Monday, September 19, 2011

Utah Trikes and their (lack) of customer service

I mostly don’t talk about places I buy from that fail to deliver good customer service, but I’m going to make an exception to talk about Utah Trikes.

I went to Utah Trikes to buy my trike because they seemed to have almost everything that I wanted in a trike - so rather than having to order to half a dozen places, I could just go to one place, order it all and they’d even assemble it. Furthermore, I liked the site - they seemed helpful, they’d do special orders and work on trikes for, say, the handicapped. So I ordered from them.

The bad customer service started almost immediately. If it was just this that happened, well, I’d’ve shrugged it off as that’s the way business sometimes goes. I was told that they had all the components in stock but when the trike was shipped (a couple of days later than they said it would), all the components were not shipped. Four hundred dollars worth of things - including a flag which is a safety feature and fairly important in Miami’s busy streets, and panniers that I wanted so I could do proper shopping - were not included. They also put on the wrong thing, in one case - a long mudguard instead of the small one I ordered . . . and which costs $10 more. Mind you, they kept the money . . .

Well, then, the first day I had the trike, it broke. I described the problems in an email - that the trike would not shift, not at all, into any gear - and the response was “the shifter is stiff”. It wasn’t stiff. It wasn’t shifting. On my own, I was able to troubleshoot the problem - the shifter cable had popped out of the socket inside the shifter. I put it back on, no problem, but I was pretty disappointed in their lack of willingness to engage in troubleshooting. Additionally, the problem with the wrong mudguard was simply not discussed. Oh, I brought it up but . . . hey, I guess that they shipped the wrong part, a part I didn’t want and the part they did ship cost less than the part I paid for doesn’t matter.

During that time, I also asked about the items that hadn’t been shipped. The guy said that he’d ship the items, and work out a trade with something I accidentally ordered and replace it with the thing I actually wanted, but I received no communication that the items had actually shipped. This was vexing because I’d also said in that email communication that I was moving, soon, so if the items didn’t get here by the end of the month then we’d need to wait until the beginning of October to be able to ship them to the proper address. So, another little bit of lousy customer service - it was reasonably important to me to know the time the package would arrive. Additionally, it was important because I need to know when the package will get here so I can be there to pick it up. I live in a lousy apartment and UPS and cargo carriers have trouble getting in - so without knowing when the package will arrive, I didn’t know when I should be on the lookout for it’s arrival. So, like I said, lousy service.

The next to last bit of lousy customer service is when I wanted to register my trike with the National Bicycle Registry. Something like half of all stolen bikes are recovered - and then auctioned off by the cops because they can’t find the bike’s owner. So, the NBR exists to help people get their bikes back. To register, however, you need to give them the serial number of the bike.

My trike, a TerraTrike Path, has it hidden. You’ve literally got to disassemble the trike to get to it. The TerraTrike website says that the serial number is with your packing slip. Damn. I’d thrown that out, already! If you don’t have that, the TerraTrike site advises you contact the retailer of the trike to get it, because they realize taking apart the trike is fairly difficult.

So I do. I write to TerraTrike explaining the situation, that I want to register my bike with the NBR and I need the serial number. The letter I get back tells me to take my trike apart to get the serial number. Uh-huh. So, I write back - and I admit I’m now a little snarky because I’m getting upset - in a disbelieving tone that they can’t actually expect that to be the solution. Well, I get a very terse letter back saying that TerraTrike has never provided them with serial number information - which would have been nice to know in the first letter, but, hey, why bother explaining things to customers!

In the letter where I asked about the serial number, I also asked for the status on the items that I hadn’t received. Neither of the letters I got after I asked that told me about the status of those items.

So, I made a decision. It was now time for me to cut off business dealings with Utah Trikes. I wrote back saying that I no longer wanted their assistance and I would like the charges reversed for the items they had not sent. I was terse because I was no longer looking for engagement with them. Like I said, I’d made a decision. I had decided I would rather get the pieces separately and assemble them myself than continue to deal with Utah Trikes. I think this was a rational decision on my part. I was frustrated and upset and why continue to deal with uncommunicative people who have not done what they said they’d do?

Then I got a call from Brice down at Utah Trikes. This was the last bit of bad customer service and, lordy, it was awful. I knew what he was trying to do. He was trying to save the account. But I’d decided, like I said, and all you who know me can verify that when I have decided on something, when I’ve really decided, it is hard to get me to go back on that decision - when I have decided, it is unilateral. I am no longer looking to engage. I get that Brice didn’t know this, so after a bit, I said to him, “Look, I don’t want anything to do with your company, anymore. I just want to close my accounts with you so I don’t have to deal with you ever again.”

Then he said something like, “Well, then you won’t be wanting our customer service?” And I said, “I’m not getting any customer service!” Then he said, “I don’t see what the problem is.” And I said,”That’s the problem.” Then he tried to get me to tell him the problem, but he wouldn’t shut the hell up. I swore because rather than shutting up and letting me explain the situation, well, I dunno why he shouldn’t shut up, but he wouldn’t, but that got him angry, and after a bit of me saying, “Shut up and I’ll tell you” and him saying, “You can’t talk to me like that”, he agreed it was best that I not deal with Utah Trikes and hung up.

Here are the caveats. I have worked retail jobs and I have done customer service over the phone. As a result, I know how hard and weird and demanding customers can be. I try not to be that person and I largely succeed. Which is why I didn’t make a fuss of things when Utah Trikes lied about having the parts in stock. Business is hard, I know. It’s why I didn’t make a fuss when the troubleshooter blew off my problems with the shifter. Troubleshooting over email is hard, I know tihs. But after a while, it just became clear their customer service, at least their phone and email service, sucks. And, even then, what I wanted to do was a clean break - they give me back the money I gave them for the things they didn’t ship, and we’ll call it even. But, no. They had an representative that was clearly untrained in how to handle upset customers give me a call and made the problems worse.

So, that’s my story with Utah Trikes. I’m not even saying don’t buy from them - I’m just saying if you do, be warned that their customer service can, particularly on email and on the phone, can really, really stink.

Later that day: ld refund the money for the items not sent and said, "They only wanted to help." So I sent him a copy of the post above.

The response was that, y'know, it was just a mix-up in the tone of the email! Not sending the items I paid for it a mix-up in tone? Failure to answer my direct questions is a mix-up in tone? Je-zuz KEE-rist. Sure, dude, whatever. And now I've got to fix my eyes, which are rolled so far back into their sockets I can't see properly.

The next day: Other ways Utah Trike’s customer service blew chunks.

They violated many of the rock bottom elements of customer service - they didn’t deliver on their word (they said they had all the times in stock and would ship them promptly, but that did not happen, the trike arrived missing several things and another thing totally wrong), they didn’t keep me in the loop with communication, they ignored my direct questions.

But when Brice called me, he cold called me. That’s another little violation of customer service - you never call a person unless you have their expression permission to call. And when he did call, he did not immediately identify himself. Rather brusquely, he said, “I want to speak to Chris Bradley.” When cold calling people, the first thing you always do is identify yourself. And then, after having called me, when I spoke in a tone he didn’t like, he tried to get me to stop. Fuck you, motherfucker! You called me! You can’t call me, cold call me, and expect me to conform to your rules!

Also, something I forgot. One of the things I ordered, a Double Century Hydration Pack, doesn’t work on the actual trike I bought. The seat is the wrong shape. So, they sold it to me ($90) and didn’t bother to tell me that it doesn’t work on mesh seats. This information is not on their website for the Double Century Hydration Pack, I should add. So there was no way I could have known that. On the other hand, it’s very much the sort of thing that they should know - and when I contacted the TerraTrike people asking for a way to install it (you have to buy a $30 widget to put over the top of your seat that has connectors to hang things off of - I am certainly not blaming TerraTrike and I almost certainly would have gotten the other widget if I’d known, but I didn’t know and I should have been told. Rather than buying a $90 gadget that wouldn’t work with the trike I bought.

The same thing happened with the water bladders for the hydration pack. It takes two 2 liter bladders. I accidentally ordered 3 liter bladders. But at no point did anyone think to ask why I’d order a Double Century Hydration Pack and two 3L bladders.

As one of my friends said to me, “You spent three thousand dollars there and they still treat you like this?” Indeed.

Lastly, when the owner of the shop, Ashley, got around to emailing me, he did not apologize for his employee’s behavior. That’s also basic customer service - when your people screw up, you acknowledge it. That not only goes a long way to mollify angry consumers, it’s the right thing to do. When a customer has been wronged, they really like to have it acknowledged that they were wronged - and then assured that it was a mistake and they’ll honestly try not to do it in the future. Well, I didn’t get that from Ashley. What I got instead is prevarication about the “tone” of email, ignoring the numerous instances where his people either provided me with false information, didn’t do what they said they’d do and ignored direct questions. That isn’t tone.

Again, I do not think I’m particularly harsh on customer service. I’ve been there. I know it’s a rough job. But it’s gets a lot rougher if you don’t treat people well. I don’t demand perfect service, I am not one of those people who freaks out with every little thing that goes wrong. When they didn’t ship everything they said they’d ship, I didn’t freak out. When they didn’t engage me to fix the broken shifter, I didn’t freak out. But things just kept piling on up. It stopped being a mere mistake and became, in my eyes, poor business practice.

Just documenting it all.

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