You might think that it's inconsequential, but Twitter has just saved me the best part of £200.
I'll tell you for why. About a week ago, I returned some stuff I'd bought from Wiggle, the online sports shop. I posted the package on a Saturday morning, and by Monday I received an email telling me that they had given me a full refund, including the cost of the postage back to them. I was impressed, but it only reminded me of a refund I'd been chasing elsewhere for the best part of six months.
When we were in Auckland, way back at the very beginning of April, I bought myself a pair of Teva Wraptor sandals. The big attraction was that they were closed toe, but it was an added bonus that they had a clever drainage system in the sole that meant that they were excellent water sandals too. When we were in Africa in May, I wore little else. They were great. Unfortunately, the grill over the drains in the sole seemed to be made of some sort of nylon fibre, and after a couple of weeks of wear, they started to give way. Not too big a deal, you'd think, but it now meant that things could now poke up through the hole and into my foot. Not great, especially not for a shoe that had effectively only had about 15 days of wear. I decided that I'd ask for my money back when I got home.
Given that I'd bought them in New Zealand and would be returning them in the UK, I thought that this might be a problem. I sent an email via the website explaining the situation, and my hopes weren't much raised by the subsequent response I had from an obviously Indian-based call centre with a non-Teva specific email address. Great, a call centre that handled several companies all at the same time. I was expecting to be frustrated. To be fair, they handled the query about as well as could be expected and I successfully managed to arrange the return of my damaged shoes -- with the receipt -- for inspection prior to a refund if they were found to be faulty. I sent them back, but heard nothing. So I chased. And I chased. And I chased. After a little while, I ended up talking on the phone to someone from Belgium who confirmed that they had received my shoes and agreed to a refund, and now asked me to fax my credit card details to someone in their finance department (they weren't allowed to take them over the phone). Fine. Nothing. Not even anyone to confirm that they had, or had not, received the details.
I chased again, eventually getting a response from the USA that told me to create an account on their website as it was the only way that they could process the refund. I quickly did this, but then got nothing at all for weeks. I sent more emails, but by now I had stopped getting even the standard "we will respond to your message in the next 24 hours" standard response. It was now November, and I was starting to get seriously annoyed. What was wrong with these people? How can they make it so hard for me to get my money back when they'd actually agreed the refund? In my innocence, I had thought that might be the hard bit. I wasn't going to give up, but did wonder what my next move should be.
After Wiggle processed my refund so quickly, without really thinking about it, I put up the following tweet;
"@wigglenews have refunded me inside 2 days for a faulty product where @Teva have so far taken 6 months. Just so you know."
Much to my surprise, I was quickly engaged in a conversation with whoever runs the Teva Twitter account, and before long they were chasing me to see if I had heard from their customer service team. Less than a week after that initial tweet, I had an email from an actual PERSON at the parent company behind Teva (Deckers Outdoor Corporation), saying:
"First I would like to extend my sincere apologies for the mishandling of you return for your Teva product. I have been in touch with our return department in Wincanton and have gotten the information on which product has been returned. They have stated that you sent back a pair of the men’s Wraptor’s. I will be processing the return for you in the amount of $125.00 USD [which is more than I paid in the first place]
I will have the business department process this right away.
Also because of all the inconvenience this has caused you I would like to offer you a replacement pair of shoes at no cost. Please reply to my email directly and let me know what you may be interested and I will take care of that for you.
Perhaps it's coincidence, but I can't help but think that it is only because of the intervention of whoever runs the Teva Twitter account that this has happened. Nearly six months of trying, and it's a throwaway message on a disposable medium that gets me my money back.
Still, credit where credit is due.... Teva have taken a bad news story and pretty much completely turned it around. The free pair of shoes is a nice touch, don't you think?
Yeah, alright... Twitter is still pretty inconsequential, I agree....But amidst all the trivia, spam marketing and celebrity chitter-chatter, it's not entirely useless.