Who is lying to you? Basically anyone flappin’ their gums. But who’s really lying? I think the probability goes off the charts when it’s someone in retail and/or someone trying to sell you something.
For example, one group conducted a study and found that one-third of seafood sold in the United States is “mislabeled.” I think that’s the nice way of saying, “fucking liars.”
The study found that 50% of tuna sold in Washington D.C. restaurants was something described as “cheaper” and that 87% of the time seafood described as “snapper” was actually something else.
Talk about having a whale of a good time!
In other news, the “biggest US honey supplier admits to laundering, mislabeling Chinese honey.” Yeah, Chinese honey is banned from U.S. markets. That doesn’t mean it’s not for sale down the street, though. Why use the real thing when you can acquire “cheap honey” from China? Because, profits.
Earlier this year Apple agreed to pay $450 million to settle claims it colluded with five major publishers to inflate book prices. As part of the deal, Apple, of course, admitted to no wrongdoing.
Also this year Whole Foods Market, as part of a settlement, was ordered to pay $800,000 for overcharging customers. For its part, Whole Foods claimed their prices were accurate “98% of the time.”
AT&T agreed to pay $105 million as part of a settlement for “adding fees that customers didn’t authorize” to phone bills.
When you stop to consider that these are most likely outlier cases, in terms of actual consequences, it is easy to imagine the vast majority of fraud goes completely unpunished. And you can take that to the bank.
Banks? Never mind. Don’t get me started.
Drop on the deck and flop like a fish! You can trust me, your humble guru. I’m not selling anything.
It takes two to tango. An asshole and a rube (AKA a participant willing to be deceived). This tango is known as business.
The “asshole” is the company that sells shit and lies about what it is.
The “rube” is that which wants the shit and is willing to believe the lies.
This is all pretty standard, really. It’s how the wonderful world of retail works. These are the little mirco win-win transactions of commerce that comprise the so-called “free market” that makes the world go round.
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Sometimes a good idea can be taken too far.
Like shopping on the internet. Customers who made purchases from DecorMyEyes.com sometimes got a little something extra in addition to their order. The owner of that website recently plead guilty in a Federal court to two counts of sending threatening communications, one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.
That sounds pretty typical for the internet, if you ask me. But wait. There’s a twist.
The threatening communications included threats to kill or sexual assault customers who complained about products purchased from the website. The owner maintained several aliases used to menace his customers by email.
In one case, the owner, Vitaly Borker, sent an image of customer’s home he had obtained from Google Maps, saying, “P.S. don’t forget that I know where you live.”
Man, that guy sure has made a spectacle of himself.
The judge told the man, “These threats are chilling, Mr. Borker.”
It turns out that I’m pretty good at customer service after all. At least by comparison.
I was considering my approach a skosh harsh – at least until I heard about Borker’s tactics. Now all of the sudden my plan sounds downright timid.
My plan was simple:
- No phone. Ever. Instead I’d offer a pledge to respond to most inquiries by email within one business day. You think Amazon.com whores over phone calls to get orders? No way. Once you accept calls your order accuracy goes in the toilet and you spend your day hoppin’ around like a chicken on a hot plate. An interruption-driven day increases your error rate in other areas, too, like shipping.
- The website would include profanity. Like our “no bullshit” policy. That policy would include things like our honesty guarantee. We don’t lie to take your money. Ever. And our non-edited testimonials page that lets it all hang out. Period. Someone has something shitty to say about us? We don’t edit it or take it down. We lump it.
- The FAQ would explain things in no sense. Why no phone? It costs money and ruins our day. Don’t like it? Go order someplace else. If you want a low error rate on orders and a fair price, buy the thing. Or not. Either way, we’re not going to whore all over you.
- No games pricing. You pay based on our wholesale price plus a modest percentage so we can enjoy the things that you do, like food, clothing and shelter. We won’t round up to 99 cents and we won’t change prices 15 times a day based on bullshit things like you zip code or how many items we’ve got in stock.
- The big piece would be our “in stock” guarantee. The website would report the quantities of products that we actually have on hand. That number would be accurate and updated in real-time. No “drop ship” bullshit and no placing your order just to find out we don’t have the damn item. The guarantee would be simple: If we say it’s in stock, it ships within one business day or you get the item FREE. Period. No fucking bullshit.
- Another policy: No returns. No exchanges. If you want the item, buy it. If not, go away. This keeps our prices low. Instead of spending our day dealing with your indecision, we can focus on running our business efficiently and keeping our prices low.
But, and this is just my hunch, I think some people would appreciate this approach. We’d ship quickly, have a competitive price, and guarantee what our website says. It would be just that simple.
Are you convinced? Do you hate bullshit and like making an honest living? Want to be your own boss and eliminate the idiots from your life? Open up your damn wallet and invest in my company. What are we going to sell? I have no friggin’ idea.
If all else fails, we can always switch tactics and hire Mr. Vitaly Borker to be our spokesperson. Don’t forget – he knows where you live!
In my job, I’m sometimes forced against my will to perform tasks that compromise my values, like speaking on a dreaded device known as a telephone. I hate those things.
On the telephone I’m often compelled to speak to people known as customers. These are generally awful people.
I wish to quickly relate one such conversation.
Preface: Our web site says absolutely nothing about “price matching.”
Me: Hello. This is the miserable creature known as “Tom.” How can I help you?
Cust: Do you price match?
M: That depends on the situation. What product are you asking about?
C: The Acme Widget 3000.
M: Yes, we have those in stock. They are $500 each. What price would you like us to match?
M: I see. Where is that price advertised?
C: On yourcompetitor.com.
M: And do they have them in stock?
M: So, I have to ask. Why don’t you just buy it from them?
C: Because they don’t have a telephone number and their feedback isn’t as good as yours.
Mmmm. A word comes to mind…
So, you want us to price match our product to our competitor who doesn’t allow you to call and has shitty feedback? Hmmmm.
Buy it on the cheap, save $100, and assume the risk and all that entails. Or buy it from us knowing that we’ll be here and that we have an established and verifiable history of keeping our promises and good customer service.
What you can’t have is both at the same time.
One of the primary functions of an ecommerce company is to take orders over the phone. These orders are placed by people who are too chickenshit and/or stupid and/or obstinate to do it themselves over the internet.
A common theme among these people is that they don’t like to tell you their email address. As if that could somehow be used against them in some terrible way or as if just a single extra piece of spam would be the tipping point to ruining their lives.
So these folks call up on the telephone to place their orders. And thus begins what I like to call a dance that leads to the creation of order records that are rife with errors. Did you say F or S? M or N? Another commonality these people have is that they like to speak quickly and don’t like repeating themselves. One thing is certain: By the time we’re done transcribing what was said there are errors.
Then we ask, “Can I have your email address? That is where we’ll send the order confirmation and the tracking number so you can track your own shipment.”
“What do you want that for?” the customer will ask warily.
Sigh. We’ve been down this road a million times. “I just explained all that.”
“Will you spam me? Will you sell it?”
“No,” I say for the 27th million time in my life. “We only send you emails pertaining to your order. We never sell, give away or lease email addresses to anyone. Ever.” The truth is we’re too horribly inept, unorganized and understaffed to do anything proactive like work our email lists. So by default your email is very safe with us whether you trust that or not.
“Well, you can’t have it! Won’t tells you, we will. Never!”
Fine. Whatever. Shut the hell up, okay?
The email enables, among other things, the order confirmation. This is a little bit of info, sent to the email address, that confirms things like what’s in the order, the amount charged, and where the order will be shipped.
Not once in my illustrious 10-year ecommerce career has a customer ever received this order confirmation, carefully checked it, then called in to report an error. At least not before the order has shipped. They’re real good about doing so the next day once it’s too late. “Wowie! You guys sure ship purdy fast.”
The order confirmation email is a vital part of the process to find, intercept and fix costly errors before an order has shipped. Before we ship fixes are free. After we ship fixes are expensive.
Then, these same people who claimed not to have an email address will call us every day for an update on their stuff. “Where’s my order now?” they’ll demand to know.
“If you provide your email address I could send the tracking information along and you could track it real-time all by yourself…” I helpfully suggest.
“No. We do not wants that! Just tell us where our precious is located now. Track it for us, you will. Yesssssssss!”
Nothing says job satisfaction like extra phone calls from idiots made possible through customer paranoia. All over their oh-so-sacred email address, of all things!
What gets me is that when you ask for the credit card information, they have absolutely no problem with that. They’ll hand it over like it’s a red-hot potato. They’ve been well trained to be efficient customers in the consumption machine. They know we need the number itself, the name on the card, the expiration date, the billing address, and the “security code” on the back. Har.
And they’ll willingly line up to hand over this information to a complete stranger on the phone. Yeah, like that’s any safer than transmitting the information across the internet.
A lot of customers call in out of fear of putting their credit card information into the computer and/or the internet. So they give it to us over the phone. We then promptly do two things that would probably fry their bacon. First, we write it down on a piece of paper. (Everything required to complete a credit card transaction on one handy document. Isn’t that nice? Which would never have happened if they just ordered themselves.) And the second thing: We then punch all of that credit card information right into that same damn computer and/or internet.
Ha ha! And they thought they were being safe. Not only did we just do the one thing they had hoped to avoid, but it passed through an extra human along the way. Talk about safety!
So here’s to you paranoid customers! Keep being magnificent.
Here’s a quickie update.
First, the good news: I turned in this project – in full – a day early and half an hour before the end of my shift. Note: This is actually bad news in disguise. Since I was able to pull a rabbit out of my butt, the boss will naturally tell himself, “See? I just have to challenge my workers and they’ll surprise themselves. Next time I’ll have to ask for even more.” BULLSHIT!
Now, the bad news: Any task between manager and employee can be misunderstood. That’s why I, as the humble employee, always take proactive action to increase the odds of success. I don’t wait on the manager to do anything about it. That would be dumbass.
Since this was a BIG project, I did a sample for the boss and sent it to him for approval before continuing.
The boss signed off on the sample saying, “This is perfect.” I still have the email.
This morning the boss hunted me down and informed me that it turned out to be, in fact, a little short of perfect. In fact, two columns of data on all 29 reports were not what he wanted at all.
Naturally I’m sitting here wondering why he approved the mother fucker if it wasn’t what he wanted.
My Mr. Spock personality informs me, “There are only two possibility, Captain.”
- The boss is too stupid to understand the report and/or what he is saying.
- The boss never bothered to actually look at the sample before approving it.
For a guy who is oh-so-worried about “efficiency” and how I spend my time every day, you think it would behoove him to take such a small step to ensure I didn’t waste hours upon hours of effort simply so they could be flushed down the drain.
Remember in school when they forced those damn story problems down your throat? It made you angry, right? Because you just knew shit like that would never apply to your life. What a monumental waste of time.
I woke up this week and somehow summoned the force of will to slog my pitiful self down to The Shithole.
Not long after I clocked in I began to analyze the scope of the day that lay before me. Mondays are never good. The shit piles up fast and customers are out in the world pounding their redial buttons on our voice mail until they get a human. When the phones roll over at 9am The Big Fist of Life says hello to your butt. Mondays are wonderful.
I was grappling with this sort of reality when the boss stopped by for a little chat. It’s never a good thing when you on one of the first things on his plate.
“Ummm. Yeah. I’m gonna have a little task for you. I sent it in email. If you could just go ahead and make that a priority that would be great. Thanks!”
Yes, for me, the movie Office Space is an autobiography.
The email delineated the boss’ needs for the day. It seems the so-called “management retreat” is coming up and the boss wants a little information in the form of some reports. This is so they can make the Big Decisions. You know, like the one’s they made at last year’s Management Retreat that got us deep inside our current pickle. It sure feels good knowing these brainiacs are in charge of the company’s destiny.
Anyway, I digress. The big retreat is Wednesday. He needs his reports no later than Wednesday morning. OK, let’s see what he’s asking for.
The boss wants 29 reports. Each report will contain monthly data (that will also be summarized) for 19 months. That is the 12 months of 2009 and the 7 months in the books so far for 2010. So that is 19 monthly reports for each of the 29 different category reports.
I need a calculator. I can’t do this in my head. 29 overall reports each containing 19 monthly sets of data that will need to be pulled. That’s 29 times 19 which equals … Five hundred and fifty one reports!
Motherfucka! Now that is a real life application of a story problem.
Not satisfied, though, I quickly extended that data out into some real-world numbers. Let’s assume each data set took me one minute to pull, copy and format. That would be of a minimum of 551 minutes for this task. 551 divided by 60 minutes per hour equals 9.2 hours! And my boss has thoughtfully provided lead time of two work days to get this done. Nice.
Here’s a little chart I made to estimate this task:
1 min per data set = 9.2 hours overall task time
2 min = 18.4 hours
3 min = 27.6 hours
4 min = 36.7 hours
5 min = 45.9 hours
Yes. If it turns out that it takes an average of 5 minutes to pull a data set then I only have to get 46 hours work of work done in the first two days of this week.
Presumably the boss has an actual “need” for these reports. (Laughable concept, I know.) That’s why this guy who walks around the office calling himself the “super genius” is so damn smart. “I know,” he wisely said to himself. “I have a 46 hour task for something I really need. Therefore I’ll give my ass monkey two work days to get ‘r done. Good thing I knew about this retreat months ago.”
I was supposed to be pulled from other duties yesterday to work on this all-important task. Yeah, right. We all know how that works. Employees disappear and then come to me and beg me to do their duties. “I’m busy. Can you take the order for this guy on the phone?” Also, “get out on the floor and wait on those customers.” And this was after the boss had told them to leave me alone! LOLZ! It was a typical Monday with the phones ringing off the hook. For added bonus we had a record number of in store customers who hit the doors the moment we opened and never stopped all day long. The other employees, who all have pressing tasks just like me, took the brunt. The boss doesn’t feel that we need dedicate personnel to cover the floor so when employees are out there for hours their other shit (like shipping orders) is not getting done. A lot of orders didn’t get shipped yesterday.
Oh yeah, Monday was a good day.
So I busted my ass, did what I could in the time allotted, and completed 12 out of the 29 major reports that he wanted. That’s only 41% progress on day one. I’ve got one day left. And I concentrated on the easiest reports first. This project ain’t getting done.
Guaranteed failure and putting your ineptness on display is a great way to demoralize and destroy your employees. Well done, Mr. Lumberg.