September 29, 2016

Catalog Rant

Ok my friends, I'm going to blow off some steam here. I feel like the young lady below.

Here's the 411.

I order an item from a catalog brand within a Catalog Holding Company. As you remember, a Catalog Holding Company is a brand that owns 3+ catalog companies. This Catalog Holding Company is one that the 40% of our catalog-centric audience absolutely adores. Conferences and Trade Journalists and Vendors love this Catalog Holding Company. Many of you have purchased from this company. You probably know somebody who works for the Catalog Holding Company.

I ordered the item on August 9.

The item was "not available", but was backordered and would be available in early September.

Amazon has comparable items that are available via Prime and are cheaper and could be delivered to my remote rural home within 48 hours.

But I defended the industry. It's hard to help an industry if you choose Amazon, right? I paid more, and I elected to wait a long time for the item to be available.

On September 7, I receive an email (#automation) telling me that my item shipped.

The item will arrive in 5 to 9 business days.

Wait. What?

Five business days pass. 

My wife says "where's the item?". I get crabby ... "THEY SAID IT WOULD TAKE 5 TO 9 BUSINESS DAYS, LET'S GIVE THEM 9 BUSINESS DAYS!!!!". Think about this ... I'm getting crabby with my wife, who is on my side ... and I am defending a Catalog Holding Company.

Ten business days pass. 

Fourteen business days pass.

I decide that it might be a good idea to call the Catalog Holding Company. I check the tracking number. FedEx says that SHIPPING INFORMATION WAS SENT TO FEDEX ON AUGUST 31. That's it. No shipment, no receipt of product, nothing.

I visit the website of the Brand owned by the Catalog Holding Company.

No live chat.

I know, I know, live chat has been around since the Bush Administration. But I don't want to be one of those preachy social media customer experience gurus who spends all day pointing out what companies do wrong in exchange for 100,000 #engaged followers.

I call the 1-800 number of the Catalog Holding Company.

The voice on the other end is bathed in silence ... the kind of silence that suggests she is sitting in her living room watching ESPN or Kitchen Nightmares. I provide my order number. She tells me, and I quote ... "MY INTERNET ISN'T WORKING PROPERLY, SO I CANNOT PULL UP YOUR ORDER NUMBER RIGHT NOW".


A minute passes.


She reads me the tracking number.

I already know the tracking number! I've been tracking nothing for fourteen business days.

I ask the person on the other end of the phone to look at the status of the item.


I tell her "I agree"!!!


I tell her that I've waited 14 business days.





She hung up on me!

I go back to the website, and I type a message to customer service. I use up my 200 characters (or whatever the quantity was) pretty fast. I describe that I haven't received my item, that the tracking number shows that no item has been shipped, and that the customer service rep had internet problems and then hung up on me.

That was three business days ago.

No response from the Catalog Holding Company.

The Catalog Holding Company has had my $90.94 since September 7. Good for them.


Here's one of the comments I frequently get from CEOs and VPs at catalog brands.
  • "It's just too hard to compete against Amazon, sales declines are not our fault."

Sales declines are ENTIRELY our fault!!!! We either failed to be strategic, or we failed to execute properly. Or both.

On what planet should a customer sit for two months waiting for an item to ship when Amazon can flawlessly deliver an item in a few hours in an urban environment and within 48 hours in a rural environment?

Meanwhile, the Catalog Holding Company is going to distribute my $90 to vendors ... because most catalogers measure demand, not net sales ... meaning catalogs are about to be unleashed upon the Hillstrom household regardless of customer service failures.
  • The paper rep will be happy.
  • The printer will be happy.
  • The USPS will be happy.
  • The merge/purge vendor will be happy.
  • Co-op vendors will be happy.
  • I'm not happy.
The Catalog Holding Company will not get paid. I will eventually obtain my refund.

Friends, I am tired. I get feedback from you ... "please demonstrate that you are on our side - prove to us that you love the catalog industry and are trying to help us".

It's hard to be on the side of an industry that is on the wrong side of the customer experience.

Why does it take 5-9 business days to ship an item, dear Catalog Holding Company?

Why did you fail to execute delivery of the order, dear Catalog Holding Company?

Why did your customer service rep not have reliable internet access, dear Catalog Holding Company?

Why did your customer service rep hang up on me, dear Catalog Holding Company?

Why don't you have live chat, dear Catalog Holding Company?

Why don't you respond to customers who respond with a customer service request on your website, dear Catalog Holding Company?

Why did you take my money but never deliver my item, dear Catalog Holding Company?

Why do you complain, dear Catalog Holding Company, that Amazon is wiping out your business?

I try to stay away from this stuff - but these errors are magnified when Amazon executes so well. And how I can I help you in our consulting projects when I tell you how to market to the customer only to have the customer service experience fail the marketing experience?

Thoughts? Send them along at


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