It is finally the start to another new semester of college. Of course that means a new round of textbooks that I will only use once in class then sell for 10% of what I paid for them. I'll try and spare you my sermon on the endless cycle of the textbook scam but I do want to share my experience from this week.
Enter day one of class: I show up to each of my classes like every other student does just to find out if we "actually NEED the textbook." This semester was a big win for me as two of my four classes that do require textbooks are allowing me to buy the earlier editions. If you aren't aware of the textbook game, the idea is that a textbook author can write a textbook, then create a new edition of a textbook by adding a few new charts and changing the order of the chapters, then charge the same exact amount for each of these books. This way you can't buy an older, used version of the book because that question you have to answer is on page 45 in the new book. Not page 32. This renders older version of the textbook absolutely worthless to students like me. My point of this explanation is to tell you that a professor not playing into the textbook game will tell you that the 2013 edition has the same information as the 2015 edition so buy that one.
SCORE! What a blessing. My first quick Google of my books tells me that I will save close to $80 on each of my textbooks. I immediately placed my order through my favorite online retailer, Amazon. $20 book in two days; what a deal! To my surprise the retailers selling through Amazon apparently sold out of these older books which became very frustrating. I would order a book then 1-2 days later have a message in my inbox that my order was refunded to me due to unavailable quantities. Just my luck! Now enters Amazon customer support.
If you dig and dig on the Amazon website you can actually find the number to call to speak with a live human being (Amazon prides itself on low-costs in the area of customer service and every minute counts to them). Anna was quick to help and assured me that she had my best interest in mind and "really wanted to get me this book as she understood it was important to me." Anna went to work to find an available book for me. She would come back on the line about every three minutes to assure me that she was still working to find my book and hadn't forgotten about me. It took Anna about 15 minutes to come to the conclusion that all 20ish of their retail providers in fact did not have the book available. This disappointed me quite a bit. The Everything Store (Amazon) who built it's original business on providing every book possible didn't have my book! Okay they did have it; just not in a used condition at an awesome price.
Anna understood that I had now spent about 20 minutes of my life waiting for her to find this book for me and knew that I needed this book. She knew I was not about to wait much longer and immediately offered to provide me an Amazon gift card for the price of a brand new version of the book from their website if I chose to buy it from Amazon.
Being the entrepreneur that I am, there was no way I was about to pass on an opportunity like this. I buy just about everything from Amazon and that gift card would serve a bigger purpose later down the line. Nonetheless, I thanked Anna for her help and patience with me and assured her that Amazon will always remain my first call for anything I buy online because of people like her and the grade A service they provide me.
Enter different online retailer. Another quick Google revealed a version of the textbook for right at about $15, including shipping. Now I was about to make $100 from amazon just by buying a textbook. Add to cart was my immediate reflex. Two days later I had a refund in my inbox. This textbook industry is beating me to death. I immediately picked up the phone and dialed this new retailer. After selecting the appropriate options I was put through to customer service representative Tom. "Hi Tom, I am in a tough spot right now. I ordered this book from you all but it was refunded back to me and I need it ASAP (truth)." Tom was quick to bark back that they didn't have it and were not going to be able to fix the problem.
"Why are you advertising this textbook if you cannot sell it to me?" I had learned plenty about false advertising before and even heard others fussed at about it in my retail workings at NAPA. Tom almost shutdown. "Forrest you bought this book at the same time as someone else and we only had one available so I can't do anything about it," as if this was supposed to be the resolution to my immediate issue. I wish I would have recorded the message for you so you could hear the attitude on the other end. In my head it was one of the many Disney villain voices I had heard in my younger days. I think Tom expected me to give up at this point. Well sorry Tom, I forgot to mention, I'm a management major. After having Tom search for the previous and latest editions of the textbook - with a passive attitude I might add - Tom came up with nothing. So I told Tom have a good day and moved on. Wrong.
Customer Service had done the exact opposite of the purpose of customer service. I was no longer a sales opportunity. I had become a nuisance and a time taker and as many of my friends can tell you, I am all about a learning moment. "Tom can I speak with your manager?" He replied with, "they will tell you the same thing." After speaking with the friendly voice, Denise, for a few minutes I felt much better about my refunded order. I imagine Denise at this point as the Disney princess who ends up beating the villain. I calmly explained my order experience and she assured me that this does not happen often but it does occur (again my luck).
My point is not to blow this story out of proportion. This is not the worst thing to ever happen to me and even as a customer this isn't the worst type of experience possible because I have certainly seen worse. My first point to this story is of course to let you know about the amazing services of my summer internship provider, Amazon, and encourage you to use them first. My other, much larger point is to share the lesson that Amazon has already taught me before beginning my training with them. Amazon had stuck to one of their primary leadership principles; Customer Obsession. Obsessing over a customer like me who spends so much money with Amazon will continue to drive me to their company and of course drive my friends and family by recommendation.
This small sacrifice of $100 drives into the flywheel effect that is described in the book The Everything Store. Jim Collins originally presented this concept in his book Good to Great. This idea is that happy customers play into more sales, which lead to more profit, which lead to lower prices, which lead to more and happier customers. With an idea like this, Amazon will continue to thrive and small retailers that Tom works for will continue to lose upset customers like me.
If you're wondering, I did end up getting the textbook - from Amazon.
Most posts relate where I currently stand in my education as well as my daily work and life experiences.