Showing posts with label customer service. Show all posts
Showing posts with label customer service. Show all posts

UPDATE: Are Amazon Seller Ratings Trustworthy?

 If you haven't read the original post about my experience with posting a negative Amazon Seller Review, you might want to check it out.

Apparently Jeff Bezos does care. I just got off the phone with one of his assistants, she read my blog entry and here is roughly what she had to say:
  1. The person who originally took down my review shouldn't have done so. He is a newer employee and was unfamiliar with Amazon's Feedback Removal Policy. She apologised for this and took full responsibility that, as a company, this shouldn't happen. The rep in question will receive additional training to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. She was very clear that, except in the cases outlined in their policy, Amazon does not remove consumer feedback, whether positive or negative.
  2. When I called yesterday and was told my feedback violated their policy, the Seller Department did not actually look into the specifics of my file, despite being asked to do so by my customer service representative. They looked at the notes written by the person who had removed the feedback and assumed he'd done everything by the book. She was very clear that they should have looked into things in greater detail, she said that they intend to address the issue and will do their best to ensure that processes are reiterated so that this kind of situation is avoided in the future.
  3. They were already aware that there was a glitch in the system and that instead of receiving an accurate message saying "Amazon has removed your feedback" it currently implies that the customer has done it, which is what made me think that my account had been hacked. They have now escalated the issue and hope to have it resolved quickly.
Because I've never had a bad customer service experience with Amazon before, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that this really was a calamity of errors and that Amazon is acting in good faith. If nothing else, the power of the Internet (and the fact that my original blog entry about it has had nearly 2,000 page views in less than 24 hours) makes me think there is some security in knowing that if they are misrepresenting their policy, people will speak up and call them out on it.

So despite absolutely and utterly flubbing my case, here's what Amazon did right in the end:
  • They paid attention to social media and took my complaint seriously. They took the time to read about my experience and they had someone personally respond to me who was actually in a position to speak with authority about the situation. 
  • They apologised and admitted they were in error and hadn't followed their own policies and procedures. Although they gave a few reasons for the errors, it didn't feel like they were making excuses. They also told me that they are taking steps to correct the problem with their process and that my unfortunate experience was being used as a learning opportunity.
  • They clearly stood behind the importance of consumer reviews, particularly of third party sellers. The person I spoke to understood the policy inside and out and spoke passionately about how important it is to Amazon. 
Maybe I'm naive, but I believed her. Hopefully Amazon doesn't prove me wrong.

Thanks to everyone who commented, shared the original post and Tweeted about this. It was heartening to get such a supportive response.

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Are Amazon Seller Ratings Trustworthy?

I Bought the Wrong Product
Last month I bought a case for my Kindle via a third party retailer on Amazon. When the case arrived it was too small - in their advertisement they referred to the large size Kindle 2 and apparently mine is a 9 inch Kindle DX.

I contacted the Seller about returning my product, which they told me I could do although I was still responsible for all the shipping costs. First they asked me to mail the item to their warehouse, then they asked me to ship it directly to a private address in Canterbury. I agreed to all their terms and in addition to posting it to the private address, I also sent the Seller a copy of my invoice and of our email correspondence, highlighting where the product had been shipped.

Beware the Negative Seller Review!
Three weeks passed and I still hadn't heard back from the Seller nor had I received a refund, but I did receive about three emails from Amazon asking me to log onto their site and review the seller. Frustrated, I logged on and left a negative feedback score (2/5) and a comment along the lines of, "When the case arrived it was too small. The refund process was convoluted and to date (weeks later) I still haven't received my refund."

Within hours I had an email from the Seller berating me for leaving negative feedback. Instead of being concerned about a misunderstanding or customer service gaffe, they complain that I was ruining their business, shouted at me in all-caps and then gave me instructions about how to remove my negative feedback from Amazon. Some of the highlights:
  • "I am so upset that you have left a NEGATIVE FEEDBACK on our Amazon listing. I am not sure you are aware that a negative can have our account suspended. This is our family business and our source of income."
  • "I am simply without words to see the FIRST NEGATIVE customer feedback in almost 500 trading days of business. This is no way to treat a good seller."
  • "Are you aware that the entire Amazon network and customers see these reviews and this can cause of seller rating to drop and cause a suspension. We are very stressed about this and need this issue resolved quickly before our image on Amazon is ruined. I am still cannot belive this is happening to us..why ??? I am so upset about this!"
  • "I would appreciate if you could remove this as we have been a very very good seller. I remember my wife asking me to sign a cheque weeks ago, so either it was lost or there is a communication issue. Could you be polite and remove this negative feedback .... please remove this before our sales are hurt even more."
Right - so instead of addressing my valid customer service concern and then politely asking me if I would consider removing my negative feedback once they dealt with it (which I would have done, by the way), the Seller tried to guilt me into removing a review that I considered to be valid and even-handed.

Negative Feedback .... Disappears
Shortly after this email exchange, I logged onto my Amazon account to find that my feedback had been removed.

There had been no email from Amazon and I knew I hadn't removed the feedback. Immediately, I began to worry that the Seller who sent me an inappropriate email had found a way of accessing my account. I looked into Amazon's Feedback Removal Policy and was confident that my review didn't meet any of their criteria for removal. I also wrongly assumed that they would not remove my feedback without at least notifying me. Also suspect was the message (screenshot above) saying that I had removed the feedback, when I hadn't.

After changing my password, I called Amazon and was put through to a very helpful customer service person. After some digging, it was determined that the Amazon department representing Sellers removed my feedback in response to a complaint from the Seller. They apologised for not having sent me an email that informed me of the removal of my feedback - apparently that should have happened.

After a bit more questioning they told me that the review was removed because I mentioned the product, which, I was told, violates their feedback policy. The only Amazon feedback removal policy that references product mentions says, a review will be removed if:
The entire feedback comment is a product review, such as "The Acme Super-Widget lacks the sharpness and speed of the Acme Ultra Widget." However, if the feedback comment is only partly a product review but ALSO contains feedback about the seller's service, such as "Seller's shipping service was very slow, and the Acme Super-Widget lacks the sharpness and speed of the Acme Ultra Widget," then the feedback would NOT be removed. 
When I pointed out to Amazon that, although I referenced the size of the product, the majority of my review was about the seller and their policy clearly allows for this, I was told that they would need to get back to me because the very nice man I was speaking to was unfamiliar with the actual wording of the feedback policy. Again, he needed to speak to the Seller department to get more information.

15 minutes later the same representative called me back to apologise and say that my review would be reinstated within two hours. After more digging, it seems that it was "accidentally" deleted by someone at Amazon and that there were no grounds for removing it. This conversation happened at noon today.

About six hours later my review was still not up so I called Amazon. Again, I was greeted by a very pleasant customer service person. I explained the entire situation to her (as she didn't seem to have any record of it) and put me on hold (again) as she spoke to the Seller department. When she came back, she told me that she would need to speak to my original customer service representative (I had his name) and that only he could deal with my problem. I am supposed to hear back from him sometime tomorrow about whether or not my feedback will actually be reinstated.

If my situation represents the typical way Amazon deals with negative feedback, then as a company, they are far more concerned with keeping their Sellers happy then their customers. My Seller didn't like my negative feedback, complained to Amazon and, in contravention of their own policy, they removed my review. They didn't contact me to tell me and, in fact, misrepresented the situation with a message on my account inferring that I had removed the feedback myself. If the seller hadn't sent me such a crazy email, I probably would never have logged into my account to re-read my feedback, which is buried deep within my profile, and as a result, I would never have known it was removed.

Moreover, if I hadn't made myself familiar with Amazon's Feedback Removal Policy, I would have accepted the word of the customer service representative and assumed that I'd done something wrong. They seem to be counting on the ignorance of customers. Finally, after all of the above, if I wasn't annoyed enough to check back, deep into my account, six hours later, I would not have called back and again, would not have noticed my feedback hadn't been reinstated.

It makes me wonder whether I can trust the Seller reviews on Amazon or whether they are fixed to benefit Sellers. The benefit for Amazon in having high Seller ratings is presumably that people tend to buy more from Sellers they trust, and Amazon sees a share of this profit. The downside, which Amazon should really consider, is that as a regular online consumer, I no longer trust these ratings nor do I trust that Amazon is handing reviews in a transparent way. Are Sellers with mostly positive reviews really trust worthy, or are they just the ones who take the time out to complain to Amazon? The result of this kind of practice is that genuinely good sellers may be penalised because consumers no longer have faith in positive reviews.

At the present time, my review has still not been re-posted and although I've been told my concern will be dealt with quickly, my faith in Amazon has been shaken. Next time you buy from a third-party on Amazon, you might want to rethink whether you can really trust their feedback score and if you've left a negative review, you might want to check that Amazon hasn't secretly removed it.

Update - Tuesday 16th March, 10 a.m.
When I got up this morning, I logged into Amazon to see that my review had been reinstated, so that's good. I am still concerned about this process and whether it is the typical way that the Amazon Seller Department handles negative complains from customers. There seems to be a bit of conflict between the department that represents the interest of customers and the one that looks after Sellers. At this point Amazon hasn't really explained to me what happened to get this entire process so off track.

I originally posted my Amazon review on Friday night and now that it's been reinstated, because it is nearly five days old, it is no longer showing up on the front page of the Seller's shop, which is where it would have been for at least a few days if it had not been taken down. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but again, I wonder about whether this was intentional.

The other point of concern is that it seemed relatively easy for the Seller to have negative reviews removed (my review was removed within eight hours of me putting it up) but it's taken me much more time and effort (and a blog post) to have it reinstated. After all of this, I am still left with the question - are third party Seller ratings on Amazon trustworthy? Is this just a wild example of everything falling apart or is this something that happens a lot at Amazon? I have more answers than questions.

I welcome anyone from Amazon to weigh in and provide an explanation. Jeff Bezos ... are you out there? Do you care?

Update 2: I've heard from the office of Jeff Bezos, apparently he does care. Here's what they had to say

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Dear Waitrose

We need to talk.

Let me preface this by saying that I am likely not your target customer. I am not independently wealthy and although I prefer not to, occasionally I do need to at least consider whether it is more clever to buy the £4 pasta sauce, or the jar for £1.

Despite this, my desire to visit your glowy fluorescent halls has, for the past few months, won out over considerations of money and I have been overcome with an addiction to your crispy and fresh leafy greens (not easy to come by in the UK), your organised aisles of neatly stocked specialty items, your genuinely impressive array of fresh herbs and your cheery employees. Your store is sunny and bright and is something like what I imagine a grocery store in heaven might look like. You know the angel in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercials? I bet she shops at a Waitrose.

It never smells like sour milk and you don't have any of those horrible self-checkout counters that has taken over most other grocery stores. I really resent that M&S, which is arguably just as expensive as you and, which runs a campaign based on their difference in quality to justify high prices (it's worth every penny!), have replaced nearly all humans with an extremely unfriendly self check-out system. Unless you shop during peak time, you have no choice but to bumble through one of those unpleasant machines yourself (usually only to find out that after all your effort, the machine doesn't take card, or coin, or just generally hates you).

Waitrose, maybe it's because you are a genuine diamond in the roughage of unfriendly and painful shopping experiences or maybe it's because even though I know I can't afford you, I still persist in giving you all my money (and I do it with love), that you broke my heart a little bit last week.

For the last month and a half you have not had any whole wheat pasta on your shelves - nothing. The only pasta of the whole wheat variety is that sticky gluey stuff in the refrigerated food aisle. And just between you and me, it's really pretty awful. The first few times I visited, I gave you the benefit of the doubt but last week, I decided to enquire at Customer Service. Here's where it gets ugly...

Although you have a big, bright and welcoming Customer Service desk, the girl who works there told me that to actually ask a question related to Customer Service, I need to dial a toll free number. She was nice about telling me and gave me the number but ... really? I also didn't get the impression it was just bad timing but that as a matter of course, to speak to Customer Service you expect me to use the telephone. The big desk is apparently a ruse - I guess if we see it, we assume we can get it and that makes us feel better? The poor kids who actually work at the Customer Service Desk must just be hoping that no one actually thinks to, er, ask a question.

Anyhow, I went home and called the toll free number. Thankfully, it didn't lead me to a phone tree or automatic recording, but rather a real human who was quite friendly. She explained (in a very perky manner) that other than the gluey fresh pasta, you have discontinued your line of whole wheat pasta and do not plan to carry another line any time soon.


In this age where people are trying to be healthier, you, my beloved Waitrose, have decided to discontinue your entire whole wheat line of pasta? When your USP is that you offer good service and specialty items to justify huge price mark ups, you've decided to discontinue your entire whole wheat line of pasta? (I could go on...)

I suppose I should be thanking you. Despite my best efforts at convincing myself otherwise, I now feel compelled to go half a block down the street to Morrisons (the horror!), which makes me sad and angry because it is the grocery store equivalent of a MacDonalds Playroom on a Saturday afternoon.

Still, though I am missing you now, in more ways than one, this transition will eventually be good for my health. Which is what I'll be trying to tell myself next time I'm at Morrisons stumbling over toddlers and fighting for the last browning head of lettuce, while trying to avoid slipping in the pool of sour milk on the floor.



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A Love Letter

Dear HSBC,

I know that you are a gigantic multi-national bank and that you probably don't care about a small fish like me. I do not have millions (or really, even thousands) of pounds in my bank account. I do not have a mortgage with you or anything else through which you can drip me dry of my savings through fluctuating interest rates. And I generally tend to pay off my credit card bill month to month, which means that you don't even get to earn money off of my most frivolous purchases. I am a dud of a bank customer.

I should feel fortunate that you ALLOW me to have a bank account at all, really. I am a Canadian after all, and you know what we are like. We tend to be wishy washy peace keepers, we aren't involved in the oil race in any meaningful way and we tend to limit our pillaging. As a result, we never have the big bucks.

Although you call yourselves 'The World's Local Bank", which I understand to mean that you are international in nature, and even though there is even one of you in the medium size Canadian prairie town I come from, I should count myself lucky that it only took two months for you to let me set up an account and that you are only charging me a £12 per month premium for the luxury. Thank you HSBC for enabling me to allow you to make money off of what is mine.

Most important, I don't want you to worry about me having any expectations related to customer service. I am paying for the luxury of having you as my financial institution, not for service. I don't expect my Internet banking to work on a regular basis and I am just fine when, for no apparent reason, I get security warnings that force me to call you and sit on hold for a half an hour only to have you get me to pick yet another security number. The fact that you can't explain why this keeps happening must be stressful for you and I hope that you know that I am clear that none of this is your fault. I must be doing something wrong.

Although it is my money sitting in your bank, don't think that I want easy or regular access to it. Being unable to take out cash only makes me appreciate the value of a pound when you do see fit to allow me access. Feel free to put security flags on my account any time you want. Decline my purchases and don't bother calling me. Just do it. It's not really my money, is it? Oh, right, it is. But still. I'm sure you have your reasons, though you are shy and unable to clearly articulate what those are.

Last Tuesday night when I was in a strange area in North East London and my card ceased to function, it all worked out in the end, didn't it? I didn't get stabbed, or beaten up, I didn't have to pan handle, and thanks to the kindness of friends, I didn't even have to walk the three hours it would have taken me to get home. When I called you from the rainy streets of London, I appreciate that you saw fit to get to me within 45 minutes. Efficiency is your middle name. And don't pay any mind to the fact that the call used up almost all my mobile minutes for this month or that your customer service number is not one that is included in basic free calling minutes so I paid for every second you had me on hold. If I didn't have to work for it, how would I ever really appreciate all that you do for me?

When we did finally connect, you made me realise that it really was my fault that my bank card stopped working. Even though the card said it was good until May 2010, I should have been paying more attention to the piles of mail you send me because at some point you did post through a new bank card, which I must have missed. You can't really explain why given that the current card was working fine, but I guess I should consider it a special gift from a friend. I know your computer system told you that I hadn't activated the new card yet, but you needed to teach me a lesson, which you did by turning off my perfectly functional card. You're a real pal.

Finally, I really appreciate the fact that when my Canadian mother went to her local HSBC branch in an attempt to transfer money to me, you wouldn't help her. I know I have a checking account, savings account and credit card with you, but it would be ridiculous of you to be able to apply money to any of these accounts from anywhere other than my local Cardiff branch. Just because you are international doesn't mean we can expect you to function, erm, internationally. The problem is really all those people (like my mother) who have unrealistic expectations. You are only a bank after all.

This is a bad time to be in your line of work. You are suffering, through absolutely no fault of your own. I just want you to know that I am going to stand by you through all the financial mismanagement and shoddy service. You are going through a difficult time, and we always hurt those who are closest to us. I am there for you. Hell, I am willing to pay for the privilege.

All my love,


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