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More Fun with Harry & David

As you may recall, in a recent essay, I wrote about technological trouble I had when ordering from Harry & David and about the followup in which their systems tripped a fraud warning on my credit card. As I’d left it, I was waiting to hear from Harry & David about what happened and perhaps get them to somehow make up for a night of lost sleep. A few weeks have now passed, and I think it’s time to write a follow up.

Let’s start with the positives (and yes, there are positives). First, the Harry & David staff who monitor Twitter followed up almost immediately and have been helpful and pleasant. They sent messages via both Twitter and email, and have continued to follow up on further problems. They even went so far as to offer to call all of my recipients to make sure that they got the gifts (more on that later). They represent the company well.

Second, everyone I’ve heard from has appreciated receiving the fruit, and I think I’ve heard from enough people to be confident that most of the packages made it. (I do regret not sending pears to more people, but I’ll try to make up for that next year, provided this situation ever resolves.)

Third, I’ve appreciated the comments I’ve received from my friends about the experience. One even offered to send me the email address of the CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS [1,2].

Now on to the bad. I’d sent three of the boxes of pears to folks in the Science Division office. I was therefore surprised to get a call from the office saying Sam, you received three boes of pears. I went to the office and, lo and behold, the packages had arrived without the recipients’ names on them [3]. So I did the sensible thing: I delievered the packages by hand, and then I called customer service to let them know that something was wrong with their system. Their reply was that it everything looked correct from their side. They did offer to try sending the pears again. I thought that was a strange offer, but I said yes.

Guess what? The replacements also arrived without the recipients’ names on them! This time, instead of calling, I sent pictures of the labels to the @HarryAndDavid account on Twitter [4]. They quickly responded with two notes. First, they observed that even though the names were in the entries, it looked like the addresses had first been entered without the name. Now, I know that I entered the names, but I do accept that things could have gone wrong when their system replaced all of my recipients with one set of recipients. So I’ll accept that. Second, as I noted above, the volunteered to call all of my recipients to see if they had gotten the pears. Of course, I’d prefer that they try to figure out why their system doesn’t work, but I’m sure that’s beyond the responsibility of the customer service reps.

Finally, on to the worse. If you recall, after four hours on the phone with my bank, with Harry & David customer service, and with 1-800-FLOWERS customer service, I was left with a promise that since the customer service reps and managers did not have direct access to accounting information, their accounting department would contact my credit card company to figure out what was up, would send me a follow-up explanation, and would do something to make up for the ways in which their systems had caused a now-permanent heightened fraud alert on my credit card and a loss of a night’s sleep. Unfortunately, none of that happened.

Here’s the text of the first reply, which I received on December 5.

Thank you for your recent order. We are responding to your inquiry regarding your order placed on 11/29/2016. Please refer to your Case ID #xxxxxxx when calling us at 1-800-336-7335 or when e-mailing us. We would like to hear from you within 48 hours, please.

What’s wrong with this email? Well, it took them almost a week to reply. And, in spite of their slowness, they wanted me to reply to them much more quickly, within 48 hours. Second, they had not addressed any of my concerns. I think I replied relatively politely.

What information do you want from me? My concern, which should be in the file, was that an error in the Harry & David order processing system led to two charges being placed on my credit card account, which led to me getting a fraud alert from my credit card. I was told that folks at Harry & David would look into the matter and think of a way to address the lost night of sleep that resulted from this error.

They wrote back the next day, December 5.

Please accept our apology for this misunderstanding. The duplicate charge that you see on your bankcard statement is most likely a pre-authorization, used by your bank to verify that sufficient funds are available in your account to make the purchase. In some cases, the issuing bank may place a hold on the pre-authorized funds until the actual financial transaction is approved. The issuing bank will remove the pre-authorization from your account once the actual transaction has been processed. In rare instances, the pre-authorization may appear on your online statement along with the actual charge. Rest assured, this does not mean that you have been billed twice for your order. If you need the authorization to be removed quicker, please call the toll free number for your bankcard company, which can usually be found on the back of your bankcard.

Given that I’d had my credit card company on the phone with both Harry & David and with 1-800-FLOWERS, and, in both cases, the credit card company indicated that there were two separate charges, I think calling it a duplicate charge is perfectly reasonable.

So I wrote back to them. I think I was a little less polite.

The original amount of the order was $x (see attached), but that was with an expected refund of $y because of a problem in the system in which orders came through at $29.99 rather than $19.99. I was charged that at 1 a.m. The amount of $z was charged at 4 a.m., which set off my credit card company’s fraud alert system. I called my credit card company at that time. They had them listed as separate charges (perhaps because they were different amounts), and assured me that they were separate charges, not a pre-authorization and a separate charge. I spent until 8am that morning talking to people from my bank, from Harry & David, and from 1-800-FLOWERS.

From what I can tell, the Harry & David system did not properly associate the charge with the pre-authorization, making them appear as separate charges.

From my perspective, it was more than a misunderstanding, since it took four hours of my time and still did not get resolved within that time frame.

In my final conversation, I was told that (a) I would get an explanation of why there was a double charge and (b) that the people looking into it would do something to make up for the fact that I lost a night of sleep. Your explanation does not account for why my credit card issuer treated it as two separate charges which then set off the fraud detection system. It also does not address what you are doing to make up for my lost night of sleep. I would appreciate hearing responses on those two issues.

And then I heard … absolutely nothing. So I wrote back on December 10.

My understanding is that your billing team would speak to my credit card company to figure out why the duplicate charge triggered a fraud alert. I still have not heard back as to why this happened. Will I hear soon?

They replied on December 13.

Thank you for contacting us. We apologize for the misunderstanding. We do not contact your bank. You must do so, if you need the authorization dropped sooner. Although, It will drop off on its own. We only do the pre-authorization to be sure there are funds in the account before we actually charge your card. We do not charge it twice. We appreciate the opportunity to explain this. Your satisfaction is very important to us. If we may be of further assistance, please let us know.

Don’t you love the fact that they ignore everything I’ve written, as well as their promise to contact the bank to figure out what happened? Even better, instead of apologizing for the ways in which their system and their customer service department’s limited access to important information caused me to miss a night of sleep, they apologize only for a misunderstanding. So I wrote a much longer (and less pleasant) email, laying out all of the information.

I spent four hours on the phone with my bank and with Harry and David. At the end, a Harry and David Supervisor took my credit card number and my bank’s number and promised that you would figure out why Harry and David sent in two charges that triggered the fraud alert system. I have no way of understanding why Harry and David did not communicate correctly with my bank’s system, and why you sent the pre-authorization as a charge.

I’ve been told we preauthorize and then we charge multiple times. But my bank told me it was two separate charges. They woke me up at 4am because of the second charge, which was a different amount. I spent thirty minutes on the phone with my bank because it appeared to be a fraudulant charge and we needed to go through steps to notify the police and to increase the security on my account. We ended up doing a three-way call with my bank and a Harry and David customer service supervisor. That supervisor said that I had to call 1-800-Flowers because they did not have access to the complete charge history. So we did a three-way call with a rep at 1-800-Flowers. That rep explained that there’s a preauthorization and a charge, but they also heard the bank say that they came in to the bank as separate charges. The 1-800-Flowers rep indicated that they could not do any more, and sent us back to Harry and David Customer service. Harry and David Customer service told me that they could not look into the information and that they would pass it on to another group who had access to more information. They took my credit card number and my bank’s number and promised that I’d get an answer and a reasonable resolution.

I have yet to receive an answer. As I said at the time, my suspicion is that when Harry and David changed the charge amount (which you did), that made it appear as separate charges. But, whatever the reason, Harry and David’s system’s interaction with my bank cost me a night’s sleep and a high fraud risk rating on my credit card, one that makes my life more difficult.

From my perspective, since (a) the Harry & David charge system did something wonky with my bank and (b) I was told that Harry and David would provide me with an explanation, you have a responsibility to do so.

Please use the information that I provided previously to contact my bank and to figure out why you tripped the fraud system. If you are unable or unwilling to do so, please fulfill your guarantee that You and those who receive your gifts must be delighted, or we’ll make it right with either an appropriate replacement or refund. I am anything but delighted. A replacement won’t help. So, either provide an appropriate explanation and apology, or provide a full refund.

It is now December 23rd. I’ve heard nothing. We are nearly a month after the original order, and ten days since my last message to them.

Is there a moral to all of this? Here’s one: Make sure that your Customer Service personnel have access to data. Some of the problems could have been dealt with a little bit more quickly if the Harry and David Customer Service reps could actually look at the accounting data. I spent way too much time working through the issue that there was one charge on my e-receipt, but they had a different one in their system. And they shouldn’t have had to send me first to 1-800-FLOWERS and then to the accounting office to get a resolution. Second, designers of computer systems should think about possible consequences of automatic actions, and probably need to do more testing. Third, encourage your Customer Service reps to follow up on what seem to be technical problems.

Oh, is there a moral for me? I should probably give up on dealing with Harry and David email customer service, and go back to using the phone. Or maybe I should just use their Twitter contact. Those folks are both competent and friendly [5].

Hmmm … I wonder what my friends who read this essay will suggest as a moral. Maybe, Sam should take a chill pill. Maybe, You are not alone in dealing with stupid computer problems on your orders. Who knows.

In any case, Harry & David does have a guarantee that You and those who receive your gifts must be delighted, or we’ll make it right with either an appropriate replacement or refund. I wonder who I contact to get that refund?

[1] Michelle’s comment: Your students and former students have your back.

[2] No, I have no intention of emailing the CEO.

[3] Did I mention that computers systems seem to hate me?

[4] Have I ever told the tale of how the at sign in Twitter traces its lineage to PlanLove in Grinnell Plans? Maybe later.

[5] That compliment was unsolicited.

Version 1.0 of 2016-12-23.