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By Jim Joyce
"Yes, sir, it looks like we've refunded your money," said the very calm and polite Southern voice. In fact, the half dozen or so voices I had confronted on the phone during the past two months were all pretty darn polite.
"You what?" said my not-so-happy, region-formerly-known-as-Rustbelt voice.
"Your money's been refunded," the young lady said. "Sorry for the trouble, sir."
"But I didn't want a refund, I wanted a bike carrier. Didn't anybody read my note? Heck, I did just as the guy told me: I sent the thing back with a detailed note and my postal receipt and he said you would--"
"I'm sorry, sir."
"This has been a royal pain in my butt, this whole ordeal."
"I'm sorry, sir."
"You know, I'm the editor of a pretty big online bicycling magazine, you know, a website."
This politeness was killing me. "This is not the kind of thing that would reflect very well on your company, you know, if I were to write something about all this trouble and--"
"I'm very sorry sir."
It's the Stepford Customer Rep, alright. Not catching on at all.
"Well, ah, I guess--"
"I'm sorry for all the trouble sir, you have a nice day."
"Ah, ah, you too."
Click. That's the last I heard from them. No gift for my trouble, no mint, nothing. And that's why this article is the last time they'll hear from me. I'm not one to be hunting down an expose' on a bicycle catalog but, however many times I tried to avoid it, this story was put right smack in my lap by Performance Bicycle Shop themselves.
Let's start at the beginning...
A couple of months ago, I decide to purchase a bicycle carrier from the Performance catalog that had just arrived at my house. It was an inexpensive one, just perfect for using on my wife's small car. I'm trying to get her into cycling and this one looked like a winner for efficiency and price.
I phoned Performance and got, as always, a very polite young man. I told him I'm going to by a "bike rack" for my car. I'm sure most people refer to carriers as "racks," in common biker slang. I give him the catalog number and my credit card number. He reads back my card number and asks to confirm that I am purchasing a certain "bike rack."
"Yeah, it's the Bard Wyers [sounds like barred wires] one," I say, and chuckle a little at the unusual name. That was the catalog item that I wanted.
He chuckles a little back and I assume everything is just peachy.
"That should arrive within 10 days, sir."
"Sounds great..Thanks." Click.
Well, to my delight, the package arrived in less than a week. When I opened it, however, I really chuckled. Yep, they had sent me a bike rack, alright. This was a literal bike rack, one that attaches to the back of your seat and projects over your back wheel. You know, a bike rack!
How the heck could someone mess up so bad, I thought. I looked at the name on the bag and then flipped through the Performance catalog. It turns out that the bike rack's 7-figure catalog number is one figure different from the number of my Bard Wyers Vector III Bike Carrier. This was just the beginning.
Dumb, but an honest mistake, I thought. I call the Performance 24-hour phone number and I explain to the very polite person on the other end my predicament.
"I'm sorry, sir," says the latest Stepford voice, "But you'll need to call back and speak to customer service and they're not in right now."
"Okay, when ARE they in?"
"From 9 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday, Eastern Standard Time, sir."
"Okay, I guess you can't help me, then."
"No sir, I'm very sorry, sir."
"But it'll be a real easy exchange. The items were the same price, so it's a straight up trade."
"You'll have to call back to customer service, I'm sorry."
"Yeah, okay. Thanks anyway. Bye."
Do you know how hard it is at times to get the chance to make a call during regular work hours? I couldn't count the days I was coming home from my 40 hour/week job and looked at my watch or a clock, disgusted to find it was after 6 pm. Finally, after weeks of missing the correct hours, I took a work break and got to a phone at 9:30 am. I didn't have to wait long. After a brief recording, my call was answered by a live Stepford customer rep and I explained in detail my ordeal to date.
As expected, he was polite and apologetic and he advised me to ship back the bike rack and enclose a letter explaining the situation, along with a copy of the postal receipt so I could be reimbursed. This step, of course, took me at least two more weeks, as I was just plain lazy, and you know how tough it can be getting to the post office, seeing a clerk, making a receipt copy, etc. before 5 pm.
In the end, I got the dirty deed done and waited for my "bike carrier," not "rack" to come in the mail. Meanwhile, the summer's just about over and my cycling out of town with my wife has been nil. I wait a couple of weeks. Then another week. Nothing. Then another week. I'm fuming. Even my ears are red.
As usual, I can't get the time to call customer service during the day, so I call the 24-hour ordering line. I rant and rave a bit to the poor, polite young man on the other end, who suggests--guess what--that I call customer service the next morning.
"No," I say, "You write a note and give it to them. Can you do that?"
"Yes, sir, but you probably--"
"Fine. Great. Got a pen?"
"Ah, yes sir."
"You put this down and hand it to them. Tell them about my fouled up order and let them know I am very angry that I have not yet received my bike rack, er, carrier. This summer's almost over. I want to hear from them immediately. Got that?"
"Yes, sir, I'll give this to customer service. But I still suggest you call them."
"I'll do my best...You make sure they get that note."
Another week passed. No note, no call, no bike carrier. Just two nights ago, I get to a phone on the way home from work, just two minutes before 6 pm EST. After the brief recording I get a pleasant, polite young lady who, well, you know the story...
Now you see why I'm writing this story so soon after the fact. Performance Bicycle: Very nice bunch of folks, for sure, but they won't have me as a customer again. In their own words, "I'm very sorry."
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