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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Douglas Georgia Kmart + Kmart Customer Service (866-KMART-4-U) + Shop Your Way Rewards = Worst shopping experience of my entire life

An open letter to Kmart executive management:

21 May 2013

Today, I've experienced the worst shopping experience of my life, and I experienced incompetence at every level of Kmart Customer Service beginning at the 866-KMART-4-U number and on to the Shop Your Way Rewards department (or separate company, whichever it is depending on whom you ask). At each occurrence, I was humiliated, and then when I tried to ask questions that were not part of their scripted dialog, they would talk over me, speak rudely when I challenged a point they were making, and when frustrated that I wouldn't simply hang up and be gone, they would hang up instead.

Wow! I'm still sitting here after getting transferred a second time from the 866-KMART-4-U number to SYWR and got Carla (or Karla, when I asked she told me that it was irrelevant). Each time I asked her a question, she would go on a lengthy explanation, which at no point addressed the question I was asking, and wouldn't let me talk until I finally had to ASK if it was OK if I asked a question. Then when I started to speak, she cut me off again. She was curt, rude, and snobby.

Carla alone was reason enough never to set foot in a Kmart again! And she was only one of the 8 people - 4 at the store and 4 on 2 separate calls to 866-KMART-4-U and follow-on transfers to SYWR - I had to deal with to buy 2 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of canvas shoes, and 4 tops.

I've bought houses with less frustration or stress. How do you justify this? I'm still not just in shock, but I'm shaking from the experience of dealing with your company!

I'd like to start here and delineate how my Kmart Day went. Pardon if I skip something, I'm still in shock from the rudeness and wholesale incompetence I experienced.

About 9am, give or take, I checked my email and had an email from Shop Your Way Rewards to load coupons onto my SYWR card. I loaded 4 onto it, although "Carla" denied that I had loaded but 1. If only 1 loaded, there's a problem with your website as big as the problem with your people. I'm not a technological novice.

About 10:30am, I got my Mom and we drove the 20 miles to the Douglas, Georgia, Kmart (Store 3946). We stopped and I checked for an electric scooter, but there were none. We didn't bring hers because there's no good way for us to transport it, not usually having to since most places we shop have plenty. So, we left and ate lunch at Wendy's, stopped at Walmart (and I think maybe we should have stopped shopping right there), but then went back to Kmart and found an electric scooter. 

Mom went to the Women's plus-size department and I went to the Men's department in order to get a couple pairs of slip-on Men's shorts, something I've been buying at Kmart for several years, but I think today's complete debacle was the last time for that. When I went back to the Women's department, a Kmart clerk was helping Mom find slacks in her size. She was very nice, and I thanked her, then relieved her so that she could go back to her other work. She was wonderful and I unfortunately didn't get a chance to see her name tag. 

Mom and I found 2 pairs of slacks for her, then went through and found 2 tops. I mentioned to her that the slip-on canvas shoes she liked were on sale, so we went back, found a pair for her, then she motored up the central aisle and we found a couple more tops for her, 1 of which was a $.99 clearance sweater for Fall. She and I were both happy and thought we had found some bargains, and I knew that I had loaded some coupons for apparel onto her Shop Your Way Rewards card. That was the last happy thought I had today.

We got to the register and the cashier, Brittany began checking us out. Mom wanted to pay for it all, and I said OK, so Brittany rang it all as one transaction. I swiped my SYWR card, and then we looked to see how much it would take off the transaction with the coupons. I asked how it was that I could choose which reward to use, and Brittany didn't know, so she asked another clerk, who also didn't know. I asked how it was normally done and they both replied that they weren't even aware that you could load coupons onto your card, that you had to bring in the yard of receipts you get from past transactions so that they could be scanned to get rewards and discounts. I said that I had gotten the SYWR email this morning and had loaded coupons onto my card. That was news to them, so they called over a third clerk who also was surprised to hear that you could load coupons onto your SYWR card. None of the three knew how, or even if you could, to pick the right coupon unless you brought in the paper version, so they called a FOURTH person over who had just come into the store. Same story, she didn't know either. 

Let me point out that every one of those women were polite, helpful, wanted to make sure we got the full rewards, and seemed curious as to how to do it so they'd know in the future. I don't think that any of them had ever been trained on these features or they would have known how to help. 

At any rate, they tried to get the store manager to come to the front, but they were told that he was on a conference call and couldn't be bothered. Next, they tried to get another gentleman whose name I've forgotten, but he was unavailable, also. So, I suggested that we cancel the current transaction, which would only allow a $5 reward - although I knew that I'd loaded a $10 reward onto the card - and re-ring it as 2 separate transactions to see if it would allow the right coupon on one or the other. We tried, rerang one which came to $31.50 - and I believe that one pair of these slacks failed to ring at the sale price but each time I have tried to bring that to the attention of the customer service people at 866-KMART-4-U, they just talk over me and then tell me to go back to the store, although at Customer Service in the store, they told me to call the 866-KMART-4-U number for the correction. Hmmm. Yeah, nothing seems shady about that at all, does it?

So, no coupon was used on the first transaction, or maybe it was, but who would know because 866-KMART-4-U and SYWR information either shows different information than is shown on the customers' actual receipts, or...who knows, but they made it very clear that I was an idiot, but somehow simultaneously made THEM feel stupid and I was apparently belittling them by daring to ask clarifying questions. And here I thought that I was doing the right thing so that I could better understand what they were saying. Apparently asking clarifying questions is deemed rude and hostile by your customer service people, partly because it takes more than the 15 seconds they're allowed on a call, or some such. I couldn't understand what she was trying to tell me about time limit on a call. You should probably include that bit of information on the hold so that a person will know that he'll have to make multiple calls to get various questions answered due to the time limit. That's a first for me. And I'm STILL shaking from the incident.

Back to the store. I apologize if I'm a bit jangled at the moment, but that's where my nerves are right now. 

So, we tried a second transaction and all it allowed was for me to use a $5 off footwear coupon (coupon 467 says the receipt, but don't mention that to either 866-KMART-4-U or SYWR as it will confuse them. And don't dare be offended when they cut you off for the 50th time when you're trying to ask a question because they'll just hang up), but it still wouldn't allow me to use the $10 coupon.

After 20 or so minutes at the register, I said that we'd just go with what we had and I'd call someone to sort it out. I would have waited for the store manager, but apparently he was still unavailable on a conference call and the customer service lady at the store told me that I had to call 866-KMART-4-U because she couldn't give me the District Manager's phone number. I thanked her, and we left.

I thought the worst was over, but it was yet to come.

We got home, I gave our rescue animals their lunch snacks, then sat down to call 866-KMART-4-U. 

The first lady was very polite, helpful, friendly, but unable to do anything, she said. So, she tried doing a conference call with SYWR, but couldn't, so she had to transfer me without prelude. Ergo, I had to repeat the entire conversation I'd had with the first lady to the second lady, and she was brusque - and that's being as polite as I can be - at best, and rude in the main. Note: You might have the various departments of your company get on the same sheet of music so that a customer doesn't have to go through this. It's beyond frustrating, especially when the person with whom you're speaking demands you provide a list of identifying information even though you've already done that at the last telephone stop. 

By this point, I'm getting a bit frustrated that I can't get a word in edgewise. And if I politely waited for her to finish her spiel, she would just cut me off before I could ask clarifying questions about her last statement before plunging ahead on the ASSUMPTION that I was in agreement with her, which I most certainly was not. Then, off a page surely taken from a Hollywood thriller, she goes completely sideways on me for "challenging" her authority. That was too much. I don't know who you hire in your customer service department, but I'm pretty sure none of them are royalty. But she certainly seems to think that she is, and like most of them with the exception of "Carla", she says her name so fast that I couldn't get it. Wow, I'm still speechless, but I wasn't at that moment. She hung up, and so did I.

But, the problem hadn't been rectified, only exacerbated by the demands of your staff that a person accept what they're being told without challenging the speaker in any way. That's so egregiously wrongheaded that I can't even wrap my mind around it. I have never in my life been so humiliated by a "customer service" person as I have been by your staff who seem to think that they're above having to explain why without question.

But it wasn't over. I had to call back, get yet another customer service rep who, wholly unlike the first, took me through a litany of identifying questions. The very first one only asked my phone number, but she was also the only polite one, too. At any rate, this one looked up the transaction and, like the last one, found that they didn't have access to transactions just made in the stores. I'd think that it would be important, and frustration reducing, to alert customers who ask for a number to call to tell them that calling the same day as the transaction won't do any good since customer service can't help them that day since they can't see the day's transactions. Either that or tell your people not to tell people otherwise, since I'm in no way convinced that I've received truthful answers at any point, today. 

This woman also had to transfer me to SYWR, but unlike the first one, was on the line when they answered. This is when I got "Carla". Wow! She's something else. I had asked for a manager, since I was already tired of playing Ring-Around-The-Kmart from cashier to customer service desk to 866-KMART-4-U to SYWR, and now, apparently, back to the store to have the price in error corrected. Or so says "Carla". Regardless, the first person on this round didn't tell me when they came back on after about a 10 minute hold that I was not speaking to a manager, but to a SYWR clerk. This would be "Carla", who before I can even type into my notes who she is, goes off on a tangent about how the "wrong coupon was entered". Now, let me stop here for a second and let's go back to the store. During the 3 transactions - 1 voided and rerung as 2 - at no point could I or the store staff - at least as far as they knew - decide which coupon was entered. I could see their screen just as well as they could, and I could also see the customer entry keypad which they could not. Nothing. Nada. Zip. No way to choose which reward or coupon to use, so I don't know where "Carla" got her disinformation. Frankly, and I'm seeing that this seems to be the case at every level with Kmart, I think she just made it up, just like the others seemed to do in order to get one customer off the phone and go to another one. Unbelievable.

So, after that humiliation with "Carla", who, when I asked her if it was spelled with a C or a K, was told, "That's irrelevant!", before she angrily went back to her rant, and it was nothing short of a rant. She claimed be on a landline, but I suspect that she was on a VOIP line because I could only understand about 1 out of every 3 words. When I said that to her, she angrily, brusquely reiterated what she had said, and with the same effect, so once again, I had to ask her to repeat herself. By this time, she's practically shouting at me and I was sitting back in my chair with the phone held at least a foot away from my head to keep her from hurting my ears. She said that she applied another $5 to the transaction that I had gotten $5 off on already (clearly insinuating that whatever the problem was, it was MY fault), then angrily concluded the call and hung up.

I sat there with the phone in my hand for a full five minutes before I realized that it was making that weird noise that it makes when it's off the hook, so I hung up. 

I have never in my 55 years been so humiliated, confused, pushed aside, and simply trodden on by anyone at any business or other organization than I have by Kmart today.

My mother has trouble finding clothes in her size in Douglas, so she shops at Kmart when I'm available to take her. Or I should say, did. She was just as embarrassed in the store as I was since it seemed that half the store staff had to leave their jobs to come try to solve our problem, a problem which should never have existed. And it's not just the store staff who don't know that you can load coupons onto your SYWR card, neither of the first 2 women on the first call knew it either, and the woman at SYWR stopped just short of calling me a liar when I reiterated it. I even read her the URL from the SYWR website that I was on at that very moment on my laptop. She didn't believe me.

It seems to me that each of your divisions is adversarial towards all the others, and doubly so towards customers. We're supposed to accept what we're told, shut up, get off the phone, and don't bother them. Store managers can't be bothered. Customer service points to a printed number behind their counter and off you go! Customer service at 866-KMART-4-U doesn't have information available to them to help, and SYWR can't be bothered to help you understand the receipt you have and what you're seeing on it despite the fact that it's clearly different than the information they have available. Someone might want to point that out to them, they seem wholly caught off guard by it, and stop barely before calling you a liar if you say it. No two of your units seems to WANT to work together, unless there's a customer involved, and then it's All For One, And One Against The Customer!

I guess this is the new Kmart. I'm in total and complete shock that you're even in business today, after this day's debacle in your store, and with your "customer service" people. The back-and-forth that I had to go through no one should have to go through.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Whack-A-Mole, GOP-style (Cue Psy...two, three, four!)

I said before and I'll say again that the GOP ran 2 weak candidates in 2008 and 2012 against Obama: John McCain and Mitt Romney. 

They knew, like the rest of us suspected, that the economy was headed down the toilet and they wanted to be able to use a Democrat as the scapegoat for 8 years of Enrich The Rich economics which tanked the economy. They probably guessed back in 2008 that Obama, if he won, would be a one-term President, not guessing that he had a chance at a second term. But when the economy hadn't recovered by 2012, they doubled down and ran a second weak candidate, Romney, figuring that as long as they had an intransigent Congress which would stop most Obama initiatives, as it has, they would be in good shape to take over the Oval Office again in 2016 when the economy was back on its feet. But, they underestimated the depth of the recession and now they're running scared for 2016, so they're at Defcon 1 with anything at all they think they can turn to their advantage.

But, their own man, former SecDef Robert Gates, unwilling to lie, put the kibosh on that end run on Sunday, as far as the non-partisan public is concerned. So, it's back to North Korea-like hypervigilance hoping for new scandals to arise. 

It's like the GOP is playing Whack-A-Hillary, using the oversized, comic mallet of Conservative Doom to obliterate-then-defecate any hint of success that might, in an alternate universe with idiocy aforethought, be construed as shining a positive light on Democrat-leaning news, especially as it applies to former Secretary of State Clinton.

Watergate none of this is, but someone in the GOP must be channeling Richard Nixon.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Same Shit...well...Same Shit

Response to yet another excellent article found here

The people ultimately behind sequestration are guilty of hypocrisy, greed, and treason. A republic's economy is wholly unlike a family's budget. A family can cut their way out of debt, but a nation can not. When an economy is depressed and the government cuts its budget, money stops flowing. The problem isn't a lack of money, it's the lack of movement of money. Government should monitor but generally stay out of the way of a healthy economy, but just like a doctor giving you an annual physical then getting out of your way when you're healthy, he must step in and do something when you're sick, and cutting the medications that have kept you healthy isn't the way to do it.

When an economy is sick, it takes the government to make money available at no or low interest in order to get the blood - money in this case - flowing again. Failing to do so would be like a doctor stepping back away from a patient when the patient goes into cardiac arrest and saying, "Hmmm. Maybe it will fix itself". Or likely not.

Sequestration is a failure of our government to take the shock paddles of money flow and zapping the heart of our republic back into health. Like a sick patient, the worse the recession, the longer it takes to get back to healthy, but pulling the plug will kill the patient, just like sequestration will kill our republic.

The BRICs - Brazil, Russia, India, and China - are breathing down our necks as it is. Now Congress has essentially said, "Come on, guys! You can overtake us! And we're here to help!" Cutting scientific funding is analogous to failure to fuel your car before a long trip. Yep, you'll have more money in your pocket...when you're on the side of the road out of gas watching others who planned ahead go flying past you.

Sequestration, Greed, Hypocrisy, and Treason

This is a response to an excellent article found on about the effects that are already happening under sequestration. The article can be found at the link here.

Don't think for a second that this result of sequestration is accidental or "collateral damage". The religiots and their fellow ignoratti in Congress knew that this would happen, and they desired it. Cutting research funding, that is to say funding for pure science, plays right into their hands in their push for religious dominance and in the ability to show their voters that they hold the upper hand in the battle against science. But it's the very voters who put these traitors in office that stand the most to lose.

Remember, there's a cycle that must occur before new technologies come to market: Pure science > applied science > engineering.

Before a product can be engineered and manufactured, scientists whose job it is to find applications for newly discovered materials or processes must take the results of pure science and study them, then create and test ways to use them. BUT before that can happen, researchers - pure scientists - must study new fields of science or push the bounds on existing fields in order to discover new materials and new processes never before encountered. That means that the raw, bleeding edge must always be out front expanding our base of knowledge. Sometimes, that research yields nothing, just like going into a jungle or rain forest somewhere to look for new sources of drugs might yield a treasure trove, or it might come up dry, but either way, you won't know until you go there. Exploration is essential not only to expand the knowledge base of science, but it is the fuel that powers the engines of our economy.

The US has lead the way in many or most fields of scientific exploration due to programs like NASA and ARPA, but since the Large Hadron Collider at CERN came online, we've taken a back seat to others in the field of physics who will now lead because some people think that research funding is wasted. They don't understand that studying monkeys for something seemingly arcane might result in a breakthrough in medicine or psychology, or something else that they would consider unrelated. They're told, and they believe, that the LHC and it's smaller cousin in Chicago, the Tevatron at Fermilab, have no value and are black holes for funding dollars. They will believe people who say we didn't go to the moon, but they line up for chemotherapy, MRIs, and use velcro, microwave ovens, cellular phones, and thousands of other technologies that have come from research into pure science. 

But here's how you know that it's greed and ignorance playing out, and not reason: When they get hurt, do they call for a priest, or do they call for someone who will use medical science to rescue them?

The ultimate forms of treason and hypocrisy are failing to support funding for the science that will move humanity forward in the times of our children and grandchildren, and the use of the technologies whose research was paid for by our parents and grandparents when they simultaneously deny the funding that will benefit future generations.

The ultrawealthy will be able to afford new medicines, and take advantage of technologies that they themselves fund, and which will be denied to those not themselves wealthy. The rest of us will go without because some among us refuse to pay their part of funding for the future. 

Greed. Hypocrisy. Treason.

The BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India, and China, are breathing down our necks and each wants to be the world's next superpower. If we stop funding, we stop leading. If we stop leading, we kill our economic engine, and that's just stupid.