February 7, 2015

The Cranky Consumer: Who Cares?

I just gave up on the bench I was trying to build. After a half hour of struggling to get it out of the box and examine the idiot-proof pictograms, I realized that one of the connecting parts was damaged. The wood dowel had snapped off, and a screw insert was missing. It felt like the last straw.

Last week I purchased and had delivered several pieces of furniture for my new apartment. From three different stores and all within the same time period, the experience was pleasant and helpful up until the point of purchase, then a HUGE hassle. Each store, as an example, assured me that the delivery men would help set up my new stuff and remove all the detritus.

Instead, the three items were dumped onto my floor, after which the delivery men immediately handed me a paper to "sign off" on the quality of the goods received. I made a point of noting on their sheets that the product had not been taken out of the box or inspected. "I was told you would help set it up," I said, a bit stunned. They were equally surprised. "What?" the young man said, "No, that's not our job at all! We just deliver." And off they went.

The huge box with the metal frame pieces and mattresses stood in the doorway of my bedroom. Another heavy and super awkward box sat on the living room floor, supposedly containing my new dining set. Obviously this table and chairs were in a lot of pieces, in order to fit into that box. The bench, too, came in a small box that screamed "You have to build me now!" Not one salesperson mentioned that assembly was involved. In fact, the man who sold me the bed assured me that the men would be happy to help me set it up. He was so confident of this that I left the store feeling like I had made a friend. Not.

I know I have to build Ikea furniture, they've always been very clear about what they sell and that this is their business model. But these were three established furniture retail chains that gave no such information when I on the floor making a decision. Quite the opposite.

How does this make me feel? Well, at one point I sat down and had a good cry. I was feeling sorry for myself, powerless as an individual, and exhausted beyond the point of reason. Moving is tiring enough; having to deal with this bullshit is draining.

Unless I'm just experiencing unusual and isolated bad luck, I'm starting to believe that good customer service is a thing of the past. With large retail chains outsourcing their deliveries to third-party transport companies, the responsibility has shifted, accountability is sacrificed, and the rest is collateral damage. Oh, and did I mention that stores now insist on a 20% restocking charge if you want to return an item? I learned that last year, after I bought my sectional sofa. It's there in writing on the back of the receipt.

The people who work at these large retail outfits don't care. It's a job, and they just want to get through their day, get back to their families and enjoy the weekend, like any other wage slave. The owners are betting that the average consumer won't put up a fuss. For $175, am I going to now take apart the bench, fit it back into its stupid little box and return it? Yes, I am. When I have the energy. Not today.

Today I just want to warn everyone out there - the consumer experience is changing, and not in a good way. Unless you enjoy building furniture, you might want to get those in-store promises in writing before you pay. The delivery experience as equally frustrating, resulting in one dining set being cancelled altogether. This has not been a fun experience! And when you're spending thousands of dollars, it really should be.

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry to hear all this. Once you are empowered by anger, and not defeated by fatigue, write letters to the companies and to the Papers. Everyone needs to know about this.
    I hope Bob comes over to help you. :)
    Hugs xoxoxxoxo


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