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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Product review: The best oven mitts I’ve ever used!

They may not be the most exciting item you’ll ever purchase, but oven mitts are an indispensable part of a cook’s daily routine. Whether your preparing a roast for your family’s dinner or baking cookies for an office party, quality mitts protect your hands from the high temperatures you encounter when removing items from the oven.

In the past, I’ve mainly used cotton oven mitts. I liked them because they were easy to toss in the washing machine. But I found that over time, that washable fabric started to wear thin from its trips to the washer, eventually resulting in heating make its way through the mitts way to quickly. I tried some cotton mitts with silicone insets, but they didn’t fare much better. Another problem with cotton mitts is that they can pick up permanent stains, despite washing.

Finally, I decided it was time to give silicone mitts a try, and I picked one of the highest-rated designs on the Chef’s website: the OrkaPlus silicone mitt with a cotton lining. Doubtful as to how well it would work, I only ordered one at first. The OrkaPlus quickly proved its worth. It reliably protects my hands from heat, and it’s easy to wipe food off the outside of the mitt. The mitt’s grip area can be harder to clean, because it has tiny silicone “ribs” that help you grip pans securely. Thankfully, the entire silicone mitt is dishwasher safe, and I’ve found the dishwasher does a good job of cleaning those grips.

Inside, the OrkaPlus silicone mitt has a cotton lining that spans the length of the glove. This is easy to remove and can be washed in the washing machine.

According to the Chef’s website, the OrkaPlus mitt is waterproof, even in boiling water. I have not put that claim to the test, however.

The mitt is available in red, green, blue, purple and charcoal hues on the Chef’s website. Amazon offers all those colors as well, plus a raspberry shade.

There are a couple of downsides to the mitt. The first is that it is only available in one size, and that size is rather large. People with small hands may find it too large to be practical, but it has worked fine for me, even though it is loose on my hands.

The other downside is the cost. One OrkaPlus mitt sells for $15.95 at Chefscatalog.com, meaning a pair will cost you about $32. By comparison, you can get a pair of cotton oven mitts for less than $5 at discount stores. But I submit that the OrkaPlus will pay for itself over time. It offers much more stain resistance and durability than cotton mitts, and one pair of OrkaPlus mitts is likely to outlast several pairs of the cotton variety.

Do you have a favorite kitchen product you want to tell others about? Please leave a comment with your product recommendations.

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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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Where to get the best price on Starbucks coffee

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I thought the best price on Starbucks coffee would be at Starbucks. As it turns out, I was wrong.

Starbucks store
I recently compared prices on Starbucks bagged coffee to give as a gift. I started at the Starbucks online store, where I found  a one-pound bag of Starbucks French Roast priced at $11.95. That’s 75 cents an ounce, whether you buy ground or whole bean.

Amazon.com
Out of curiosity, I searched other online sites. Amazon offers Starbucks coffee in more than one size, as well as single- and multi-bag packaging. Some of the prices here were an improvement. For example, three 12-ounce bags of  whole bean French roast sold for $24.94 (with shipping), which equals 69 cents an ounce — that’s less than the Starbucks store. However, a one-pound bag of ground French roast sold for $14.27, or 89 cents an ounce —not a better deal.

Walmart.com
A Google search led me to Walmart.com, where I found some of the best regular (nonsale) prices on Starbucks coffee. For example, you can get a 20-ounce bag of Starbucks French roast for $11.98, which equals 60 cents an ounce (15 cents per ounce cheaper than the Starbucks store). The whole bean version was slightly higher at 64 cents an ounce ($7.68 for a 12-ounce bag).

Here are some more Walmart.com vs. Starbucks store price comparisons, per ounce:

  • Starbucks Breakfast Blend: 75 cents at Starbucks; 60 cents at Walmart for ground, 64 cents for whole bean
  • Starbucks Veranda Blend: 75 cents at Starbucks; 65 cents at Walmart for ground, 64 cents for whole bean
  • Starbucks Caffe Verona Blend: 81 cents at Starbucks; 65 cents at Walmart, 64 cents for whole bean

Online drugstores
At the time this article was written, the Walgreens website had a sale price on a 12-ounce bag of Starbucks French Roast of $6.99, or 58 cents an ounce — that’s the second-lowest price per ounce I found. The retailer offered other Starbucks ground coffee blends as well, but some were at a higher price. Competitor CVS had the same French roast coffee listed for $10.49.

Sam’s Club and grocery store
The best deal came from Sam’s Club, where a two-pound bag of Starbucks House Blend in the whole bean formulation is just $14.98, or 47 cents an ounce. Of course, you’ll have to have a Sam’s Club membership to access this deal. Sam’s Club offers a variety of other Starbucks products as well.

At my local Kroger grocery store, a 12-ounce bag of Starbucks coffee was $7.85.  That’s 65 cents an ounce.

Summary
So, the next time you want a bag or two of Starbucks coffee, shop around. You may find the best price is at a warehouse club, drugstore, grocery store or discount retailer. At the time of my comparison, Walmart offered free shipping on orders of $35 or more, while Starbucks had no free shipping offer listed. Free shipping from Walgreens was available on orders of $25 or more.

Note: All Starbucks products names listed in this article are registered trademarks.

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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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Amazon changes the rules for free shipping

I shop at Amazon frequently to take advantage of its competitive prices (on most items) and its low threshold for free shipping. My latest shopping trip led to an unwelcome surprise. Amazon has raised the dollar amount of the minimum order you must place to get free shipping.

Look for the "FREE shipping on orders over $35" words near the top of Amazon listings.

Look for the “FREE shipping on orders over $35” words near the top of Amazon listings.

The company used to offer “free super saver shipping” on orders of $25 or more. Now, you must spend at least $35 to get your items shipped to you at no charge. In a Web announcement, Amazon says this is the first time in more than 10 years that it has changed the minimum order amount for free shipping. The announcement includes a sales pitch for Amazon Prime, which allows you to get “free” two-day shipping on orders of any size, if you pay a $79 annual subscription fee. Not exactly what I would call free shipping.

To find items that are eligible for free shipping, look for the words “FREE shipping on orders over $35” on the search results page or the product page (see photo above for example).

Keep in mind some items that are sold on Amazon but shipped by other retailers offer free shipping on orders less than $35.

If you don’t shop at Amazon frequently, you may have missed another trend in its free-shipping policy: the add-on item. Items labeled as add-ons are eligible for free shipping, but only after you already have $35 of merchandise in your cart. Amazon’s current explanation of add-on items is a bit confusing, but it appears you can add the items to a $25 order as well, but they may not be eligible for free shipping at that threshold. Examples include this Rubbermaid plastic magazine file. You can identify add-on items by the blue “Add-on Item” band near the “Add to cart” button or the explanation in the product description (see photo below for examples).

Look for the blue labels to identify Amazon add-on items.

Look for the blue labels to identify Amazon add-on items.

Sometimes, you may be a few cents away from free shipping and need a cheap item to finish off your order. If this is the case, check out my previous post on a neat tool that can help you find such items.

What do you think of Amazon’s new shipping threshold? Will it change how often you purchase items from this retailer?

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