Weird Customer Service Experience

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A.Altman
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Weird Customer Service Experience

#1 Post by A.Altman » November 15th, 2017, 11:06 am

Backstory:
Twice in the past year (Jan & Jun) I corresponded with a West Coast wine shop owner asking very basic questions about in stock items with the intent of ordering a case. Both times I spaced on placing the order (this has been a crazy busy year) and some of the bottles sold out. Since I won't buy/ship anything less than a full case from the West Coast when the cost of shipping is full freight, I didn't buy anything either time. What I did do, however, is after the second time set up a system with the owner's assistant allowing me to buy bottles over time and they would ship to me once I reached a full case. This was late July.

There was no correspondence until I requested to buy 4 bottles (totaling $200+) to start the case on 11 Nov with a follow on e-mail 13 Nov inquiring about additional bottles. I likely would have placed an order sooner but have been busy getting married and traveling both for fun and for work. Like I said, crazy year.

I received the following two responses on Monday, 13 Nov. They are copied verbatim below (typos included).

Response to 11 Nov e-mail, for which I was trying to buy bottles to start case:
"Adam,

We’re going to pass. See explanation in the reply to the other email you sent us.

Thank you,
xxxxxxxxxx"

Response to 13 Nov e-mail, for which I was asking some questions about additional bottles:

"Adam,

I though your name rang a bell and when I checked you account profile I was reminded of why. A few different times this year, you've asked multiple questions and for advice on xxxxx and xxxxx wines. We answered all of your questions, and as requested, took the time to give you advice and recommendations. After spending a fair amount of time (over multiple email exchanges) counseling you, we have not received an order since your original order in 2015.

Respectfully, I don't think we're your best option going forward.

Thank you,
xxxxxxxxxx"

What is totally troubling about the response was how the owner used the fact I hadn't placed an order since 2015 as a primary argument, after I had attempted to place an order just a few days prior. I also stated in my order e-mail that I would likely round out the case in the next few weeks. Also worth noting is that both of their responses came within a minute of each other, so the owner was clearly looking at both when they responded.
Last edited by A.Altman on November 19th, 2017, 5:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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#2 Post by A.Altman » November 15th, 2017, 11:07 am

Initially, I was sure there was some sort of misunderstanding or the owner was confusing me with someone else. So I called. The owner defended their position, making paranoid comments about data mining and being busy in relation to taking time to answer questions. It was really strange considering how little correspondence there had actually been. The tone had been almost accusatory. There had been(1) e-mail in January with questions, for which there were two responses and (1) in June, for which we exchanged three or four emails discussing very basic stuff (vintage/shipping/discounts). They were all friendly, professional and very straightforward . I then went and tracked down my July correspondence with his assistant (who responded using the owner's e-mail address) setting up the case shipment deal and forwarded it to him with this response:

"Just so you know, just a couple of weeks after my second inquiry this year and after some of the wines I had initially inquired about had sold out, I set up the below with xxxxxxx. I did this so I could piece meal a case and not have to try to plan a cross country case all at once. And could buy worry free even if some of the bottles sold out.

This was the last correspondence before I attempted to BUY (not ask about) 4 bottles of xxxxxx to start the case and ask a question about additional bottles.

I show you this not because I want to buy from you but to show you I was far from stringing anyone along. Instead, after the first two failed attempts I was proactive in setting something up to prevent it from happening again. So as not to waste YOUR time.

In short, you are turning away a customer for asking questions.

I have collected wine for many years and purchased loyally from many establishments on the east coast and the west. Your interaction today is by far the most unacceptable and frankly bizarre customer service experience I have ever had.

Have a nice Monday,
Adam"


Has anyone else had an experience like this? Am I totally off base here?
Last edited by A.Altman on November 15th, 2017, 8:29 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Victor Hong
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#3 Post by Victor Hong » November 15th, 2017, 11:18 am

Your inquiries sound reasonable. Who is the retailer?
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#4 Post by Rboinski » November 15th, 2017, 11:19 am

Were you paying as you went along? I can see them getting frustrated for setting things aside without payment, especially if the wines are a good value or rare enough that they are selling out so quick that there is less than a case left. I am not trying to make an excuse for them and I don't think it is good customer service at all, however there is at least one wine shop I have visited where a response like this would not have surprised me at all.
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#5 Post by Michael Martin » November 15th, 2017, 11:21 am

As a business owner I can tell that sometimes you have to fire a customer. He had his reasons, right or wrong, but he decided that you weren't worth the effort.

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#6 Post by A.Altman » November 15th, 2017, 11:30 am

There was no payment and nothing was pulled as the questions were very basic in nature and only really had anything to do with one or two bottles I had planned on including in the case. The only reason the owner knew I was planning on buying a case is that I started the e-mails with "I am looking to pull the trigger on a case in the next few days and have a question about a couple of the bottles".

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#7 Post by JLee » November 15th, 2017, 11:32 am

Your experience is unusual but generally, businesses can choose not to deal with specific customers. Whether you agree with their judgment or not, its the business' decision. It looks like their communication was more courteous than your reply.
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#8 Post by A.Altman » November 15th, 2017, 11:34 am

Well my reply came after our phone conversation, which was much less courteous.

I know business have the right to choose who to sell to, which I totally respect, but I just do not see the cause here.

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#9 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » November 15th, 2017, 11:37 am

Residual EC vs WC hip-hop battle?
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#10 Post by JLee » November 15th, 2017, 11:42 am

A.Altman wrote:Well my reply came after our phone conversation, which was much less courteous.

I know business have the right to choose who to sell to, which I totally respect, but I just do not see the cause here.
Fair. If you think it was completely irrational I would just ascribe it to general weirdness you find sometimes and move on. It's odd but not the worst thing that could come of dealing with a wine retailer.
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#11 Post by mattcitrang » November 15th, 2017, 11:44 am

Victor Hong wrote:Your inquiries sound reasonable. Who is the retailer?
Who was the retailer????

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#12 Post by C. Mc Cart » November 15th, 2017, 11:47 am

Maybe they knew you'd come to WB & out them? [snort.gif]

I've had to let clients & prospects go on a rare occassion. Usually because they are more work than any potential business could overcome.
Not suggesting this is the case here, but maybe that's what they figured.
FWIW - I hope you don't out them. You may not be impressed, but they didn't do anything wrong.
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#13 Post by NED VALOIS » November 15th, 2017, 11:49 am

No ID of retailer ;it didn't happen !

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#14 Post by A.Altman » November 15th, 2017, 12:01 pm

I don't plan on posting the retailer in the thread. I disagree with them. But I also respect their right not to sell to people, even if the decision doesn't necessarily seem rational. I doubt they will be able to run a successful business if that sort of customer service is commonplace.

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#15 Post by rfelthoven » November 15th, 2017, 12:36 pm

Adam -- I agree they shut you down and that's unfortunate, but I wouldn't call the decision "super bizarre" and certainly not the "most unacceptable and frankly bizarre customer service experience I have ever" heard about. I would just let this one go. For what it's worth, I know small-ish wine retailers who will hold bottles for shipping for me but I know that's not going to fly with all retailers. Just find someone who doesn't mind doing this and give them your cash.
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#16 Post by Anton D » November 15th, 2017, 12:48 pm

A.Altman wrote:I don't plan on posting the retailer in the thread. I disagree with them. But I also respect their right not to sell to people, even if the decision doesn't necessarily seem rational. I doubt they will be able to run a successful business if that sort of customer service is commonplace.
That is a classy way to conclude your experience with them.

I also vote not to name them and water under the bridge.
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#17 Post by A.Altman » November 15th, 2017, 12:57 pm

rfelthoven wrote:Adam -- I agree they shut you down and that's unfortunate, but I wouldn't call the decision "super bizarre" and certainly not the "most unacceptable and frankly bizarre customer service experience I have ever" heard about. I would just let this one go. For what it's worth, I know small-ish wine retailers who will hold bottles for shipping for me but I know that's not going to fly with all retailers. Just find someone who doesn't mind doing this and give them your cash.
The phone conversation was what made it super bizarre, when the owner started talking about data mining and insinuated that my intent for asking questions had some sort of weird intentions. They just came off as paranoid and just not right.

But other than that, you may be right. In essence, I was told I wasn't worth their time because I asked questions and that the few minutes it took them to answer made my business not worth it. That is absolutely their right as business owners, even if it is not a particularly great business practice. Although if it was going to be such a big deal they shouldn't have strung me along then at the moment I begin to buy be like "nope, hard pass".

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#18 Post by mstockley » November 15th, 2017, 5:32 pm

Sounds like they considered you a high maintenance customer who wasn't worth their time. Can't say I don't see their point of view.
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#19 Post by Philip N. Jones » November 15th, 2017, 6:16 pm

High maintenance +1.

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#20 Post by Marcus Dean » November 15th, 2017, 6:22 pm

Philip N. Jones wrote:High maintenance +1.
Yup +2

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#21 Post by Jeremy Holmes » November 15th, 2017, 6:35 pm

Move on. You and the retailer simply won't or shouldn't have a relationship. No point whining about it.
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#22 Post by andy velebil » November 15th, 2017, 6:45 pm

Marcus Dean wrote:
Philip N. Jones wrote:High maintenance +1.
Yup +2
+3. At least the retailer was politely up front about it. I'd suggest moving on and finding another retailer.
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#23 Post by Clint S Q U I E R » November 15th, 2017, 7:16 pm

You’ve waffled for almost a year on ~$50 bottles and asked a store to create a layaway program so you can save a few bucks on shipping. Sorry, I’m with the retailer - juice ain’t worth the squeeze. Maybe would’ve had more luck having them hold for shipping if you had purchased at least a few bottles, but too many swings and misses.

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#24 Post by Mel Hill » November 15th, 2017, 8:02 pm

+4 high maintenance callers - non-buyers need to be shown the door.
Last edited by Mel Hill on November 15th, 2017, 8:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#25 Post by A.Altman » November 15th, 2017, 8:11 pm

Not sure how asking a couple questions about items for sale is necessarily high maintinence, but your points are taken.
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#26 Post by Tom Reddick » November 15th, 2017, 8:12 pm

If this was one of the retailers that does a high volume and generally offers highly competitive prices, then the reaction you got was not unprecedented.

Everything comes at a cost- and wine retailers who do high volume on low margins are moving a lot of product and do not have the time, nor the incentive, to spend a lot of time on or make special sales accommodations for those who are not spending money. It is nothing personal.

Same applies in other lines of business.
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#27 Post by Randy Bowman » November 15th, 2017, 8:15 pm

We had a person who used to call and talk to Carrie for up to an hour. At one point he would call once a week. Questions started out about various wines, wine makers and growing regions. Then one day he showed up at the shop and talked with Carrie for an hour or more, with the conversation moving towards how he could get into wine making and asking for introductions and/or wineries he could intern with. That's how we met Ray Walker.
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#28 Post by CoryA » November 15th, 2017, 8:19 pm

This reminds me of the time I was in a high-end wine store making a fairly large purchase. I was paging through my Cellar Tracker account on my phone when the cranky, cantankerous store owner approached and unleashed a rant on me about deadbeats coming into his store and price shopping him with the high volume retailer down the street. He really let me have it with both barrels and I wasn't even price shopping him!
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#29 Post by Arv R » November 15th, 2017, 9:37 pm

Maybe the retailer didn't like your avatar.
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#30 Post by A.Altman » November 15th, 2017, 9:49 pm

Arv R wrote:Maybe the retailer didn't like your avatar.
That I could understand! Unfortunately, I am pretty sure the proprietor is not a berserker.

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#31 Post by Markus S » November 16th, 2017, 4:45 am

Obviously no soup for you! Move on. Perhaps if these were wines for a same-sex marriage, this could have become a supreme court case, but it's not.
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#32 Post by M A T T H A R T L E Y » November 16th, 2017, 5:36 am

You post their responses to e-mails that you also don't post?

Would provide some context for everyone if you posted the e-mails you had sent them RE your orders and inquiries.
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#33 Post by David Cohen » November 16th, 2017, 6:32 am

I have cut people out of my life for less
+5

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#34 Post by Markus S » November 16th, 2017, 8:12 am

David Cohen wrote:I have cut people out of my life for less
Ooo, heartless.
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#35 Post by A.Altman » November 16th, 2017, 8:30 am

Here are all of my 'high maintenance' question e-mails as well as my purchase e-mail. I did not include specific wine discussed as this would absolutely identify the proprietor.

11 Jan 2017
Hey xxxx,
I am thinking about placing an order online, but I wanted to reach out first to ask a couple of questions about the wines you have in stock for (region) and (region).
For (region) - I am looking at the wines of (producer), but notice this (vineyard) is not in stock. Is that something you will be getting in?
For (region) - have you tried the 2015 (producer)? If yes, how does it compare to the 2014?
Thanks for doing god's work!
Cheers,
Adam

(They did not stock the single vineyards because the last vintage didn't sell. Proprietor preferred the '14, which swayed me. )

28 June 2017
Hey Team,
I am looking to put together a mixed case of the (producer) from (region). With some of (producer) mixed in.
Do you offer a case discount? Because while your pricing is great, East Coast shipping can get expensive.
Thanks and cheers,
Adam

(some of the wine sold out)

28 Jul 2017
Hey xxxx,
Could I start building a case or two piece meal over the next few months and have shipping charges charged all at once when the wine ships to the east coast later in the fall?
Cheers!
Adam

11 Nov 2017 (proprietor's response is in OP)
Hey Team,
I'd like to start the case with the following -
2x (producer)
2x (producer)
Thanks! And I'll add on and round it out over the next month or so.
Cheers,
Adam

13 Nov 2017 (proprietor's response is in OP)
I checked a few days ago and you had 3 different bottling in stock from (producer). Did you sell out? As I am not seeing any on your website.
Thanks and cheers,
Adam
(was planning on ordering 2 of each if they still had some)
Last edited by A.Altman on November 16th, 2017, 8:45 am, edited 3 times in total.

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#36 Post by Victor Hong » November 16th, 2017, 8:33 am

Markus S wrote:
David Cohen wrote:I have cut people out of my life for less
Ooo, heartless.
Better than wine-less.
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#37 Post by Ken Strauss » November 16th, 2017, 8:47 am

Too much work for too little profit on wines they can move anyway.
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#38 Post by Bruce Leiser_owitz » November 16th, 2017, 8:51 am

For some retailers, the idea of having to hold a bottle or two here and there until you finally fill up a case for shipping is more trouble than its worth. Lots of variables here--how large the store is, how many different bottles they carry, space available to store wine for months, concern about misplacing wines you've ordered, etc. It wouldn't surprise me that some retailers would conclude that a customer like you isn't worth the trouble in terms of how they manage staff and storage space.

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#39 Post by A.Altman » November 16th, 2017, 8:57 am

Bruce Leiser_owitz wrote:For some retailers, the idea of having to hold a bottle or two here and there until you finally fill up a case for shipping is more trouble than its worth. Lots of variables here--how large the store is, how many different bottles they carry, space available to store wine for months, concern about misplacing wines you've ordered, etc. It wouldn't surprise me that some retailers would conclude that a customer like you isn't worth the trouble in terms of how they manage staff and storage space.

Bruce

Which would have been totally understandable and I would have had zero problems with. But issues with limited space and staffing in never came into the conversation. The issue they had was with taking time to answer the above questions and a weird paranoia about data mining.

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#40 Post by c fu » November 16th, 2017, 9:00 am

1) asked about a wine, wanted to know vintage comparisons. Perfectly reasonable. But still didn't order
2) asked about a wine, then asked for a case discount. Don't know what their reply was, but you still didn't order. I assume they replied.
3) Asked about ordering again, still didn't order.
4) finally ordering, seems they didn't want to bother anymore.

I can see why they decided not to do business. It happens.
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#41 Post by Mike Cohen » November 16th, 2017, 9:07 am

I think you asked them to reserve the wine for you...you didn't buy the wine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-brgkk ... tion=share

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#42 Post by Victor Hong » November 16th, 2017, 9:10 am

Mike Cohen wrote:I think you asked them to reserve the wine for you...you didn't buy the wine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-brgkk ... tion=share
When do we start a thread on Weird Customer-Servicing Experience? [wow.gif]
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#43 Post by Markus S » November 16th, 2017, 9:20 am

Bruce Leiser_owitz wrote:For some retailers, the idea of having to hold a bottle or two here and there until you finally fill up a case for shipping is more trouble than its worth. Lots of variables here--how large the store is, how many different bottles they carry, space available to store wine for months, concern about misplacing wines you've ordered, etc. It wouldn't surprise me that some retailers would conclude that a customer like you isn't worth the trouble in terms of how they manage staff and storage space.

Bruce
And then there are some retailers (who shall be nameless, but one where Berserkers buy from) who will take your money for wine that won't ship out for nearly another year and then when it comes time to ship, conveniently finds those bottles were smashed in the warehouse. [soap.gif]
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#44 Post by John Morris » November 16th, 2017, 9:28 am

A.Altman wrote:
rfelthoven wrote:Adam -- I agree they shut you down and that's unfortunate, but I wouldn't call the decision "super bizarre" and certainly not the "most unacceptable and frankly bizarre customer service experience I have ever" heard about. I would just let this one go. For what it's worth, I know small-ish wine retailers who will hold bottles for shipping for me but I know that's not going to fly with all retailers. Just find someone who doesn't mind doing this and give them your cash.
The phone conversation was what made it super bizarre, when the owner started talking about data mining and insinuated that my intent for asking questions had some sort of weird intentions. They just came off as paranoid and just not right.
Reading that, I wonder if he suspected you were a competitor fishing for info on his prices and inventory. It's odd for someone in another state to be asking about a bottle here and there and then not ordering, and then ordering a couple of bottles. It might have raised flags.
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#45 Post by Clint S Q U I E R » November 16th, 2017, 10:01 am

There is no mystery. The retailer is passing on a guy who has taken nearly a year to pull the trigger on 4 inexpensive bottles with a requirement he be allowed additional time to buy 8 more at the store’s effort to track and store.

Adam, you sound like a well intentioned person and I don’t mean offense, but the retailer isn’t under any obligation to provide the most efficient economic path for you to buy wine, which is obviously your goal. Wise man once said, shit or get off the pot.

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#46 Post by Bruce Leiser_owitz » November 16th, 2017, 10:39 am

A.Altman wrote:
Bruce Leiser_owitz wrote:For some retailers, the idea of having to hold a bottle or two here and there until you finally fill up a case for shipping is more trouble than its worth. Lots of variables here--how large the store is, how many different bottles they carry, space available to store wine for months, concern about misplacing wines you've ordered, etc. It wouldn't surprise me that some retailers would conclude that a customer like you isn't worth the trouble in terms of how they manage staff and storage space.

Bruce

Which would have been totally understandable and I would have had zero problems with. But issues with limited space and staffing in never came into the conversation. The issue they had was with taking time to answer the above questions and a weird paranoia about data mining.
Only the retailer in question knows the exact reason or reasons why they declined to do business with you. But given how you've described your interactions with them, most people don't seem surprised
by their decision.

Bruce
"Bruce you are correct."--Andrew Kaufman, 3/24/13.

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SteveG
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Joined: October 13th, 2009, 2:13 pm
Location: central Ohio

Weird Customer Service Experience

#47 Post by SteveG » November 16th, 2017, 10:49 am

FWIW, my policy as a customer is this:

If a vendor is in the business of "building" cases because they sell pre-arrival wines, or because they only ship seasonally (Fass, Garagiste...), then I feel free to order as I go, and if wine and/or shipping season arrives while I still have a partial case, I will ask what they have in stock to fill it, and order from those.

For normal stores, if I prefer shipping whole cases (which I almost invariably do), then that is what I order, solid or mixed. The only times I have asked a vendor to wait for me to fill a case is if they cannot fill my case as ordered (because they are short of something I ordered), and then i will fill it from their stock within 24 hours. I have never received any complaints about this, nor do I have any myself.
steve gurevitz

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John Davis
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Weird Customer Service Experience

#48 Post by John Davis » November 16th, 2017, 12:29 pm

Customers get fired more than some might think-even in the grocery business. Not very common but at some point retailers just get tired. Right or not, good or bad for them but it sounds like they just decided the sale, or possible sale, wasn't worth the effort. And, of course, they could be wrong in the long run.

JD
ITB

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Jay Miller
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Weird Customer Service Experience

#49 Post by Jay Miller » November 16th, 2017, 12:51 pm

And that's not to say that you did anything wrong. Neither of you did.
Ripe fruit isn't necessarily a flaw.

Martin Steinley
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Joined: July 11th, 2009, 3:22 pm
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Weird Customer Service Experience

#50 Post by Martin Steinley » November 17th, 2017, 9:10 pm

A.Altman wrote:Both times I spaced on the placing the order
[rofl.gif] (and it's not the typo)
ITB

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