Monday, March 3, 2008

The Great Puzzle Saga

Four months ago, on November 6th, I ordered a Christmas present for my Grandma. I just received it this week. I'm kind of pissed at National Geographic, so I post here the letter I'm sending to customer service. Now, I don't have any delusions of grandeur that more that 5 people will read this, but I do get some satisfaction from posting it to the world.

Customer Service March 3, 2008
Attn: Supervisor
National Geographic Catalog/Online
PO Box 8728
Westchester, Ohio 45071-8728

Customer Service Supervisor:

I have recently received an item from your catalog. To receive this item required five telephone calls and a wait of four months. I ended up driving across town at one point to deliver a puzzle to another customer, because their puzzle had been delivered to me. The following letter documents the saga of my puzzle order.

1. 11/06/07 ordered by phone. Order #70151720. I provided all of the information that was asked for by your agent. Because this was a phone order, I never received confirmation via e-mail. If I had, I would have been able to see (above) that my address had been entered incorrectly.

2. 11/08/07 Visa charged $47.90.

3. 12/12/07 called about order. I was told it had shipped and delivery had been refused. I explained that I never got it; I have never had trouble receiving anything at my address in the past. I was told that there was no phone number on record for me, so I had not been called about the delivery problem. I gave my phone number, and I also very carefully confirmed my address; I even made sure to spell “two-five-tee-aich” (25th) for the street number so it could not be misunderstood. I was told that my order was re-placed.

4. 12/13/07 I received an obviously re-packaged box with a strange shipping label; another person’s name and my address had been scrawled on it in pen. I opened the folded up sheet of paper that was the shipping label, and on the inside was a packing list that showed the package was clearly for another person at 100 NW 79th St. I opened the package and examined the puzzle; it was the puzzle for 100 NW 79th St in Seattle. I drove the package to that person’s house. I didn’t trust them to ever receive the puzzle if I sent it back.

5. 12/13/07 I called about order and explained that a puzzle had been delivered, but it was not mine. I carefully reconfirmed my address and phone number. In this phone call I discovered that my phone number had been entered incorrectly into your database during my previous call on 12/12/07. I was told that my order was once again re-placed. I indicated that this was a Christmas present, and I had diligently ordered it two months before Christmas to be assured of delivery. I was cautious because last year I ordered the latitude & longitude T-shirt from National Geographic, and due to a problem with the supplier I did not receive it in time for Christmas. I indicated that I would be in Maine after 12/27/07, and if it was not going to come by then I would like to be notified so I could have it sent to Maine. The agent indicated this might be possible.

6. 1/14/08 I had not yet received my puzzle in the mail, and I had not received notification about my order from National Geographic. I had not been reimbursed for the item. I looked up my order online by order number, and the website indicated my order was shipped complete on 11/08/07; this page (above) also showed the wrong address for me. I called about the order. After very long pauses and hold time, I was told I would need to re-place my order. I gave the address for the puzzle, and was told I would receive it. I suggested to the agent we re-confirm my address, and I discovered that my address in your database was wrong. The address on my record was still 29th Ave NW. Remember that I gave my address during each call on 11/06/07, 12/12/07, and on 12/13/07.

7. 1/29/08 I called to check on the order. The agent right away began by confirming my contact info. We discovered that while there was the correct phone number on file, the wrong phone number was still there. The agent deleted the incorrect number. She stated that I was issued a refund on 1/12/08. This is interesting, because when I called on 1/14/08, no refunded charges were mentioned. This agent was very apologetic, and she asked if I would like to have the puzzle company contact me when the puzzle was shipped? I said yes, and appreciated that. She also stated that I would not be charged for the puzzle due to my inconvenience. After the call I looked at my bank statement, and I found that $39.95 had been credited to my account on 1/23/08. Too bad I had to pay for the shipping.

8. 2/26/08 The puzzle finally arrived in the mail. My incorrect mailing address was printed on the packing slip, and several corrections were scribbled in. The first correction kept the incorrect street address of 29th Ave NW, but for some reason someone had scribbled out the correct zip code 98117 and changed it to 98108-3791. The second correction was done with a big black marker, and the address was finally all correct, but it was nearly illegible. The address and postage indicated it had been sent from NJ on 2/20/08, but oddly enough, on the back of the package was a customs declaration form indicating it had been sent from Great Britain. Thankfully, the puzzle itself was correct this time. Now in March, I can finally send my 94 year old Grandmother her Christmas present that I ordered 4 months ago!

During each call the person on the other end was polite and professional. However, I was surprised that during my call on 1/14/08 the person was barely apologetic, although she was polite. At that time I was also quite surprised that after being a loyal customer for many years, a subscriber for decades (myself and my family), having paid for this item on 11/06/07, having had to make four phone calls, and having had my contact information mis-documented several times, I was not offered restitution of any kind.

My last call on 1/29/07 was very satisfactory. The agent clearly confirmed all details of the order, deleted erroneous information, seemed genuinely apologetic, and let me know that my money would be refunded. She also enabled me to feel a little less helpless by giving me the option of hearing from the puzzle company as to when I would be shipped my product. I said I would very much like that.

I never did hear from the puzzle company as to when my puzzle was shipped. I received it on 2/26/08.

My purpose in writing this letter is not to elicit any more restitution. I want someone there to know everything that happened, review your procedures, and hopefully ensure this doesn’t happen to someone else. There has clearly been a customer service breakdown somewhere within National Geographic regarding this order. The puzzle company was clearly at fault, but so were the customer service representatives who entered my information incorrectly, failed to fix the incorrect information when I repeated my correct address, and failed to indicate that I was being issued a refund (until the last agent). I think much of the fiasco could have been avoided if I could have just ordered the puzzle online and entered my own address and contact information. For some reason these special vendor items require that I phone in my order.

I have generally had good luck with ordering standard goods from National Geographic, but I will never again order a personalized product. At the end of 2006 I ordered a specialized T-shirt from National Geographic (latitude and longitude) and also did not receive that item until well after Christmas. I thought I was being very organized to order the puzzle this year two months before Christmas, but I was quite wrong.

Please review your procedures, and perhaps your vendors.

Thank you,

Julia Gibson

1 comment:

Petula Darling said...

You tell 'em!!!
That's absolutely ridiculous, and you did a great job letting them know about it.
I get a strange satisfaction from writing customer complaint letters. I hope writing this one helped you to work through your buyer's ire.