7-11 (Gas Station Fill-Up)

ISSUE: Gas pump malfunctions twice in about three weeks causing excess charges to my credit card

RESOLUTION: Barely refunded my money

COMPANY RATING: One star (out of five)

As if gas prices aren’t high enough, get a load of this...

About two month ago, I went to the corner 7-11 where I regularly fill up my tank and started pumping some gas. After the nozzle auto-stopped, I placed it back on the pump and glanced at the display to see what the damage was. To my surprise, the digits were still slowly clicking up.

I ran inside the gas station and brought out the attendant who witness the mystery pennies being added to the bill. After a stunned look or two, he asked me what I thought I owed and he paid me the difference. He also promised to have the pump tested.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was back at the same 7-11 looking to fill up my four 5-gallon gas cans to prepare for the possible arrival of Hurricane Ike.

I pulled up to the same pump and started filling up the cans with $3.72/gal gas. As I was getting toward the top of the 4th gas can, the pump slowed down considerably. I looked up to see that the display was nearing $85 (which is the maximum amount you can charge on a single credit card swipe). As expect, *bang*... a hard stop right at $85.00.

How could this be? Twenty gallons x $3.72 = $74.40... and I had not even filled the 4th can yet!

I rushed inside the station to once again alert the attendant to an issue with the pump. This time I got a song-and-dance about how it might be a display issue and that I should wait to see my bill -or- perhaps I had overfilled the 5-gallon containers.

As I looked at the receipt, it showed that I had pumped 22.795 gallons. Doing some quick math I explained that to achieve this amount of pumped gas I would have had to be pumping gas onto the ground. Unfortunately, no understanding or reason would occur that day. The attendant simply took down my info and said someone would call me.

Several days later, I had not received a call and I stopped by the 7-11 to speak to a manager. Long story short, this game of cat and mouse lasted about 3 weeks when I had finally had enough. After broken promises of return phone calls and a resolution from the manager, I called the 7-11 Corporate Hotline for some satisfaction.

At 1-800-255-0711, I was issued case #0809112984 and assured a field rep would contact me in about 24 hours. Now, 14 days later and a few calls from me to them later, I am still waiting for a call from 7-11 Corporate.

In the meantime, the gas station manager and I finally settled up. One day on my way home from work, I stopped in again to see if the store manager had taken care of the issue yet. The attendant went in the back office and came back with a handwritten note showing that they should pump $7.44 worth of gas into my car. The note arrived at this figure by multiplying 2.8 x $3.72.

I explained to the attendant that the manager (a) couldn’t do simple arithmetic, (b) forgot that I had gotten *less than* 20 gallons and (c) hadn’t taken into consideration that the gas price was now $3.98/gal. I fought with the attendant and he finally provided me $10.75 worth of gas.

The final straw came tonight when I made my third post-complaint call to 7-11 Corporate. “Is anyone going to call me back,“ I asked. ”The manager settled with you already, so there is no need,“ replied the voice. A few more minutes of insane dialog occurred before...

”So, let me sum this up before I hang up with you...“ I said. ”First, you have a pump that malfunctions twice to the same individual within a month. Second, your store ignores, deflects and doesn’t follow-through on a fix for three weeks. Then, when they do ‘fix’ the issue they don’t even settle for the right amount of gas. Next, Corporate fails to deliver on their promise to have a field rep contact me to resolve the issue...“ Disinterested customer service rep: “Yes, since the manager paid you, this issue is considered closed. Is there anything else I can help you with tonight?”

”Yes, I have one final question for you. Do you feel like you have accomplished a good day’s work and have satisfied a customer?“ And with that, I hang up.

Jeers to 7-11. I am working on finding the time to call the Better Business Bureau and the State of Florida Regulatory Commission.

Nintendo (Nintendo DS Handheld)

ISSUE: The Nintendo DS system stopped recognizing game cartridges after seven rough months with my son

RESOLUTION: Replacement with a refurbished unit and near zero cost for me for cross-shipping

COMPANY RATING: Five stars (out of five)

One day, my son came to me in near tears and said, “My DS doesn't load the games. Please fix it.”

After a brief look at it, I knew it was nothing I could do and we were probably going to have to buy him a new one...post haste! You see, since its introduction into our household as a 2007 holiday gift from grandma and grandpa, the DS had become an addiction. If he wasn't able to play his Lego Star Wars again soon, I knew we as parents would soon be suffering.

Since it was a gift, there was no receipt. I figured there was only an outside chance that a call to Nintendo would yield any result. Perhaps there was a trade-in program or something they might suggest...

A quick trip to the website provided a toll free number where a chipper person answered the phone within two rings. I was impressed.

I explained the situation and was told to read off the serial number. After doing so, I was provided options. “We'd be glad to replace the unit for you!” said the chipper female voice on the other end of the phone. You can either pay us (forget the amount - but about $60) for a brand new unit and return the old one at our expense -or- we can cross-ship you a refurbished unit and you would simply play a $5 shipping charge (so long as you return the old one in the pre-piad box) -or- you can ship us your unit and we'll ship you a refurbished unit upon receipt. Regardless of my choice, the replacement would have a new one-year warranty.

The choice was pretty simple. I'd do the cross-shipment so that my son would not go into total withdraw.

Just as promised, five business days later the box showed up. I pulled out the spotless replacement unit, plugged in my son's game and off he went...happy as could be. In its place I dropped in the broken unit and used the pre-paid UPS label to ship it back.

Given the sheer size and scope of the Nintendo operation I am in awe. The customer service was flawless. They treated me more than fairly, never asked for a date of purchase and empathized with the plight of a parent who's kid had lost his “best friend.“

So, Lego Star Wars sounds once again fill our home. May the Force be with you Nintendo and CHEERS to a perfect customer service experience.

Scotts (Bonus S Feed & Feed)

ISSUE: Bonus S Weed & Feed did a poor job of "weeding". Strange because always worked in past.

RESOLUTION: Incorrect reimbursement check received.

COMPANY RATING: Four stars (out of five).

So I waited for the perfect day. It was cool (around 70 degrees), overcast and the rain was on its way. I ran to Home Depot and bought the same product I always buy for my Spring weed and feed. Scotts Bonus S is designed specifically for Southern grass like mine and I was very happy with it for the past three seasons since living in Miami.

I got the spreader out and covered the entire lawn just before the rains came. It was really a perfect application!

Over the next two weeks, the lawn turned a rich green, significantly darker than my neighbors. So far so good. Unfortunately, the clover that was starting to cover my back yard decided the weed and feed was feed. Yes, the clover grew heartily and has now taken over.

That's when I called Scotts to take advantage of their guarantee.

I was very impressed with the phone support. I was quickly and efficiently routed to a live person who listened to my issue and offered to refund me my purchase price. I then asked to speak to a specialist to see if there might be a better product for my lawn. To my surprise, a supervisor got on the line and spent nearly 40 minutes with me trying to help determine what went wrong and how to avoid the issue going forward. Although we didn't end up with a solution, I was amazed that Scotts would spend such time and become invested in my success with my lawn.

After hanging up, I sent them a letter with the receipt from my purchase. I was told that I'd get a check in 5-10 business days. Unfortunately, that has yet to arrive, but I have high hopes because of how well the rest of this issue has been handled to date.

Update: Well, the check arrived with a nice letter about how to achieve success with Scotts products. They go into great detail about temperature, moisture and potential reasons why the Scotts Bonus S did not work on my weed issue. Overall, an excellent letter.

Unfortunately, the check was written for the wrong amount. They basically didn't read my letter which showed that I didn't have one of the receipts, so I attached the UPC. They also "can't reimburse taxes paid" which I've never heard of before.

So, this potential 5-star cheer must now be tamed to a 4-star rating. I've decided not to call back and persue the missing refund amount.


Home Depot (Hampton Bay)

ISSUE: Poorly manufactured light socket assembly (inside the glass cover) leaves lights without power.

RESOLUTION: Free and speedy replacement of all parts outside of warranty period.

COMPANY RATING: Five stars (out of five)

When we moved into our house about four years ago, we went to Home Depot and purchased Hampton Bay "Romano" ceiling fans for each bedroom in our house. For those of you who don't know, Hampton Bay is a brand name exclusive to Home Depot. Essentially, they buy from several 3rd party manufacturers and sell everything under one brand. When it comes to warranty issues, you end up calling the 3rd party vendor for help.

A few months ago, we started to see that the threads inside our light sockets (part of the fan inside the glass dome) were wearing out and the bulbs would pop out or not make contact with the power pins and produce light. Being a few years old (and past the one year limited warranty period), I was worried that there was no hope in getting these fixed.

I started at Home Depot who told me that the Romano fan was several years discontinued and that all new fans come with different size light bulb sockets; thus, they had no replacement parts in stock. They suggested that I call a special number (it had even changed from the number printed in the manual) for warranty service and see if they could find me replacement parts.

To my surprise, when I called the number, I was connected to Ceiling Fans USA, Inc. in Glendale, Arizona where a nice person listened to the issue and said they'd be glad to find the parts and ship them for free! The parts arrived just a few days later, just as they told me they would. They even ended up sending me replacement bulbs that I didn't ask for!

I am now basking in the warm glow of light emitted from my newly repaired ceiling fans. I'm also basking in the warm glow of excellent customer service. CHEERS to both Home Depot and Ceiling Fans USA. You both rock!

What I love about this entire consumer experience is that they never had to admit to (or deny) a faulty design in their light socket assembly. Instead, they just blew me away with attentive and accurate customer service.


1-800-MATTRESS (Sealy)

ISSUE: Sealy mattress “failed” to stand up to normal wear and tear within 2 years of purchase.

RESOLUTION: New mattress was delivered after 1-800-MATTRESS represented my case to Sealy.

COMPANY RATING: Five stars (out of five)

We’ve purchased our last three mattresses from 1-800-MATTRESS and each time we find another reason to like this company. (Please note this is a franchise business, so "your local mileage may vary")

This time, we bought and used a new Sealy mattress for about 18 months when we saw rapid deterioration. My wife and I were basically sleeping in two separate foxholes on one queen mattress. We had rotated the mattress as per the instructions, but it just plain old was failing.

I made a single call to 1-800-MATTRESS and was pleasantly transferred to their customer relations department where Mark gave me my options...

Essentially, 1-800-MATTRESS would represent my case to Sealy to have the unit replaced. There were some forms to fill out, specific measurements to perform and pictures to take, which I completed, and then a 1-4 day period while Sealy reviewed the case.

Once I submitted the materials, Mark called back the same day and said that because my mattress did have measurements outside the "normal tolerances" to be approved for a replacement, I should use a strong cover letter so that he could forward that to Sealy as to why the mattress was not acceptable to us.

The following day, I got another call from Mark at 1-800-MATTRESS saying that Sealy had approved the replacement. Further, both Sealy and 1-800-MATTRESS suggested a different type of mattress construction that would better suit us (no pillow top feature, which apparently has a tendency to crush down like ours did).

My replacement mattress arrived about 4 days later and unfortunately was not firm enough. The delivery men were very polite and happy to take it back. There was no charge and no hassle whatsoever.

One more call to Mark (on a Sunday no less!) yielded another mattress selection and delivery that same day. Further, after a brief discussion, they actually loaded two mattresses on the truck and gave the ability to test and select a mattress on site.

I paid $29 for the delivery and now rest (comfortably) on my new Sealy mattress. CHEERS to the fabulous customer service at 1-800-MATTRESS.

Netgear (ReadyNAS NV+)

ISSUE: Failure to deliver on free promotional item. Corrective action also failed.

RESOLUTION: Weeks of email and phone calls have yielded no solution. Update 3/17/08...now resolved

COMPANY RATING: One star (out of five)

Wow! This is where a company takes a bad situation and makes it worse...

I purchased two ReadyNAS NV+ units in 2007 Q4. I did so partially because Netgear was offering a great promotional gift...a free matching Seagate Barracuda hard drive with each purchase. Here is the rebate form:

In late January 2008, I started making calls because it was well past the promised due date to receive the drives. I encountered my first issue when the phone number on the rebate form was for a 3rd party call center which wasn’t even handling this promotion! After speaking with a manager at that call center, she told me that Netgear had made a mistake when producing the promotional form. After some more prying, she were kind enough to give me a direct contact name and phone number for the person at Netgear who was responsible for the promotion.

On January 28, 2008 I made first contact with Netgear and was told the drives were late to arrive at their offices, but they’d be going out early next week and since I had called, they’d send mine in the first batch as an overnight shipment.

Three weeks later, after many unreturned emails and phone calls in the interim, I pushed enough to get another contact name of a Netgear manager in Los Angeles. As I had grown to expect, he never returned my emails or voice mails either.

I spent the next two weeks making calls and sending emails to the whole group at Netgear with no replies from anyone.

Finally, with the arrival of two DHL packages at my door in early March, I thought the issue would come to a close. Excited and hoping to put this consumer experience behind me, I opened each box only to discover they had SENT THE WRONG (AND INFERIOR) DRIVES!

Another three days of trying to contact Netgear and again silence...

...Until March 6, when DHL delivered two envelopes containing the following letter:

Finally, I thought, Netgear had seen the error of their ways and this would soon be over. In the letter, it clearly showed that they had made a mistake and they were going to correct it as quickly as possible. Wrong again. Despite me following the letter to a "T", Netgear failed on every point. They didn’t use DHL Next Day, didn’t reply to my email (ever) and only sent one drive!

I now sit here waiting once again for a promotional drive that was supposed to be delivered 9-plus weeks ago...

This is how to irreparably lose customers, piss people off and thus get top billing in my hall of shame. JEERS Netgear. No matter what you do at this point, you’ve already lost this customer.

Update (3/17/08):
The Los Angeles-based manager finally called me and apologized. He said several people were no longer with the company based on the failures of this promotion. Here is his final letter to me.


Again my apologies for the lack of customer service. Attached is your tracking # 263718xxxxx. I’ve requested Sat delivery but it is 50/50 %. You can track tomorrow.

I took the liberty of sending you 2x750gb drives instead as you will probably need the space.

Please let me know if you need additional support.

Best regards,
[name removed]

I received the drives on Saturday, and, despite the months of bad customer support and contact, consider this issue to be resolved.

Hoover Vacuum Cleaner

ISSUE: False product claim of self-cleaning lifetime HEPA filter

RESOLUTION: Replacement of the vacuum with a different make/model

COMPANY RATING: Four stars (out of five)

In July of 2007, I took the advice of Consumer Reports and purchased a Hoover WindTunnel 2 Extra Reach Bagless Upright vacuum cleaner from Sears.

Having already seen problems with other HEPA filters in vacuums, I was enamored with the fact that it came with a self-cleaning lifetime HEPA filter system. Here is there claim:

"Self-cleaning HEPA filter cleans itself every six seconds to maintain cleaning power. You never have to touch or replace the filter."

Unfortunately, this proved quickly to be untrue. Within five months, I had the unit completely lock up on me three times because the dirt had clogged inside the filter mechanism so much that the filter's motor stopped spinning.

Twice I tried to take it back to Sears. Both times they told me to clean it myself or take it to a service center, but that this was considered normal operation and they weren’t going to replace it or allow me to return it. On the third occurrence, knowing I'd get nowhere with Sears, I started sending e-mails and making calls to Hoover’s consumer line.

My initial calls and e-mails were handled with very “generic” responses telling me to take the unit in for servicing. When I told them this was a design issue, not a broken individual vacuum, they pretty much read from their employee manual and said again to take it in for servicing. That led me to make this video on YouTube:

When I next reached Hoover’s customer support phone line and mentioned they could see the problems I was having with their vacuum on YouTube, they transferred my call to corporate headquarters.

Once with HQ, the Hoover employee said they hadn’t heard other complaints about the HEPA system failing and suggested that I take it specifically to a Hoover-owned service center and discuss the matter with them directly because “they are just as authorized to replace the unit as we are..but in either case Hoover needed to see the old vacuum anyway.” I felt like I had been understood for the first time and hung up with HQ.

My next call was to my local (35 miles away) Hoover Service Center in Pompano Beach, FL. A pleasant person answered the line and immediately identified my problem as being far from unique. He said as long as I had my receipt, and it was reasonably close to the warranty period, he’d replace it!

Upon arrival at the store, the same store employee who spoke to me on the phone also turned out to be a Hoover repair technician. He went above and beyond to recommend another vacuum, taking into consideration both the features and repair record of the vacuum. To my surprise, he ended up replacing it with a more expensive unit...which happened to be a Dirt Devil. Apparently, Hoover recently bought Dirt Devil and his opinion was that Dirt Devils were superior in construction.

I walked out of the store with a receipt for the new vacuum (at a cost of ZERO) and a full 5-year warranty...four years longer than my original unit! CHEERS!

Besides the initial denial that this was a known issue (by the customer support line and HQ), this was a nearly perfect problem resolution!