Customer service FAILs (and a WIN)

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A few short stories of recent FAIL and WIN experiences in customer service:

Trying to stop getting unsolicited postal mail from Comcast

I'm not a Comcast customer, haven't been for a long time, and never at my current address. I get postcards, letters and brochures from them on a regular basis - sometimes several times a week.  It's annoying and wasteful.  I searched the Comcast website and the Internet at large for a while for a web-based form to get on a "do not send me mail" list, and couldn't find one.  I called their 800 number and hung up after too many minutes on hold.  I finally sent in a generic inquiry through their online form, providing the addresses I wanted removed.

Done, right?  Nope.

The first response asked me to come onto their website and fill out another form with my contact information so that I could join an online chat with them about getting off their mailing list.  I wrote back and said "no, I'm not filling out another form, you have what you need."  The next response said (paraphrasing) "we really need you to join our online chat so that we can get your Comcast account number."  I wrote back and said, "I'm not a Comcast customer, you have what you need to take me off your list."  I channeled Jack Bauer: do it now.

The next response, quoting:  "I understand that you want to be included in the Do Not Mail List. We appreciate that you have given us this opportunity to communicate with you and address your concerns as quickly as possible.  I have forwarded your concern to the appropriate management team for your request to be processed Chris.  Rest assured that the request will be honored as quickly as possible, but definitely within 30 days."

So, if you want to be removed from Comcast's postal mailing list, all it takes is a phone call, an online form submission, and four clarifying e-mail messages so that your request can then be forwarded to a management team for processing within a month.  Lovely FAIL.

A bagel shop on 5th Street in Richmond

Before I was all the way in the door the woman at the service counter shouted at me across the room, "hi, can I help you?"  In the eternity that seemed to pass between that moment and when I was close enough to answer without yelling back, I tried to suppress the feeling that this would be a FAIL.

But as the server continued to have conversations with co-workers while taking my order, hope started to slip away.

When I asked to have my order just wrapped in paper and not in Styrofoam and she said "okay" but didn't pass that along to the person preparing my order, I knew my smile was not long for this world.

When I got a spritz of cleaning solution from her as she wiped the counter-top right next to me (still chatting away), my smile returned, this time with little twists of approaching insanity at its ends.

And when the server who packaged my order in Styrofoam anyway glared at me as I politely said, "oh, actually, I'd asked for paper instead of Styrofoam," huffed and puffed as she fixed it, and propelled it across the counter at me as she turned away, a sense of FAIL calm arrived.

There's a peace that comes with the clarity of  "oh yeah, I don't have to come back here again."

Ordering from

At Summersault, we recently ordered some custom-made Yo-Yos from for our open house event back in March.  The order was delayed and there were some communication issues that amplified the inconvenience of that delay.  But after I commented on the issue on Twitter, the owner of the company called me directly and made it right, and we got the order in time for our event.   WIN for Twitter and

Customer service lessons:

  1. Don't make simple things complicated. If you're a company that sends out gazillions of postal mailings every day, have a really clear process for letting people get off that mailing list.
  2. Hire staff who can empathize with your customers` experiences. If they can't, train them better, or get them away from your customers as fast as possible.
  3. When something goes wrong, act quickly and boldly to make it right. It's true, "a happy customer tells one friend, an unhappy customer tells everybody."

Any recent FAIL or WIN customer service experiences in your life that you'd like to share?

8 thoughts on “Customer service FAILs (and a WIN)

  1. I'm sorry that you had a poor experience with customer service. Customer service representatives take your complaint very seriously and your blog is very important to us.

    Please for the next available representative.

  2. "Your call is very important to us, our menu has changed, please listen to all the available options before making the wrong selection that will compel you to listen to our cheerful voice telling you how much we value your business but unfortunately no one human is in the office at this time and will not get back to you anytime soon. Next time rather than contacting us because you have some misguided expectation that we care, please refer to the FAQ page on our website. You will be able to spend at least an hour contemplating any number of problems that are of no concern to you, but it will keep us from having to deal with you directly. If you need to speak to a human, please remain on the line for an indefinite and interminable period of time while we see if any of those quaint life forms still exist. If you feel you have received this message in error, please dial "0" and the process will start again at the beginning. Have a nice day."

  3. Oh, one other thing --

    Despite my repeated calls, emails, and please to my bank to stop a) sending me "convenience" checks, and b) to stop printing my FULL ACCOUNT NUMBER on my statements, they continue to do both and I have to shred them.

    Every time I talk with one of their CSR's they always tell me to just ask for "online only" statements.

    It's like they WANT my identity to be stolen. The worst part is that many places (I forget if my bank is one of them) only "verify" your identity by asking for the last 4 digits of your social... but guess which portion of your SSN is revealed on sensitive documents?

  4. Chris - your comments about getting unsolicited mail from Comcast made me think of the Seinfeld episode when Kramer tried to "stop the mail".

  5. Out of curiosity, why not post the name of the bagel place? Comcast and Gimmees was posted but not the bagel shop...

    1. John: it's kind of an inside joke. If you lived in Richmond, you'd know that there's only really one bagel shop in town, certainly only one on 5th. Guess what it's called?

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