Quality in the New Year

31 December 2006

Sometimes I find myself wishing I could be more positive about goods and services that I spend money on. More accurately, I wish I could bring myself to spare loyal readers the grimy details. Alas, I can’t.

Regular readers are well aware of The HP Way and how After Hours ships the wrong sizes of clothes for the most important events in a person’s life. It’s tiresome to write about such atrocious service, but cathartic and necessary.

On December 8 Amazon took an order for a camera. I didn’t realize at the time that they were “farming the order out” to TigerDirect. Worse, TigerDirect was backordered. None of that stopped these two companies from billing my credit card and going completely silent. When I finally inquired I got a string of differing delivery dates and promises.

When I attempted to cancel the order, I was given a couple of email lectures followed by a return authorization. Why would I need a return authorization when TigerDirect is backordered and I never received the camera?

Finally, when I suggested that TigerDirect simply cancel my order, they went silent again. Please understand that this is all about $129.99 plus $7.24 for shipping which has already been charged to my credit card. In other words, it ain’t about the money, it’s about the lousy service and misrepresentations. Hint to both companies: Christmas has come and gone!

We’ll see whether Amazon and/or TigerDirect are willing to make good on this mess. As for not reporting these matters in the New Year, fugedaboudit.

If your company is clueless (and careless) about quality, the public (including my 7 readers) deserves to know.

UPDATE: For those who want to read a little more about Tiger Direct and the parent (public) company, follow this link and then, this one. Here’s a quote:

Users at several Internet scam-reporting message boards report that TigerDirect and its sister organization OnRebate.com deliver shoddy equipment or fail to pay promised large rebates on items. Support requests by e-mail and phone are refused or delayed. The Better Business Bureau has given TigerDirect an “unsatisfactory” rating for its performance in these matters. These allegations also exist against its twin site (in design and merchandise), globalcomputer.com. A website named TigerDirectSucks.org carries pro and con messages about the company, including what purport to be postings from ex-employees.

Oh, by the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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After Hours My Foot

25 November 2006

After a week-long cooling off period, I’ve composed myself well enough to write clearly about After Hours Formalwear. This company is a classic example of a company that wants to appear good, but is unwilling to pay the price to be good. Companies that have grown almost exclusively by acquisition often show this trait.

The short story comes first. They botched the ordering and sizing of a tux for the father of the bride. Their attempt to recover was worse. They simply do not understand the importance of what they are doing. No matter how many people I talk to, I’ll spend the rest of my days discouraging anyone who will listen from using the services of After Hours Formalwear.

Now for the longer story. My oldest daughter got married last Saturday. The wedding was far removed from Memphis where I went for the tux fitting. I was instructed to pick up the tux the Thursday prior to the wedding in a city near the wedding site.

I put the tuxedo on that Thursday and discovered that the coat had been improperly measured and sized. For overnight delivery, I requested a replacement coat in the proper size. It was then that I discovered that “overnight” meant after 3pm on Friday.

Now for some conjecture and lessons. After Hours probably knows better than I ever will – they have the data – but, I suspect a majority of weddings occur on weekends. Just a guess. Further, most traditional and semi-traditional weddings have a rehearsal and a rehearsal dinner the evening before the wedding. The father of a bride must attend the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The last thing he has time to do is to go to some After Hours location after 3pm when a rehearsal is scheduled for 4pm.

The lesson here is that After Hours should design and implement a business process that accommodates the tight time table and the importance of the product they offer. This will be difficult to pull off when you employ teenage girls who think that fathers-of-brides are simply the downside of the job — sort of like cleaning the tables was the downside of flipping burgers at their last job.

Here are the things that After Hours got wrong:

  1. the shirt sleeves were not the right length
  2. the shirt was missing a button
  3. the shoes were caked with dried mud
  4. the coat was the wrong size
  5. the time for picking up the replacement coat was unacceptable
  6. the attitude toward a Dad trying to look good for his daughter’s wedding was awful
  7. the replacement coat was the wrong size
  8. there was no time to correct the second error made concerning the coat
  9. when inquiring about how to escalate my concerns, both locations were well-schooled to say, “we can’t do anything here; you’ll have to talk to a district manager.”
  10. neither location was able to provide information about how to reach a district manager

These are not the idle rantings of someone with too little to do. They are not the ravings of some persistently offended consumer. Rather, they are the complaints of a customer who attempted to use the services of After Hours Formalwear. They are the complaints of a customer who was further offended by the lack of concern and attention given to the original errors and complaints.

If you are planning a wedding or you have any influence over the planning for a wedding, advise this:

  • Rent from someone more dependable or advise the wedding party to buy traditional tuxes for future needs
  • Make certain that any company you rent from appreciates the importance of their role in the wedding

As a long-time quality professional who has some insight into quality and customer service challenges, it’s obvious what is needed. After Hours should immediately undertake a detailed process and measurement review to fix their quality problem. They must begin by getting brutally honest about what an error or non conformance is in the eyes of their customer. They won’t, but it is precisely what they ought to do. They simply don’t have a clue.


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Things That Fry Me

22 October 2006

I ranted a bit a few days ago.

A trip to the bookstore not only reignited my frustrations with drivers, but it reminded me of the sorry state of publishing these days. You’re buying books for $27.95 (give or take) and they contain grammatical mistakes, spelling errors and word omissions. That shouldn’t happen.

Whether you go to restaurants, wait on service in department stores or have people doing contracted work, you are no doubt experiencing the same levels of service and quality that AlphaPatriot is seeing.

The key question? What do you do about it? What is the consumer able to do about such miserable quality and service?


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An Open Goal for 2006

29 December 2005

During 2006 I’d like to interview Mr. Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart for about one hour – in person. All of my questions during that interview will relate to how he views Wal-Mart’s performance in the areas of quality and customer service. Let me explain.

Read on...

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Under Competent Leadership

20 September 2005

From the third quarter’s newsletter of The W. Edwards Deming Institute, I’ve reprinted a letter shown on page two. Succinctly, it provides the thinking in American business then—and NOW. One sentence says more than any dozen of the bestselling business books of the last two years!

Read on...


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