The Guilt Trip Of Righteousness

In the past few months I fought the law, and…I won.

Okay, it wasn’t the law but rather the mail order arm of a record company. But either way, I definitely won, and I definitely walked away feeling oddly bad about it. It’s been over a month now, and I still have no idea why I feel so guilty. Allow me to set the scene for you. Cast you mind back, if you will…

October 16 started out like any other day. It was 24 hours, had a name that allowed it to fit into our existing per-conceived notion of “a week”, and it held a dark edge that always made me think of them as metaphysical knives. (shut up) The day before, I had sent a quick email to Metropolis Records saying,

“Hello Mr Metropolis, how are you? I’m hoping your plans for Mad Hatter’s Day remained firm and allowed for you to enjoy this soon-to-be national holiday the way you undoubtedly wanted to. I ordered a CD that was due for release on October 9. It should have shipped by now, and I should have received an email saying so, and I haven’t. What’s the buzz, big man? Signed, NICK.”

On October 16 I received the automated note saying “We’ve just mailed your disc.” (not exactly – it’s a nicer version of that sentiment.) It caught me at a pre-coffee moment, so I rolled up sleeves and set to work writing a firm but polite reply. It’s probably worth noting I wasn’t wearing sleeves, so Sam The Developer has now learned not to sit near me when I’ve got my “Correspondence Look” on my face. My reply was firm, and due to a combination of OCD and eidetic memory, laced with evidence indicating that this was a less than satisfactory delivery operation. (Other pre-order customers received shipping confirmation on the release day) Pre-orders are meant to mean a delivery ASAP, and that wasn’t what had happened. I read it, reviewed a few statements, then went for the deal-breaker…a demand.

Having worked in Customer Service, I was once taught that whatever the wording you use, your response to a customer complaint always boils down to “what can I do to fix the problem?” In many cases this is self-explanatory (It’s missing bits? Replace bits. It’s defective? Get a working one. You had terrible service? Point on the doll where you wish me to hit the staff member, etc etc), but equally, it only works if the Customer’s complaint has a requested resolution – they need to make a demand. If the Customer demands something in compensation and the Service says no, you’re stuck. You’ve already paid, you cannot do much more than bad-mouth them which, whilst definitely not in their interest, sadly doesn’t hold a huge amount of weight either. (“Hey, you know that online music retailer I order from and you’ve never used? Still don’t use them.”)

So I firmly but politely asked for a refund.

I know, I was playing an age-old game, and following the rules I knew I had to be followed. I know, if I hadn’t made a demand and simply expressed displeasure, there was a very real likelihood that the reader of my email would have shrugged their shoulders, and binned it/left it for later, which would have led to nothing ever happening. So I threw down the metaphorical gauntlet, and told them what would make amends for the tardiness of my pre-order being dispatched. And you know what?

They did it. Apology and confirmation of refund fired straight back with barely enough time for them to have discussed and processed the request. And so I sat there, victory in my inbox, and a free CD on my way from the US of A. And a jumbo-sized serving of guilt settling in to my gut.

I still don’t know exactly why. Maybe because it felt so easy considering many of the struggles I’ve had before with retailers. Maybe it’s because they are a relatively small outfit, and I am normally quite forgiving. The best resolution I’ve come to is that I didn’t actually want the refund per se, but rather it was a tactic designed to get attention and it did. I told a few people about the exchange, tried to be as unbiased as possible, and they all said the refund was appropriate – the agreement of pre-purchasing to be dispatched on release day had been breached. But still, the guilt sits there cold and heavy.

Their response, in both it’s action and speed, was admirable. I’ve not seen a company work a resolution so fast before, which makes me think they are Good People. Maybe my order fell through gaps in the system, maybe it was the first slip-up of this type, I honestly don’t know. What I DO know, is that I think this was superlative service, and I feel that our ongoing retail relationship should not suffer because of it. On top of that, they’re carrying one of my favourite artists, and THEY deserve superlative service as well.

I need to see what I can do about assuaging this guilt.



Hey, you know that online music retailer I order from and you’ve never used? Use them.

~ by nick on December 5, 2012.

One Response to “The Guilt Trip Of Righteousness”

  1. Good work, Nick! I recently had something not arrive from an Etsy store, and was offered another one, or a refund. I’m going with the refund, but your solution sounds so much better!

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