Say What You Mean But Mean What You Say

By Larry Teren

Voice over phone: “Welcome to the American Association for Better Communications. Press one for English, o para Espanol oprima dos…” Huh?

Okay, so I like to buy used books through Amazon. A lot of people do. In most cases, the books come from trading partners and are at ridiculously low prices- often a penny each. The shipping costs, though, add up- $3.95 a pop. Sounds like I’m gonna make a beef? Right? Yeah. Because that’s what I do.

About ten days prior to going out of town for a week or so I order a couple of books from one book store. I choose a reseller in a distant place that doesn’t have sales tax reciprocity for purchases out of state. Besides, how do you charge sales tax on a penny purchase?

I order the books in the early evening. The next day I receive the usual email indicating that I may no longer cancel the order as the books are SHIPPED. Fine, I make note of the day of the week and the calendar date and eagerly anticipate the two books.

Eight days later, with nothing in hand and not wanting to seem like a crybaby and contact the book seller, I check the original email acknowledgment and find the USPS shipment tracking number. The USPS website indicates that the books are received at the shipment facility on the 24th of the month in the locality of the book shipper. This is a full three days after I am informed that it shipped. I file the “hmmm” for later use and calculate to receive the books a couple of days before I go off on the vacation. Which is exactly what happens.

As Shakespeare would say- “ay, wheres the rub?” And I would answer- a few days after I return from vacation, I receive an email from the bookseller/shipper asking me to rate the experience in the handling of the shipment. I’ve done this countless times for all the other books and it is usually a slam dunk “very satisfied”. Not this time- I write of disappointment that the truth has been stretched. The notification that it is shipped is untrue as it does not get into the post office hands until a few days later. I rate my satisfaction with the service a 2 or 3 out of 5. No big deal to me- I still intend to purchase from them but just want them to know I am unhappy this one time.

The next day I receive an email from the customer service manager crying to me that things happen and apologizes. That’s nice but he takes it a step further that rankles my artificial feathers. He asks me to take back the negative feedback and gives me instructions on how to do that on the Amazon site.

I reply to him that feedback is what it is. One doesn’t take it back. Amazon encourages customers to provide feedback. That’s how resellers learn how to give service, American style. It doesn’t mean that I won’t buy again but that I have a right to let someone know not to send meaningless emails about something being shipped just because. One can argue that it is ridiculous to make a stink over a one cent purchase- eight bucks (two books) if you include the postage. I say look at it as a dress rehearsal for a more meaningful purchase. You want to disagree? Fine! So, try this one out:

My brother receives perks for the many airline tickets he purchases during the course of the year. One is to get a free subscription to a magazine of choice. Out of the goodness of his heart (yeah, sure), he decides to assign the free subscription for a nameless business magazine to me.

I eventually receive the first copy and find it to be not to my liking which is disappointing. I used to subscribe to that magazine in the 1980s and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now it has a totally different look, more upscale, yuppie-like and hardly anything in it to which I can relate. (Okay, so it makes me an old fogy. But I don’t relate to AARP Magazine either.)

I notice on the mailing label the subscription end date and see that it will be sometime in February. This gives me several months to try to get used to and enjoy the periodical. Uh-uh, no-go. I can’t wait for the subscription to end. In November, I receive a letter reminding me to resubscribe as it is expiring soon. Three and a half months is soon?

At the beginning of February, a page is attached to the cover of the magazine reminding me that the subscription is almost over and I need to re-up or lose the valuable information I receive each week. Two weeks later I receive an attachment with the magazine indicating that this is the next to last issue. The following week, the attachment reads that this is my final issue.

The following week I receive another copy with no reference to the delivery expiring the prior week. Ditto this week. I suspect that the guy whose job it is to write “final” and send it is working in a cubbyhole somewhere in the south of India. In the meantime, it’s business magazine as usual. And that’s final… or is it?

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