Friday, March 10, 2006

Long Rant about Fencing Suppliers

I realize and appreciate that the major fencing suppliers are providing a valuable service, and that they have supported fencing for many years (giving discounts, buying ads in national and local publications, providing valuable and free technical support, and more). I am thankful that one fencing suppler even kept very late hours and was always helpful giving advice on how to fix gear, and I'm sure some fencing customers can be very demanding and neurotic about cost, but...

Observations and suggestions to fencing suppliers based from personal experience:
  • Take a minute to get all the information right: name, address, phone number, payment type, and equipment ordered. (One supplier can get at least one of this wrong on every order. Consistently. They even screwed up an over the counter transaction and called me the following week because they didn't get the credit card info correct. I called them back, twice, to try and correct their error. I eventually gave up trying to teach them how to spell my name.)
  • If you haven't put your customer information on your computer, then you're ten years overdue. Having a database can prevent errors (see above).
  • Until the order starts being taken correctly, our club isn't going to be your re-seller.
  • We're stilling waiting for a $30 item left out of a two thousand dollar order. We've called and asked about it several times. We've been waiting for over three years. Take a second and try to remember the last time we ordered anything from you, was that three years ago?
  • If you're not taking orders over the phone today or this evening, then why are you answering your business phone? If it's not a business phone, then get one, along with an answering machine. (It's time to join the 80s decade.)
  • Telling me to call back later when you're open tells me that you don't want my money. Very well, you're not getting it.
  • If you back-ordered an item, how about sharing that information on the shipping invoice, along with an ETA? It saves you from answering the phone later and trying to look up the order in under ten minutes.
  • Is there a way to use pre-shrunk material for cotton jackets and knickers? Until then, could you mention somewhere in your flashy web site or amusing catalog that the shrinkage rate is close to 40%. By the way, hand wash and air dry should be on labels from items sold by Victoria's Secret.
  • When your knickers don't shrink, they go transparent after several washings. Very embarrassing when one is wearing something from Victoria's Secret.
  • Have you actually tried on some of the jackets and knickers that you sell? If they fit you perfectly, then I know what you look like: your nipples are 4 inches above your waistline, and your knees extend 3 feet below your crotch.
  • Some of us travel light, and if we take the time during a trip to find your store, pick out gear, and ask you to ship it, then please try to show a little dignity--don't snibble or pout, and ask that the order be phoned in later.
  • After you tell us to phone in an order rather than ship it from an over the counter sale, then could you please not screw it up? (I wanted the two blades that I spent nearly an hour picking out, you sent me only one blade that you grabbed by random.)
  • When you take an e-mail order, provide confirmation and an ETA. Otherwise someone is going to make a phone call, and we all know how much you love answering the phone.
  • Email messages aren't secure. When ordering gear on the Internet, most if us prefer a secure web based form.
  • If the URL doesn't say "https," then it's not a web-secure order, no matter what your web order form says.
  • When we send you back your box saying one of the functions doesn't work, before you send it back, could you test it after you supposedly have fixed it?
  • Would it kill you to send an email message or leave a phone message telling us that you are sending back the allegedly repaired box?
  • When we call you to ask how the repair on the box is going, could you take the time to call us back?
  • Tracing a lost package is easier on our end when you call us back with shipping information. (I had to trace the allegedly fixed scoring box from my end, because no one could be bothered to tell us the UPS shipping number on the package. )
  • After we send back the still malfunctioning device for the second time, are we being too needy and demanding because we want you to call us or send an email message with some idea of when the box might be fixed?
  • We've done many thousands of dollars of business with you for over nearly 25 years. The only time you contact us is when you send us your terribly amusing catalog. Last year you sent it to us four days before Christmas. And your web site did not match the catalog you sent us. Ho-ho-ho. Perhaps you are wondering why your Christmas sales were off?
  • If you prefer that your customers use your web site, rather than telling us this when we call, don't put a phone number on your web site.
  • If you prefer that we call in the order, rather than sending an email message telling us to call, you should give up on the web form that never seems to work right.
  • Have you ever bothered trying to find out more about us and the clubs in our region? If so, did you ask about the major clubs, and what the market might be for your scoring boxes? In case you are interested, you lost 40 or more lost sales for your scoring boxes. (Remember all the problems about trying to get our box fixed and how you did not get back to us? You don't remember? We sure do! And news travels very fast in small circles.)
  • If your website doesn't have current products and prices, and instead has many "under construction" messages, then we can't take you very seriously, now can we?
  • If it's been "under construction" for six months, then it's not being constructed.
  • Less flashing banners and colors on your web site, and more information about your products.
  • By concentrating on the highest level national tournaments, you are reaching 200 hundred fencers (who feel they should get their equipment at no charge), and you are ignoring the other 19,800 fencers.
  • By concentrating on the 20,000 USFA fencers, you are ignoring the other 190,800 fencers.
  • When you finally do go out of business, could you let us know on your web site and answering machine? Being upfront and honest shows that you respect your long suffering customers; however, boarding up your shop, disconnecting the phone, and not updating your web site exposes your shoddy business practices for one last time.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I can only read this and wonder how some people stay in business and others who really try (like me) fail. (Although, I wasn't clear if you were talking the same place when your last paragraph talks about going out of business).

Reminds me of the time I once phone ordered some bicycle parts and paid extra for next day delivery. When my parts didn't arrvie the next day I called the company and asked where my parts were. I was told they were on back order and would ship next week. When I tried to point out that they should have told me that when I phoned in my order they didn't seem to understand my view. After all what's the problem? They'll still ship the parts next day deliver for me when the parts become available.