Category Archives: Customer service

Macy’s joins the ranks of stores offering free shipping and free returns

Online shoppers, rejoice! Macy’s is now among the stores offering free shipping and free returns by mail.

In a previous post, I listed other stores offering this benefit. Now, Macy’s has gotten into the game. Previously, Macy’s typically offered free shipping with a purchase of $99 or more, but those wishing to return items without going to a Macy’s store had to pay a shipping fee. Not any more. Now, you can use the prepaid label enclosed with your purchase to return the item by UPS.

There are a few exceptions. You can’t take advantage of the free returns by mail if you live outside the United States. In addition, “free returns exclude gift cards, food, gourmet gifts, lamps, wall art, mirrors, furniture, mattresses and area rugs,” notes the Macy’s website.Macy’s doesn’t seem to put a time limit on returns — its website says items can be returned or exchanged at any time.

Since JCPenney’s merchandise has gone downhill, Macy’s has risen to the top of my shopping list, alongside Kohl’s. So, I am happy to see this new feature offered for the company’s online shoppers. To see a long list of companies offering free shipping and free returns, check out my previous post.

What’s your favorite store offering this service?

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Product review: Why I chose the UNII makeup palette

Several years ago, I grew tired of having a dozen different eye shadow containers, so I purchased a Mary Kay® makeup palette to corral them in one place. The palette allowed me to snap the uniquely shaped Mary Kay eye products in and out and see all the colors available to me at a glance. Now, however, there’s a problem: Mary Kay has changed the shape of its eye shadow containers, so the new ones won’t fit in my palette. So, I set out in search of a new solution.

Conduct an Internet search for the words “makeup palette,” and you’ll find several different designs. Some, like these Sephora makeup palettes, already come with the colors selected for you, and they don’t seem to offer you the option of replacing a color when it runs out. Mac Cosmetics allows you to build your own palette, but its product is expensive: $48 for a palette with four colors. Plus, you’re locked into using only that company’s eye shadows.

After searching for more customizable options, I discovered the Z Palette, which allows you to mix and match eye shadows from different manufacturers. Its magnetic base allows you to insert and remove products easily, and metal stickers are included to help adhere products that come in nonmetal pans. The Z Palette comes in a variety of sizes, including some that are big enough for large blush and powder tins, as well as makeup brushes. Some buyers may also like its clear lid.  The downside? The Z Palette is made from a cardboard-type materials. While this makes the product recyclable, it made me worry about its durability. I didn’t want to pay $14 to $25 (plus shipping) for something that would not hold up well over time.

Finally, I found the UNII makeup palette. At $29 plus shipping, it wasn’t exactly cheap, but its design and flexibility made it the best option.

The UNII palette's packaging offers many helpful tips about how to use the product.

The UNII palette’s packaging offers many helpful tips about how to use the product.

The plastic case appears to be durable and easy to clean.

The plastic case appears to be durable and easy to clean.

The UNII palette is made of hard plastic, giving me confidence that it will stand the test of time, even if tossed into a purse or duffle bag regularly. It should also be easier to clean due to its construction.

Note the thumb grip on the left side. It can be repositioned anywhere on the palette.

Note the thumb grip on the left side. It can be repositioned anywhere on the palette.

The UNII palette can hold makeup and tools from a variety of manufacturers, and it comes in six colors: pink, lavender, turquoise, black, white/clear and pale yellow. While you can’t see through the lid, it does have a mirror on the inside that spans the width of the case, making it easy to apply makeup on the go. Like the Z Palette, it uses a magnetic base to attach your makeup products and includes stickers you can use for pans not made of metal. The UNII Palette has a neat magnetic thumb grip that can be placed anywhere on the inside of the palette, making it easy to hold the palette with either hand. I also like the rolled-edge clasp that securely closes the palette.

How’s UNII’s customer service? Great! I emailed a question about the product before purchasing it and received a quick response. The product shipped promptly after my order, and UNII sent me an email with a a few tips to keep in mind when my product arrived. My UNII palette was packaged in a classy box that included more helpful advice. After unpacking it, I found the product to be attractive and well made.

The UNII’s biggest limitation may be its size. At 5.4 inches long and 2.8 inches wide, the interior may not hold all of your makeup products.

The palettes come in several different colors.

The palettes come in several different colors.

For me, this is not an issue, because I only intend to use it for eye shadow. It would take more than one palette to accommodate my blush, powder and/or lip products. It also may not be big enough to store all your makeup brushes. You could buy multiple palettes to house all your makeup, or use the palette as an on-the-go solution for makeup touchups or short trips.

If you buy two palettes or more, UNII ships them for free. Shipping for my one palette was a reasonable $4.

Have you tried UNII or another customizable makeup palette? Please share your experiences.

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Drug lockbox: a convenient way to keep medications out of children’s reach

My husband and I are licensed foster parents, and one of the safety requirements we must meet is that all of our prescription and over-the counter medications must be kept locked up at all times, along with all of our vitamins. So, we can’t keep medications in an unlocked kitchen cabinet, in a dresser drawer or even on a high shelf.  We tried keeping them in a locked linen closet, but this proved inconvenient, so I set out in search of a better solution.

Finding a medication lock box on the Internet sounds simple enough, but I struggled to find a solution that met our family’s criteria. I wanted something large enough to keep all our medications and vitamins in one place, but I didn’t want to spend more than $30 on it. I found locking personal safes, train cases for makeup and cash boxes, among other potential solutions. Then, I discovered the LockMed website.

LockMed offers several types of medication lockboxes, as well as locking bags suitable for securing your medication while traveling. I debated between the medium-sized drug box and the large one, which comes in two varieties: one with a combination lock and one with a key lock. At $24.99, the large Lockmed box was only $2 more than the medium one, so I chose the bigger size. Shipping was a bit steep at $8.50, pushing my purchase a bit over my $30 goal.

LockMed shipped my medication storage box quickly. It arrived promptly and was well-packaged. I was pleasantly surprised at how well-made it is. I felt like I took a risk ordering from a company I had never heard of, so I was relieved that the product was what I expected. It has a sturdy metal exterior that is easy to wipe clean, and a nice velvet interior to keep medications from sliding around.

Warning: As the LockMed website notes, this is not an indestructable box. Someone determined to access your medications could probably find a way to break into it or any similar box. I will be using the box with infants and toddlers and storing it out of their reach; so, it is a suitable solution for me.  If you are worried about medication theft by older children or adults, you may wish to consider other solutions and read LockMed’s tips for keeping your medications safe.

LockMed is not the only medication lockbox on the market. After my initial search, I discovered additional products online. Amazon offers a medication case for $24.95 with free shipping, but it is considerably smaller than the LockMed box. A larger box sold on Amazon costs more than the one I bought from LockMed and is still smaller than mine. Another website offers a small box for just $8, but charges $13 to ship it, making it a poor value. Sears sells a medication wall safe that may offer more security than any of these lockboxes, but it only holds seven bottles up to 4 inches tall, and it costs $60.

In the end, there may be no solution that keeps a determined thief from accessing your medications. For me, the LockMed box offers an affordable solution for a home with young children, since it will be stored out of their reach.

How do you keep your medications secure?

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Customer service is slipping at Kohl’s

In a previous post, I commended Kohl’s for making things right when a Christmas shipping snafu led to the delayed arrival of my sister’s Christmas gift. Unfortunately, it seems that snafu was the start of a trend for Kohl’s. Since then, two more orders I’ve placed have not gone well, either.

On Dec. 21, I placed an order for three sweaters and a tank top, taking advantage of some great pre-Christmas prices. According to the Kohl’s order status system, my order should have arrived by January 6. On January 7, I clicked the “tracking” link in my order status, and it showed Fedex had received shipping information for these items on Dec. 27, but the log reflected no other activity. Kohl’s simply showed the order as “shipped.”

I called Kohl’s on January 7 to inquire as to whether the items had truly shipped. This was my first experience using Kohl’s telephone-based customer service. My call was answered promptly by a pleasant customer service representative, and I explained the situation. She asked if I had contacted Fedex about the order, and I said “no.” I told her if I called Fedex, they’d probably tell me what I could see on the screen: that the company received shipment information for the order but apparently never picked it up. She offered to cancel the order, issue a refund and then reorder for me at the same price any items that were still available from my order. Two of the items were still available, and one sweater showed online availability in a different color. Unfortunately, while I could see the sweater online in a different color, the representative’s system did not reflect this availability. So, I was only able to reorder two of the items. Ironically, I had applied to this order my $25 Kohl’s credit from its Christmas-time apology to me; I was told this amount would be credited to my credit card.

During that same phone call, I brought up a problem with an order I’d placed on Dec. 26. This order contained a pair of shoes and a pair of pants. I had received the pants, but not the shoes. On Dec. 29, Kohl’s sent me an email indicating it had cancelled the shoes from my order, but the order status on Kohl’s.com showed as “partially shipped,” making me thing maybe the company intended to send the shoes when they were back in stock. The representative confirmed the shoes had been cancelled automatically by the ordering system because they were no longer available. It is frustrating that the system did not know at the time of my order that the shoes were not available. Then, I could have spent those 11 days between the order date and the day I confirmed the order status looking for a replacement pair of shoes.

Overall, I had a good experience with the Kohl’s customer service representative who assisted me with these two problems. The call took 20 minutes, and the representative was very polite throughout the experience.

I hope my three most recent Kohl’s orders are not a sign of things to come and only represent a string of bad luck for Kohl’s. The company should improve its ordering system to prevent orders for out-of-stock merchandise and to alert customer service staff when an order is scheduled for shipment but never shipped.

What have your recent shopping experiences at Kohl’s been like?

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Kohl’s makes things right after Christmas shipping snafu

As a bargain hunter, I target “Cyber Monday” (the Monday after Thanksgiving) to complete most of my online Christmas shopping. I’ve found that’s when you can get the best prices and free shipping with a low or no minimum purchase. In 2013, part of my Cyber Monday purchasing included Kohl’s.

On Monday, Dec. 2, I placed my order of two items. I’ve found Kohl’s free shipping to be somewhat slow, so I wasn’t concerned when the items had not arrived by the end of the week.  In fact, the order confirmation email I received from Kohl’s said the items should arrive between Dec. 5 and Dec. 12.

On Sunday, Dec. 8, I received an email with the following message from Kohl’s: “Due to severe weather plaguing our distribution centers, we’’re experiencing slightly longer order processing times. We’’re in the process of shipping all of our orders as soon as possible, but a few shipments may arrive at the end of, or just after, designated delivery time frames.”

“Fair enough,” I thought, and I appreciated the warning.

On Saturday, Dec. 14, two days after the original order delivery window had ended, I received an email from Kevin Mansell, the chairman, president and CEO of Kohl’s. It said (in part), “I apologize for not delivering your purchase within the time period we communicated. While there were factors beyond our control, like weather,  I take full responsibility and we are in the process of expediting orders to ensure timely delivery before Christmas.”

The best part of Mr. Mansell’s message? It included a $25 store credit I can use at Kohl’s anytime before the end of 2014, either in the store or online. My entire Christmas gift purchase from Kohl’s totaled a little less than $30.

The $25 credit strikes me as a classy move. Only a $25 pre-tax purchase is required to use it, so it’s basically like getting $25 of merchandise free. Kohl’s didn’t have to do this, and if you think of the number of Cyber Monday orders  that were placed, the credit probably cost the company considerable cash. If Kohl’s credited 10,000 shoppers at $25 each, it spent $250,000 on its apology. I’d guess the number of credits exceeded that significantly.

My order finally arrived on Monday, Dec. 16, two weeks after I placed it and in plenty of time for Christmas.

Kudos to Kohl’s for doing all it could to make things right. Shoppers like me won’t likely forget its tangible appreciation of our business.

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RoadID delivers prompt, friendly service

If you run, walk or bike outdoors, you may want to familiarize yourself with RoadID. The company makes a suite of products designed to communicate your vital contact and medical information if you’re injured while exercising. The company offers bands you can wear on your wrist or ankle or attach to your shoes. Each band contains an engraved metal plate that you customize with your name, loved ones’ contact information and vital medical details. This will allow emergency personnel to access your important information if you’re unable to communicate it yourself. There’s also a necklace version of the ID and a product that attaches to your pet’s collar.

I began wearing the “Shoe ID” several months ago on my running shoe. Some of my family members’ contact information changed recently, so I requested a replacement ID plate as a birthday gift. My sister ordered the customized item on Saturday, and it arrived on Thursday. Not only does RoadID offer quick shipping, its ordering-related materials show the company cares about its customers by offering a friendly, helpful tone.

For example, my gift include a slip with the name of the person who packed my order and her contact information. It also offered email and telephone contact information for RoadID’s customer service team. The company even puts the email addresses of its owners on its packing materials.

RoadID backs its products with a “for real, rock-solid guarantee.” If you are not satisfied with a RoadID product, you can return it for a full refund or exchange. Plus, the company offers a lifetime warranty on its stainless steel ID. The ID plates are interchangable among several RoadID products.

If you prefer a version of the RoadID that you don’t have to update when your contact information changes, check out the interactive RoadID. It provides a phone number and website address responders can use to access your vital details. This allows you to change your contact information without having to order a new ID. I don’t like this version of RoadID for two reasons:

  1. I would rather that my information be immediately available to an emergency worker. I don’t want the person to have to call a number or visit a website to find out how to reach my husband or what medications I’m allergic to.
  2. The product has a $9.99 annual membership cost. Depending on how often your contact information changes, it would be cheaper just to order a replacement ID tag.

My shoe ID has held up well so far. It’s a great alternative to trying to carry a driver’s license and list of personal contacts with me when I run. Before ordering, I wondered whether it would interfere with the proper fit of my shoes. It doesn’t; in fact, I don’t even notice it’s there.When you’re ready to order a RoadID, visit RetailMeNot to find a promo code that can save you a buck or two.

What kind of personal identification do you wear when exercising outdoors? Share your experiences with these or other products.

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Know your options when JCPenney makes mistakes

I’ve been ordering items from JCPenney online for about 15 years. Despite the dozens of orders I’ve placed, JCPenney always got my order right — until now. Twice in the last month, the company has sent an item different from what I ordered. First, I ordered two pairs of pants and a set of sheets. What I received was a pair of shoes and two pairs of pants that were not the same size or style as the ones I’d requested. Then, I ordered another set of sheets because I didn’t like the color of the first set. This time, JCPenney did send the same brand of sheets, but they were not the same color as what I ordered. In both cases, the information on the packing slip was correct, but what was inside the box was not.

My two wrongly fulfilled orders led to phone calls to JCPenney’s customer service line to address the problems. Here’s a key lesson I learned: JCPenney will send UPS to pick up the wrong items at your home, but you have to request this. The customer service representatives’ first line of attack was to suggest I return the items to a store. I don’t live close to JCPenney, nor do I want to drive all the way there to fix an error that wasn’t mine. So, I asked if the company could send UPS to collect the items. In both cases, the representative agreed to do this. If you take advantage of this option, you simply set the item on your porch for UPS to pick it up or give it to the delivery driver when he rings your doorbell. UPS will only make one attempt to collect the item, so be sure to have it ready. Make sure you ask the driver to give or leave you a receipt for the package so you have proof you sent the items back. Unlike other companies, JCPenney doesn’t send you a return label to print out; UPS puts one on your package at the time of pickup.

Other notes from my JCPenney customer service encounters:

  • Things went most smoothly with the mix-up involving the wrong color of sheets. The representative seemed to know exactly how to handle the situation. She also informed me that I would get my refund sooner if I took the item back to the store.
  • The case of completely incorrect items being sent to me seemed to confound the customer service staff. I was placed on hold a couple of times while the representative tried to determine what to do, and I got a follow-up call the following day from another representative. In this situation, the company did not wait to receive the incorrect items before issuing a credit to my credit card.
  • During my latest call, the representative answered the phone by stating her name and mentioning she was located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was great to get assistance from someone with strong English-speaking skills. I also commend JCPenney for not outsourcing customer service jobs to other countries.
  • In both experiences, I found the JCPenney representatives to be polite and friendly.

I am not sure what has led JCPenney to fulfill two of my last three orders incorrectly, but it seems some new quality control procedures are in order. What have your recent online ordering experiences with JCPenney been like?

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Home Depot online appliance purchase: a smooth experience delivered

After 11 years of faithful service, my washing machine bit the dust last weekend. A few hours of online research and some feedback from friends led me to choose a traditional-style machine with an agitator as its replacement. There aren’t a lot of models to choose from in this category, since most new washers are high-efficiency. Given my limited number of choices, I felt comfortable buying a washing machine online without seeing it in person, something I’ve never done.

I typically purchase appliances at Lowe’s, but Lowe’s couldn’t deliver the model I wanted until 9 days after my purchase, so I chose to purchase the same appliance at Home Depot. In a 2012 blog post, I explained what a ridiculous experience I had trying to buy an appliance online from Lowe’s. Thankfully, the Home Depot ordering process was 1,000 times easier. I started my shopping at Ebates.com, so I could earn 3% cash back on my purchase. After clicking the Ebates link to the Home Depot website, I added the appliance to my virtual cart. The only downside of the Home Depot appliance ordering process is that the company requires you to purchase new washing machine hoses, as it refuses to install your new washer with old hoses. I was planning to do this anyway, but it may be frustrating for others. I don’t believe you have to purchase the hoses from Home Depot, but you must have new hoses on hand. You can read about all the Home Depot’s appliance delivery requirements online.

During checkout, I was shown a calendar of available delivery dates and selected the one I wanted. An online notice (and follow-up email) from Home Depot informed me that I would receive a phone call the day before the delivery date and be given a delivery window. After that, I successfully completed my online purchase.

Sure enough, someone called me on Tuesday to let me know what time on Wednesday the washing machine would be delivered. The next day, the delivery driver called in advance of the delivery and even asked if he could come early. From the time the truck arrived to the time the delivery crew left with my old washing machine, only 20 minutes elapsed! I immediately washed a couple of loads of laundry and confirmed everything worked properly. The delivery drivers were courteous, and nothing was damaged during the delivery.

The Home Depot offers free appliance delivery and removal of your old appliance, while competitors like H.H. Gregg and Sears do not. Plus, Home Depot’s regular price is the same as Lowe’s for the washing machine I purchased. As I write this, it’s actually $45 less, because Home Depot is offering 10% off all appliance purchases of $397 or more.

Overall, my online appliance-buying experience was much better at Home Depot than at Lowe’s, and the delivery was icing on the cake. I will definitely consider Home Depot when another appliance needs replacement.

Where’s your favorite place to purchase appliances and why?

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Linksys customer service and router support needs improvement

This week, I spent hours troubleshooting problems with my printer and a laptop. Finally, I realized the problem was not these devices but my Linkys E3000 router. I checked the Linksys technical support page to see if any new firmware updates were available for my router and determined I had the newest one. So, I decided to turn to the live chat feature on the Linksys website for assistance.

My chat request was answered promptly by a Linksys representative. He spent about 30 minutes asking me questions about the setup of my router, printer and computers. I was asked to provide the names and model numbers of equipment and to explain what I’d done so far to troubleshoot the problem. I also had to provide the serial number of my LinkSys E3000 router. It was at this point, after 30 minutes of questioning, I was informed that because my product was out of warranty, LinkSys might have to charge me for assistance.

The customer service technician then walked me through the settings on my router. The technician said he could see some of my router settings were incorrect, but he couldn’t tell me which ones they were unless I paid for further assistance. The fee would be $30 for this incident or I could pay $40 for six months of support. However, the technician noted he could not guarantee that he could fix my problem.

After that, the session turned into a sales pitch in which he tried to convince me to just buy a new Linksys router. I said I’d have to think about it and ended the chat session. When it was over, I felt Linksys had wasted 40 minutes of my life, and I was no closer to solving my computer problems.

As I reflect on this encounter, Linksys, it is easy for me to suggest how you can improve your customer service:

  1. Offer free support to anyone owning your product, or at least for those who purchased it in the last five years
  2. If you can’t do #1, ask for the customer’s serial number at the beginning of the chat session, before you ask dozens and dozens of questions about the technical issue. Inform the customer of fees that apply for service, so she can decide up front whether she wants to continue with the chat session.
  3. If you must charge for out-of-warranty service, apply a reasonable fee, such as $5 per incident. This would be a nice recognition of the fact the customer has given you her business before and would encourage customer loyalty.
  4. Offer a guarantee for your technical support. Why should I have to pay a fee if you don’t fix my problem?
  5. Add a disclaimer to your “Live Chat” page warning that customers with out-of-warranty products cannot receive complimentary customer service through this venue.
  6. Drop the sales pitch. If your problem stopped working in three years, I’m probably not buying another router from you, unless you offer it to me at half-price with a free extended warranty.

In the end, I was able to fix my own router problems. When the time comes to buy a new router, I will examine more closely each manufacturer’s warranty and technical support offerings, and I will definitely think twice before buying another Linksys product.

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KitchenAid customer service delivers when product malfunctions

It is always refreshing to find a company that does the right thing when its products falter and offers customers a pleasant product return experience. That’s exactly what I found in KitchenAid recently.

In a previous post, I shared my love for my new KitchenAid personal coffee maker, which I purchased about five months ago. I still love the coffee maker, but recently, its swinging basket stopped sealing properly against the body of the coffee maker. When making coffee, considerable amounts of  heat and steam began escaping through the front of the coffee maker, instead of being vented out the tiny opening in the back designed for this purpose.

So, I couldn’t call KitchenAid and say the coffee maker didn’t work. It did work, but not like it should. I called the company’s customer service line to ask for a replacement and was promptly greeted by a company representative who was very well-spoken and announced he was located in Tennessee (“Thank you for calling KitchenAid, this is Chris in Tennessee.”) Chris agreed to send me a new coffee maker. After collecting the model and serial number of mine, he explained a new coffee maker would be delivered to my home, and then I should use the packaging and prepaid label that accompanied it to return the old coffee maker. He said it would take up to 10 business days to get the new one.

The new coffee maker arrived in about a week and is now in use with a properly fitting basket. As I write this, the old one is making its way back to KitchenAid. Even better, the company said a new one-year warranty applies to the replacement product.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give my customer service experience with KitchenAid a nine. Why wasn’t it perfect? Two reasons:

  1. Chris asked if I would like to receive an email notifying me when the replacement shipped, and I provided my email address for this purpose. I never received a notification.
  2. Chris indicated FedEx would pick up the replacement product if I called and asked them to. But the return instructions accompanying the replacement instructed me to send it back via the United States Postal Service. However, the postal carrier did pick it up from my front porch, saving me a trip to the post office.

My return experience showed me KitchenAid cares about its customers and stands behind the products it sells. I will seriously consider KitchenAid for future appliance purchases.

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