When a company’s reply makes no sense

January 19 2010 by Ellen Roseman

What’s with the dumb replies you get when sending emails to big companies? Assuming you get a reply at all, you often find it’s badly written or doesn’t address the points you made.

Worst of all are the responses that use exaggerated rhetoric about customer service being a priority and then contradict themselves by repeating the rigid company policies that forced you to write in the first place. Sound familiar?

I asked readers for examples of nonsense replies in my column last week, which quoted one from Future Shop. I got a few familar names (Rogers, Bell) and a few surprises. I’ll post a few of the best ones and welcome more examples from blog readers.

20 comments

  1. LK

    Jan 19 2010

    In answer to your request for examples of poor replies to customer inquiries/complaints, I’m sending you my original email to Air Canada about a highly unprofessional-looking ticket agent and Air Canada’s subsequent response.

    Recognizing that Air Canada is one of those large organizations that everyone loves to hate, I think you’d agree that their style of communicating with customers does little to dispel that notion.

    ———————————————————–

    I have been a loyal Air Canada customer for 50 years, and am fairly experienced with airports, procedures and travel in general. However, I felt I needed to comment on my experience yesterday at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport.

    The ticket agent at the counter was, quite frankly, a disgrace to the Air Canada uniform and reputation. From her messy physical appearance to her gum chewing to her lackadaisical attitude to her somewhat inaudible speech to her tattoos (yes, TATTOOS on her fingers….), the whole check-in experience was an embarrassment to not only Air Canada but our country in general.

    In short, this agent was the opposite of “professional.”

    I was travelling with my 88-yr-old mother who, in addition to being a registered nurse, was a TCA stewardess in the late 1940s. Obviously, she comes from a background that’s more strict than what we have today.

    Regardless, she was aghast at what she saw. Indeed, it was she who immediately commented on the damage to Air Canada’s reputation. (“What must Americans and other travellers think of us?? No wonder we’re seen as some Third World country.”)

    I tried to imagine a scenario where this was a one-time situation. (Regular agent called in sick at the last minute and was replaced by a cargo attendant, perhaps?) But I just couldn’t.

    I recognize that Air Canada recruits its foreign workers from the countries it services, but I can’t imagine this woman conversing with me in fluent French should it have been necessary. Heck, it was a bit of a challenge just in English!

    Air Canada, was this truly the best you could do?

    ———————————————————-

    Thank you for contacting us.

    This is to confirm that we have received your message and there is no requirement to re-submit your information.

    Our current processing time is 6 business days for general customer concerns and 10 business days for baggage related issues. We will make every effort to respond sooner.

    We appreciate your patience and understanding as you await our response.

    ————————————————————–

    Below is a summary of your request and our response.

    Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

    You may also update this correspondence by replying to this message.

    Because your reply will be automatically processed, you MUST enter your reply in the space below. Text entered into any other part of this message will be discarded.

    [===> Please enter your reply below this line Please enter your reply above this line <===]

    If your issue remains unresolved, please update this question at https://aircanadacustomercare-en.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/aircanadacustomercare_en.cfg/php/enduser/acct_login.php?p_userid=hargow&p_next_page=myq_upd.php&p_iid=665695&p_created=1260387334

    Subject
    ————————————————————–
    Ticket agent appearance/demeanor

    Discussion Thread
    —————————————————————
    Response – 12/11/2009 10:24:53

    Dear Ms. K:

    Thank you for your email.

    Our customers are expected to receive courteous and helpful service at all times and anything less is unacceptable to us. Our goal is to build a rapport with our customers and we are concerned when an experience such as you described may leave a lasting negative impression.

    While we understand your concerns, Ms. K, Respectfully, we are a company that provides transportation first and all other amenities afterward.

    Thank you for your feedback. While we recognize your present feelings, we hope that this incident will not continue to reflect adversely on Air Canada. We do provide excellent service and would appreciate another opportunity to demonstrate this to you.

    Sincerely,
    Christina
    Customer Relations

    ————————————————————–

    LK again:

    It’s not so much the “eff-off-and-die” tone of the letter, but the actual look of it.

    Inch after inch of computer-generated gobbledegook that looks identical to the computer-generated receipt I got upon sending my e-mail.

    In other words, there’s nothing that would compel the reader to scroll down the 6″-8″ needed to read actual text witten by an actual employee.

  2. SM

    Jan 19 2010

    Further to your article, I would like to share the “nonsense” responses I received from the “Customer Service” department at Henry.com, which makes an ice-melting product called “Stone Mason Melt & Grip.”

    I had purchased this product in October of 2008, and because of the winter we had last year, did not need to use it. It became a solid mass when I went to use it this winter, and thankfully, I was able to return it to Canadian Tire, because I still had the receipt.

    However, the response by the Henry company was far from satisfactory. Please see the email trail below, beginning at the bottom. I will never buy this product again!

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: Piccolo, Ralph
    Date: Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 2:24 PM
    Subject: RE: 5 kg Stone Mason Melt & Grip

    I should note this is an approximate time only.

    ————————————————————–

    From: SM
    Sent: Monday, January 11, 2010 1:48 PM
    To: Piccolo, Ralph
    Subject: Re: 5 kg Stone Mason Melt & Grip

    Hello again:

    If the shelf life is 1 year from the date of manufacturing, how can you determine that date as a consumer before purchasing the product, to ensure that it is fresh and hasn’t been sitting in a store warehouse for months?

    Is there a date somewhere on the label? One year from date of manufacture is not a very long time for a seasonal product!

    ——————————————————

    On Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 8:37 AM, Piccolo, Ralph wrote:

    The shelf life is 1 year from date of manufacturing, your description is typical of moisture infusion, possibly caused condensation with in the container.

    ——————————————————————————–

    From: SM
    Sent: Saturday, January 09, 2010 11:26 AM
    To: CSHenry; Product Support
    Subject: 5 kg Stone Mason Melt & Grip

    Hello. Back in October of 2008, I purchased a 5 kg. bottle of Stone Mason Melt & Grip in a Twist ‘n Spread bottle. I have used this product before without a problem.

    I usually purchase ice-melting products ahead because stores sell out very quickly if the weather turns icy, and I cannot afford to slip and fall. It turned out that I had enough of another product last winter, so I never did open this product last year and it was kept in my warm and dry in my finished basement the entire time.

    I noticed over the summer, when the AC was on and my basement was never damp, that the bottle appeared to be leaking water, (this bottle has the lid on the bottom) so I turned it upright, but did not open it.

    When I went to open it today, I discovered that the contents has turned into a solid brown mass, and is therefore unusable. Does this product have an expiry date? Is this common for this product?

    I realize you only guarantee the product for one year from date of purchase, but I find this very unusual. I have a similar product from another manufacturer that I have stored in the same location for over two years without a problem.

    Under the circumstances, I hesitate to purchase any Stone Mason products again. I still have my receipt from Canadian Tire, dated October 25, 2008.

    I appreciate your prompt response. Thank you.

  3. Cynthia

    Jan 20 2010

    I have a good story too. I received a gift certificate in the mail in November 2009 issued by Pennington’s through their points program.

    Well, the gift certificate was orginally issued in April 2006, thus expiring in 2007. I haven’t moved since 2005. Hence, the gift certificate did not need to be rerouted to a newer address.

    When I contacted Pennington’s by email. I received a rude voice mail from someone in customer service, saying I had spent it. I questioned that, since I had possession of said gift certificate.

    The response came back from the same rude customer service agent, well it’s expired. No consideration for my loyalty and the fact that it was lost in the mail. They could have easily replaced it; I would have spent my gift certificate and my money there.

    I will spend less money there and shop at another store, even though unfortunately they are ultimately owned by the same parent company.

  4. Linda Guthrie

    Jan 29 2010

    I was surprised to see the letter relating to Canada Post; it is identical to a letter that appears to have been making the rounds of individual’s email inboxes for the past week or so. Our family received it twice, from two different sources, and a Google search turned up half a dozen hits.

    I was convinced that it was an urban myth, the work of some prankster with time on his/her hands. Since postal outlets are required to buy their stamps at face value (with a small volume discount) from Canada Post, it would be of no real benefit to them to require additional postage.

    However, the fact that John Caines of Canada Post provided a reply gives some legitimacy to the whole affair. The letter circulating on the internet is signed by the purported Canada Post representative; if she is indeed an employee of the corporation, then the investigation should be an open and shut case.

  5. CW

    Mar 29 2010

    I have to give up on Canada Post. We always get mail addressed to others and some of our mail has arrived 2 months later.

    Two weeks ago, I went to the Commerce Court Canada Post outlet. I specifically told the female staff that I needed tracking for the international mail. She told me that it would be sent by registered mail.

    As I had mailed a few packages to Canadian addresses with tracking and they seemed OK, I trusted her and paid >$20 on it. Then I found out the tracking only showed “left Canada” and that’s the end of the story.

    I called and also went to the same postal outlet only to get responses like “that’s too bad, not my fault”.

    Talked to others and heard similar horror stories like spending about $100 on a package which took almost 2 months to arrive. Everyone said that they switched to other couriers now.

    Why do we still need this useless organization in our society? Only to support all these useless unionized workers?!