One Bad Customer Service Story

If you're running a business one of the most important mantras is "the customer is always right" or "customer service should be first and foremost". For some reason Blockbuster.com does not seem to adhere to this ideology and it can wind up hurting them. Case in point, a recent deal I spotted on a deal website for a hard-to-find Nintendo Wii video game. The game retails for over $50 in stores, but was sold out anywhere you'd look in the "real world". Blockbuster.com offers a nice Holiday special on the game, just $38 plus shipping. Great deal right?

Well the problem with this deal and the Blockbuster site is that from the moment I placed the order online there was no indication given of the item status. My order status was "In Progress" and remained that way for several days. Confused by this I sent a simple email to customer service. It was the holiday season after all so I was expecting a bit of a backup or delay in shipping. Add to this the fact that the particular game was sold out in stores.

My email was responded to and a customer service rep claims that my credit card was being validated to make sure of no fraudulent activity. The customer service rep also added I should "kindly wait up to 2 weeks for the item to ship". Very interesting, and very fishy. I send another email saying "No thank you, I won't wait two weeks, please cancel the order at once".

A day or so later I receive an email response by a different customer service rep apologizing for the delay and saying he will cancel the order. Unfortunately, this was not done and the order continued to read "In progress" on my Blockbuster.com account. Let me add that my card was charged for the $44 since the start of this story. So to sum it up, card charged, no product shipped, no status given, and lousy customer service.

A call was finally placed to Blockbuster.com's customer service. After a long wait (the main reason I try to resolve issues online rather than by phone), I spoke to a rep who explained that the video game was on order from a third party vendor. If I wanted to wait just 5-7 business days they might be getting the game in at that time and could fulfill my order. But here's the kicker: I was also informed that Blockbuster was going to allow 30 days to see if the item arrived in stock. If it didn't arrive they would refund anyone's money who placed an order for the game. If you ask me that's terrible service for several reasons:

1) Blockbuster is keeping customers in the dark about the online order status. At least indicate on the product page that the item is on backorder and may take up to a month to ship. This is one thing I love about Amazon.com, as they let you know the time frame any item may take to arrive.

Deceptive customer service? Each email response I received was from a different rep who seemed unfamiliar with the issue. The original rep claimed my order was delayed due to credit card validation, not the fact they didn't have the product, which is akin to lying.

2) Blockbuster is taking money before shipping anything. As mentioned, my card was charged, yet there's nothing to show for that charge. To add fuel to the fire, I placed the order from my Paypal credit/debit card. So the funds were basically taken away from my account and wouldn't be returned to me for 30 days. These days money is money, but with online transactions the average customer wants to know what's going on with theirs.

As you can see my friends, this is one messed-up online business model! We live in a real-time online business world as sad as it may be for some, but that convenience should include improved customer service at the click of a mouse. The online retail experience allows us to find the product we need quickly and order it securely, with confidence we will have it in a reasonable time frame. Amazon.com has the online sales model right, Blockbuster.com seems to be slightly shady with their practice. If they plan to survive and thrive online, Blockbuster needs to provide better order status info, better customer service resolution including real-time online help. Otherwise they may find themselves confronted by a slew of never helpful BBB complaints.

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