How to Lose a Customer in 10 Days

Posted: September 17, 2013 by Nerdy Woman in Blog Fodder
Tags: , , , , ,

Can any business survive 111 years and still be successful? Can they reinvent themselves again and again as the culture changes? For the answers to be YES, they must continually scan the competitive environment. If their competitors are doing it better, they need to rethink their own strategies…

In May 2013, I was on overload, trying to complete requirements in six classes to graduate. For the graduation ceremony, I needed new shoes and a dress but didn’t have time to go shopping. I have always loved the way JC Penney’s shoes fit, so I went to their website. I just wanted basic black pumps. The classic style is always appropriate for business. I didn’t find the 9-2-5 line they carried for years. Wide widths, several heel-height options. Perfect. Discontinued line. I did find some that would work. But they were out of stock. I finally ordered a pair with heels a little higher than I wanted, but they would work.

I also ordered three dresses: two simple black sheaths and a black/white print sundress. I figured I’d be returning one or two, but needed to try them on. Having spent more than $100, I was eligible for free shipping. Free is good. And now the nightmare begins…

Graduation Day was May 18. On May 7, before 3 pm PST, I placed the order, assuming it would arrive in plenty of time for me to exchange the shoes if they didn’t fit. I received an e-mail confirmation of the order and expected to receive a shipping notification within 24 hours… Not. I went to the website to check the status. Some items were in transfer…

As a business/marketing student and someone who has worked in business for many years, I can understand not maintaining inventories of all items at every warehouse/distribution center. But JCP needs to rethink how they ship items to customers. I’ve become accustomed to Amazon’s customer service. With Amazon, I frequently have my order within 24-48 hours. I received shipping notification on May 13, six days after I placed the order and five days before graduation.

To make matters worse, they used a UPS/USPS shipping solution that hands off the shipment to the post office for local delivery. Unfortunately, once that transfer occurs, tracking stops. I didn’t know when the order would arrive. It finally arrived on Thursday, May 16. Two days before graduation. Nine days after I placed the order.

The sheaths looked much better on the internet. On me, they looked like shrouds. Fortunately, the sundress looked good. The shoes were tight, but the website indicated that the Santa Ana Mainplace store had inventory on the next size up. Oh, and included in my order? An XXXL men’s sweatshirt and athletic pants in a lovely shade of navy blue. They weren’t on the order and I didn’t pay for them, so I wanted to return them, assuming they had inadvertently been placed in the wrong box. At a time when I should have been studying for finals, I headed off to the local JCP.

I have always shopped at the Westminster JCP, but they didn’t have the shoes. So I battled the traffic around downtown Santa Ana, finally found a parking space, and headed inside. The customer service center has always been on third floor, so that’s where I went. Not any more. Now, you can go to any cash register and any sales associate can take care of the transaction. After you stand in line. Assuming the sales associate has the authority and training to handle unusual transactions. Like returning items that I hadn’t ordered. Oh, and the entire third floor was under construction. Good times.

After the first sales associate asked me to wait while she found someone who could handle the return… I don’t remember the associate’s name. I wish I did. She was quick and efficient. Until we got to the sweatshirt and athletic pants. She scanned the bar code on the tag. JCP doesn’t sell those brands. No idea how they got into my order. Obviously, JCP has contracted with a third party for distribution and another vendor’s items were commingled. I asked if she could take them and return them to the distribution center. She didn’t know if she could make that happen, but agreed to try.

Next order of business was the shoes. I asked where the women’s shoe department was located. Second floor. Back corner. Huh? What marketing genius didn’t know that shoes are an impulse purchase. The department would logically be located on the first floor, adjacent to the mall entrance. Then I learned why. Let’s just say I’ve gotten better customer service at Payless Shoe Source. And they didn’t have the shoes. I found an alternative, but after trying them on, needed a half-size larger. Find the sales associate. Wait for the larger size.

Meanwhile, Nerdy Girl found a pair of shoes she liked. Wait again for the sales associate. Then his replacement arrived and he went off the clock. Thankfully, the new associate was more solicitous. Note to self: Never go shopping near shift change time.

After three hours, we arrive home with new shoes. Never again, JCP. As someone who spent $700 in a single day when Nerdy Girl was a week old, as someone who once earned a personalized parking space at the store, as someone who used to have JCP Catalog on speed dial, I regret to say that JCP has failed to remake their business for the 21st century. RIP.

Submitted to: The Daily Post



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