Famous Last Words: Who Can You Trust on the Web?
2012 was a good year for us, and we decided to splurge on a joint Christmas present—the commemorative set of 22 James Bond DVDs to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
We journeyed to Costco to buy some hamburger and the Bond DVDs. Got the hamburger, but Bond was nowhere to be found.
So, Peggy, my wife, went online and ordered it from Amazon.com. As Kindle users and serious readers, we spend a ton of loot with Amazon.
Peggy ordered the product gift-wrapped and express shipped in time for Christmas. The cost: $300-plus.
Christmas Day, she handed me the Amazon shipping box. I opened it with great enthusiasm and tore into the gift wrap. The packaging was splendid.
Not splendid: The sticker on the back that read:
What the bloody hell?! My guess: Amazon bought out the Costco inventory, doubled the price and sold it to its customers, who were happy to pay the full freight amid the holiday shopping frenzy.
We decided Christmas Day was not the ideal time to phone customer service, so Peggy texted a masterpiece of a complaint to Amazon. She felt ripped off, her Christmas was ruined, she'd never trust Amazon again and you can damned well refund $150.
Amazon replied within an hour with apologies and assurance that the refund request would be honored.
One of the great professionals in our craft was the late Joan Throckmorton, who wrote in Don Jackson's and my "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success":
As direct marketers we're not here primarily to make a sale; we're here to get a customer. Sales are important, of course. (Where would marketers be without them?) But the name of this game is repeat sales rather than one-shots.
British Airways, One-Shot Dudes
Fast-forward a month. We needed a break and decided on four days in London and transatlantic return via Cunard.
The logical way to London's Heathrow from Philly is via British Airways, which we have taken a number of times. I went to the BA website and found Flight No. 68 one-way leaving at 10 p.m. from $570 per person. I had not firmed up the deal with Cunard, so I jumped off the BA website and finished booking the boat.
An hour later I went back to BA and the one-way price was suddenly $1,418 per person.
What the bloody hell?! The price had been jacked up $840!
Curiouser and Curiouser
I went to Kayak.com to see if we could get a cheaper flight. I entered the data, ticked the "non-stop" box and got a message back:
Major carrier: leaves PHL 10 p.m.
I gave Kayak my credit card and the deal was done. Up on the screen came the confirmation for British Airways Flight No. 68. In two minutes I had saved a total of $1,680.
Tarnishing the Brand
Nobody likes being jerked around the way I was by Amazon and British Airways. As a long-time customer of both, I felt sandbagged. Suddenly I felt dirty doing business with them. What might they have done? Been honest for starters. For example:
• If I were in charge at Amazon, I would have said, "Amazon shares warehouse space with Costco and the product was picked from the wrong bin. To say thank-you for your business, we are 1) honoring your request for a $150 refund and 2) will send you, as a FREE GIFT, 'Skyfall'—the new Bond thriller—just as soon as it is released on DVD."
• If I were in charge at British Airways, I would put an asterisk next to the $570 price and add a line that said: "This price is scheduled to rise to $1,418. To take advantage of this price, you must act within 47 minutes."
In the case of Amazon, I would have felt Jeff Bezos really cared about me. As for British Airways, I would have been grateful 1) for getting a really good price and 2) for the airline tipping me off. This is called CRM—Customer Relationship Magic (as opposed to Customer Relationship Misery).
Denny Hatch is a direct marketing copywriter, designer, consultant and the author of six books on marketing, "CAREER-CHANGING TAKEAWAYS" being the most recent. Visit him at dennyhatch.com, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.