I’ve worked in customer service. I’ve been on the receiving end of those angry customers who just can’t seem to hold it together. I’ve whispered with my coworkers about those customers. I’ve been beat down by those customers. I’ve tried everything in my power to help those customers. I’ve also done everything in power to not help those customers. Today, I became one of those customers.
Ok, let’s go backwards for a second. I’ve recently taken the steps to purchase the rights to distribution for a supplement line that has been gaining popularity both south and north of the border. It has been one heck of a learning curve let me tell ya. The hardest part has been sitting in limbo waiting for my first order to arrive. I’ve learned about freight companies, customs brokers, NAFTA, and most recently, reconsignment.
I was super pumped when everything came together for me to get my first order picked up and headed north. I was feeling all confident and excited, even bragged about having everything figured out on my own to the amazing lady who did all the leg work to get the line into Canada initially. She has been incredible… and I can say, is the sole reason I have not pulled all my hair out. She listens to every crazy moment I have and helps me through it. I’m still not sure how she managed… as her struggles were likely way more stressful than my last month. She is amazing. That’s it! Anyway, I’m stoked. My order has been picked up. It’s heading north. I’ve budgeted for everything to get it here and should have stock in a few weeks. Sweet!
Then the first roadblock hits. The customs bill. $1300! Ummm WHAT??? If I hadn’t been sitting at a restaurant with my teaching colleagues, I would have had instant tears. I immediately send a panicked text to my right hand woman (the previous owner of the rights mentioned above) and she figures out that they’ve charged me duty on duty free items. No big deal, we’ll get a new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) signed and we’ll be good to go. Whew! Three days later, my bill drops more than $900 and we’re back on track!
A week and a bit later, I start wondering why I have yet to receive my order. So I start emailing. Turns out, the trucking company lost my pallet. That’s right. They lost a 1250lb pallet. I didn’t even know that was possible, but okay. It’s found, assigned a new tracking number and back on the correct path. Awesome!
Fast forward to today. My shipment is due. Finally, a few days short of a month from shipping date, I’m going to have stock and be able to start paying off this initial shipment! Finally! Ha! Jokes on me this time.
Mid afternoon hits and I’m starting to wonder why I haven’t heard anything about my shipment. So I hop on to check the tracking. My jaw drops and I fight back tears. It’s still sitting just south of the border. I email my freight company. They have been unable to contact the trucking company (they had been trying for three days in relation to a delivery address change that I had requested). They suggest that I have it shipped to the original address to save time. I kindly (and at this point I was actually still kind) point out that the delivery date was today so I was struggling with the address change being the reason it is still sitting. While waiting to hear back, I decide to call the trucking company myself…
The lady on the other end of the line asks for my tracking number and confirms my identity. She is obviously scrolling her computer for the correct and most up to date information. She points out that the shipments ‘recon’ has been denied. I ask what that means. She says it cannot be delivered to the address provided. At this point I’m feeling like that’s reasonable, I’ll just give the new address and it’ll all be fine. But she doesn’t want the new address and cannot help me. The shipment is scheduled to be sent back to the shipper. I ask her why and she responds “well, what else are we supposed to do if we can’t deliver to the address?”
That’s the moment I started seeing red. Because of my history in customer service, I always try to be understanding and polite. But today, I couldn’t help myself! I lost it on the poor girl. I asked her (ok, I actually screamed at her) why the emails from my freight company hadn’t been returned and why, after losing my shipment, neither myself nor the freight company representing me were notified of the issue with delivery. She proceeded to speak over me and tell me that the shipment had only been picked up a few days ago. That’s when I got really mad. I actually told (ok screamed) her to let me speak. Remember the new tracking number? I’m pretty stubborn and opinionated and like being right. And in this case I knew I was so I unloaded about what events ACTUALLY took place over the past two weeks with my shipment. I reminded her about the old tracking number and the lost pallet and that the shipment had actually been picked up nearly a month ago! She didn’t say anything and only responded when I had finished and requested to be transferred to someone who could help me. “Yes ma’am. You most certainly can.”
I don’t know if it was intentional, but I was placed on hold for nearly twenty minutes. For the first ten, I was fuming. How dare they leave me on hold knowing how angry I was! The last ten I felt a variety of emotions. The first was regret. I had treated that poor girl so badly! And likely, the system is so flawed that she honestly didn’t know any better! Then I felt kind of like a winner. I’d stood up for myself and that woman had deserved it. Lastly, I felt calm. Calm and ready to talk it out. About that moment is when the manager came on the line.
“Ma’am, we’re very sorry for this.”
I was calm by now. “Can you please explain to me what the hold up is. I’m very confused.” The manager went on to explain everything that the initial lady hadn’t. My shipment had been rejected by the reconsignment company that had been hired to carry it across the border. At this point, they were waiting for a full truck and it may take a few days to find a reconsignment with a full truck heading that way. BUT, we understand your frustration and if you’d still like your shipment (that was a dumb thing to say, but remember, I’m calm), we can have our sister company in Canada take it on. I responded with a very desolate “yes please.” In my mind I was actually screaming “was that so hard? Why did I need to get so angry to get this resolved! That seemed easy!” The manager kindly pointed out that she would get that issued immediately and I would see my shipment starting to move tomorrow evening. Thank goodness!
Now, I pray this is the end of this story and in a few days, I’ll be celebrating my first shipment. I feel awful for the way I treated that customer service rep. I’ve been in her shoes. More than once. The reality is, the system is flawed. Not just in the shipping industry, but across the board. Often the people who are on the front lines have little to no power. I worked in a restaurant as a server. Those are the moments I remember the most vividly in regards to customer service (even tho I own a few small businesses and still work in customer service even with horse training). The servers in a restaurant are on the front line and, while sometimes the server is the problem, often they are not. But they are the ones who hear it. The food’s bad, servers get an earful, or, lose their tip. Chances are this poor woman on the other side of the phone literally had zero knowledge of the situation that has haunted me for the past three weeks. But I made sure to let her know exactly how I was feeling. And not in a nice way.
I’m not going to sit here and apologize… I feel bad but not that bad. But I am going to give a big ol’ shout out to anyone who works the front line in customer service. They are heros. Their jobs are to take everyone’s shit. And they don’t get paid enough. To the lady who took my shit today — I thank you.