Monday, 19 November 2012

A Rant: Where's the Customer Service?

 As Christmas approaches, there are lots of special deals on LEGO. When running up a huge LEGO bill each year it’s important to make savings where possible to afford all of the awesome sets that are available. Unfortunately, here in the UK, many big high street names don’t value the customer enough to make buying those LEGO sets a very pleasant experience.

I am aware that this article is essentially a big rant, but I realised this blog was as good a place as any to do a bit of naming and shaming. And I suspect other collectors can empathise having faced similar problems.

Tesco have been under fire all over the place for their shambolic ordering system online. This affected LEGO fans recently when they offered “3 for 2” on LEGO toys, as often one of the three items would be cancelled from an order – but a customer’s card would still be charged and the order delivered! It defeats the point of buying three products if the free one gets cancelled! Specifically based on personal experience and shared stories from other AFOLs, crushed boxes because the sets have been sent in polythene bags is a common problem, as well as e-mails alerting that the order has arrived at the local Tesco… only for it not to be there.

For a huge chain store, which used to trumpet their good customer service, this is poor. Buying a few toys online should be straightforward, but instead with Tesco it’s hassle. The worst part is that when I e-mailed their customer service to try and solve some of my problems, I got an automated e-mail three days later stating that they would not be responding to e-mails and here is a phone number to call. Why bother having the e-mail address on the website then!?

I went to Toys R Us to take advantage of their “3 for 2” offer on LEGO. This offer happens for a weekend before Christmas each year, and is obviously always popular (perhaps slightly less so since the distribution improved). I asked a Toys R Us Supervisor if there was a Black Pearl left in the back. She checked, and unfortunately there were not. But she then told me to come back and look again, as the offer would be on for a bit longer. I told her it wouldn’t be. In fact, she said the offer was usually on for a couple of weeks. Most readers of this blog here in the UK will know that this offer is never on for a full week, let alone a couple of weeks. Sure enough, the offer ended on Sunday 18th November – the very day she said it would still be on for a week!

Now I don’t expect Toys R Us staff to know as much about LEGO as me or any other LEGO collector, as the fact that I’m writing and you’re reading this blog shows just how passionate we are about our hobby.  But I do expect the Toys R Us staff to know more about their special offers than I do!
The next wrinkle was queuing at the checkout, where just two staff were working and there was a heck of a wait. As well as the “3 for the price of 2 offer”, there was an additional offer advertised – when spending £40 on LEGO Star Wars, the customer would receive a free LEGO Star Wars Planet. When the cashier put the four products through the checkout, however, the two promotions did not work together. Unfortunately, the priority was to make sure the computer system was being followed rather than giving excellent (or even adequate) customer service, and three managers had to get involved before it was sorted. I spent fifteen minutes actually at the service point of the checkout until I had paid and got the LEGO. None of the managers apologised or acted as if they cared about how inconvenient all of this was.

The lack of customer care offered by these large businesses is appalling, and even LEGO themselves – despite usually being head and shoulders above the rest – make mistakes. The extremely popular Christmas baubles on the LEGO Shop at Home website were advertised for £1.99, ‘Arriving Soon’. As soon as they were in stock, the price doubled to £3.99. I enquired to the customer services team about this, and although they apologised refused to honour the advertised price. Advertising something for once price, then bumping the price up once it is in stock seems very unethical.

When there’s a good deal on, collectors have to take advantage. A hobby as expensive as LEGO means fans have to make savings where possible. But if you are paying full price for a LEGO set, I urge readers to go to their local independent toy shop and get some quality customer service rather than using these huge companies who seem to have forgotten that customers want a pleasant shopping experience.

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