Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Latest in the Redbubble Saga

If you haven't already seen my other posts about my first experience with Redbubble go here and here.

So, it appears my t-shirts have, at long last, shipped. I received an email from Redbubble letting me know that they shipped today. (Technically, a UPS shipping label has been created and they will soon be on their way.) I'm going to wait until the items get here to make a final determination, at which point I'll do a follow-up post and link all the Redbubble posts to one another. Still, even if I love the shirts, I doubt I'll order from them again. Why? The unfortunate admixture of a questionable reputation with some objectionable policies.

One of the most anxiety-provoking things for me is having to fight my way through a bureaucratic mess for things that should go smoothly but don't. I hate knowing that something should be happening but dealing with people that have a pat response or standard rule book that gets cited mechanically. I hate having to fight through a dozen or so CSRs to get to a good one. I hate how when these things happen, I often have to wrangle with separate bureaucracies. I like when things run smoothly. If they can't run smoothly, then I want to at least know that the people I need to contact will be concerned, competent and helpful. If I can't count on the predictability of the interaction, if I can't count on things running smoothly and efficiently, I would rather get a lesser product or do without than risk getting embroiled in a huge hassle. Imagine if there were an ATM near your house that sometimes spit out the requested amount of money but sometimes didn't give you your money while charging your account. Perhaps you were able to get your money back, but only after a few long and annoying calls to all relevant parties. After one or two instances of this, you'd probably expend the effort to go to a less convenient but more reliable ATM, right? Well, that's how it is for me with online businesses. I'd rather a business that's more reliable but less convenient.

Now, you may be thinking "Sure, but it's Christmas. You have to expect this sort of thing to happen at Christmastime." That's just it, though. If I have to expect this sort of thing at Christmas, I simply won't buy from online stores at Christmas. Simple as that. This Christmas seemed to be particularly bad. I'm not sure why that is. I think a lot of businesses were having massive sales to compete with the larger chains and/or not hiring seasonal staff to help with the high volume of orders. Still, I heard more people complaining about their experience shopping online than I can recall ever hearing before. I know I had problems with two separate t-shirt companies, as well as an Amazon order with missing items. My husband also had to return one of my gifts, since the wrong item was sent. Additionally, I've heard a lot of people grumbling about even otherwise reputable companies taking a disconcertingly long times to ship items. Not only does this cause companies to miss an important window for attracting potential regular customers, but it may also make people less likely to shop online in future holiday seasons. After all, a big appeal of online shopping is the convenience and the corresponding reduced stress. If that's lost, what do you have?