I sent an e-mail to TigerDirect.com telling them that their Google Checkout link magically disappeared from their page for a few hours. On their contact page, they had me fill out the usual form asking me for my name, e-mail address, order number, and a selection of possible subjects from which to choose.
It caught me a little off-guard when their Order Number field was marked mandatory. I didn't have an order number; how could I, if Google Checkout wasn't working? Even if it were working, was ordering something a pre-requisite to contacting them? Apparently not, as one of their (also mandatory) subject options read, "Pre-Sales Inquiries / Product Information." Really, guys? You want people to fill in an order number before they've placed an order?
A further sign of their staggering intelligence came when, after providing my full name on their contact form, I received a response addressed to "Dear Valued Customer."
As a computer guy, I know how easy it would be to automatically personalize those outgoing e-mails with their computer systems. Yep, when you contact one of these large operations and get a human response, computer systems usually generate a little header and footer that looks human-written. For example, if the below example were a real customer service letter, probably the only thing human-written would be the italicized line:
Thank you so much for writing to Guy's Garlic Presses. It is my pleasure to help you with all of your garlic press needs.
Unfortunately, we discontinued the Justin Bieber-branded garlic press two months ago.
P.S. - Did you know that April is National Garlic Press Month? Well, it isn't! But click here for an extra 10% off your next order in April.
I know that most of my customer service replies are form letters. But when I write to Customer Support, I like to suspend my disbelief for a moment and pretend that the guy (or gal) on the other end committed my name to their temporal lobe at least long enough time to type it into their terminal. Instead, I get, "Dear Valued Customer." Heh. And from a company that sells computers, too.
The next time I contact TigerDirect.com, I think I'll start off with, "Dear Valued Retail Merchant." Because their business is important to me.