“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

I am having another GRRRRR moment.  But this time, the object of my frustration was rather unexpected.

I have been a happy LL Bean customer for over 20 years.  Yes, I know.  I am terribly unhip.  But the clothes are usually elegant and largely timeless, the quality is excellent, and with the exception of their jeans, the fit is always perfect.  I had a tweed blazer from LL Bean that I wore for years and with a change of accessories, it never went drastically out of style.  And a good black turtleneck is like a little black dress – perfect for a myriad of occasions.

I was thrilled to death to get a gift card from my mother for my birthday.  It was a bit belated, but I was in desparate need of clothes and could just not squeeze the budget enough for a new blazer and winter sweaters to pop out.  I placed my order carefully – and everything I liked was on their Sale page.  I was a happy birthday girl. 

I had a flash of disappointment when the confirmation email came and one of the sweaters I ordered was out of stock in the color I wanted.   I called Customer Service.  Now, for anyone who does not have experience with LL Bean’s customer service, I can tell you that it is normally a pleasant surprise.  First, a real, honest-to-god person answers the phone.  Every time.  They are pleasant.  They are helpful.  And they know their merchandise.  No problem, she tells me, they have my size in four other colors.  I pick a nice ice blue – it will bring out the blue in my eyes, she assures me.  Okay, so now I am excited again.  I like ice blue.  I tell her that I bought it with a gift card.  No problem, she says, just give me the number and we will get it taken care of.

I carefully read off the number on the gift card.  She checks the balance, and informs me that, unfortunately, there is a zero balance on the card.  No way!  I tell her that my order total exactly came to the amount on the card WITH the out-of-stock sweater.  I should have a balance on the card equal to the amount of the sweater.  She checks again – nope, no balance.  She pulls up the original order and finds out that, lo and behold, they CHARGED my gift card.  For an out-of-stock sweater.  A sweater that will not be backordered and I have no hope of ever getting.

Okay, then I tell her. just credit it back to the gift card.  Sorry, I can’t do that.   All right, then, credit my LL Bean Visa (yep, I’m a geek).  Sorry, I can’t do that either.  Okay then, just how do you propose you are going to CREDIT me for the money you just took from me?  Just a moment, let me get Customer Service.  Wait a minute, I thought you WERE Customer Service.  Apparently, there are layers of Customer Service.  I am, apparently, on the outside of the onion.

Brief hold.  A man’s voice this time.  He is very apologetic, but he says that they must issue me a new gift card by mail for the difference.  It should be at my home in 5-7 business days.  Is this going to be a problem?

Anyone who is familiar with LL Bean’s sales, especially around the holiday season, knows that at the sale prices, things sell out in hours, let alone days.  I carefully explain to the nice man that, yes, this is going to be a problem.  The sweater in the replacement color will be gone by the time the card gets to me, so his solution is completely unacceptable.  He asks me what I would like to see happen that would ideally fix the problem. 

Well, duh.

What I would like to see happen is for them to change the damn COLOR on the sweater I ordered and send it to me.  I don’t want a new gift card, I WANT THE DAMN SWEATER.  Okay,  I left out the word damn.  I am trying to be a nicer person.  But this was pushing my bitch button pretty hard.  I mean, just yesterday I had to prove my identity to a branch of “Homeland Security” who should jolly well KNOW who I am.  Why do I have to explain to this guy that I just want a sweater, that I PAID for, in a color that they HAVE IN STOCK?

Please hold a moment.  A longer pause.

We’re sorry, Dr. K—– (at least he used my title, not that it made my sweater appear), but we really can’t do that.  We can only issue you a replacement gift card. 

So, let me get this straight.  You are going to issue me a gift card for an amount of money you NEVER SHOULD HAVE CHARGED ME?

Yes, that’s right.

Which will get here so late that I cannot order an equivalent replacement item that you have, in your warehouse, right this minute.

Um, let me check stock on that item. (Brief pause, keys tapping).  Yes, Ma’am.  It will probably be out of stock by then.

And this sounds like an acceptable solution to you?  Issuing me a refund for something you did not have in stock, and never should have charged me for to begin with?

Well, we’re really sorry.

After over two decades of being a loyal customer, trust me, you aren’t nearly as sorry as I am.   This is a situation where your personal sorrow is simply not hacking it.

Could you hold another moment, ma’am? 

Silence again.

Ma’am?  To show you that we really feel bad about this mistake, we are issuing you an additional $10 gift certificate for your trouble.  Will this help?

Well, it won’t get me my sweater, but it’s certainly a gesture.

I think when I was younger, $10 probably would have bought my satisfaction.  I am a tougher nut to crack nowadays.  The price of my personal hassle has a higher price tag.  If I charged them my going contract rate for the time I spent on the phone, I could have bought five sweaters.

Another bastion of reliability breached.  I mean, when LL Bean’s Customer Service goes to pot, who can you believe in?

October 26th, 2006 at 5:14 pm
5 Responses to “My week for bureacratic stupidity”
  1. 1
    Cinnkitty Says:

    I LOVE LL Bean! Got a full set of hot pink, waterproof luggage from them that I just adore. Sucks about the CS though….and yes…$10 just isn’t enough these days!

  2. 2
    Kat Says:

    What’s truly sad is, LL Bean jeans pretty well fit my well-rounded batukis.

    Or, at least they did. Guess I’d better try again.

    The BOOTS, though…

  3. 3
    OS Says:

    with every bell and whistle we get, i swear, we lose one more level of human sanity. if there was a room full of little old ladies, with names like Madge and Betty Sue, hovering over carboard boxes full of orders handwritten on carbon paper tickets, one swipe of a pencil could’ve handled it . . . *sigh* the good old days.

  4. 4
    Sheila Says:

    Landsend did the stupid customer service to me this year. I wanted a specific fabric, and a specific swimsuit top that I had seen on the website the week before. They kept giving me lectures on how the website worked. (gee I don’t do websites and data bases I can’t comprehend)

    I was asking them to please check the warehouse, which might not be the same as the website. Well I finaly got frustrated, gave up ordered the fabric I wanted in a different top. Low and behold the very next week, the one I wanted (that they said was non existant) was back on the website on sale.

  5. 5
    ann kelly Says:

    next time demand a manager-it should work. i worked many seasons as cs rep and there would have been a way to issue a credit and the order in same phone call. my goal as a csr was to move heaven and earth to help make my customers happy-the reps you had unfortunately didn’t do their jobs. i’m sorry for the difficult time you had. and by the way, i haven’t worked their for several years.