Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: TLC Marketing

Never Trust Men or Dockers

He was as dark and strong as a Bombay oak.  He said his name was Meneul.  We met in a small dive bar in the city, two lonely strangers looking for love.  We had a lot in common.  We both loved travel, men’s fashion, and Bollywood.  Before you can say Mahatma Gandhi, we found ourselves in a hotel room, our Nehru jackets lying together on the floor.  Neatly folded over the desk chair were the Dockers pants that I had bought for that free Dockers/JCPenney flight, the one I had hoped to use to go to BlogHer on July 16th.

We made love.  The passion was as strong as the current of the Ganges River in the Spring.

Later that night, Menuel and I stood in the lobby together.

“Will I ever see you again?” I asked.

“Of course you will,” he said in his calm, pleasant voice that served him so well in his successful career in customer service for TLC Marketing. 

“I’ll call you on Tuesday, July 22nd.”

Today is Wednesday, July 23rd.

Dockers Hates Women (A New Approach to Getting My Ticket)

I’ve thought about this long and hard, and there is only one conclusion to this Docker/JCPenney free-flght mess:  Dockers hates women.

Hear me out.  I’m not a woman.  There is no need for me to go to BlogHer.  I was merely going to San Francisco to help the BlogHer organizers give the conference-goers their money’s worth in eye candy and sex appeal.  It is expensive to attend BlogHer.  It costs more than Disneyland, Legoland, and a meal at Souplantation — combined.  The participants expect a good time.  Sure, the organizers provide you with “speakers (mostly bloggers you can read for free online),” and some lucky bloggers will read from their best posts in a “Community Read,” but let’s be honest — can we really consider that “fun?” 

No male convention is complete with female strippers.  I believe in equality.  Blogher is dullsville without hot-looking men wandering around in their best nehru jackets, telling the female participants how “pretty they look.”  I know 3/4 of those women going to BlogHer have scheduled a salon appointment this week so they don’t look like shit.  They want to resemble that photoshopped photo they have on their profile page — at least in some way.

So, clearly, my role at BlogHer was to be “the professional flatterer,” a modern twist on the guy who is hired to make animal balloons at birthday parties.  I had already completed writing out some individual compliments for some of you, all compiled from information I took off of your own blogs.

To Female Blogger A — “You look like you’ve lost 10 pounds?  Have you been on the Oprah cleanse?”

To Female Blogger B — “The divorce has been good for you.  You look more rested and five years younger.”

To Female Blogger C — “I think a forty year old woman is at her most beautiful.  Here is the key to my hotel room.  Since your always too busy husband isn’t here, we can **** all night.  What happens at BlogHer, stays at BlogHer.”

But now Dockers has ruined it all.  The entire plan.  By refusing to give me the flight that was due to me, I am stuck in New York, spending the weekend with my mother rather than drinking high quality vodka from bloggers’ bra cups. 

But this hurts YOU — the wonderful female bloggers of the world — more than it hurts me.   Dockers is trying to sabatoge BlogHer.  Dockers hate women.  Is there any other conclusion?  Mr. Dockers CEO — weren’t you born to a woman… your own mother?  Don’t you have a wife?  A daughter?  A sister?  Don’t you like Katie Couric?  You are disappointing all of them with your total disregard to the needs of women at BlogHer. 

Dockers, it is up to you to prove this theory wrong and send Neilochka to San Francisco with the free flight he so deserves!

Update:

I just received a phone call from Sophia, which isn’t that unusual, but it about my blog, and it HAS been a while since she has taken a real keen interest in my posts.

Why did she call? She took me to task for caving in so easily to Robb’s comment on the TLC Marketing Post.

Robb is a blogger who has lived in India for the last year and a half. Because of this, he has a unique take on Meneul, the TLC Marketing customer service representative from India who was driving me crazy two days ago.

This is what Robb wrote in his comment:

Actually, in rereading this, I think someone should come to Menuel’s defense. In India, call center employees are given scripts they are to stick to, and when the conversation sways from the script, no matter how logical or necessary it may be, they MUST stick to the script or risk being fired. In a country with over a billion people, 1/4 under the poverty level, he has a good job. A job that thousands of others wished they had. What in the west is seen as a crap job, in India gives him a good salary (approx 200-300 dollars a month), maybe insurance, etc.. One posting for a job like this means thousands and thousands of applicants hoping for the chance. I am sure Menuel knew exactly what you were saying, in fact he probably has a university degree, but to give you the service you desired and deserved would have meant swaying from the mandatory script and probably have cost him his job. Here, I have seen managers slap their staff, and I have seen people yelled at and humiliated in front of their co-workers. All things which would be CNN headline news if it happened in the US. Menuel is most likely the sole or primary provider in his family and also probably supports his parents and possibly grandparents as well. He probably works 6 days a week and maybe 10 -12 hour days- all for 200 – 300 dollars a month). I know a lot of guys like him. So yes it can be frustrating, but what you experienced is just a tiny bit of a much larger issue and many young and intelligent Indians are feeling trapped in the world of offshoring and “cheap labour”. Please, the next time soemone is on the phone with someone from India or other developing country and not getting the service they want, please remember, it is not due to the staff on the other end of the phone, it is due to corporate processes and behaviors. Please take it out on the company, not the man or woman doing their job.

I responded by writing:

Robb — thank you. I absolutely agree. I think most people know this. This is exactly what the corporation wants — for us to blame them!

Sophia seemed to think that I was trying to hard to look like the nice liberal rather than being honest. She said it is a bad policy for customers to start worrying about the customer service’s feelings — in the context of customer service. Soon, companies will be hiring children and old woman just so we never complain.

I have to say, Sophia has a point.  I have nothing against Menuel, but do I really want to sit around worrying about his economic conditions?  I wasn’t mean or insulting to him.  But he was hired to be a robot, so it is my job as a customer to combat that.   I wish him well, but I wish I could have kept him on the phone for another hour bugging him, wasting the company’s time.  If enough of us bug the hell out of unresponsive customer service people, the companies themselves will be forced into making some changes.

So, what is the consensus?   Be understanding of the customer service person’s crappy job, or push them until you get what you want?

My Conversation with TLC Marketing Customer Service

After a day of phone calls, I finally was able to get TLC Marketing (or at least some guy in India) on the telephone to discuss the Dockers JCPenneys Free Round-Trip fiasco  (see last post).

Neil:  I’m calling about the Dockers Free Round Trip Ticket… I still haven’t heard back from you.

TLC Marketing:  Yes, did you fill out the form?

Neil:  I filled out the form a long time ago.  I received a phone call saying everything was OK.

TLC Marketing:  Then, you will be receiving a call from the booking agent.

Neil:  When will I get this call?

TLC Marketing:  You will get be receiving a call from the booking agent.

Neil:  When?  I’m supposed to have a flight on July 16th.

TLC Marketing:  The booking agent will…

Neil:  Can I give you my name and you can look it up in the computer?  Maybe you can tell me when I will get this call.

TLC Marketing:  I do not have access to individual records.  You will be receiving a call from the booking agent…

Neil:  When?   In the brochure, it clearly states that I will receive a call two week after you receive the form.

TLC Marketing:  You will be receiving…

Neil:  When?!  My flight is next week already…

TLC Marketing:  Those with completed forms will be receiving a call from the booking agent starting on July 22nd.

Neil:  On July 22nd?

TLC Marketing:  Starting on July 22nd, you can negotiate your booking.

Neil:  What?!  My flight is supposed to be on July 16th. 

TLC Marketing:  You can negotiate it with the booking agent.

Neil:  How am I going to negotiate my July 16th flight with the booking agent on July 22nd?

TLC Marketing:  That’s something you can negotiate with the booking agent.

Neil:  Is there a supervisor around?

TLC Marketing:  All the supervisors are busy.

Neil:  I’ll wait.

TLC Marketing:  The supervisors are unable to take any calls today.  You will need to wait to speak with the booking agent.

Neil:  And what am I supposed to do now?  I asked for a flight on July 16th.

TLC Marketing:  You can negotiate it with the booking agent.

Neil:  No.  It doesn’t work that way.  I can talk to the booking agent on July 22nd, but I cannot negotiate my July 16th flight with the booking agent on July 22nd?  Do you understand what I’m talking about.  The flight is on July 16th.  The call is on July 22nd.

TLC Marketing:  I only know that the booking agent will negotiate…

Neil:  So, I WON’T be getting my flight for July 16th?

TLC Marketing:  I cannot say that.  You can negotiate…

Neil:  Why can’t you say that?

TLC Marketing:  That is something to negotiate…

Neil:  Negotiate what?  There is no POSSIBILITY that I will get a flight for July 16th on July 22th.  Do you have a calendar in front of you?

TLC Marketing:  Yes, I do.

Neil:  So, you understand that I will NOT get my flight on July 16th.

TLC Marketing:  I am not saying that.  This is something you can negotiate…

Neil:  Is this being recorded?

TLC Marketing:  Yes.

Neil:  What is your name?

TLC Marketing:  Menuel.

Neil:  Manuel?

TLC Marketing:  Menuel.

Neil:  Manual?

TLC Marketing:  Menuel.

Neil:  Can you spell that?

TLC Marketing:  M-e-n-u-e-l.

Neil:  And this is TLC Marketing?

TLC Marketing:  Corrrect.

Neil:  So, Menuel of TLC Marketing — you are telling me that there is a possibility that I still might receive a flight for July 16th when I receive my phone call on July 22nd?

TLC Marketing:  You can negotiate it with the booking agent at the time.

Neil:  Can we talk — just between me and you.  I won’t get my flight on July 16th, will I?

TLC Marketing:  This is something to negotiate with the booking agent

Neil:  C’mon, Menuel.  I understand that I will negotiate with the booking agent on July 22nd.  But it will not be about my flight on July 16.  That is literally IMPOSSIBLE except in Hollywood movies.  Do you understand?

TLC Marketing:  The booking agent…

Neil:  Forget the booking agent.  Just me and you.  Do YOU see it as possibility that I might still get my flight for July 16 on July 22?

TLC Marketing:  I am not a booking agent  That is who you will negotiate…

Neil:  Can I speak to a booking agent then?

TLC Marketing:  The booking agent will call you on July 22nd.

Neil:  So, let me say this one more time, so the recording can hear this.  You, Menuel, a hired and paid employee of TLC Marketing, and a representative of the company, is telling me that no one can tell me whether or not I will be getting my July 16th flight to San Francisco until July 22nd, when I will receive a phone call from a booking agent where I can then negotiate, and still possibly get my flight to San Francisco on July 16, even though it happened to leave six days earlier?

CLICK

“Free” Round-Trip Flight From Dockers

… or why I probably won’t make BlogHer this year.

I wrote a long, creative piece to tell this story, but sometimes I think it is best to just write things in a boring, just-the-facts manner.  So, here it goes:

A year ago, Sophia read about this Father’s Day promotion online:

“Buy $125 dollars worth of Dockers pants from JCPenney and receive a “free round-trip ticket within the U.S.”

So, off we went to JCPenney, where I spent two hour trying on different Dockers pants, each time parading in front of Sophia like a male runway model, waiting for her sign of approval.  Did it fit in the back?  Was it the right color?  Finally, we made our choices, mailed in our reciepts, and received the official brochure in the mail.

 From the brochure sent to me by

TLC Marketing
c/o Dockers/JCPenney
1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02109

“This complimentary round-trip airfare allows you to visit one of these ten exciting cities:  Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando, or Dallas.  Name your destination; we just named your price:  FREE.”

The promotion had some odd stipulations.  You had to choose —

“Different first, second, and third choice destinations.”

“Different first, second, and third choice date preferences for both outbound and return travel.”

“That’s weird,” I thought.  “This free ticket is not very useful if you really need to get somewhere important, like for business.  It’s a bit of a crap shoot.”

I decided to try to use it to go to BlogHer in San Francisco this year.  I joked with some of you that I might end up in Chicago or Dallas during BlogHer, but I was fairly confident that I would get tickets to San Francisco.  After all, there are dozens of flights from the New York area to San Francisco/Oakland.  Surely, there was room in one of them during the days I gave them, even if I had to do a stop-over.

The brochure gave further instructions:

“A Representative from TLC Marketing will contact you within 14 days of receipt to book and confirm travel itinerary.”

A few weeks ago, I received two automated voice messages.  One said that my completed form was in order and to expect a call.  The next offered me other options besides the free ticket.  I could receive a $125 rebate or $150 in “restaurant coupons.”  It was a bad deal.  Coupons to what — Olive Garden?  I took the flight.   Still, a red light went on in my head.  It was sneaky of them, because in the brochure they clearly write:

“TLC Marketing may substitute another reward of equal or greater value if promotional availability runs out.”

Free ticket to SF does not equal Olive Garden coupons.

Time passed.  It was now two weeks before BlogHer.  I called the TLC Marketing “Dockers Concierge” number to find out what was going on.  A few months ago, I had spoken to a woman in India at this number who helped me correctly fill out my form.  Now, there was no one to talk to.  All that was left was a message that participants would get a call by “July 3rd.”  It is now July 9th.  I already missed BlogHer registraion. 

I was as if the promotion has been taken off of TLC Marketing’s agenda. 

I googled this promotion online and quickly found out why.  This promotion was an ongoing PR mess for TLC Marketing.  There were already 500 complaints issued with the Better Business Bureau of Massachusetts against TLC Marketing and their company president, Walter Osterman.

There were problems from the get-go, even from those customers who received their flights.    Their free flights ended up costing them $90 in taxes and and processing fees, which might be considered legitimate if the airlines themselves didn’t charge $50 in taxes and fees.  Why were customers being charged this extra money?

Now, customers couldn’t  get flights.  Was the promotion defunct?  Why would Dockers offer a promotion that they can’t fulfill?   To get customers to buy $125 dollars of Dockers pants at a time? 

And who needs so many Dockers anyway?

I sent emails to Dockers (owned by the Levi Strauss co. of San Francisco) and JCPenney, but received useless automated responses.  I phoned them and received more run-arounds.  The customer service woman at Dockers said she would ‘present my information to upper management.”  The woman at JCPenney gave me some phone number in Florida to call.

“Who is this that I am calling?

“It is the number that can help you with this promotion?”

“And who is it?

“Just call them?

“Do they have a name? Is this someone at JC Penney.’

“I can JUST give you this number.”

I called the number and no one answered.

Both JC Penney and Docker seemed to point the finger at  TLC Marketing  I’ve seen this before – a corporation not taking responsibility because they chose to deal with a incompetent company.

The moral of this story is the same as the one about my cheap, useless, not-Vista compatible web-cam from a few days ago.

You get what you pay for. 

So, unless someone at Dockers or JCPenney reads this and is embarrassed by this post, I won’t be at BlogHer, even if I was mostly going just to flirt with girls at the parties.

I take responsibility for my dumb mistakes — of being cheap and trying to use a free ticket.  I wish some companies would take responsibility for their own stupid mistakes, like offering promotions with tons of restrictions, and then not keeping their part of the bargain. 

If I don’t make it to BlogHer, I blame myself AND —

DOCKERS  (R. John Anderson, CEO Levi Strauss)

JCPENNEY  (Myron E. (Mike) Ullman III CEO)

TLC MARKETING (Walter Osterman, President)

Hey, Consumerist — here are some links of others who are pissed at TLC Marketing, Dockers, and JCPenney.

Fat Wallet

Flyer Talk

Disboards

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