continued to get worst - and it'll probably take a lot to satisfy you. Second - and more importantly - Fry's probably has millions in dollars of sales a year - they're not going to sweat some guy who spent less than $2,000. And, one guy complaining about their service isn't going to match all of the advertising they do.

Perhaps you can set up a website for disaffected Fry costumers and get people to sign a petition and share their "horror" stories with Fry's.

Good luck in your battle!

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