Tag Archives: customer service

Cleaning Up A Sweepstakes Mess

The first point where I knew something had gone wrong was when I signed into my email and saw a note from the winner of my Short Frictions/Think Geek giveaway.

After a brief sweepstakes entry period, I’d Rafflecoptered for a winner and sent a $15 gift code to a reader who’d faithfully liked, shared, tweeted and retweeted a brief message about the book almost every day. Now, she wrote, she was having trouble redeeming the code. The Think Geek site was telling her it had already been used. Which it hadn’t, because she’d been saving it to shop for the holidays.

My heart sank. I logged into Think Geek and checked the code, and sent it to her again to confirm there hadn’t been a typo, but she was right – the balance on the code was showing up as zero. I really didn’t know what had happened, especially since another code I’d sent out the same day had been redeemed without a problem.

Finally, I decided to check in with the Think Geek team. I’m always hesitant to start talking to customer service. I find it incredibly stressful and frustrating, particularly after some of the experiences I’ve had with other companies this year, but without getting in touch with them there was no way to figure out what had happened.

It took two tries to get a customer service rep to respond on the Think Geek site. I’m not sure what happened the first time, but I spent several minutes typing in an explanation of what had happened and waiting for a response that never came. I logged out, logged back in, and tried again. This time, after five or so minutes, a rep came online and asked me to describe my problem. After confirming she could read and reply to my messages, I explained, and she started to investigate.

My hope was to confirm with Think Geek when the gift card balance had been used, in case there had been some kind of technical glitch; I wasn’t sure if they’d tell me the date and amount of whatever purchase tracked back to the giveaway gift code, but I figured the best idea was to get as much information as I could before I sent the sweepstakes winner an update.

After five or ten more minutes, the customer rep sent a message that far surpassed my expectations: she had added the credit back onto the gift code. I’m not sure if she found a glitch in the sale or if there was some kind of error, or if Think Geek just decided that such a small amount wasn’t worth haggling over (which I’d already decided was going to be my approach if it turned out they couldn’t reinstate the credit, because the giveaway winner had put a lot of effort into spreading word of Short Frictions on social media). But I was relieved that the matter was resolved so easily.

Once I had confirmation from the customer service team, I emailed the winner and let her know that everything should be up and running and she could make her purchases; I haven’t heard from her since, so am assuming everything went well.

From start to finish, resolving the situation took about half an hour, but I was shocked at how stressful I found it.  As self-published authors, being in charge of marketing and PR is a huge part of what we do – and when something goes wrong, there’s no PR rep to hide behind, no publishing house to help defray the cost of issues like lost prizes and credits. Plus, it’s our name out there on the line. This contest winner was extremely understanding and patient as I worked to resolve the gift code issue, but just as easily could have been someone far less inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.

I’m lucky enough, currently, to be in a position where I could have afforded to replace the prize if need be – but what if I wasn’t? What if the prize was something bigger, or Think Geek had turned replacing the credit into more of a production?

When you self-publish, you’re taking control and ownership of every aspect of sharing your work. The buck stops with you. Making sure you’re mentally and financially prepared (not to mention knowing you have enough time on your hands) to represent your work to the best of your ability is an important part of being a self-published author. And it’s not something to take on lightly.

Thankfully, in this case, the mess that had to be cleaned up wasn’t a big one. Hopefully (knock on wood) it never will be. If and when future issues arise, no matter what area of self-publishing they might be in, I’ll handle them as quickly and smoothly as possible, and hope for the best.

Cleaning up when something goes wrong is something every self-publishing author has to be prepared for, whether the hitch happens in writing, editing, publishing, art directing or publicity. Be prepared, keep your cool, and think your options through, and hopefully your next hitch won’t throw you for a loop.

 

 

Buy your own copy of Short Frictions on Amazon or Smashwords.

When you give away my money, don’t put that back on me. #HSBC #fraud #banking #howisthisonme

I woke up this morning (12/18/2010) and checked my bank balance, and found something curious and worrying – two checks had been cashed the night before, both for significant sums of money…but only one was signed by me. The other featured unfamiliar handwriting – and my roommate’s signature (of her own name)!

I woke up my roommate and showed her the check images, and she checked her own bank balance – which was unchanged – and we realized that she must have grabbed one of my checks by mistake. Both had been drawn on my account – though filled out in totally separate handwriting and with completely different signatures for different names – AND HSBC CASHED BOTH THE CHECKS!

Now, my roommate and I have already sorted out the financial side of this – but my attempts to get some kind of explanation from HSBC about how this could have happened have so far been met with total refusal to accept responsibility for what happened.

After spending 45 minutes on the phone with HSBC Customer Suckfest this morning (perhaps three minutes of which was actually spent on the line with an agent), I was flat-out told there was nothing the people on the phone could do to help me. (Although it took threatening to march into a local branch waving printouts of the two checks and complaining very loudly to get them to admit that much.) They implied that in order to get any kind of explanation, I’m going to have to file fraud charges against my roommate. Which I’m not going to do – obviously – although I think they’ve missed out on a serious point here regardless. She signed her own name – that’s not fraud, fraud is her signing my name. She’s not an authorized signatory on my account – so surely, HSBC, it shouldn’t matter whether she’s signed it, or Barack Obama, or Angelina Jolie signs their name on my check – NONE OF THEM ARE AUTHORIZED TO BE TAKING MONEY OUT OF MY ACCOUNT.

Am I wrong?

And here’s the thing, HSBC. You and I have a business relationship. We’ve entered into a contract that provides that you will protect certain aspects of my life. There is absolutely no excuse for providing funds and deducting them from my account based on the signature of someone who we both agree I did not authorize to withdraw funds from my account. Your Customer Service rep tried to say that this was something to do with the funds being deposited into a Citibank account – are you kidding me? Do you really think it matters if the request is coming from outside an HSBC branch? In fact, shouldn’t that make you even more cautious, in your own interest? Because guess what – now that money is outside of HSBC’s accounts, and I have a hard copy record of a check signed by someone in their own name on an account that we agreed should only be withdrawn from by me. You broke our contract.

Am I wrong?

So don’t tell me I have to file fraud paperwork, and don’t try to make this my responsibility or my roommate’s. Somebody on your payroll looked at that check, saw that the name printed on it, the name on the account, did not match the name – let alone the handwriting – that had been signed on the bottom corner, and said, “Yes, pay this out.”

I think I’m entitled to know who that was and how it happened, and I think you owe me some kind of explanation of how you’ll make sure this never happens – to anyone – again.

Am I wrong?