Worst customer service

Bad User Interface?

I was determined to have a good day yesterday. My wife and I were running errands, getting things done, and generally trying to be productive. Alas, this was not meant to be. Allow me to share with you a story about customer service gone horribly wrong at Michael's, a nation-wide arts and crafts store.

Now, I should prefix this by saying I've never been a big fan of arts and crafts. To me, painting pine-cones different colors and giving them a generous sprinkling of glitter can hardly be called "art." However, realizing that there are differing opinions on the matter, I'm thankful that places like Michael's exist, to give those sorts of people a place to go.

Today, we found ourselves at said establishment in an attempt to get some custom framing done. We had with us our marriage license as well as some wedding invitations that I had designed. After waiting for about half an hour, which is to be expected on a Saturday around this festive time of year, we finally reached the framing counter.

wedding invitation

Our wedding invitation

We were greeted by a friendly elderly woman who quickly made apparent her lack of familiarity with all things electronic. After telling her a few times how we wanted to arrange things, including the border and matte, she turns the swivel monitor around to show us all our ideal layout, only turned 90 degrees.

This was no big deal really though, seeing as what she had to work with. From what I can tell, the Michael's picture layout software is still running on Windows 98, and did not seem to include any ability to drag and drop. The poor woman was forced to click up and down arrows, which sometimes did what one would expect, but at other times would mis-align the wireframes.

Bad Employee?

So, we sit there for another half an hour as she fidgets with the software. I get bored and go walk around the aisles, pretending to be interested in laurel wreaths and various renditions of snowmen and Santa Claus. I come back, she continues to click. I keep hearing the default DING of the Windows OS. Yet, I kept telling myself "It's not her fault, it's a user-interface problem."

Then, she proves me wrong. A brief aside for background info: I had wanted to denote which of the invitations were to use which side, as they had outer sides, and an inner fold. We had brought two, but one of them had a better looking inside. So, I asked if I might use a nearby highlighter to make a slight mark on the one I didn't want displayed, to indicate that they should flip it around and mount the other side forward.

Without answering yes or no regarding the highlighter, she grabs the invitation, and scratches across the slightly discolored area with a ball point pen! Since the counter-top is basically carpeted, the pen just about went through the invitation, making a permanent indentation, and implicitly raised scribbled ridges on the other side, across my face.

So, basically she ruined our whole reason for making the trip to her store. Luckily for us, we have more than just those invitations, but for all she knew, those were our only ones. I'm just glad we hadn't tried to do the marriage license layout first. Trying to remain calm, I say nicely "It's okay, we have other ones at home," and started to collect our things.

She smiled with relief and said "Oh, well you can get another and come back!" My wife replied "I don't want to come back," which she took to mean that we were going to forge ahead, despite it all. As she was resuming her rendition of DING's, I said softly "No, you don't understand. We are never coming back."

This was more than just bad circumstances or outdated software. It was a complete disregard for customer service and user experience. I have no doubt she meant to be helpful, and was doing her best. In this case though, her best was nowhere remotely near good enough.

She was so ignorant as to what she was doing that I was unable to be angry, and simply felt incredible pity. This ranks right up there with the time Sears tried to pre-charge my dad for auto repair just because he's Japanese. Be forewarned: If you take anything to Michael's, make sure you have a backup. Either that, or be prepared to turn over the well-being of your property to someone with little concern for it.

It's a classic example of how using technology simply for the sake of technology is just another layer of hindrance, if the person using it doesn't already know the trade. In this case, I think we would have been better off dealing with an experienced framer in a specialty shop, with or without a computer, which is what we intend to do in the future.