Tuesday, April 13, 2010

FTD'd Off

It’s funny. I was just the throes of writing this lengthy blog about how happiness ruins creativity (ask any stand-up comedian), and lo and behold, I’m finding myself pissed off. Granted, it’s over the banalities of life, not the overall big picture stuff. Big picture remains a dream come true. But as I’ve always said, it’s the little things that will drive a person to the roof with a sniper rifle and Beef List a mile long.

Most recently, it’s FTD.com. Yeah, they deliver pretty posies and whatnot. They also deliver anger and heartburn and seven different kinds of meshugass. More importantly, what they don’t deliver is anything resembling what they have on the website. Say, for example, that you decide to have a combination green plant/cut flower arrangement sent to your mom for her birthday, because, you know, you get the nice flowers and the added bonus of a plant that doesn’t die after a week (unless you’re me, the Dr. Mengele of the plant world).

Now, let’s say that, hypothetically, this arrangement isn’t exactly cheap. But you knew that going in, and your mom is worth it, and let’s face it: It’s a really nice surprise to get flowers delivered to your doorstep. It’s kinda special, in a special kind of way. So you throw caution to the four winds and order the arrangement, and you're thrilled that in spite of the fact that your mom lives in remote North Pole, Alaska, there was a local florist willing to arrange and the deliver on the very same day you ordered! Yay! Success! High fives all around!

But wait! Now your mom has posted a picture of said "arrangement" on your facebook profile, thanking you for your lovely thoughtfulness or thoughtful loveliness or whatever...and the arrangement in question, the one you picked out all special-like for your one and only mother, the one you dropped some mad ducets on....is a potted plant. That's it. Just a potted plant, and not even a terribly impressive one at that. But where are the blooms FTD.com so loftily promised? And the description said they'd be arranged in a nice basket. Where's the basket? There's no basket! It's bad enough that they didn't even send the arrangement you ordered...but NO BASKET? What kind of sick, twisted bastards are you, FTD.com?

Well, if you're me, you spend a half hour complaining and calling FTD.com a few choice, x-rated epithets (I like to throw in a few farm animals, too, just for color), and then you pick up your phone and call customer service.

I have a long and checkered history of calling customer service lines. Usually, I have to do this because I'm behind on a payment and I have to sweet-talk my way out of a late fee. I'm a pro at that. Don't judge. It's called survival, Richie Rich. Anyway, occasionally I will have to call customer service if I simply have a question. "Hi, Bertha. I have a question about your fine product, Crest Toothpaste, Regular flavor. What exactly are you basing the description 'regular' on? 'Regular' as opposed to 'irregular', or 'unusual', or perhaps 'intermittent', depending on your definition of 'regular'?" And then Bertha and I have a good laugh and I say, "thanks again, Bertha! Same time next month?"

Every once in a while, I'll have to call customer service to apply a verbal smack down directly to The Man. And by "every once and a while", I pretty much mean at least once a month, and it's usually to AT&T. That's a whole different blog, though, and probably will be very soon. So I felt like calling someone other than my Massive Evil Unreliable Ridiculously Expensive Cellphone Corporation was almost palate-cleansing.

Captain Customer Service at FTD.com did what most customer service operators do: They listen to your complaint, they supply a cursory apology that's been written on a note card and pinned to the wall of their cube, and then they offer to forward your comments up to their manager, with flowery promises that it will be responded to immediately. I was told I’d get a call back within 24 hours.

Three days later, I received an email from FTD.com, stating, and I quote:

"Good morning. In response to your ordered item, we spoke with the florist who informed us that this was difficult order to fill and deliver and can not give a 15% discount on the arrangement. We apologize for any inconvience [sic]. If you have any questions please contact us. Thank you for choosinf [sic] FTD.com."

This definitely made me reconsider "choosinf" FTD.com for all of my flower delivery needs, and all the “inconvience” it caused me. I think my response speaks for itself:

"First of all, it was not an 'arrangement'. It was a potted plant. That's it. I'm still struggling to understand why it was a difficult order to fill, since clearly it simply involved picking up a potted plant and delivering it. I paid for a greens and blooms arrangement, and I did not receive it. Why was this option offered in the first place if the florist contacted by FTD was unable to meet its commitment? Essentially, I paid $75 for a potted plant.

Ultimately, your response is perfunctory and unsatisfactory. Therefore, I will not be using the services of FTD.com again, and I will make sure I inform all of my friends and relatives that they should not use FTD.com themselves, especially given that the vendors they choose to use for local deliveries are unreliable and unwilling to make amends for short-shrifting their customers. This is truly disappointing."

After this, I received an autoreply with the whole "Thanks for your email. Your message will be forwarded to the appropriate member of our staff..." song and dance, and that simply wasn't good enough for me. So I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I didn't think this action would yield anything. Turns out, businesses really, REALLY don't like it when they get nastygrams from the BBB, so within 4 hours, I was refunded the full amount I spent on the "arrangement" to mom, plus an apology from FTD.com for the order substitution.

I've wasted a lot of time in my life keeping my mouth shut when I should have been advocating for myself. Sadly, I can't get those years back. But I can start advocating now, and I still occasionally have the pang of "Oh, it's not a big deal. It's really not worth getting worked up about." You know what, though? It is. When the economy tanks and people start losing jobs and income and homes, you better believe that they’re going to be extremely conscientious about what they spend their money on. They might still spend it, but if customers don’t get what they pay for, you better believe there’s going to be fallout. And if companies hope to weather bad times, they sure as hell better respond to their customer’s complaints satisfactorily. Apologizing for the “inconvience” is insulting. Buck up, be a man, admit your mistake and refund the money. With any luck, you’ll have saved yourself from an angry customer who would like nothing more than to slag off your company in her blog.

Are you listening, AT&T?