Lesson Learned : Don’t Be The Cheapest

My new MacBook Air 13″ has finally arrived and is a gorgeous example of Apple’s design, but this is not about design.

I documented my horrendous dealings with MacMall and the amount of time wasted before finally giving them the boot once and for all.  I won’t go into the painful details of that ordeal but wanted to share my experience with Apple.

I ordered the MacBook Air directly from Apple on 8/23/2011.  The model I ordered included the upgraded processor (1.8Ghz i7) and therefore takes some extra time.  Apple indicates today the item ships in 1-3 business days and free shipping is 3-5 business days for delivery.

This is the Apple way:

  • They do a great job of setting my expectations and does the same with this order.
  • Order shipped on 8/25/2011, not a full 48 hrs after placing the order.  Beating the expectations they set of at most 3 days.
  • Shipment confirmation gave a delivery estimate of 8/31/2011 but actually delivered on 8/29/2011, a full 2 days before their estimate.

Apple is not performing any magic, they give estimates out beyond what it takes to deliver.  This gives them some buffer for problems out of their control and also makes the customer extremely happy when the product is delivered *before* the estimate.

I decided to originally purchase from MacMall because their prices were cheaper and I would not have to pay CT sales tax.  The savings turned out to not be worth the hassle.  MacMall can take a lesson from Apple and provide delivery guidelines within their control and ones customers can live with.  This would make for happier customers and ultimately make the job of the MacMall customer service reps a lot easier.

It’s really easy and natural to simply chose something based on price but sometimes it’s not worth what you’re giving up.  As a business owner we sometimes think we need to compete based on price, be the cheapest and the customers will be ours.  When we venture down that path, we sell ourselves out and find out too late this was not the right path and probably too late to raise prices back up.

Apple doesn’t play into the retail game, they charge a price they want and don’t discount it.  They balance this will providing good, reliable service.

Lesson learned.

MacMall : Winner of the Worst Customer Service on the Planet Award

GlobalImages hdrLogo

I deal with a lot of companies online and in-general, they are all pretty good.  My recent dealing with online Apple retailer, MacMall, forced me to create an award here and present them with the Worst Customer Service on the Planet Award.  I hope they like it because they certainly have earned it.

Once Upon a Time

I have never bought anything from MacMall before but have witnessed a barrage of email begging for my business.  When the new Apple MacBook Airs were released I decided I might give MacMall a try because they had free shipping, $50 price tag less than Apple, an additional discount code from AppleInsider and no sales tax.  In all I would save about $175.

Upon deciding to order the 13.3″ MacBook Air with 4G RAM, 256G SSD and the upgraded i7 processor, MacMall’s web site indicated the item would ship in 5-7 days.  Being the inpatient person I am, that seemed too long for me but decided I would forgo the need to have it now and order any way.   The first attempt at ordering failed when I attempted to use my Bill Me Later account.  MacMall web site said they had a problem with my Bill Me Later account and I needed to select another source of payment.  Fine, just use my reliable MasterCard and be done with it.  Order placed on August 9, 2011.

MacMall Air

The screen capture above is exactly what the web site said when I placed my order and it is exactly what is says today, 8/24/2011.  The wording is deceptive.

The following day I received 2 emails asking me to call their credit department to verify some information.  I thought this was sort of strange, you know for an online retailer and all, but I gave them a call.  After sitting on hold for the better part of 30 minutes with a recording telling me how important my call was to them, I was cut off after customer service hours ended for the day.  I decided to respond to their email, hoping they could resolve the issue in an email exchange.  Two emails went unanswered.

The next day I received a call from their credit department while I was out, telling me it was important they received a call from me about my order.  I went back to the phone to give it another try, sat on hold for 15 min. or so and finally connected with a live person.  I indicated I was calling about my order, was asked for my order number and she looked it up.  Her first question..”what’s the problem?”.  Dumb founded, I told her that I was asked to call in regarding my order.  Finally she said she needed to go over my order to sure what I ordered was actually what I wanted to order.  What??  This is 2011 and I shouldn’t have to call in to reiterate my order.  What is the point of ordering online if I only have to call in anyway?

So after 10 minutes of answering questions and telling them that I really did want to order this laptop, the graciously accepted my order.  I would told it would ship in a few days.

A Few Days Later

When a week had gone by and I hadn’t received an email or any updated notification about my order I decided to contact their customer service department about the order.  A quick email sent looking for an update.

Did I get a reply back via email?  Nope!  I received a call later that day from someone who could barely speak English telling me my order should ship on about 8/23/2011, a full 2 weeks after the order was placed.  At this point I am about fed up with MacMall and really wanted to tell them what they could do with their MacBook Air but I am saving nearly $200, right?

As 8/23/2011 came, I waited until the middle of the day to check my MacMall account for an update…nothing.  I don’t think it is too much to ask to give me something, I mean, I called in last week so they know I am following this.  I decided to give them a call so they might be able to tell me when my Air is ahipping.

A brief time on hold reveals I have a new *estimated* ship date, the end up the month.  Huh?  It didn’t compute, 8/31 is the end of the month and a full 3+ weeks after placing the order and it is still estimated.  Apple’s web site says 1-3 days for this model and by the time I see this from MacMall it will be a month.  I’m sorry but not acceptable..CANCELLED.

Moral of the Story

I ordered the MacBook Air from Apple right after my happy divorce from MacMall.  I will pay more but the price will be worth every penny knowing I am not giving it to MacMall, not now, not ever.

This post would just be a rant if I didn’t learn some lessons and share with readers.  I think good customer service is just common sense, treat people the way you want or expect to be treated:

  • Set realistic expectations to your customer.  If you say 5-7 days, make it 5-7 days, not some unknown time frame which is longer.  Better yet, say 5-7 but mean 2-4.  This way you went above my expectations.
  • You offer a phone number to take orders but also allow for online ordering.  If I order online that means I don’t want to talk to you on the phone so don’t call me.  This goes for customer service too, if you have a form which I fill out, respond back to me in an email and not bothering me with a phone call.
  • If you do force your customers to call you, don’t leave them on hold for more than a couple minutes.  Telling your customers during their hold time that they are important to you means nothing after being on hold for 1/2 hour.  Sorry, but it doesn’t.
  • Keep in contact with your customers, don’t leave them hanging.  If you tell them you will do something for them by a certain date, do it or at least have the courtesy of a follow-up email or phone call (depends on their preferred method of contact).

This experience has been the worst example of customer service I have ever witnessed.  I order a lot online and I mainly order only online and MacMall is the hands-down winner of the Worst Customer Service on the Planet Award.  Congrats, you are truly #1.

Thank you for reading my rant, I hope I have saved you some pain.  Also remember, price should not be the only deciding factor..lesson learned.