Posted by: Bonnie Anderson | December 30, 2011

The Conversation Heard ‘Round the World (reposted from April 26, 2011)

To end the year, I am re-posting one of my favorite (i.e., frustrating) customer service stories.  I posted this about a month into writing my blog, so my more recent readers may not have read it.  Hope you enjoy it!


The corner of the room went from light to dark in a split second.  I heard voices but could see no one.  Then the voices faded.  Silence and despair filled the room.  Our television had quit working.

Oh the blessing and curse of today’s technology.  Our TV only went black because it needed a new bulb.  It only needed a new bulb because it’s a large high-definition projection TV.  It seems one has to consider that having this enormous piece of entertainment excellence is worth the cost and inconvenience of a minor thing like replacing a bulb every two and a half to three years.  I, sadly, had not made that consideration, so this was quite the shock to me.

With the service manual in hand, it was easy to diagnose the problem.  The difficulty began the next morning as I dialed the 800-number, which landed me talking to someone far, far away in the Philippines.  They assured me that for a mere $249.99 a replacement bulb could be mine.

After I came to, I inquired about the shipping.  For only $6.00 it would be shipped and I would have it in my hand in a mere seven to ten days.  Right.  What consumer who buys this type of television would wait ten days to watch it again?  Not me, that’s for sure.  Then the very kind and helpful deceiver on the other end of the receiver informed me that I could pick up the bulb myself at any Wal-Mart or Sears, so off I went.

A trip to Wal-Mart could only add to my adventure.  The electronics manager there looked at me and said, “Lady, we don’t sell any $250 bulbs here.  I think they’re yanking your chain.”  And I couldn’t help but agree.  So home I went.

Back to the phones and another helpful person.  I ponied up for the overnight shipping and was told I’d have my new bulb in my hands by noon the next day.  It was coming from Texas.  Say goodnight to Wednesday.

Staying home to await the arrival of my painfully expensive bulb seemed appropriate.  By 10:30 Thursday morning I had not received the e-mail notice of shipping so I began my pursuit of someone who knew what they were talking about.

The first call to the manufacturer gave me the assurance that at any moment the package would be at my door.  I shouldn’t worry that I didn’t have the e-mail because she tracked it for me.

I anxiously awaited the sound of a delivery truck on my street, but by 2:30 I thought I better pick up the phone again.  The next gentleman informed me that the website of the delivery company was down and I would have to call them directly for tracking.  The delivery company said there was nothing in their system that any package was being shipped.  Hummm.  Surprising?  Unfortunately, no.

The manufacturer’s rep I telephoned this time actually seemed to know what she was talking about.  My part was not coming from Texas but from California.  I had placed the order after the cut-off time so I would not receive it until Friday before noon.  How I longed to have dealt with Meg all along.  Wonderful, smart, accurate Meg.  How lonely she must be!

“Was that so hard?”  That’s the question I had for the supervisor whom I felt needed to know my trials.  We actually had a genial conversation where I assured him that I was confident that I would receive my part on Friday and that if I did not, I was willing to fly to the Philippines and help Meg start her own customer service department.  But little did I know that even the wonderful Meg was in on it.  Say goodnight to Thursday.

Friday I awoke with fresh hope.  Hope that would soon be dashed and the sound of the dashing was about to be heard half way around the world.  Again my ears were attentive to the sound of the delivery truck, but 10:30 came and went.  Noon came and went.  Time to call the Philippines.

I demanded to speak directly to the supervisor’s supervisor this time.  No more messing around.  I was informed by him that it would be Monday before I would receive the elusive illuminator.  That was not going to cut it for me so I canceled my order.

“I’m sorry, we cannot cancel your order.  The order has already been sent to California and it’s in their hands now.”

“Surely you can call them or email them and cancel the order,” I foolishly rebutted.

“No ma’am, that’s not possible.”

“You don’t have any way to contact your own company in California?  I find that hard to believe.”

“That’s right ma’am.  But we will be happy to refund you your overnight shipping charge.”

At this point I know I’m beaten. I let him refund my shipping charge and promise him that I will never purchase another item from his company ever again. I contact a supplier in our own state that sells this bulb for $25 more than I was going to spend, which I happily pay. I receive it on Saturday morning. The replacement is simple. We’re good for the next two and a half to three years, at which point I will beg my husband to just buy another television.

Oh, by the way.  Guess what I received on Monday morning.  That’s right.  The bulb sent via the Philippines, Texas, and California.  Good night!


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