#oneaday Day 912: Blood from a Stone

I’m pleased to confirm that, after several days of wrangling, arguing and repeating myself over and over and over again, CeX finally relented and gave me a full refund. (Context.)

hate complaining. I feel like an asshole. Normally because in order to complain effectively, you have to be a bit of an asshole. I hate it because I’ve been on the other side of things, receiving those complaints. It’s frustrating for both parties in the whole situation, because in many cases the person receiving the complaint really does want to help but their hands are tied, and the person complaining just wants things to be resolved as quickly as possible.

Such was the case with this whole debacle. It took two days of talking to someone on CeX’s Twitter account and subsequently emailing their customer service team, then going in to the store where I bought the item in the first place to actually claim the refund. It would have been easy to just give up, but that would have left me £70 down and, while I don’t like complaining, it was the whole principle of the thing here.

The thing that infuriated me most about the whole experience was the blindingly obvious things CeX could have done along the way to help me out. As I said in the original post, it would have cost them literally nothing to help me out and just issue me a refund. The item was already second-hand and open, so it was in the same condition as when it was sold when I returned it. It was also returned within about an hour of me having purchased it, so it’s not as if I could have been using the shop as a quasi-rental service, which is — presumably, anyway — what this policy is designed to discourage.

I grant that, since there was nothing technically wrong with the item, I wasn’t entitled to a refund under the various laws and regulations that govern this sort of thing. But when making an honest mistake — as I did — I don’t expect to be punished for it to the tune of nearly a hundred quid.

So I complained. And I persisted. I remained polite — though clearly frustrated — throughout the entire experience. I didn’t swear, I didn’t insult anyone, I didn’t cast aspersions on the sexual preferences of anyone’s mother. I simply repeated the things that were upsetting and frustrating me in the hope that it would sink in. And I kept a close eye on the people around me on Twitter who were taking an interest in the case. There was the potential for some serious damage to CeX’s brand here, and while I had no particular desire to cause trouble in that manner, the longer it went on the more it looked like being a potential PR disaster for the company — which is why I was so confused that CeX appeared to be in no hurry whatsoever to help me.

Customer service is actually relatively simple. Follow your business’ policies as appropriate, but when a customer complains, review the situation carefully and determine how you can help them. If bending the “rules” slightly doesn’t impact your company and does help the customer, then doing so builds considerable goodwill because it makes it look as if you’ve gone out of your way to help them. Apple stores are really good at this. Very often a customer will enter the store frustrated and angry that something or other isn’t working, and leave with a smile on their face because they’ve been pleasantly surprised by an employee apparently going out of their way to do something nice. (In actual fact, said employee more likely than not knows exactly the situations in which is is appropriate to bend the rules and simply set the customer’s expectations accordingly.)

This is what CeX wasn’t willing to do for me. I was repeatedly quoted store policy and made to feel like an idiot for not knowing it before purchasing the item. But how was I to know? It wasn’t explained to me at purchase, I’ve never returned anything to them before and the only place in the entire shop their return policy is mentioned is in a single sentence of roughly 10-point text on a small mat near their cash till — a mat which, I might add, is more often than not covered up by items that are being bought and sold at the time. The fact is, I wasn’t aware of the policy, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken the risk on the item in the first place. Repeatedly quoting it at me after the fact was just making me more and more angry, and the people who were doing so just didn’t appear to notice this — or care. It became something of a battle of attrition — me repeating how annoyed I was and what I wanted out of the whole situation, them repeating their policies over and over. Something had to give.

It was them. I certainly wasn’t going to back down, and the situation was looking worse and worse for them as they continually refused to acknowledge my concerns and upset. I can imagine I was probably called some fairly unpleasant names behind the scenes. But I prevailed in the end. For fairness’ sake, I should say thank you to Raj on CeX’s email support team and Jackie, the store manager of the Chippenham store, for making it happen.

Complaining works. It’s not a pleasant thing to do, and it often takes time, but it works. We’ve seen plenty of examples of it Getting Things Done recently — whether or not they’re “important” is neither here nor there — and people should know when it’s appropriate to step up and say “wait, hang on a minute, that’s not right.” It’s all too easy to just allow yourself to get screwed over and then feel completely powerless. So don’t be afraid to complain, and remember it’s different from whining.

If you can’t remember the difference, perhaps this will help you out:

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Pete Davison

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

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