#oneaday Day 908: Customer Disservice

I wanted to share a customer service experience I had today as I found it immensely disappointing. It was partly my fault, I accept that, but the way in which it was handled left me with a very sour taste in my mouth and a feeling of disillusionment in a company for whom I had previously had nothing but good things to say.

After purchasing a copy of Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition in the currently-running Steam Summer Sale, I decided that the time had come for me to get an arcade stick and see if I could actually improve my generally-dreadful fighting game skills. I took a trip into town to my local CEX — they’d opened recently so I wanted to support them — and was pleased to see that a Street Fighter IV Tournament Edition FightStick was in the window for half its usual “new” price. A bit of preliminary research online had revealed that this stick from MadCatz was one of the best ones out there, and to see it for half its usual price was a deal too good to pass up.

The stick in question was designed for PlayStation 3, but uses a USB connection. I looked online and consensus said it worked with some PCs, though the chipset the computer in question was built on determined whether or not it would actually work. Intel chipsets were fine, apparently, but nVidia or AMD ones were not. Having been poking around inside my computer recently to fit a new power supply, I was pretty confident I had an Intel chipset.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. I brought the stick home, connected it up to the computer, Windows recognized it and then… nothing. No response from the stick in Control Panel, no response in game, no means to get it to register any inputs whatsoever. I tested it in the PS3 to make sure the device wasn’t actually faulty, and sure enough, the PS3 had no issues with it whatsoever. Unfortunately, I don’t have any fighting games (or even “arcade-style” titles) for PS3 that would necessitate the use of an arcade stick, so I had essentially wasted £70.

Or had I? No, I thought, if I head straight back to town now I’ll have time to return it, get my money back and be home in time for dinner. So off I went, back to CEX, and queued up in an attempt to return it.

“I’d like to return this,” I said, explaining the situation. Being an honest sort of guy — curse that particular character trait — I said that the stick wasn’t faulty, but that it didn’t work with my computer. (To be fair, lying and saying it was broken wouldn’t have achieved much — CEX has a rigorous policy of testing things to prevent shysters trading in broken crap.)

“This isn’t the selling till,” said the woman behind the counter. “You need to join that queue.”

I was taken aback by the bluntness for a moment after she had been helpful earlier in the day when I had purchased the thing. Fortunately, her colleague jumped in and pointed out that I wasn’t trying to sell something to the shop, I was simply trying to get a refund.

She took the stick and scanned it, then explained to me that CEX’s policy was that since it wasn’t faulty, all she could do was give me store credit.

“Well, do you have an Xbox 360 stick available?” I asked. (Xbox 360 sticks work with Windows no problem.)

“No,” she said.

“Okay,” I said. “Then that’s no help to me, really, is it? I’ve spent £70 on something I can’t use. I would like my money back, please.”

It was at this point that the cashier in question — Emily, her name was — decided that she couldn’t handle this and called her supervisor who then launched into an obviously-rehearsed speech.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work for you,” she said with an incredibly patronising tone of faux-understanding. “I appreciate that it’s frustrating, but unfortunately we’re only able to give a refund as store credit.”

I was really not in the mood for argument — I hate confrontation at the best of times — so after asking whether or not the voucher could be used online — apparently it can, but only through an unnecessarily convoluted process that involves paying the full price for the item then claiming a rebate — I grudgingly accepted and was on my way. I left immensely disappointed with the poor service I had received from CEX, and thinking that I would be considering things very carefully before making use of their services again.

Here’s the thing that annoyed me most about the whole thing: there was no sense of the staff wanting to help me. I was quoted policy and simply shut down without any discussion. No consideration was given for the fact that I had bought the item that same day and had returned it in the exact same condition in which it had been sold to me. No consideration was given for the fact that I had wasted £70 and was being offered store credit in exchange when there was nothing I wanted to spend it on in said store. No effort was made to make me feel better about what I freely admit is my own mistake. Rather than doing something that would have built goodwill and allowed me to leave satisfied and happy while leaving them no worse off than they had been before I bought the thing in the first place, I was simply the recipient of a speech that had obviously been given many times before.

Customer service is a fine art, and CEX in Chippenham is clearly sorely lacking. CEX’s return policy as a rule is unnecessarily harsh on those who make honest mistakes, and leaves no room for employees to “surprise and delight” a customer. I don’t think this case is actually in breach of the Sale of Goods Act as the goods do work as described — the stick worked fine on PlayStation 3 and the people at the shop didn’t explicitly tell me it worked on PC — but the fact is from a customer service perspective, CEX let me down. Store policies shouldn’t be so inflexible that they leave a customer walking out of the store dissatisfied, disappointed and upset. Apple are good at this, often exchanging items for free simply as a means to, as said above, “surprise and delight” their customers. Head into an Apple store with a pair of dodgy iPod headphones, for example, and the store team will usually swap them straight out for you, no questions asked. Go in there with a broken iPhone/MacBook/whatever that’s just out of warranty, and if you ask nicely they’ll often help you out as if you were still covered. And on those occasions when they do turn you down, there’s usually a good reason for them not being able to help you.

It would have cost nothing for CEX to help me out today. Had they refunded me and taken the stick back, they would have been no worse off than they had been this morning, and I would have left satisfied and confident in purchasing from them again. Instead, I am left with a piece of paper worth £70 and, currently, nothing to spend it on, as the Xbox 360 version of the stick is not available online. I am also writing about my poor experience on the public forum that is the Internet rather than praising them or simply keeping quiet.

So basically, CEX Chippenham, I’m exceedingly disappointed in the service (or lack thereof) I received today and will be thinking very carefully before I buy anything expensive from you again. You had the chance to surprise and delight me; instead you stonewalled me and flipped the bird. THANKS A LOT.

Published by

Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

6 thoughts on “#oneaday Day 908: Customer Disservice”

  1. Great example of the danger a careless/selfish customer service policy can pose today… to a business. Any customer potentially has a facebook account, a Twitter account, a blog… and there you go, potentially thousands of dollars worth of brand damage/lost business because the staff at the floor wasn’t empowered to solve an initially low-value issue (for them – high value for the customer).

  2. I think the thing that really gets me when I receive poor customer service is that really, I’m quite easily pleased by a smile and someone willing to at least try and get around those pesky returns policies. I’m surprised that they didn’t try and make any effort to meet you half way Pete – after all, they’re a new shop and have clearly lost at least one potential customer already…

  3. Working in retail myself has me running into situations like this every day. From CEX’s point of view, they’ve gone about this the complete wrong way. Store policies are store policies for a reason, but the item was taken back the same day. The company I work for doesn’t issue refunds unless the product is faulty, but almost every time I’ve had a customer return something on the same day, I’ve granted them a refund. It’s just common courtesy.

    Seems like CEX could have handled this a little better at the time. While I understand that their upper management team might have a very strict rule-set, a happy customer is always better than an unhappy non-customer.

    1. Yeah, I’ve worked retail before, too, and surprising and delighting a customer is always better than leaving them going away muttering curses under their breath. I hope someone from CEX reads this and gets in touch, but I’m not expecting anything.

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