Updated on 04.28.12

A Little Customer Service Story

Trent Hamm

Sarah and I purchased an outdoor playhouse kit for our youngest son for his second birthday. It was on sale, we had a perfect spot for this playhouse in our yard, and all three of our children were absolutely in love with it.

Several days ago, the kit was delivered in an unmarked box. When I examined it a few hours after the delivery, it was really heavy and smelled of cedar, which is exactly what I expected. I left the kit in the garage.

The day of our son’s birthday arrives. I had some help on hand for assembling the playhouse, so we pop open the box.

What we found inside was the wrong kit. It was actually a much more expensive kit for a wooden swingset and slide, but we have one of those (it was already in place when we moved into our home).

Obviously, we had intended to complete the playhouse assembly before our son’s birthday celebration, which was to take place later that day. There was disappointment all around.

I called the store, preparing for what I expected to be a battle with a customer service agent. (I’m not going to name the store because I don’t think this incident is really a good indicator of the overall business, either in a good or bad way.)

The first person I spoke to heard the first bit of my story, immediately told me it was out of her league, and redirected the call to her supervisor. The supervisor also told me it was out of his league and redirected me to his boss, which was a regional manager of some sort.

The regional manager heard my story. He didn’t believe me at first. He directly told me he was skeptical of my story.

I pulled out my receipt. I told him my order number, the date it was purchased, and what incorrect item was delivered. He still acted skeptical.

I then suggested that he check his inventory, just to make sure that the right item was picked. He told me he would and then quickly ended the call.

At this point, I was livid. My son’s birthday party had been completely disrupted by this mistake. I was a bit angry at myself for not completely verifying the item, but I was mostly angry at the business for making that delivery mistake.

The first thing I did was I took a few moments to calm down. Getting into a rage at someone on the phone is not a good idea. It’s not going to help either party and it’s going to add to the difficulty of the situation.

The second thing I did was I started documenting the whole situation. I took the receipt for the purchase, the delivery receipt, and the identifiers off the box and immediately created a document with all of the dates and facts of the situation stated clearly.

I created the documentation in case I would have to make a return visit to the store and, if necessary, follow up on the matter through other means. After all, at that moment, I was out the price of the playhouse I wanted with a giant pile of nearly-useless lumber sitting in my garage.

After that, Sarah and I brainstormed a quick solution to the impending party, changing what elements we needed to change to make it work.

A couple hours later, the manager called us back and was extremely sheepish. He left a message that he would have the correct item at our house first thing on Monday morning and that he would take back the wrong item.

After I heard that message, I called his office back again. I told him that the “mistake” had ruined our son’s birthday party. He told me that he was unable to fix the mistake today, but that he would refund half of the purchase price of the item.

If a true mistake has been made against you, make sure the business knows what it has cost you. Few businesses want an unhappy customer out there telling a terrible story about them, and most businesses will go the extra mile to make it right as long as you’re calm and rational about it.

When a business makes a mistake, don’t respond with rage. Document your claim. Report it calmly and without animosity. Make sure it’s clear to them what the mistake has cost you. Most businesses will make it right.

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  1. kc says:

    An interesting story. I really do not understand your unwillingness to name the store involved, however.

  2. kc says:

    You could make it clear that this simply one incident, and may not be representative of their overall performance. In the age of social media, businesses expect to receive immediate feedback and reviews. What’s the harm?

  3. Lysander says:

    The fact that you CONSTANTLY deride people to buying stuff, to claim that not getting a present on his birthday “RUINED” his party seems a little disingenuous compared to the tone of this blog and how you claim you are raising your son. Disappointed sure, but ruined? Hope that was hyperbole to express you displeasure to the company manager.

  4. Shannon says:

    Your two year old son wouldn’t even know what day his birthday is if you didn’t tell him.

  5. Kate says:

    Interesting point #3 Lysander…and so true!

  6. Riki says:


  7. Riki says:

    It’s ridiculous that your son’s party would be ruined by this mistake. Get some perspective.

  8. Jacq says:

    Too bad you couldn’t have traded it with someone who wanted the more expensive one that you already had.

  9. julie says:

    Oh please, your sons birthday party was not ruined.

  10. Jackson says:

    Maybe Trent shouldn’t have bday parties for his kids? Remember his older son’s party from a few years ago? Agree with 3, 4, 7, 9.

  11. Johanna says:

    It’s not the store’s fault you didn’t open the box until the day of the party.

  12. Johanna says:

    Also, Lysander +1. Trent, could you be any more of a hypocrite?

  13. Lilly says:


    Can’t believe the store refunded you anything

  14. Lilly says:

    Good way to teach your kids that stuff is more important than relationships

  15. Lauren says:

    I think the point was there were going to be children around and that playing with the new playhouse was the primary entertainment for the party. So yes, suddenly not having anything for some number of small children to do when you thought you had that covered is kind of a big deal.

  16. Lisa says:

    Granted the store made a mistake, but to not have checked the contents of the box upon arrival (especially if the playhouse figured prominently in the party) was just plain foolish.

  17. BD says:

    *Ruined* your son’s birthday party? He’s TWO. Kids that age prefer the cardboard box the gift comes in…unless of course, you’ve raised them to be super-materialistic.

  18. Katie says:

    All y’all really open every shipment as soon as it comes just in case a mistake was made? I certainly don’t.

  19. Lilly says:

    #20 Katie, I may not open it IMMEDIATELY, but I would definitely check it well in advance of the event

  20. Johanna says:

    @Katie: If it was so important to me to have the playhouse built for the party, I’d certainly have a look inside the box at least a few days earlier.

  21. Johanna says:

    What if there was a piece broken or missing, or I needed to use a tool that I didn’t have?

  22. Lilly says:

    Aargh, moderation… what Johanna said…

  23. Johanna says:

    Lots of things could go wrong. Waiting till that morning to open the box was asking for trouble.

  24. Lilly says:

    I can’t even post a 1 line comment now…

  25. Johanna says:

    @Lilly: I think the word “a$$emble” or variants thereof will get you moderated.

  26. Lilly says:

    took that word out Johanna and it’s still not working

  27. Shannon says:

    Dude, you’re a joke with your hypocrisy.

  28. Gretchen says:

    Who doesn’t have other party prep going on in the morning that they have time to build a playhouse?

    I cannot belive they refunded your money.

  29. Shannon says:

    4 is me, 27 isn’t. Agree with others. It’s a bit naive to wait until the day of the party to put it together.

  30. Evita says:

    As usual, you did not put the blame where it belongs…. on the guy who waited till the very last minute to check on this all-important delivery !

  31. Josh says:

    Trent ruined his kids party by not checking in advance

  32. Joan says:

    A ruined party for a two year old?? Was the playhouse all you had planned?

  33. lurker carl says:

    The two year old didn’t need the party, Trent did. It was to show off his latest purchase and impress his friends, family and neighbors with their newfound wealth.

  34. Angie says:

    +1 to all of these comments

  35. Amanda says:

    Nothing was ruined for your son.

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