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Bad Online Consumer Experiences

My apologies if this story comes out somewhat hashed up — it came out in pieces. If its really bad, I might fix it up later…

Ok, so my experience isn’t as horrible as Thomas Hawk’s recent story. I never had anyone threaten me, yell at me, swear at me, or try to sell me additional unwanted merchandise. However, my monthlong wait for two laptop power adapters that I ordered at Priority Electronics I think deserves it own posting.

On November 2nd, 2005, at about 1:50 am (if the clock on my camera is to be trusted, but that sounds right), the power adapter that came with my laptop, “Kleinoscope,” gave up the ghost…

Broken Laptop Power Adapter

It had been a long time in coming, ever since I tripped over the power cord many months ago. So, I decided the time had come to get a replacement. Before I have Mobius to my mom, I ha a similar tripping incident with its cord, so I thought it would be a good idea to order not one, but two replacement power adapters.

Since I’ve had good luck with a wide variety of online retailers before, I didn’t look too deeply into Priority Electronics’ background. Even if I had, I’m not sure it would have raised any warning flags. Their reviews page shows a vast majority of happy customers, with a seemingly regular number of disgrustled people. Since people get disgruntled for all sorts of reasons, I probably wouldn’t have even thought twice about it.

The ordering process was easy. I paid a little extra for 2-day shipping so I could recieve them by the end of the week (it was early Wednesday morning and I wanted them by Friday). I promptly recieved a confirmation email, and later in the day, at 12:49 pm, I recieved the FedEx tracking number. Everything seemed to be working brilliantly… Until Friday morning, the 4th of November.

I recieved the package from FedEx at about 10:50 am on Friday morning, just as I was about to leave for class. With the glee of a child looking forward to a new toy, I tore open the package only to find just one (1) DC laptop adapter. Not only had they got the number wrong, but they got the part number wrong too! Hugely disappointed, I found the packing slip, which showed the correct order, and gave the company a call. I navigated some menus and ended up leaving a detailed and honest yet concise and upbeat message. The machine promised that my call would be returned within 24 hours.

When I hadn’t heard from Priority Electronics by Saturday evening, I took a few moments away from Seattle’s inaugural MindCamp to fill out Priority Electronics‘ online webform to send another inquiry about the botched order. Recieving no answer to that, and becoming worried abut the quality of the company I had done business with, I sent email to a few different email addresses that I was able to find at the company. Finally, on November 9th, a whole week after I placed my order and five days after my phone call, three days after my online-form fill-out, and two days after my email. I’m still not sure which one of these the email I recieved was in response to, as it contained no quote from an inquiry.

All the email contained was my package’s tracking number and a link to FedEx’s tracking site. Needless to say, already having the package in hand, the tracking number was not terribly useful. I was getting pretty unhappy by this point, and my response to this email showed it:

I already received a package from you guys. What I want is the correct order. I received from you on November 4th one (1) DC power adapter, when I had ordered two (2) AC power adapters.

This has severely inconvenienced me. Since you didn’t respond to my first inquiry about this, I will assume that you somehow lost that email, so I will write my expectations down again:

(a) I ask that you immediately send, overnight AM priority, the correct order, consisting of two (2) AC-210 power adapters for the Compaq Presario 2585. I have already waited more than half a week longer than I should have, and this is making my life difficult.

(b) If you want the DC-210 adapter back, you will additionally send me a self-addressed, postage-paid package. I will put the DC-210 adapter into that package and leave it on my doorstep. You can have someone — FedEx or whatever — pick it up from there.

(c) If you ever want me to be a customer again, you will refund the cost of shipment and drastically reduce the charge to my credit ard for my lost time and inconvenience.

The first time I asked for your response to this problem, on Tuesday (when the package with the incorrect contents arrived), I was much more lenient. But now you have ignored enough of my emails and phone calls that leniency is not my priority any more.


Ryan McElroy
Unhappy Customer

Recieving no response from Noel, I then decided to lodge a complaint with the BBB, prominently linked to from Priority Electonics’ site. I have no idea whether complaints to the BBB work, but at the very leat it let me blow my steam. Several days and several phone calls and emails later, I finally talked to a real person over the phone. She was kind enough to let me know that the “correct” procedure to resolving the issue was contacting the RMA department and filling out an RMA form (apparently they are unable to forward emails or voice messages at Priority Electronics). When I expressed general dissatisfaction that it had taken me about two weeks to get that far, I had my lone good customer service experience with the company. She filled the form out for me, so I didn’t have to.

The next day, I recieved an RMA form email. While happy to finally be making some progress, several of the stipulations concerned me. The one that really stuck out was the fact that they were expecting me to pay the return shipping. I complained bitterly to Rob, my assigned associate, who finally (after 3 or more emails) capitulated and sent me a UPS shipping label at no cost to myself. He also made it sound like the prcess would be downright quick and easy. He claimed taht as soon as the return shipped — before receiving it — he would be able to send out the correct order. I had hopes that I would see the fabled power adapters before Thanksgiving. I should have known better.

I studiously tracked the package I had sent and let Rob know as soon as it has enetered the tracking system, as he had requested. However, Rob became a black hole over the entire shipping period. When he finally did respond to the last of a series of emails wondering why my relacement order hadn’t been shipped when they already had the package in hand for a day, I received a curt reply stating that the shipment back to me had just been authorized and woul dbe shipping out the next day.

Unfortunately for me, Thanksgiving then got in the way. Although that probably would not have made a difference, as the adapters didn’t arrive until several days after the Thanksgiving weekend, and with the two-day shipment, thats means they didn’t even really get shipped until the day after Thanksgiving at the earliest, most likely.

I suppose this story has a happy ending. When the second package arrived, it contained the right order, and the adapters are working just fine now. You can even help me make the overall experience even more worthwhile and link to this post so that its Google PageRank rises above Priority Electronic’s own. It would be nice and poetic to warn others off of a likely bad experience.

Priority Electronics: For those that enjoy bad customer service, ignored emails, deleted phone messages, incorrect order shipments, slow exchange service, lying RMA associates, and bad business practices.

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