Sunday, July 20, 2014

Simple is as simple does? (Musings on what can go wrong when buying a bed)

Updated: 21 July 2014
Note: To see 4 posts on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) see 'While my guitar gently weeps' (Musings on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis)
This is the first in a series of farces on what can happen when you try to help senior pals  in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The learning points apply to any business and their  customers.

This isn't a senior story per se but rather what can happen with national department stores, or any large retailer, that has communication and computer (information system) issues.

This farce outlines what happened when I bought a bed from a Canadian icon, The Hudson's Bay, for a senior friend who was in hospital. Note that in 2008 The Bay was bought by a U.S. company that also owns Saks Fifth Avenue. Key points:

1. On 4 June 2014 I bought a twin bed from sales rep Robert at The Bay Southgate for my senior pal, who was in hospital.

2. Bed was scheduled for delivery on 19 June.

3. Surprise! Mattress and box spring arrived but no bed frame. Delivery guys said the 'no frame' bit happened often.

Which motivated my spouse to draw this sketch:

Thus began a series of MANY phone calls to The Bay (and tweets to @TheHudsonsBayCo) to investigate what happened and how to resolve it. My calls were to the bedding dept. at The Bay Southgate in Edmonton, to manager of the dept, to customer support (which turned out to be in Toronto - several calls not documented below). Customer support in Toronto, once on the file, worked to resolve the issue and keep me informed.

4. I called The Bay's bedding dept. manager as the sales rep was not in that day. He said he or the sales rep would call with follow-up.

5. When neither called, I called the dept. and got the sales rep. [Turns out the rep called my pal's number, but she was in hospital.]

The original sales rep said he told me frame was not included as often customers simply used their old frame. But he had not told me and he apologized when I called him on it. My pal had a queen bed but was switching to a twin bed, so the old frame was unsuitable.

6. Robert said he could offer a frame without castors for ~$39.

7. I asked for frame I'd bought yrs earlier for ~$119 with castors and that I knew was good.

8. The rep said there was one in Vancouver that he'd have sent to Edmonton. He'd call when it arrived, likely in about 1 week. I stressed to call me as my pal was in hospital for extended period.

So far so good but then....
I was not called when frame arrived. Instead my pal in the hospital was called. I discovered this later (after #9 below) as I monitor her phone messages periodically.
9. After 10 days I called The Bay bedding dept. and spoke to another rep (Ralph), as original rep was on a day off. Ralph investigated and arranged for frame to be delivered on 9 July (plus assemble bed and remove old frame).

10. I waited but frame wasn't delivered on 9 July and I was not called. Instead I later discovered they'd called my pal, who was still in hospital.

11. On July 12 I went to The Bay and spoke to Ralph. He said the computer system had shown the bed frame to be in Calgary on 8 July, making a 9 July delivery possible. Now the computer showed it was to be in Calgary on 22 July (which was inexplicable). He would ask the original rep to follow-up.

When accessing the computer system, the sales rep's face showed he was frustrated. Another sales rep watching had facial expressions and body language that agreed.

12. Original sales rep did call me back the next day and told me the bed frame was in The Bay Southgate but the computer would not allow him to release it. He would contact The Bay's 'Top Clerk' and see if she could release the frame.

13. Robert followed up and confirmed the bed frame would be delivered Fri. July 18 and would be assembled and the old frame removed.

14. It  happened. A happy ending after MANY phone calls.

My take on this farce of what should have been a simple transaction of buying a bed:

1) Because the delivery guys noted that customers were often shocked that a box spring and mattress arrived without a bed frame, The Bay should correct what may be a systemic error.

2) The Bay's sales reps should pay careful attention to what customers say (such as CALL ME, not pal who's in hospital for extended stay).

3) That its computer system would not release a product suggests major issues with The Bay's information system.

4) The Bay has communication issues, a common problem with large, national organizations.

5) To be fair, The Bay employees truly tried to remedy initial screw-ups / glitches and eventually succeeded. I appreciate their efforts.

As always, comment are most welcome.

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