Amazon’s Customer Service and a Toilet Go Hand-in-Hand

Amazon Toilet Racer Man

Here’s the thing: I don’t need to contact Amazon’s customer service often, but when I do they’ve always been responsive and extremely helpful. So I’m not going to lambaste Amazon in this post, but I do want to tell a story of a horrible customer service experience that’s not just a result of a bad rep but is indicative of a deeper problem.

The Toilet

In an incident that was far less dramatic than you’d hope, my toilet tank cracked and was leaking slowly onto the floor.

Obviously the ideal solution would be a new tank, but I had an Eljer triangle toilet that’s discontinued, and there aren’t a ton of options for a triangular corner toilet.

Needing to have a working crapper, I ran out to Home Depot and bought a relatively cheap standard toilet as a temporary solution. It works fine, but the placement isn’t quite as nice as that of a corner toilet. Hence I went to my favorite online retailer and found an American Standard Cadet 3 Triangle Toilet that looked like it would fit the bill.

AmericanStandard_CornerToilet_AmazonStock

Amazon’s product photo of the toilet. Looks like an elongated bowl, right?

It turned out to be the wrong toilet for me. I’m not exactly a small guy at 6’4″ and 220lbs. I constantly have problems at hotels where my .. carriage .. doesn’t fit inside a toilet without .. dipping and/or touching the front. (I’m trying to be polite, which is hard to do when talking about why a toilet doesn’t suit my needs. Not that you really needed to know, but whatever.)

The point is that I hate round bowl toilets because there’s not enough space front-to-back for my taste.

The full name of the toilet on Amazon is American Standard 270BD001.020 Cadet 3 Right Height Round Front Two-Piece Triangle Toilet with 12-Inch Rough-In, White. When I read “round front”, I thought that meant the front was rounded for aesthetic reasons as opposed to another hypothetical model which might have a more squared-off front. I’m no expert on toilet styles. Besides, “round front” sounds different than “round bowl”.

And to be fair it’s also the wrong picture of the toilet on Amazon’s product page. But to be super duper fair to Amazon, it’s probably American Standard’s fault because they have the wrong photo on their website. Check out this side-by-side of the “Round” version versus the “Elongated” version:

AmericanStandard_ToiletComparison

It’s rather hard to read, but you can click on the image for the full-size version.

Both of these pictures look the freaking same, and both look like elongated bowls. The point of my telling you all of this is that I don’t think it was 100% my fault that I ordered the wrong thing. But because I felt somewhat foolish at misunderstanding the “round” terminology, when it came to giving a reason for the return I put something like “I no longer need this item”. At any rate, I indicated that the return was my fault and so I was charged around $40 for shipping (which is pretty reasonable for a heavy, bulky, two-package order).

Lord of the Toilets: The Two Packages

I was issued a pre-paid UPS label for return because I’d opted to drop the toilet off at my local UPS Store. Pickup was quite a bit more expensive, even though I thought that it would be way easier.

But there’s the crux of the problem: I was issued one label for two packages. That didn’t seem right to me, so some communication ensued:

July 30

Hi,

I’m trying to return order [order number redacted], and the return was approved and a UPS label issued. However, the item (toilet) is split into 2 packages, so I need two return labels. (Unless I can use the same one twice, but I don’t believe UPS allows that.)

Thanks & regards,

Scott

Amazon replied promptly with the following:

July 30

Hello,

Thanks for contacting us.

I understand that you want to return the item and the item was split in to two packages.

In this case, you can use the same return mailing label twice on the both packages and you can return the item. There is no need to concern. UPS will accept the package.

If you want free UPS pick up to return the item, please let us know using the below link. We’ll create free UPS pick to return the item. So that UPS will pick up the item from your shipping address.

Please visit the following link to provide the information we requested:

http://www.amazon.com/rsvp-mi?c=[redacted]&q=o2r

We look forward to seeing you again.

We’d appreciate your feedback. Please use the links below to tell us about your experience today.

Best regards,
Reshmi [redacted].

The link provided in that last message was some kind of generic feedback form. It’s not valid anymore and so I can’t get a screenshot, but it basically asked for information that was redundant to what Amazon should already have in relation to this return. It had a comments field where I explained that I’d like to change from a drop-off to a pick-up on that order.

Then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. After 10 days with no response, I contacted Amazon customer service again:

August 9, 2016

Hi,

I used the link provided in your email, filled out the form, and requested a UPS pickup. But I haven’t heard anything back yet. This item is pretty bulky, so I’d much prefer a pick-up rather than having to drop it off at a UPS Store. If it’s not going to happen, please let me know before the return window is over.

Thanks & regards,
Scott

Amazon responded to that message right away with the following: (You don’t have to read the whole thing, just look at the bold bits.)

August 9

Hello,

Thank you for taking out time and writing back to us.

To make this right for you, I have arranged a UPS Pick-up for the item “American Standard 270BD001.020 Cadet 3 Right Height Round Front Two-Piece Triangle Toilet with 12-Inch Rough-In, White”.

UPS’s first attempt is typically made the first business day after a request is made, but it can take up to three business days for them to receive the pickup request. UPS will attempt the pickup at the address where the items were shipped. They’ll make three attempts to pick up your return if you aren’t available when they arrive.

When you request a UPS pickup for your return, the UPS driver will bring a pre-addressed, authorized return label. If the package has been opened, please repack it in a way similar to when it arrived.

Don’t worry; packing slips aren’t required to make a return.

UPS does not provide unattended pickup. You can contact UPS to see if they can give you more specific information about the timing of the pickup; their phone number is 1-800-PICK-UPS (1-800-742-5877).

Please reference this tracking number if you call them: [redacted]

We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

We’d appreciate your feedback. Please use the links below to tell us about your experience today.

Best regards,
Divya K

I was quite grateful that they finally arranged the pick-up, but was still a bit concerned that they were still talking about “a” return label. I figured that wasn’t really my problem (yet). I was a bit bummed that I’d have to be home, but fortunately my UPS driver usually comes between 6PM and 8PM.

But my next message to Amazon 6 days later sorta summarizes what happened in the meantime:

August 15

Hi,

This has turned into quite a problematic return process. I really do appreciate you arranging the UPS pick-up, because this is a bulky item and it saves me the hassle of bringing it to a UPS Store.

However, a couple of things: The instructions from Amazon said that I’d have to be home for the pickup. Unfortunately my UPS driver came at 5PM one day, 2PM the next, didn’t come at all the following day, and came today around 7PM. So it was difficult to coordinate. I contacted UPS on Twitter, and they said that I would NOT have to be home, and that I could leave the packages on my porch for pickup.

Today the UPS driver happened to come when I was just getting home from work, and he told me that he was only issued one return label — but this order came in 2 packages. If you look back in the history of this inquiry, you’ll see that I started off by asking if I could use the same UPS label for both packages. You guys said “yes”. The UPS driver says that cannot be done, and two separate labels with different tracking numbers would have to be issued.

He cancelled the pick-up in the meantime.

I really want to get this returned, so whatever help you can give me would be appreciated. Either I or the UPS driver would need to have 2 return labels issued.

Regards,
Scott



In my irritation, I also took to Facebook. I tagged UPS and Amazon, but they couldn’t be bothered:

But in the end Amazon really came through, offering to let me keep the toilet and the refund! It’s really generous, though I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with the toilet. Also that’s not the end of the f$(*!ng story.

August 16

Hello Scott,

I am sorry to hear about the problem you had in returning the item “American Standard 270BD001.020 Cadet 3 Right Height Round Front Two-Piece Triangle Toilet with 12-Inch Rough-In, White “.

As you are our valuable customer I request you not to return the item back now as we do not want to cause you more trouble in returning this item to us. You’re welcome to keep donate dispose the item according to your choice.

Also you can see that already a refund is issued to you for this item.

Rest assured that you will not be charged for the same. Please do not sorry about the same.Your issue will be taken care of.

It is our privilege to have you as our valued customer and we want to make sure you are always taken care of.

If there is anything else you need help with, please feel free to contact us at any point of time. We are here 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for your assistance. Here’s a link to our Contact Us page:http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/general-questions.html

Thank you for choosing Amazon. We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you again in the near future.

We’d appreciate your feedback. Please use the links below to tell us about your experience today.

Best regards,
aditi

Of course I responded with a very kind thank you note! I felt like that went above and beyond what I expected, and was a ridiculously good example of Amazon’s customer service.

But I don’t think it’ll take much imagination for you to guess what happened next, though it moves our story forward by almost a month:

September 16

Hi,

Again, I really appreciate the sentiment. But I was just re-charged for the purchase.

If you want me to send the toilet back, I’m still OK with that, but please let me know.

Regards,
Scott

The Refunded Refund

That’s right, Amazon unceremoniously pulled $270.74 out of my checking account a month after saying that the matter was settled.

The transactions related to all this nonsense.

The transactions related to all this nonsense.

Look, I’m not trying get one over on Amazon. I wanted to return the toilet. I really did. It’s been sitting in my living room for over 2 months, having not been pooped in at all.

But they offered to let me keep the it. That was their choice. But notice they kept the $39.04 for the return shipping. I mean, fair enough, because 40 bucks is a cheap price for a toilet. But for a toilet that I don’t want and will probably just donate to Habitat? Meh.

But they’ve now charged me $309.78 for an order that was originally $270.74. (Two $270.74 charges minus just $231.70 in the refund.)

The worst part is that their customer service has responded to my other emails in a matter of hours, yet it’s now been 4 days, and I’m starting to get worried.

I’ll update this saga when there’s some kind of resolution. I’m happy to return the toilet. I’m happy to donate the toilet. Whatever you want, Amazon. Just please let me know so I can put this to rest.

Here’s A Bullet List of Issues for People That Like Lists

  • The photo on the Amazon product page was incorrect.
  • Amazon only issued one shipping label for a two-package return.
  • Amazon never responded to the feedback form that I was superfluously asked to fill out.
  • Amazon insists that one shipping label can be duplicated onto many packages. UPS strongly disagrees.
  • UPS says that I can leave return packages on my porch for unattended pickup. Amazon strongly disagrees.
  • Amazon was quick to promise that I wouldn’t be charged for the toilet, but I was. A month later.
  • Amazon still charged me the return fee of $40, even though I never returned it.
  • This whole thing started with an order on July 4, and it’s now September 20.

I started off this post by saying that this indicates a deeper problem than just a bad rep or a one-off experience. Amazon really needs to get on the same page as UPS. I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong, but I’m thinking that Amazon is wrong. If they’d issued two labels and let me leave the packages unattended for pick-up, this would have been resolved over a month ago with minimal fuss.

Then again, since I’m dealing in hypothetical “what if” scenarios: If they’d simply shipped the toilet pictured in the listing, I’d probably be pooping in the corner of the room like god intended instead of jammed up against the wall like an animal.

There’s a fundamental accounting problem if their system can bill me an extra $40 in this way. If this was my credit card and not my debit card, I might not have noticed the discrepancy because the transaction volume is higher and it would’ve spanned two statements.

And finally, I don’t think that the feedback form in question actually does anything. To this day I’ve received no acknowledgement of having sent a message, aside from the confirmation page on Amazon.com after I submitted it.

Some of This is My Fault

In fairness to Amazon, I did slow down this process a bit on my own. I didn’t unpack the toilet until a couple of weeks after delivery — I’d been waiting for a spare weekend to install it. In retrospect I should have taken it out to inspect it right away, but I didn’t.

I also took a while to get around to actually trying to bring the thing to the UPS Store. My car isn’t big enough for both packages, so it was going to take me two trips and over an hour. I procrastinated out of laziness, and I was really grateful for their offer of a free pick-up.

(Incidentally, I would have made the cutoff dates for the return despite my delay.)

My UPS guy also came at weird times when I was trying to give him the package. I couldn’t take a full day off of work just to facilitate this return, and though I did leave work early on those days, he came even earlier. It’s not his fault, of course, but it’s just one of those flukes of bad timing. I’ve seen him in my neighborhood after 7 PM quite a few times afterwards.

Also, I take some of the responsibility for ordering the wrong item. However, even though it said “round front”, the picture clearly shows an elongated bowl. It looks nothing like the actual item. American Standard’s site seemed to back up the fact that I was ordering an elongated bowl.

Your Feedback is Important to Us…

…and will be answered in the order received.

Seriously though, if you think I’m being an ass about this, let me know in the comments. And regardless of the long rant, I’m not all that worked up about it. I have confidence that Amazon will come through in the end.

Just for reference, here's a screenshot of the Amazon listing with the incorrect picture.  Looks like I bought at a good time, because it's now $100 more expensive!

Just for reference, here’s a screenshot of the Amazon listing with the incorrect picture. Looks like I bought at a good time, because it’s now $100 more expensive!

About Scott

I'm a computer guy with a new house and a love of DIY projects. I like ranting, and long drives on your lawn. I don't post everything I do, but when I do, I post it here. Maybe.
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