Try 3 months for $3

I went ahead and spent good money on a pair of chore boots this week, high-top rubberized trompers with a cinch strap at the calf. Halfway through the first day I wore the boots, the clip designed to secure the excess cinch strap snapped. This made me cranky, and I went straight to the computer, fired off an email to the manufacturer, received a response within the hour from a representative who said I wasn’t the only one experiencing this issue, they were contemplating a redesign, and they’d happily send me a replacement. A few days later a multi-pack of clips arrived in the mail, gratis. If I take perverse joy in relating customer service horror stories, it seems only fair that I own up to those instances when customer service is exactly what it claims to be.

No matter how steamed I am in these situations, I have learned to temper my initial approach. This is based on more than once having ridden into battle on my high horse, only to return afoot and wearing my own saddle when midway through the exchange it became clear the mistake was on my end, not theirs.

In many cases it is best to write what I call “refrigerator emails”: write’em, let’em cool overnight, then delete in the morning. But sometimes the itch is too strong not to scratch.

Once upon a time our family used a certain company for certain services. Over a period of many years, the company performed terrifically. Then they got bought out or remade or somesuch. The “improvements” resulted in breakdowns and backlogs. Now then: As someone who sells things online and has dealt with his own customer service issues, I am slow to lambaste anyone because I know how dumb I feel when we mess up an order or someone has trouble accessing our site and I don’t have the immediate fix. So I was pretty mellow about the problems and delays the company was experiencing. What finally tripped my trigger, what sent me snarkily to my keyboard was their repeated invocation — in emails and on recorded phone messages — of a certain phrase. And so, against my better judgment, I wrote them a note:

Also … may I politely and respectfully say that when someone tells me “We Love You” at every turn while apologizing for not being able to help me promptly, the effect is emotionally counterproductive? My helper had to hear it over and over while she was on an endless loop of hold with your customer service as well. I am a longtime satisfied and grateful client of [company]. I understand full well that changeovers often require patience, and I’m happy to give it. But seriously, this “we love you” stuff is a real load of NutraSweet.

And that was the fourth draft, with all the hurtful words removed.

It changed nothing, of course. I continued to receive regular assurances that [company] loved me, sometimes with an exclamation mark! This seems to be a theme with a lot of your contemporary online businesses, but I’ve never been a huggy guy, even less so when my credit card is involved. Just treat me straight and send me the boot clips; every time I pull my foot out of the mud and the boot comes with it, then, then I feel the love.

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An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio”(tentshowradio.com). Read more from Michael Perry at www.sneezingcow.com.

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