From the day I started my business as a photographer, I knew that more than 50% of my business is relationship driven. A good photograph can be equally tarnished by poor customer service. You treat someone well they might tell one or two people, if you are lucky. However, if you treat them poorly, they will surely tell the world...ok maybe write about it on Facebook or in my case both on social media and on my blog.
I have had two bad experiences with Adorama and sadly they both have to deal with their flashpoint lights. The first light I purchased was their entry level 300ws strobe. Not only did the reflector come to me warped and clearly damaged/used by someone else, I was given a power cord for European outlets. I initially thought it wasn't such a bad thing since I would be using umbrellas and other light modifiers and a U.S conversion plug was easily obtainable at RadioShack. I arrive home with my new plug and to my demise the strobe would not work. The modeling light worked fine but the strobe wouldn't fire (beeped loudly and flashed an error sign on the back). It happens. So I called Adorama to initiate the return process. To my surprise shipping is my responsibility. My jaw dropped. At the end of the day, I am ~$10 poorer with nothing to show for. I decided to eat the loss and go with Cheetah Lights...thank goodness I did.
Fast forward to this month, I decided to order a Rover 600ws light with a built-in battery. I'm initially hesitant because of my last experience, but decided to purchase one since my good friend has nothing but good things to say and we typically share lighting equipment. After patiently waiting 7 days to receive my lights, I find out UPS, Adorama's preferred vendor for shipping, loses my package. I am sad, but not upset. I understand it happens, but Adorama's policy truly surprised and infuriated me. According to their policy, they must wait until UPS completes their 10 day investigation before Adorama can send me a replacement. I am dumbfounded at the idea they think it is acceptable to let a customer wait 10 business days, translation - 2 weeks, before they would consider sending a replacement. I understand from other vendors this is "standard policy", but my standards of what is acceptable has been set by both B&H and Amazon. Returns are paid for by the company (both have given me shipping labels to send back goods and even to sell my gear). Amazon even sent me a replacement with next day delivery for an order I had made with a missing part and gave ME a 21 day window to return said items. I guess that's why they are so successful.
At the end of the day, what does Adorama have to lose by immediately sending a replacement and ensuring a customer has a good purchasing experience? If the product happens to be lost by UPS, then they can recoup their losses. If it is found, they can coordinate to have it sent back to their store. By not sending a replacement in a timely fashion, they can pretty much guarantee they have lost me as a future customer, a good number of my photography friends who regularly buy at Adorama and anyone who happens to be put off by my experience. As an accountant, I would hate to even think about the potential loss in future revenues and would do anything to mitigate this, but that's me.
So say we all,
9/8/14 - Package determined to be lost by UPS. I receive an apology and a promise to be updated regularly on the progress between Adorama and UPS
9/12/14 - No word from customer service rep. I email asking about a progress report. No response.
9/15/14 - I email again requesting an update. No response. I call asking for an update and was reminded I must be patient and wait 10 business days from the day it was lost before I can expect anything. Promised to get an email that same day from the customer rep I spoke to on 9/8/14 about his findings. No response.
9/16/14 - I share my blog post on Adorama's G+ page and was contacted by a friendly member of their Customer Service Ambassador department, Helen Oster, early in the morning. I provide her with my order number so that she may investigate the issue. Later that afternoon, I receive a message from one of her associates. They offer to send me a replacement with free 2 day shipping if I front the replacement cost of the the light of $400. I am promised I would not have to pay for both lights. Only if it is in fact deemed lost by UPS would they refund the original charge. If UPS does eventually deliver the product, then I would be given a shipping label (at not cost to me) to return the package.
9/18/2014 - I decide to wait for the benefit of anyone who happens to read this post and for the mere fact I don't trust Adorama with my money.
9/23/2014 - I contact Helen Oster about the claim with UPS. She confirms with her associates that there's is no reason why the package wouldn't be shipped out the following day. She also assured me that they will upgrade the shipping for free to 2-day delivery.
9/24/2014 - I receive an automated email from Adorama indicating that my package has shipped or will be shipped. I even get a UPS tracking number. To my surprise I see that the expected delivery date is TUESDAY the 30th of September. At this point I can't help but laugh at the situation. I receive packages from China (Ebay Purchases) in a more timely fashion.
9/29/2014 - Helen Oster reaches out to me to see if I have received my replacement. "Oh for goodness sake...I'm so very sorry" is her response when I tell her the shipping department did not choose 2-day shipping. I will truncate my pleasant correspondence with Helen by saying that I appreciate HER level of customer service but her ability to actually serve her customers is truly limited by company policy. Although receiving a coupon for $25 is nice, it doesn’t make up for the 3 assignments I had to borrow gear from friends.
9/30/2014 – Package arrives 10:00am. Original order date 8/29/2014. There is nothing more I can say.