customer service is dying in the u.s.a.

This started out as a simple phone call to Harry & David, now owned by 1-800-Flowers. You see, friends from far away sent us an unexpected and lovely but very perishable Christmas present. The gift shipped out of Harry & David in Atlanta, GA on December 3rd, 2022. It arrived, rather warm, not frozen yesterday…December 11th. That is 1-800-food-poisoning territory. FedEx Home Delivery was the shipping partner they chose. FedEx rarely does anything screwy, ironically.

We thanked our friends, and today I called Harry & David. I wanted to let them know this happened. That’s bad when it’s something truly perishable. This was truly perishable.

The first time I phoned I got an offshore call center and I could not understand the person. So I was polite and ended the call so I could call back.

The second time I phoned, I got an even worse offshore call center person, so I said please transfer me to a United States based customer service representative. They argued with me. I said look, it’s complicated, please transfer me. Oh no we can’t do that, was the reply. Yes, you actually can I said. They transferred me to another person within their offshore call center. I hung up.

The third time I phoned Harry & David customer service, I was still in an offshore call center. I repeated my request for a United States based customer service person. They transferred me within their call center…again. The woman starts her spiel and I flat out interrupted her. I told her this was my third phone call and I know for a fact they can transfer customers to the US call center. Wouldn’t do it. So I ended THAT call.

My fourth phone call landed me offshore again and I repeated my simple request to THAT person. She actually transferred me. Once in a US call center I got a super nice lady named Karen who understood my issue and me.

It shouldn’t be that difficult to get a customer service representative on the phone.

I also penned a little note to the companies and their CEOS:

Dear Harry & David1-800-FLOWERS.COM, INC. and Steven Lightman,

Your customer service leave a great deal to be desired. It is now offshore. It took THREE tries today to get someone to transfer me to a US based customer service person. They kept saying “Yes ma’am” and then transferring me to others in their offshore location – not sure where. I finally got through to someone in US with my 4th try, so should I bill you for my time at my hourly rate?

The reason I was calling is someone sent us an expensive and perishable gift. It shipped on December 3rd. FedEx Office Small Business Resource Center delivered it on December 11th or yesterday. (Hey Raj Subramaniam I guess you need to hear this too!)

Customer service is a dying art form, and US companies need to stop outsourcing it.

I mean that. Customer Service is a dying art form. Take a recent experience with Slice, the Pizza App. I had liked using them because local businesses I liked were on them. And you could use PayPal and not store a credit card. Their customer service at first was excellent.

In November I ordered Pizza one night. Whom I wanted to order from wasn’t delivering that night so I used Slice to order from Tonito’s on Boot Road in West Chester. Quite possibly the worst pizza I’ve ever had. The entire order was also wrong. I don’t know how else to explain it. Nothing was right and the pizza was overcooked with skimpy toppings that made Dominos looks better, and local Dominos is NOT good. We threw it out.

I contacted Slice and they contacted Tonito’s. Basically Tonito’s said I was lying, so I went back to Slice with the actual order. No surprise, Slice said “Oh, you are right.”. Tonito’s gave me a teeny sliver of the $74.00 I spent back. I said to Slice, I never ask for refund, but this order screw up was the worst ever so I am asking for a refund. Slice tells me no at first then their corporate owner contacts me via Twitter and says yes I deserve a refund. I never got the refund.

Slice and I are breaking up. I decide to send them one more note now since I was writing about the death of customer service in corporate America.

Gosh another bad customer service #shoutout since I am now writing about customer service being a dying art form. Slice, you are also on a highlight because I am still waiting for that refund I was supposed to get since like….November 22nd? The one your corporate owner/founder Ilir Sela said would happen.

So Slice and the whole giving me a refund? A lie. So we are breaking up, and it’s sad because for a while they were better than GrubHub and Door Dash (which I will not use.)

Yes I know, it’s a take no prisoners kind of day. But part of my corporate life was always customer service. You are nothing if you do not provide customer service in customer service driven industries. I am not saying take countless gobs of crap unnecessarily, but I am saying provide actual customer service. Off shore call centers are cheaper and make corporate bean counters happy, but it doesn’t make customers happy.

Another example? A senior friend got scammed via her A T&T account. I don’t even want to think of the countless hours she has spent filing police reports and reports with A T & T and more to prove that no, she didn’t actually buy a shiny new over-priced iPad and goodness knows what else.

And then there is another friend, a widow in upstate New York. She bought a deer that lights up from Cracker Barrel . It arrived broken. All $432 of it including tax. She can’t get anyone on the phone or to return a phone call.

Customer service in the United States is all but dead. Customer service departments are all outsourced to people who do not necessarily or literally speak our language and only read off of a script.

Mind you I know businesses which pride themselves on customer service, but they are the exception rather than the rule and they are mostly local and small businesses who still care about their customers.

R.I.P. Customer Service.

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