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Famous Last Words : Web 'Stoopidity' ...

December 2012 By Denny Hatch
6
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OK, I am addicted to buying stuff over the Internet. It's easy and convenient as hell. For example, we have an ancient dog that requires prescription low-residue food by Iams. The stuff is sold only through veterinarians and not at pet stores. No problem, PetFoodDirect.com has a prescription from my vet. I can go online and order a 60-day supply literally in two minutes and it's on my doorstep three days later.

How eBirdseed.com Lost a Customer
We have a small patio behind our 1817 Center City Philadelphia row house. In the cold months, I put up a bird feeder and stock it with sunflower hearts. This is not gourmet fare, but it gives wild birds nourishment and serves as MTV for the ancient dog. The advantage of sunflower hearts: they're hulled, so there are no shells and pods to turn the ground into a disgusting mooshy mess for the rats.

For years, my purveyor has been eBirdseed.com. As with PetFoodDirect.com, the ordering process takes two minutes and the shipment is at my door in three or four days. I give a cursory look at the price and shipping charges. If the costs look reasonable, I buy. (I won't spend two hours comparison-shopping in order to save $2.98.)

Gearing up for winter, I went to eBirdseed.com to order a supply of seed and got the following message:

We currently do not have sunflower hearts and chips in stock.
We will update the site as soon as they become available. Quality sunflower hearts are hard to come by … for anyone in the birdseed industry.

I Googled "Sunflower Hearts." At the top of the list was—you guessed it—Amazon.com. I found 50 pounds of sunflower hearts in stock and ordered them with the One-Click function. The huge box arrived on my doorstep three days later. The sender was a company I never heard of, ozbo. On the shipping document:

Thank you so much!
We hope we've WOW'd you with your order.
If not, please contact us so we can make things better.

If eBirdseed's management had any sense, they too would have cut a deal with ozbo (or somebody) to supply sunflower hearts. Customers are not interested whiners. We want service!

The New York Times Store
My wife, Peggy, and I have been to a lot of places. One day recently, Peggy mentioned it would be fun to get a world map that we could stick pins in to remind us of our various trips.
Mirabile dictu, the next day I came across an ad for such a map, in a handsome frame and including pins, from The New York Times store. With Peggy's birthday later that month, I went to the NYT website and spent 10 minutes ordering the thing (along with an easy NYT book of Monday crossword puzzles).

When I clicked "submit," I got a strange message saying that the order could not be fulfilled because of some problem about my email address. Please try again. I went through the process and was again turned down. Whereupon, I said "screw it" and abandoned the shopping cart.

Whereupon I started receiving "win-back" efforts, the most recent of which said:

Hi Denny,

This is a final courtesy reminder from The New York Times Store:
Your shopping cart will expire soon and you can still redeem your discount for 10% Off your order when you enter the promotion code USTEN into the coupon code box. This offer is valid for a limited time only.
Click Here to receive this exclusive offer. You will not be contacted further.

Sincerely,
The New York Times Store

I wasn't going to spend time trying to order only to be turned down again. Two elements of this win-back effort pissed me off: 1) Did they really think they could buy off a customer who was not allowed to order with a lousy 10 percent discount after the fact? 2) I looked carefully at my abandoned shopping cart and discovered I was going to be charged a usurious $32.95 for shipping and handling.

I felt like the little girl in the old Carl Rose New Yorker cartoon who, when her mother says "It's broccoli, dear." responds with, "I say it's spinach and I say the hell with it."

By the way, if you want a print of this cartoon, Condé Nast will sell it to you (unframed and unsigned) for $125 to $649, depending on size.

Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter, and author of Business Common Sense. Visit him at dennyhatch.com, or contact him via email at dennyhatch@yahoo.com.


 

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