How to be a good online retailer

I’ve always told my daughter that the true character of a person is not measured in how seldom the person makes mistakes but rather how the person deals with mistakes when they occur.  This holds true for companies as well.  Things happen and mistakes are made.  However, if the company strives to make things right, I’m more than happy to deal with them again.

This week, I ran into an online company that hasn’t learned that lesson.  I needed some yarn of a particular type and color for a couple of projects.  I googled for the yarn and found quite a few results.  The highest ranking one was The Knitting Garden.  They proudly proclaimed that in-stock yarns are shipped withing 24-48 hours.  Since they offered free shipping for orders over $75, I ordered the yarn that I needed plus a few skeins of Noro Kureyon that was on sale.  When I received the order confirmation, I was excited because I was sure that I’d have my yarn soon.

Two days later, I received an email that part of my order had been shipped but part of it would not be available for one to two weeks.

Now, I understand perfectly well that mistakes happen and that some yarn stores must manually synchronize inventory with their in-store and online sales.

However, just about every place that sells back-ordered products will tell the customer in advance that the product is back-ordered.  Or, if they find out later that they don’t have the product after the order has been placed, the online vendor will call the customer to say, “Whoops… Is this a problem?  Sorry for the inconvenience.”  That’s taking responsibility for their error and doing what they can to make it up to the customer (or to at least not do anything that is going to upset the customer further).

Their lousy business practices extend beyond shipping partial orders despite “guaranteed” shipping.  Even though several people have received emails stating that they are out of this particular yarn, the site continues to list the yarn as if it’s available.  There’s no warning at all that the yarn isn’t available any longer.

Apparently, The Knitting Garden thinks it’s pretty reasonable to make people wait without warning.  When they replied to my request to cancel the back-ordered products, their response was short and said nothing beyond the confirmation that the order was cancelled and “Thanks for shopping with us.”   No apologies or even any reference to the fact that they mucked up royally.

I hope they enjoyed my business because it’s the last they’ll ever see of me.  I’ve since cancelled the back-ordered part of the order.    I’m refusing the partial order when it’s delivered too.  (I placed another order with a different store, which has already sent me a shipping confirmation!)  I may end up eating the shipping costs, but I don’t care.  I don’t want to support them any more than I already have.

Compare this fiasco to another online shopping experience that I had this week.

I’m the only coffee drinker in my house, and I’m the kind of coffee drinker that can nurse a cup of coffee for an hour (in an insulated cup to keep it warm).  By the time that I’m ready for the second cup, coffee made in a traditional coffee brewer no longer tastes as good as it did when it was fresh.  I was thrilled when I discovered pod coffee brewers!  Every cup of coffee is fresh, and no coffee is tossed out because I didn’t drink it quickly enough.

My favorite site to buy coffee pods is Cool Beans Pods, but I occasionally look around  to see if there are any other sites worth trying out.  Last week, I found Javapodz.  Their selection of coffees was much more extensive, and they feature what they call SERC (Socially and Environmentally Responsible Coffee) brands.  I liked the idea of the SERC brands and thought I’d give them a try.   I placed the order and quickly received a response and shipping notice.

A few days later, when my hubby came home from work, he found a box from them on the porch.  He brought it in, and I opened it to find… Ants.  Lots and lots of ants.  They were inside the box and inside the ziploc bag that held the flavored coffees.

Each of the coffee pods was individually sealed, and it was obvious that the ants hadn’t actually gotten to the coffee.  There’s no way to know where the ants got into the box.  This is Texas, where the ants way outnumber the cows, people, and huge SUVs and trucks, so it’s possible that they got into the box after it had been placed on my porch.  Still, I was icked out enough to email the company to say, “It would be a good idea to make sure that all exposed edges in the box are taped up to prevent ants from getting in.”

Shortly, I received an email with effusive apologies from Javapodz.  They said that they wanted to give me a full refund and send me a new shipment right away.

Now THAT is service!  No one is sure when the ants got into the box.  I’m fairly confident that they didn’t ship the coffee with ants inside. However, it’s something that they could have prevented, so they wanted to make it right.

I will be doing business with Javapodz again.  Integrity goes a long way with me, and they certainly showed that they have it.

Too bad that the Knitting Garden doesn’t.

7 thoughts on “How to be a good online retailer

  1. Lynn

    I totally agree! That sort of service is why, if I ever move back to Arlington, I will sign up with the YMCA again. They freely acknowledged their error and made it right, the same day.

  2. Edith

    It’s unfortunate that most companies do not realize it’s the service they provide customers that keeps them coming back. It’s not always price driven. I was directed to the Knitting Garden website recently from Ravelry. I’m glad to know what your experience was with them before I placed an order.

    Thanks for the links to the coffee places. I can always use a new place to buy pods from.

  3. Kelly

    The same thing happened to me with the Knitting Garden recently. I ordered 2 skeins of yarn that I needed for a project. 2 days later I got the dreaded out-of-stock email. I cancelled my order and received an email stating it was cancelled. That’s it. The reason I cancelled is because they are taking orders for the same yarn and color like mad, who knows how much they will get in their next shipment and how many people will be getting another email stating it’s still on backorder!

  4. Lisa S

    This vendor has, most likely, an automated shopping cart that sends out a confirmation reply as soon as the server receives the order. This would be evident if they are a small company and have set shipping prices. I can only imagine that big companies that have the luxury of a coded inventory system would know whether that particular product was in stock as soon as it was put in the shopping cart.
    The error on this small company’s part is the disconnect with their customer. (I don’t send the confirmation until I KNOW that I have everything in hand or have to do a dye run for someone. It is then up to them if they can or can’t wait.) To ship a partial order without checking to see if it is OK is just NOT GOOD BUSINESS and these days where dollars are squeaky, one must treat customers well or lose them.

  5. Meghann

    Ugh. So sorry! This is one of the reasons that when I find a shop I like, I generally thrwo as much of my business their was as I can. And thanks for the coffee place. I’m not a drinker, but my dad has one of those coffee makers and I buy him new coffee often for it, love to have a new place to shop!

  6. Batty

    I’m so sorry you had a crappy experience. There are so many wonderful vendors on the internet, it’s sad when someone messes up and handles it poorly.

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