In this day and age, I’ve come to expect lousy customer service. Even when my employer pays thousands of dollars a year for customer service, I’m used to getting someone halfway around the world with questionable knowledge of the product, even less command of the English language, and I’m used to being kept on the phone half the day trying things that I’ve already tried.
And then there’s Lionel.I am one of the few who ordered my Polar Express train set early. And on Monday I got it. Happy early birthday to Dave. Woo hoo! I excitedly unboxed it, forgot about everything else I was going to do that night, and set up the loop of track around my living room. I loved it. The locomotive smoked, it whistled, and it was the smoothest running train I’ve ever seen.
I ran it for half an hour. Then I made dinner. Then I ran it for another half hour before I realized I was just watching a train go around and around in a circle. So I did other things for a while. Then before I went to bed, I wanted to run it one more time. I plugged in the transformer and… uh oh. Where’s my green light that tells me it’s plugged in and on? I tried it without an extension cord. Nothing. I tried a different outlet. Nothing. Dead.
I grabbed a transformer from the 1950s I had laying around and plugged it in. It was great.
My brand spanking new Lionel CW-80 transformer was dead.
So I e-mailed Lionel. I told them what I had done. I said the set worked fine with a postwar transformer. I asked if there was anything else I could try. This was about 11:30 at night.
First thing the next morning, I had a terse response: Mr. Farquhar, please send us your address and we’ll send you a new transformer. Reference this e-mail. –Lionel
I was expecting it to take a week to get back to me, and then to have to do all sorts of pointless things, but no. Send ’em my address, and they’ll send me a transformer.
Three days later, the transformer showed up. I opened up the box and found a transformer box inside. It was already opened. I guess they tested it for me before they sent it. Inside was an invoice with my problem description and the words "no charge." I plugged it in and it worked.
This used to be the way every company acted. Now it seems like most companies have legions of managers who try to dream up ways to torque off customers while saving four cents a day. I guess Lionel figures that while they’re pinching pennies, pinching pennies on customer service isn’t wise because chances are if people get good service, they’ll buy something else from you.
If that’s what they’re thinking, they were right about me. I was disappointed that the train didn’t work, but they didn’t waste much time making it right.