This piece first appeared on Issue 300 of the Marketing Weekender.
by Raihan Hadi
I’m guessing for this one I’ll have to drop some brand names. Though, it’s not because they’re do-ing things right.
Like more or less all of you SOP abiding citizens (and expats), I too have been part of the “making online shopping portals rich” campaign since the pandemic hit us.
Things are at that point where I have to buy shoes without trying them on first. And in case I receive the wrong product, chances are, I will have to pay out of my own pocket (whom else’s?) to return them.
Let me get to a funny story (to which I laughed, only out of sorrow).
Last month, I finally found my favorite pair of kicks on Lazada, that too on a crazy discount, for some undisclosed reason. You know how they do stuff right? “100% Original”, “limited stock”, “running out fast” and all that honey glazed load of poop.
I saw, I added to cart, I bought and then I waited. About two weeks later, I received a package that was one fiftieth the size of my feet, without a box.
I know you won’t be able to even remotely guess what was inside so I’ll tell you. It was a prank toy, a tiny pink teddy bear made of plastic. A seller on Lazada played a prank on me! Can you imagine the look on my face when adding to the fresh wound came the wifey’s “I told you so”?
So I did what any unsatisfied customer would do; I took a photo, requested for a return and now it’s been almost a month and a half and I’m waiting for Lazada to give me my money back. They have closed the case as “Order Fulfilled”.
Lazada’s policy clearly states that if a seller doesn’t respond to a refund request within 4 working days, they themselves will issue me the refund.
However, instead of following their own policy (which might vanish any moment now if one of their staff is reading this), they’ve repeatedly asked me to ship the prank toy back amidst the MCO as a means of proof, which would be an added cost of around RM25 to my grievance.
Instead of which they could ask one of their many vans to pick it up from me (and other customers) since they come over to the premises on a daily basis. This, in my head, is the poorest level of customer service any seller or platform can provide.
This isn’t the only instance where we have suffered from bad customer service. I’m sure like myself, a lot of you have received half rotten bananas, the wrong size of diapers for the right size in the listing (Vinda on Shopee), a “genuine” Swiss Army cologne that smells like feet and so forth.
Once, I even bought a mobile phone on Shopee that came with a 6 month warranty. Yet, when it stopped working on the fifth month, the store wouldn’t fulfill the warranty.
According to the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP), in 2020, there was an increase of 112.5% in recorded complaints related to online shopping. While this can be largely attributed to the accelerated shift from traditional brick-and-mortar purchases to online platforms, it also means that these platforms have been earning like crazy, yet have remained stingy when it comes to applying best practices in customer services and complaints handling.
Retailers have also been misleading consumers with fake discounts, a lot of which had allegedly taken place during the highly anticipated 11.11, Black Friday and 12.12 nationwide sales.
Where are we supposed to go if this is the nature of online businesses during a time when “responsible platforms” should be showing more kindness to each other than usual? I’m not talking about more vouchers, but “no questions asked” refund policies, and a show of empathy in action.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. Some of these platforms do have a quick refund policy in place and do follow through with their written word because reputation matters in business.
I only came to know about KPDNHEP very recently and realized that we can actually submit complaints to them in order to get some remedy.
But, I feel, instead of just leaving customers to complain to an external authority, online stores and aggregator platforms should be upping their game by investing more into friendlier customer service and refund policies because how can you call yourself a successful business without brand trust?
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