Saturday, September 15, 2012

How Customer Service Directly Impacts Brand Influence in the Cardboard Community Part 1: Musings on Upper Deck and How Mistakes Can Ruin Brand Image

This will be part one of a three part series.  Parts two and three will be about the other big three, Topps and Panini.  Back in the day, Upper Deck was probably the company I enjoyed purchasing the most.  This was because I bought a lot of basketball cards since I was a huge Jordan fan.  The problem with Upper Deck today is that they don't have a license for the three major sports.  They have to be more clever in releasing products for those sports and do so by having higher quality releases, along with different releases.  The product at the pricepoint I was most interested this year was Goodwin Champions, which is sort of like Allen & Ginter in that it's multi-sport and reminiscent of the tobacco cards.  They have some really cool hits in this product, from the Jordan autographs to the manufactured animal patches and the civil war relics.  I went to my LCS to buy a few packs just to test it out since I'm not in a spot financially to buy a box to judge.  Right off the bat I got one of the manufactured patches.  It was one of the most common ones, but I was able to sell it and profit off the initial packs.  That prompted me to buy a box.

As people who have followed me might know, that box only contained two of the promised three (or more) hits.  They were two junky relics that I ended up giving to a kid who was there with his father.  At least I could salvage the box from a standpoint of making a child happy.  Now, here's where we get to the fun part.  I called Upper Deck support.  The first thing I'm told is that I need a receipt.  This is a problem since my card shop (and I'm assuming many others) don't give itemized receipts.  If you pay by credit/debit card, you have your copy of that, but it just lists the amount you paid.  After reasoning with the representative for some time, I was able for to get her to allow me to get my remaining hit without one.  This is my first experience where I had a box that was missing a hit, so I didn't know the exact procedure.  I am told that I have to ship my box to them at my own expense.  For me to ship it across country, it was $7.  I am told it will take three to four months for them to process my request.  I sent it in about a month ago along with a note jokingly asking for a Jordan autograph, but I'll probably get a piece of Hulk Hogan's shirt, one of the easiest hits to find.

Now here's the problem I have with this whole thing.  I am forced to not only wait 1/3 of a year to get my last card, but I also am forced to pay an additional $7 premium.  This should not be an acceptable practice.  If I were in charge of a company, I would make sure my QA department went over and beyond to correct mistakes that are 100% my company's fault.  I wouldn't make a customer foot the bill and then wait an unreasonably long time to get a card that my company owes him because we messed up.  And to make things worse, I have tweeted at Upper Deck many times.  Not once have I even gotten a response.  It's like they don't even want to acknowledge me as a customer.  Now because of this, they get bad word-of-mouth (or in this case, text-on-screen) advertising.  I want to buy Upper Deck cards.  I want them to take my money.  Until they make things right and fix their mistake, they will not see anything else from me.  Upper Deck needs to take a page out of Amazon's playbook.  If they mess up, they make things right.  They give you what you were supposed to get and then usually also give you something to make up for the mistake.  That is what Upper Deck needs to do.  If they were to send me a box of Fleer Retro, I will gladly retract this opinion on them.  Heck, I'd write a new one on how Upper Deck actually goes out of their way to fix things when they screw up.

I'd like to finish this musing with a positive thought.  I'd like to think that sometime within the next three months a package from California will show up on my doorstep.  It will have the address of the Upper Deck headquarters on it.  I will open that package and will find that Jordan autograph I have wanted since I was 7 or a box of Fleer Retro that will feel like opening a box of cards when I was 7.  That's what I think collecting is about.  Bringing out the child inside to remind us of a simpler time when a man shooting a basketball with his tongue waving through the air was all that mattered in the world.

Update: Speaking of Amazon's awesome customer service, they just won again in my book.  I bought a cooler for my laptop in January for about $30.  About a month ago it wasn't working as well so I contacted Amazon who told me to contact the manufacturer and if the manufacturer couldn't help they would see what they would do.  The manufacturer told me that it's under warranty so I could ship back the cooler at my own expense for a replacement.  $15 shipping on a $25 item.  I contacted Amazon and sure enough, they offered to let me ship it to them free of charge to me and they would overnight me another once they get it.  This is why I love Amazon.  Despite them having no other real competition, they strive to make sure the customer is happy, even when it wasn't their fault there was a problem.

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