My lifelong affinity to computers started way back in 1981 with my first Toshiba 8088, a personal computer with an eye-searing MDA green screen. It cost as much as a new Buick and had less processing power than my current watch. Since I’ve spent the better part of the last three decades glued to a keyboard, I love to keep up with the latest and greatest hardware. Consequently, I’m a subscriber to a plethora of computer retailer email marketing lists, which keep me both informed and entertained.

In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a disconcerting trend with most of these major national brand online retailers: They keep plowing emails into my inbox, but they completely ignore me when I have a query that extends beyond an orderly checkout. A summary of my misadventures just in the last few months reads like a litany of what not to do in customer service:

Fitting 1366 Pins Into 1156 Sockets

Company A pitched a Core i7 processor combo mated with a motherboard that was the wrong socket type: The number of pins on the processor exceeded the number of pins on the socket by 210, and removing the extra pins with tweezers is not exactly an option recommended by Intel. I sent a polite email (no rants or expletives) asking if they would extend that price to a combo that could actually be installed. A week later, I resent that email. A week after that, I reworded the email more strongly. A week after that, I cc’d that email to every single email address I could find on their website. Of course, I never received a reply of any kind. Just more marketing emails… and yes, there were two new impossible combos in those as well.

No Discount & No Unsubscribe

Company B offered a discount on my next order if I signed up for their “bi-weekly expert newsletter.” I received a code to enter at checkout that never worked, the newsletter turned out to be marketing hype copied verbatim from manufacturer sites, and their definition of bi-weekly is every Tuesday and Friday. I’ve sent an unsubscribe each Tuesday and Friday for almost two months now, and the persistent newsletter is still showing up promptly twice a week.

It Doesn’t Fit & You Can’t Return It

Company C sold me a CPU fan fitted with a four-socket connector. Unable to connect it to the standard three-prong CPU fan connector, I had to connect it to the motherboard’s four-prong plug intended for case fans. The fan works fine, but now whenever I boot up I get a “CPU Fan Missing” notice, which forces me to hit 8 separate keys to proceed. My BIOS setting can’t be changed, I can’t find a 3 to 4 adaptor, and the company has rewarded my multiple requests for an RMA with silence.

Amateur Experts

Company D touted their new live chat service to obtain expert pre-sale consultation. The link in their email was dead, so I scoured their website for a working link and finally found it buried on a fifth level page. The “expert” who came onto live chat 45 minutes later was as capable of answering my question as I am of building the Large Hadron Collider in my backyard with an erector set, a flashlight, and a Toshiba 8088.

When you design a marketing email, you boast of your excellent customer service and provide ample ways that your prospects can benefit from it… but are they? What is the actual customer experience? Are your incoming email addresses dead letter offices? Is your unsubscribe function a chimera? Is your staff incompetent and ignorant?

I will definitely think twice before placing a product into the shopping carts on the websites of those companies. That recalcitrance represents considerable lost sales and revenue that the company could have saved by simply treating the customer in a rational, responsible, common sense manner. Are you making the same mistakes?