People skills are the foundation of any good business, but some companies don’t always get it. When this breakdown occurs, tempers can escalate and some of the reactions produced can be truly memorable. From subtle to hilarious to over-the-top and downright insane, these 15 Awesome Public Responses to Poor Customer Service will probably make you think twice about dealing with the public. As you look these over, ask yourself how far you would go to react to bad customer service.
1. British Airways ‘Horrible’ Customer Service
Twitter user Hasan Syed (@HVSVN) taught British Airways a lesson recently after the company reportedly lost his father’s luggage on a flight from Chicago to Paris. After trying in vain to get the luggage returned, Syed finally ponied up $1,000 to purchase this promoted tweet: “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.” As a promoted post, the tweet was targeted at all 300k of the airline’s followers, and soon expanded its reach to the rest of the Internet. Result: according to Fox News, the airline contacted Syed with a delivery date for the missing luggage and an apology. After British Airways acted, Syed took to Twitter again: “I got what I wanted. I win.”
2. Journeys Footwear And Apparel: Reddit Says ‘Read This’
“Dear Jamie, since you decided to say ‘Cancer is not an excuse’ and think it’s OK to swear at your employees like you do all the time, we quit,” said a handwritten sign attached to the store’s front gate. “This is why you can’t keep a store manager longer than a year. You abuse your [role] and staff. Enjoy the fact that you just lost a store manager, co-manager, and key holder in the middle of Back to School. Think next time you treat people the way you do. We aren’t allowing it anymore. Niki, Jess, TJ.”
A number of former Journeys employees later commented on the Reddit thread, detailing their own alleged abuses at the hands of Journeys. Some of these included low pay, long hours, and an environment of fear. While technically the workers weren’t customers, they teach a weighty lesson that many individuals in higher management should learn before it’s too late: In a way, your employees are your customers.
Result: Journeys responded with a brief statement that they would be “investigating” the situation.
3. Abercrombie And Fitch: For ‘Cool Kids’ And The Homeless
Abercrombie and Fitch, a clothing store admittedly targeted at “cool kids,” which only hires “good-looking people,” got its comeuppance from the entire Internet after its CEO Mike Jeffries had this to say:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he said. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
During the fallout, one of the best public responses was a video shot by Greg Karber, who decided it was time for A&F to have a brand readjustment. He did this by redefining who the “cool kids” actually were, buying up a number of garments and giving them out to homeless people.
Collectively, the disdain for Jeffries’ comments have resulted in a sales loss of 10 percent over the last 21 months and a share loss of close to 18 percent.
4. T-Mobile Petition Against Bad Customer Service
Julz Butterfly of Henderson, Nevada, probably hoped she would collect more than seven signatures from her Change.org petition against T-Mobile’s “bad customer service,” but she still gets an A for effort. The petition alleged instances of overcharging, long hold times, combativeness, and trying to sign her up for a third phone before taking care of her existing issues.
What the petition lacked in signatures, it made up for in media coverage, getting picked up by major sites like Huffington Post and leaving a permanent accusation of company indifference that has yet to be addressed publicly.
5. Homeowners Foreclose On Bank Of America
You did not read that wrong. In 2009, a retired police officer and his wife paid $165k for their 2,700 square-foot home. In 2010, much to their surprise, they received notice from Bank of America that their completely-paid-for home would be facing foreclosure. After winning a court judgment against Bank of America, the couple expected a payment of $2,534 in attorney’s fees. After five months of having their phone calls and letters ignored, the couple took the logical next step and foreclosed on a local branch in February 2011.
By “foreclosed,” we mean they showed up with sheriff’s deputies, blocked the entrance with moving trucks, and began (legally) pulling cash from the tellers’ drawers.
Result: the bank manager issued a check for $5,772.88 and an apology.
6. Netflix launches Qwikster then Backtracks
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is not an incompetent guy, but he certainly appeared that way after the 2011 one-two punch of more than doubling prices for the Netflix service and then inconveniencing customers further with a decision to split the DVD-by-mail and streaming video service into two separate entities. The announcement was initially made on The Netflix Blog, which uses Facebook integration for comments.
The result: close to 30,000 ticked off customers voicing their discontent and sharing the post with all their friends. Netflix hemorrhaged more than 800k subscribers before all was said and done, and their stock price tumbled from a high of $300 per share to a low of close to $50 in about a one-year time period.
Wisely, the company scrapped its decision to divide the company and has since rebounded nicely to a recent price of $291 per share. Lesson learned.
7. Alamo Drafthouse Will Throw You Out For Texting
Poor customer service in this case is really in the eye of the beholder. Personally, for us and the thousands and thousands of persons attending movies at the theater each year, Alamo Drafthouse did its customers a service by how it handled one unruly texter.
They did exactly as promised before each movie. They threw a female customer out, sans refund, for texting during the feature film. If you’ve ever been to a Drafthouse, you know it’s a place for film lovers, and there is some very prominent advertising in the pre-feature entertainment that warns you of what will happen when you are inconsiderate of other audience members. Texting is named specifically as a major infraction.
Still, the texter in this viral video didn’t think the rules applied to her, so she left a NSFW voice-mail reading AD the riot act. The attack backfired, however, when the company turned it into one of the most famous promotions ever unleashed on the web, garnering more than 3 million views and counting.
8. Captain Picard is an Unhappy Cable Subscriber
Sir Patrick Stewart (aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation) gets as frustrated as anyone when it comes to Time Warner Cable.
Unlike most TWC customers, however, Stewart’s Twitter handle (@SirPatStew) actually has the ability to make some noise. In September 2012, Stewart took to his Twitter account to (humorously) voice his own frustration: “All I wanted to do was set up a new account with @TWCable_NYC but 36hrs later I’ve lost the will to live.”
Once the tweet had been retweeted 1,781 times and favorited another 832, Time Warner responded with a, “How can we assist you?” Stewart’s response: “If that question had been asked at any time in the last 36hrs it would have been of value. But now…”
9. Circuit City Demonstrates Why It’s No Longer In Business
In 2011, Redditors asked the question, “What is your worst customer service experience as a customer?”
The question received 552 responses, but one that stood out was this anonymous story involving the poster and the now defunct electronics chain Circuit City:
“I went to Circuit City to buy a fridge, washer and drier for a house I was moving into,” the Redditor said. “I picked everything out, then went to pay. Got out my checkbook and wrote the check. The guy looked at it, called his manager over, who walked up, looked at it and said ‘You call this a signature?’ I showed him my DL (driver’s license) and work ID with my signature on them. ‘Yes, I do.’ The manager laughed and said, ‘We can’t take this, learn to write.’ I asked for the check back and said I’d be back in 30 minutes.”
“I got in my car, drove to Sears. I picked my stuff out. The guy asked me if I was buying a house…He knocked a bit off the price and gave me free delivery. I wrote my check, he accepted it. I asked him if he could read the signature, he looked at my DL and said it was ok. I said ‘Ya know, CC (Circuit City) said they couldn’t.”
“I got back in the car, went to CC. The manager said ‘Come back with something we can read?’ [I said] ‘Yes, a receipt from Sears.”
10. Verizon Customer uses Creative Payment Option
In May 2013, user ID meefmaster posted one of the more hilarious examples of customer anger to Reddit, showing what happened when Verizon Communications enraged a math genius customer. Here’s a link to the naughtier version if you have the constitution for it.
11. Angry Motorist Turns Detective over Ticket
Sixty three-year-old Richard Lee of Hartlepool in England was furious when the ASDA grocery store and Smart Parking car park hit him with a $63 ticket for supposedly parking his car more than 14 hours. Lee knew he hadn’t parked for that length of time, so he stepped into the role of detective to retrace his steps throughout the day. In so doing, he proved inarguably that the video surveillance footage showing him entering the car park in the morning and leaving at night was all wrong. He had made two trips that day, not one.
Throughout the day, Lee had visited the Rossmere gym for an hour and attained CCTV footage showing his car entering the gym during a time when he was allegedly parked at Smart Parking.
Lee’s daughter Katrice vanished from a NAAFI store in Germany during his Army service in 1981. On the day of the parking infraction, he had also visited Hartlepool MP Iain Wright over the continuing investigation, and Wright was able to confirm this for parking authorities.
As a result of Lee’s inconvenience, Smart Parking sent him a check for around $31, and Asda offered him a voucher of approximately $15.
12. Sony Shows How To Share Games On A PlayStation 4
Sometimes the awesome public responses to bad customer service don’t come from the customer at all, but an actual competitor. That’s what happened at E3 2013 when Sony seized the opportunity to have some fun with Microsoft after its competitor’s Xbox One announcement left customers furious.
Microsoft decided to take away gamers’ ability to use physical discs and backwards compatibility. They also required a customer check-in every 24 hours. The backlash was immediate, and so Sony scored some laughs with a short instructional video on how you could share games with a friend using their system. The video has been viewed more than 14 million times to date.
Shortly thereafter, Microsoft pretty much went back on all its original plans, but it’s still facing an uphill battle with angry gamers.
13. George Takei Invites the CIA out for Pizza
George Takei rose to fame as the original Hikaru Sulu on Gene Roddenberry’s groundbreaking sci-fi TV series Star Trek. While it’s been a long time since Takei stepped into Sulu’s shoes, he’s won quite a following on Twitter and Facebook through a bitingly dry sense of humor. This sense of humor shone through recently with a Facebook pic in which he invited the CIA out for pizza in the wake of the NSA spying revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
14. Irate Customer Moons Clerk over Cellphone Altercation
An irate Detroit mother was recently videoed throwing a temper tantrum by a clerk at a cellphone store. The altercation was over claims that the store sold her son an outdated and damaged phone and then refused to take it back. The clerk claimed that he’d previously explained why the phone couldn’t be taken back — the efforts for a refund were not pursued after the seven-day return policy had expired.
The woman, known only as Stephanie, was furious when the clerk refused to help. After physically trashing the store, she noticed she was being recorded and doubled down on her behavior by mooning the store clerk and then walking right up to the camera for a clear shot of her face and a warning that she would be back. The store, which was not named in media reports, is pursuing charges.
15. Like The Song Says, ‘United Breaks Guitars’
Musician Dave Carroll’s yearlong saga with United Airlines over a broken guitar finally did resort in compensation, but not before his viral music video “United Breaks Guitars” racked up more than a million page views.
(Currently, it’s at more than 13 million.)
Carroll was more concerned about principle than he was the money, though, and refused the monetary compensation on the grounds that UA give the money to a charity of their choice and share the details. No word on whether that happened, but there have been more songs since the breakout first video, and they’re all worth a look.
Those are our picks for awesome customer responses to bad customer service, but we probably missed a few. Which examples should we have included, and which of those here did you find the most effective? And most importantly, if you’re in need of professional marketing services definitely drop us a note!