Wrest Buy Drive By Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Shortly before Christmas the online store known as Best Buy had a sale on iTunes cards. Twenty percent off. A $100 iTunes gift card was only $80.
What? You mean I’ve been paying full price this whole time in iTunes when I could have been getting my balance at a discount? Idiot… idiot… idiot…
I had never heard of such a thing. Of course, I’m always the last to know.
So I did something I rarely do, maybe a handful of times per year. I went on the information superhighway and made myself a purchase. I spent $80 on myself. “Merry Christmas to me!”
I figured Best Buy would link me to the code and I could punch it into my Apple device and the alternative death metal would soon be music to my ears. Sure, the order said “free shipping” but why would they spend money on that when they could be all digital up in that grill?
Boy, was I wrong.
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Bag of Crap
I just saw something called “A Bag of Crap” for sale over on Woot.com. Then their web server crashed because too many people were trying to buy this highly desirable item at the same time.
In lieu of typical product sales, Woot occasionally offers a blind grab bag officially called “Random Crap.” While today its accompanying picture of a paper lunch bag with a question mark has kept its unofficial name “Bag of Crap,” (BOC) it was originally dubbed “Bag of Crap” during the early years of the site when a physical bag of some kind (notebook, iomega zipper bags, etc.) was sold with the 1-3 “craps” and was part of what you were buying. Today, the BOC contains at least three “crappy” items and one bag whose value and quality are not guaranteed, but sometimes expensive items are included. The BOC typically triggers millions of order requests and sells out within seconds, causing server lag and usually a crash. During the January 25, 2011 selling, the website received a record 3.1 million requests, and the product was sold out within eight seconds.
During April Fools Day 2011, Woot staged a “Bag of Crap” flash game, which users were instructed to play in order to win the privilege of buying Bags of Crap. On April 1, 2011, eight thousand Bags of Crap were sold. Later in the day, once the Bag of Crap selling period was over, a Woot admin said that there were over seven million attempts to get the Bags of Crap.
I gotta get me some of that.
Chilling eyeglasses – in about an hour
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.”
Read the article in the New York Times
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.
Those who know me know that I dream of replacing my boss and striking out on my own on the internet. I know I’m smarter and I’m not willing to lie, cheat and steal to make a buck.
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.
No doubt that some people would be put off by this approach. Those are exactly the bottom-feeders I don’t want to deal with. Go suckle on another store’s teat.
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!
Our store is open and closed
This is my Monday post, so how about another bitch-fest about work? Hell, yeah! That seems apropos.
Some things overheard in the office last week:
Hint: That’s the sound of my boss hocking up loogies and them plopping them into the wastebasket under his desk. In other news, I stopped by Staples today, picked up a new wastebasket for under my desk and will never again touch another wastebasket besides mine. Ever.
See? If I had marked that item as out-of-stock I never would have talked them into that other product.
Said by my boss after cross-selling a customer on a product our web site has listed as “in stock.” Recently customers have become increasingly combative when us innocents answer the phone, check the shelves, and say things like, “Nope. We don’t seem to have any.”
What do you mean you don’t have any? Your web site says they are in stock!
The petulant sounds of my boss when on the phone with one of our suppliers. Oh, sweet karma! It’s not often you get that up close and face-to-face with unmitigated gall.
Of course we have a retail store. We’re not an internet-only outfit. Check our web site. You’ll even see a picture of our store there.
That was my boss on the phone talking to a supplier who wanted reassurance that we don’t sell only on the web, that we have an actual retail store. (You’d be surprised how many suppliers really care about this.) In actuality the picture on our website is a photoshopped fake, our location is office space only, our shop doesn’t have any signage or even our name on the door, and there is no display merchandise available for customers to look at and there is no cash register or other means for them to pay.
No. Do not come over here. We’re not a retail store. We do all of our business on the internet. Go to our website if you want to place an order or see what we’ve got.
That was my boss on the phone talking to one of our international repeat customers who just happened to be visiting our town and wanted to stop by. From the sound of things he was rather offended by the less than warm welcome. We didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet.
I wonder what goodness I’ll hear at the office this week?
You shall not email
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.
That’s sick, man
The message is clear. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) want you to “Stay Home!” when you’re not feeling well. They want you to call in sick.
Too bad, so sad!!!
I don’t want to overstate this, but I am literally a modern day super hero. I am Vector Man. My special powers activate the moment I start feeling ill.
vector: an organism (as an insect) that transmits a pathogen
I know, calling me an insect is quite the over-compliment but I’ll take what I can get.
It’s been at least six years since I last called in sick. And probably a lot longer than that. Unfortunately that’s just about as far as my memory works. I do know this: I’ve been at my current job about 4 months and haven’t called in once. And my previous job was 5-1/2 years and I never called in sick, either. I’ve got quite the streak going.
The problem? Staying home to protect the health of other people costs me money. I haven’t had sick pay since 2001. I also haven’t had health insurance since then, either.
The CDC seems to have the opinion that if people stayed home when they got sick that would be beneficial to society as a whole. Or some such shit like that. Whatever. I don’t live in that world.
Interestingly, if a cell is infected with two different flu viruses (such as H1N1 and H2N2) then the virus genetic material can be rearranged in the cell so that the released viruses include mixes like H1N2 and H2N1 surface molecules.
Source: Flu Terminology 101
This is what I call the double-whammy reverse incentive. I can’t afford to call in sick and I can’t afford to see a doctor. So I just work through it. Germ powers activate!
Saturday, out of the blue, my snotbubbles kicked on. Think of my snotbubbles as similar to Spider Man’s “spidey sense.” So I knew that Vector Man’s super powers were about to power up. That night a cold and/or flu thing came down on me like a ton of bricks. That was one hellacious night and when I woke up my body was feeling like it had tumbled all the way down Mount Everest. Every part of me was sore!
Sunday night was more of the same. When I woke up I was dead man walking. My wife told me to stay home from work. “Ha!” I scoffed in her face. “Vector Man has never failed to perform when needed.” So I dragged my sorry ass in to work and, for once, was successful at keeping my damn trap shut. (Which is, by the way, my #1 goal every time I go to work.) It was a busy weekend and I had a lot of ecommerce orders to ship. I worked half a day, got all my orders out, then asked to go home where I tried and failed to take a nap.
The thing is, and I learned this recently when on jury duty, when I’m not in the office no one does my job! Literally. When I came back to work every single order that had come in for three days was sitting there waiting for me. That really cracks me up! Think the customer is important? Think again!
It works like this: When the boss is there and you are there, the boss will ride your ass hard to make sure those orders go out. It doesn’t matter if they came in at 3pm. They will be going out today. Period. Even if you have to make a special trip to the goddamned post office. But, if the boss is there and you are not, suddenly that shit flies right out the window. Suddenly it’s perfectly fine and dandy for those orders to sit. For days. The message is loud and clear: Fuck the customer if anyone other than Vector Man has to get off their ass and do some actual work.
So yeah, today I will be hauling my ass into work one more time. Even though last night more than lived up to all of my wildest expectations. I’ll be working because no matter how sick I get, Vector Man has a responsibility to his fellow man.
Vector Man action figure includes Snotbubble (TM) fluid kit, Triple-Sneeze action (TM), Projectile Vomit Pack (TM) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome plug-in with motorized performance and temperature-sensitive paint. Odor Paks sold separately.
Thank God that Toy Biz v. United States determined that action figures are “toys” and not “dolls.” It wouldn’t be quite as macho to be a doll.
For more reading see Can’t call in sick scenarios.
The Breakfast Chub
At my old job I used to refer to myself as a “whore.” The loose translation of the word, in my opinion, was: “Someone who does something they hate in exchange for money.” Perhaps not the best definition of the word ever, but it worked for me in that circumstance.
Just recently, though, I realized that I’m another kind of whore. I’m a breakfast whore.
It turns out that I’m still kinda sorta friends with my boss from two jobs ago. In my 10-year ecommerce career he’s the guy with company #1. (There have been two others. My previous job AKA The Shithole and my latest gig.)
My sorta-friend is a pretty decent guy. He tries to be nice. And he doesn’t know jack shit about computers. That’s where I come in. We’ve maintained a relationship all these years. I help him and his wife with their computers on weekends and they pay me embarrassing little scrilla under the table. I don’t get much out it but they are so pathetic and needy I just can’t say no. I’m too nice to cut them loose.
Somewhere along the way it worked out that we’d meet for breakfast on Saturday mornings before heading to his office to knock out his task list. It was mostly business but he’d occasionally chat about his wife. He clearly needed time away from her. When the job was done, somehow I felt a little dirty, like I had not only been used for my technical expertise, but also, in some strange way, for companionship.
Their tale is a bit of a sad one. They had a nest egg and were getting older. They decided to buy a business, run it for a few years, then retire. Long story short, they bought the company where I used to work and got totally ripped off. (That in itself is quite an interesting story.) They didn’t know anyone in this town but moved here to take over the company. They thought it would be “passive income.” They were wrong. It turned out to be full-time jobs for the both of them just for the company to show a profit. They were in it up to their eyeballs.
Fast forward about six years: Their business is dwindling and the company is worth a fraction of what they paid. Their nest egg is gone. So yeah, I take pity on them, and still give them my services dirt cheap because I’m too damn nice. Dammit.
So the Saturday breakfast become routine. And then, today, it all shifted again somehow. Today he invited me to breakfast and offered to pay, even though he had no work for me.
The thought wasn’t a fun one. “I’m some damn kind of companionship whore!” Wow. Is there any aspect of whoredom that I’m not willing to plumb?
It’s not a homosexual thing, so the chub nomenclature doesn’t really apply, even though he kinda looks like an older version of the guy pictured above. He just needs someone to hang with and chit chat about life stuff and get away from his wife in a town where he doesn’t really know anyone. It’s kind of sad, really.
Luckily the universe was kind enough to provide me to fit his needs.
I was looking for a quote from the movie The Breakfast Club to go with my cute little subject line. I didn’t find one that I liked, but I did find this tasty bit of negativity. I enjoyed it so much I had to share.
Richard Vernon: That’s the last time, Bender. That the last time you ever make me look bad in front of those kids, you hear me? I make $31,000 a year and I have a home and I’m not about to throw it all away on some punk like you. But someday when you’re outta here and you’ve forgotten all about this place and they’ve forgotten all about you, and you’re wrapped up in your own pathetic life, I’m gonna be there. That’s right. And I’m gonna kick the living shit out of you. I’m gonna knock your dick in the dirt.
Bender: You threatening me?
Richard Vernon: What are you gonna do about it? You think anyone’s gonna believe you? You think anyone is gonna take your word over mine? I’m a man of respect around here. They love me around here. I’m a swell guy. You’re a lying sack of shit and everybody knows it. Oh, you’re a tough guy. Hey c’mon. Get on your feet pal. Let’s find out how tough you are. I wanna know right now how tough you are.
[offers Bender his chin]
Richard Vernon: Just take the first shot. I’m begging you, take a shot. Just one hit. Come on, that’s all I need, just one swing…
[Bender pauses, staring]
Richard Vernon: That’s what I thought. You’re a gutless turd.
Bingo! This post just qualified for the “poop” tag. And that’s how we wrap up another quality post here in the Abyss.