February 29, 2008

Dealing With Offline Companies Can be Such a Pain

Unless you're a brand-new visitor to louisgray.com, you might remember a post from a few weeks ago where I revealed my wife and I are expecting twins, our first children. While that announcement was sure exciting, there are a number of very real offline preparations which are going to take real physical labor and change - not the least of which being getting our home ready for two permanent visitors. But as easy as it is to plan things online, it's those offline who can throw snags into the whole operation.

With my wife having more than a decade's experience in teaching school, and the two of us having accumulated our fair share of material goods, we're going to need a place to put some of our own things and get a room in our condo ready for the kids. So, on Monday night, before my trip to Boston, I reserved a 10' by 15' unit at a local Public Storage, letting us start moving our items. I was able to register online, and gained a confirmation e-mail, saying, "This price and unit will be held for 7 days."

But during my time in Boston, Public Storage called my home phone number, which I had left on the site, on Tuesday and Wednesday to confirm we would be ready to move in by Saturday. By Thursday, the afternoon I came home, a final message was left by a woman who gruffly said as we hadn't returned her call, that we had lost our spot. Held for 7 days indeed. A short 7 days from the night of the 25th to the afternoon of the 28th!

Did I get a single e-mail asking me to confirm I would be ready to move in on Saturday? No. If I had gotten one, I definitely would have responded. And what am I supposed to do now? Sue them for breach of contract? It's not even worth it. So of course, I logged back on today and reserved a new unit at a different Public Storage somewhere else in town for about the same amount, and yes, its automated e-mail has the same "7 days" guarantee.

I recognize that I can't exactly compress my offline materials, attach them to an e-mail and send them to a new location, while that would be nice. But it's gotten to the point I expect customer service to be much better and for true online companies to be much more responsive and interactive than these offline clowns. That they wouldn't even think of sending an e-mail, after the initial confirmation made no sense. Why ask for it then?