My wife and I ordered some stuff online for our girls’ birthday parties a few weeks ago. One of the items was a package of small, rubber/plastic puppies. My wire found them online (likely through Amazon, where we do a lot of our online shopping), and ordered them.
We got them two days after the girls’ birthday parties. We weren’t especially excited about it, but we got over it. We were able to make do without it. Here’s the interesting part. With the shipment was a note (that’s the image for this post). It was faintly printed on a UPS-style sticker (4×6 or so), and it reads:
Please Read This!
We apologize so sincerely! We recently had an issue with our shipping. And a few orders came back to us because the shipping labels printed with the address completely centered so part of the information went running off the edge of the label. We went through all the orders from that same day making sure everything shipped. Just to be safe we are re-shipping these to you. If you wind up getting two packages please keep both – we are just trying to be on the safe side.
And here’s where it gets interesting…
Also, this is very hard for us to ask, but in the nicest, most kindest way possible we ask – Please don’t leave us Negative or Neutral feedback. We are a struggling Family Toy Store. The most recent few months have been extremely stressful for us financially. We try so hard, we are doing our best. Bad feedback wouldn’t help the situation, wouldn’t make anything right. But sure would hurt us. Please.
Huh… This amounts to an impassioned plea from the retailer to not leave negative feedback. I don’t think anyone particularly likes negative feedback, but as a “struggling family toy business”, in 2012, you really don’t want it! And that’s the part that struck me: for many of us (at least for my wife and me), online reviews are a critical part of our buying process. This is social media. We look what others have to say about a company, shipping, customer service, the product itself, return process, etc. to see if it’s a sound purchase decision.
I think people often swapped stories about retail exchanges – word of mouth has been around for as long as we’ve been able to talk. But the reach of that message was limited by how loud you were, how large our own network is, and your own social status. Ten-plus years ago, I might not know that company A, with an awesome product, has a horrible return policy. And if I’m buying something online, I want to know that in advance (since I can’t drive 20 minutes right back to a retail store and exchange it, where I have a reasonable expectation of a good return policy). Social media, by way of publicly-accessible reviews, permits that.
The review and star and rating system with online retailers can nearly make or break a company. Imagine a start-up company with an e-presence on Amazon. Maybe they miss one shipping date near the holiday season, have a phone rep who is in a bad mood that one day (but interacts with 90+ customers), or the website fails to process 30% of the orders. This is a perfect storm of negative reviews. So, people head to the review section of Amazon, flood them with one star, and depart. What’s left in the wake is indeed a handful of bad reviews, but on a platform that gets a huge amount of attention. This is why YouTube moved from the star system to the thumbs up/thumbs down system – too many people were leaving 1- or 5- star reviews, and nothing in the middle. This is why podcasters (the newer ones) will ask that you go rate the podcast in iTunes and leave a review. The ratings of a pod cast factor greatly in discovery on the system, as well as a sign to potential advertisers.
The online review is more critical than it’s ever been, since some of the products available are nearly commoditized. What’s to separate item A from item B, if they are nearly identical?
We won’t be leaving a negative review of this company. We were mildly upset that they missed the date for us. But they offered up an explanation and what appears to be a sincere apology. That’s all I needed (we didn’t even need the request to not post a negative review). But it gave me a moment to think about all of this. The power of a huge platform and the democratization of voices has given ample opportunity for new businesses to both succeed and fail.
What about you? Have you ever had a bad purchase experience, but were righted in the end?
image source: author’s own