“Just Do What I Say”

Josie Leavitt -- September 23rd, 2011

Yesterday, I had a very interesting and disturbing encounter with a customer service rep of a large distributor I do business with every day. As can happen, I inadvertently received a box intended for a Vermont library from my brand new Fed Ex driver. My co-worker called the distributor’s customer service number and asked that they send a call tag so the books could find their rightful home at the library.

I did not think this was a tough request. Apparently, I was wrong. Poor JP was so befuddled by the procedure that the distributor was recommending, she handed me the phone. I spoke with the rep, Christine, who was very pleasant, and she told me to either destroy or donate the books. I was confused. Destroy or donate perfectly good books? Why not just send them to the right place? Well, because these were library books, and had been prepared for that particular library, I was told it would be more cost-effective to just reprocess them than pay for the shipping.

So, now I’ve got a box of books intended for a specific library that the distributor will not help me get to them. So I took matters into my own hands. I called the librarian and explained the situation. Dave was really sweet and appreciative when I told him I would send him the books if he would reimburse me for shipping. He agreed, and I got the books ready to ship. I thought I was done.

Well, two hours later I got a call from Christine. She said they were sending a call tag for the books. I told her I’d already taken care of it and was getting the books to the librarian. She sounded mad when she said, “Just do I what I say. You should have waited.”

Waited for what? I was told to dispense with the books. I did. I got them back in the hands of the right person. She was furious. I’m still not sure why she was so mad. I did exactly what I was told to do, I got rid of the books. I have no idea if the library then called to cancel their order, but if the books were going to be free, did she have any right to be that mad?

Since when is a mis-ship something that I have to deal with by donating or destroying it? Especially when an electronic pick-up tag is a few keystrokes away. And, when is being yelled at by a customer service rep, for doing exactly what they said, considered good customer service? I am confused by the blatant destruction of books (see my post about stripped covers) that is occurring in this lean publishing time. I wish everyone who told me to donate books spent time at stores trying to donate them. While I love the idea of donating books, it’s costly to prepare them, both in shipping expense and staff time.

So, I guess it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished. But I’m loathe to see what comes in on Monday for fear of needing to call customer service.





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