Customer Service and a Tale of Woe

Many of us who write a business-oriented blog speak from our experience and employ whatever expertise we may have to promote good leadership and good business practices. The customer experience is often a measure of how well these elements are being carried out. This week’s post is about me and about my experience as a beleaguered customer of a certain company.  It’s a bit long but I hope you hang in there with me.

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Once upon a time there was a woman.  She was an ordinary woman and one who, like many others, had her share of challenges.  Lately her challenge was helping her husband find his way back from a major stroke, one that had left him unable to properly use his body.

The stroke had changed both of their lives in a significant way and the woman wanted her husband to regain some of his independence, for both their sakes.  So she started looking for a mobility scooter for him, one that was light enough for her to lift into the back of their car and also allow her husband to travel around the neighbourhood by himself if he should have the inclination.

She looked locally, but initially thought perhaps the scooters she saw were going to be too heavy for her to lift.  So she looked on the Internet…as you do.

She found Summit Mobility Products, a company located in Center Line Michigan.  Their scooters seemed to hold the possibility of being useful to him and manageable for her.  And so, at the cost of US$1,598.00 plus $160 for shipping, less $45 “instant rebate” she ordered one

It arrived promptly, on or about July 25, 2012, a shiny new Lexis Light scooter.

The woman and her husband were both excited about it and the independence it promised but when the she removed it from the box and assembled it, it proved not to meet their needs.  It folded up as promised but felt awkward and the battery was too small for the scooter to effectively cope with the hilly neighbourhood.  So, they decided to send it back.

The next day, the woman phoned the company and spoke to a very pleasant young lady who said she would be happy to receive the scooter and refund its cost but could offer no suggestion as to how the woman might get the scooter back into the original package and no mechanism to help her facilitate the return shipping.

Feeling somewhat abandoned but undeterred, the woman arranged for a local shipping company to repack the scooter professionally and send it on its way back from Vancouver, Canada to Michigan. The cost for this was more than double the amount charged to ship it to the woman in the first place but she had other priorities and so was anxious to deal with the matter expeditiously.

The scooter made its way to the U.S. border during the first full week in August 2012. The woman waited for word of its arrival in Michigan.  No word came.  She phoned the shipping company who advised her that unfortunately “they” (meaning an entity other than themselves) had lost the paperwork required for the scooter to cross the border.  The paperwork had to be re-submitted.  The woman waited some more.  When she called the shipping company again she was advised that US Customs had refused the package because it required a medical device listing number.  Efforts were made both by the shipping company and the woman to provide such a number. Summit Mobility advised that the scooter was not a medical device and therefore would not have such a number.  Much wrangling between the woman, the shipping company and Summit Mobility ensued.  In the meantime the scooter, (nicely re-packaged and ready to go), went nowhere… for seven months.

Eventually, the shipping company and Summit Mobility successfully identified the much searched for Medical Device Listing Number and it appeared that the light was finally green for the scooter to go on its way…for an additional cost of course.

By now it was March 2013 and the woman, concerned about the long delay in getting the scooter back to Michigan, called Summit Mobility and talked to a Manager there.  She reminded him of her story and asked him to confirm that if she undertook the additional cost to send it would he receive it and refund the money she had paid for it?  His response was positive.

On the strength of his assurances, the woman gave the shipping company permission to proceed.  This time the package passed through the US border without incident and arrived at Summit Mobility on March 26, 2013.

The company confirmed receipt of the scooter in good order and indicated their promised intention to refund its cost (less shipping costs of course).

To date, in spite of copious phone calls and e-mails, the company has failed to reimburse the woman.  Further, they have not returned any of her phone calls.  From time to time she does catch the Manager at his desk.  Each time he confirms her home address and assures her that “the cheque is in the mail” or the Visa Account will be credited.  Nothing.

On occasion, she will call and a pleasant person will transfer her to the manager.  On those instances she is often sent to voice mail instead.  Each time, she leaves a message.   She makes it a point to be polite.  At no time does she receive a return call.   On another occasion, the manager referred her to someone in the accounting department. But the accounting department does not return her calls or respond to her e-mails either.

Might she have done something differently? Of course she might.  She might have chosen to save the costs of shipping the scooter back to Michigan by selling it locally.   In light of the events that took place, she would most certainly have been better off financially had she done that. However, her choice in this instance is not the point.   She sent the scooter back after assurances from the company that she would receive a refund for its cost.  They have confirmed its receipt and yet have failed to send her the money she is owed.

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Of course I’m the woman in question.   And having sent the company a final e-mail summarizing my experience with them and outlining my expectations one more time without a response, I’m ready to try something different.

So, if this story resonates with you in any way, I’m  asking you to send a copy of this blog post to Summit Mobility Products via e-mail.  If you feel inclined to add your own short message as well, I would be most grateful.  I only ask that you do so with the utmost of courtesy.

The company’s e-mail address is info@summiteasy.com.  The Manager I spoke with is Mike Flosky.  His email address is mike@summiteasy.com.

The truth is I feel  more than a bit foolish about my decision to stubbornly send the scooter back to the company in spite of the difficulty and additional cost involved. But,  I rather think this story reflects more badly on Summit Mobility Products ‘ integrity than it does on my lapse in judgment.  I’d like to find a way to send that message to them loud and clear in the hope that it will encourage them to do the right thing.  Care to join me?

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An Update ~ October 23, 2013:  For those of you who have been gracious enough to read, and empathize with my tale of woe, I’m very pleased to tell you that I have now received the refund I have so long sought.  This is, in no small part, due to so many of you who took the time to comment on the post; e-mail the company; and in some cases do both.  It appears that my words alone were simply not enough.  Your words, together with mine made a powerful difference.  Thank you for your time and your generosity.   It will be long remembered. 

Sincerely

Gwyn

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16 Comments

Filed under communication, Customer Service, Leadership

16 responses to “Customer Service and a Tale of Woe

  1. Dear Gwynn,

    Shamefully bad behavior.
    I will email them, for sure.

    Have you thought of using social media to accomplish your goal?
    Does this company have a Facebook page?

    I’ve recommended this tactic to client’s of mine. They’ve had success.

    This is just the beginning for Summit Mobility Products!

    Best,
    Larry

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Larry ~ As per your suggestion, I looked for, and found, a Facebook page for this company. It has not been active since December 2012 by the looks of it. Nonetheless, I have placed this post on their page in case someone should come upon it. This is the link to the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/summitmobility.
      Thank you for that and for your support. I’m most grateful.

  2. Jean Swift

    Gwyn, I’m sorry to hear about the poor customer service — and what sounds like a misappropriation of your money. In our community, the local TV station does a segment each week calling attention to the plight of someone in your type of position and seeking to help him or her resolve the matter with the company in question. I’m certain that Summit Mobility would prefer to sort this out with you–promptly and directly–rather than risking even more adverse publicity . . . . Best of luck, Jean

    ________________________________

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Jean ~ Yes, I’m sure they would too. Your suggestion is a good one. Thank you for that and for taking the time to give it. It is much appreciated.

  3. TT

    HI Gwyn
    I’m sorry to hear about the medical and financial issues. I would recommend the activities previously mentioned. Additionally, Is there any legal action you can take? Can you involve an agency such as the Better Business Bureau, the local Chamber of Commerce, or District Attorney?
    It certainly sounds like you have the paper trail to back up your claim. We’ve had some incidents lately, faulty camper cover, $ lost between the bank and the hospital, and “bullying” behavior at work. Sometimes companies can hide behind computer tactics, saying they did not get messages, they have a new system, it’s someone else’s fault, etc. It might take the muscle of a 3rd party to help resolve the issue. Hang in there!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Terry ~ Thank you for your kind words and advice. I’m grateful and also hopeful that a refund is not far away now 🙂

  4. mike flosky

    Gwyn, let me first say I do apologize for the issues you have expierienced with Summit. I in no way expect anyone to pay for a scooter and not be reimbursed.

    The return process from day one was not handled improperly. An RMA would have been issued from our company and we would have set UPS or FedEx to pick it up on our account and deduct shipping cost then, it should never have cost more than $300 to have it shipped back (and this is high because of the international issue) normally in the states it is on $50.

    Because of the long time frame that passed since your original purchase it was impossible to issue a credit via charge card (6 month limit). A check was sent out and returned to us. a 2 nd check was sent out. I have the exact dates at the office, and they are not accessible to me now. After such a time we did not hear from you, I just assumed you were satisfied.
    Apparently that is not the case, and I do apologize.

    Since the credit card issue and the checks are not working, I would ask if you have a paypal account, I can transfer the funds instantly to you.

    I am truly sorry for you having to turn to the internet for resolve, but I am glad you did, please contact me asap and let me know if you are able to accept paypal, I believe this would be the fastest way to resolve.
    If there is anything else I can do to help, please let me know.

    Mike Flosky

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Mike ~ Thank you for responding here. I will send you an e-mail directly with respect to the mechanics around dispatching my refund.
      As a general comment, I find it unwise to assume anything when it comes to human beings, especially if they are your customers. My frustration with your company in large part has come from your lack of responsiveness to my phone calls and e-mails.
      For instance, here is a sampling of the calls I made to you:

      April 22/13 ~ Called Summit. Talked to someone who transferred me to Mike Flosky…who wasn’t there. Left a message to return my call
      April 23/13 ~ Called Summit left a Voice mail message for Mike Flosky
      April 24/13 ~ Called Summit..Voice mail again! Left a message
      April 29/13 ~ Called again. Mike Flosky advised he would send a cheque in the mail tomorrow for receipt in 7-8 days

      In short, in spite of all these calls and many subsequent to this, not one call was returned and I received no communication with respect to the disposition of the cheque you say you sent to me. I simply got tired of calling and chose, instead to concentrate on something more productive.

      Like you, I’d like to find a way to accept your apology. But words simply aren’t enough.

      If, as you say, I should not have had to spend more than $300 to return the scooter to you (given the challenges of cross-border shipping), you might start to act on your apology by refunding the difference between the $300 you estimated and the amount I actually paid which was US $473.68. ( US$173.68). This, of course, is in addition to the cost of the scooter, which was (considering the $45 discount you allowed) US$1553.00.

      It is unfortunate that it has come to this. I see your business as serving a valuable and expanding market. But it is not about providing scooters. It is, at least to me, about providing independence and preserving dignity. It is difficult to fulfill that purpose if you fail to engage with your customers and show through your actions that you want to help, not just sell them a product.

      I hope that together, we can conclude our business and move on. I will send you an email message this afternoon and will look forward to receiving my refund shortly.

  5. My email to Summit appears below:

    Dear @info:

    First, it’s an odd name for a human being, so I would like to know if a human being, a real person, with a beating feeling heart, is reading this email.
    If so, your response is much appreciated. More important than a response to me, is a full apology from the company’s CEO, along with a full refund for all charges concerning the situation described below.

    A lovely woman I know from Vancouver, whose husband suffered a stroke several years ago, bought a mobility scooter from Summit. This woman is also a highly respected business writer. Tens of thousands read her weekly column.
    The tale continues below.
    Summit’s mobility scooter did not fit her husband’s needs and she’s been attempting to return it and have her monies refunded since July 2012. Repeat, since July 2012.
    She has recently written a blog post about this situation and the fact that Summit has yet to refund the monies. She is repeatedly told “The check is in the mail.”

    Is THIS how you want to be known?

    ____________________

    Gwyn: Behind the word “THIS” is a link to your post
    Hoping the next time we speak you have a refund and a check in your hands.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Anne ~ Thank you for this. I’m touched by the ferocity of your message and the sincerity with which it is delivered. You will note that a Manager at Summit has responded to me here and I, in turn, have answered. I have you and others to thank for the company’s quick response and I am beginning, once more to feel hope that a refund is in my near future.

  6. I certainly hope a refund is forthcoming sooner rather than later! Keep us posted.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Leslie ~ Yes, thank you. And it is looking hopeful. I just received an e-mail now from Mr Flosky who advises that he will be arranging to send a cheque via FedEx or UPS this coming Friday. This being the case, I should be in receipt of the much sought after refund sometime early next week.

  7. Gwyn,
    It is sad that your experience with this company was so poor that you felt compelled to blog about it. However, some good is coming out of your long journey. I am using your blog as a training tool for my staff. It is an excellent illustration of a completely unacceptable customer server experience and a customer who was more professional about the interaction than the business she was trying to work with.
    Please be sure to keep us updated.
    Best of Luck
    Clark

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Thank you, Clark. I’m glad something useful is coming out of this story. My dealings with this company are looking hopeful. I will post here when my refund is in hand!

  8. Nadine Jones

    I’m so happy that you’ve FINALLY gotten your refund! It’s very disappointing that we have to raise a fuss to get what we are rightfully owed at times,but hopefully some good will come from it and others who deal with this company will never have to through what you and Don did.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Nadine ~ Thank you. The experience has left me in no doubt that the Internet can be a very powerful tool. I’m grateful to all those who participated with me. I resolve too, that in future, I will not order any products internationally that are bigger than a bread box!

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