Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dell Hell, Redux

They may make reasonable kit at a decent price, but by heavens their customer service system is enough to make one want to hit the blog wires and pen some bile just to vent off the steam.

A wee while ago, I had a message on my answering machine in a lilting Irish brogue, to the effect that I had a new customer service manager, and it was she. No number, no email in complement... no idea how this would end up.

Yesterday the replacement warranty offer on one of our older PCs expired. I had a letter saying it could only be handled by phone, so a few days ago I dialled that fateful number and ended up in a very dark place.

Endless robots who spoke a kind of English listened to what I was trying to say, ignored it and told me what they had been told to tell me. Twice I was cut off. A few score times I was transferred around the world to be asked the same damn question about my inside leg measurement I'd given previously.

And all the while I kept asking... pleading... that they got a message to my account manager that I'd like to talk about this with her. All said they would do so, and now what about this warranty?

I even emailed.

The result? Well, no call back, it has expired, and you know what? I think I'll use the PC 'til it dies and then not bother replacing it. Or buy one from someone who understands customer service. Oh, and the importance of doing what it takes to ...sell.

Dell, you really need to figure out where you are trying to be, and how you are not helping yourselves get there.

Phew... now I feel better.

BBC - PC maker Dell to cut 7,000 jobs

And a side order of soap with your shampoo, sir?

Only organic for me darling

I have no problem with folk blowing their hard-earned any way they like, especially saving the planet in the process, even if it doesn't make much sense financially.

Where I do draw the line is if the enviROI doesn't add up. This is the cost to my kids by a fad actually suckering the totality of the system for a short term marketing gain.

Sadly, it is almost impossible to assess fairly, or in a way consumers will be able to grasp, especially with packaging having to accommodate about a page of A4 with all the pointless, contradictory, a**s-covering, target-meeting, box-ticking guides we already have and are going to find joining them.

And then all we get is those brands we thought we could trust to guide us, like Fairtrade and the Soil Association (plus a few pro-Bono charities), having a spat on which ethical aspect is more important, and it all dissolves into farce.

Still, while there are those who are sincere, some will simply make more quick green-dosh as the planet bleeds.

Yours, with an airflown cherry on top...

Many publicities can these days be stirred up with bad publicity.

Nice to drift over to the world of ads once in a while.

Dr Martens sticks boot in

This commentator (never been called that before, so I'm climbing aboard the bandwagon) could care less about the ad (though asking the relatives might have been polite), but is fascinated by the process surrounding the apparent 'furore'. Was that the term in the original release used to kick-start it?

When I first read about this it seemed to be some kind of student competition that got taken too far, and without the knowledge of senior agency or client. So far, so tee-hee...whoopsie: 'They didn't die with our boots on?"

Now it seems it is/was a commissioned piece, using a high-profile photographer, for a one-off 'authorised' insertion in some medium I've never heard of, like that would render it in better taste than being seen anywhere else. As most awards hounds will tell you, it's quite easy to get a dodgy bit of 'edginess' mainstream with a complicit agency/client/minor-medium cabal, a little bit of MySpace or YouTube to 'find' it has been spread around, with a nudge from the PR division to kickstart the Daily Mail, and...ta-daa: a bit more than was 'intended'.

So... what next? It was all actually a big hoot to get a bunch more PR value than the original, rather average concept warranted. Surely not?


Crap ads don't hurt people. Being complicit in helping sell them for a few cheap ratings points does.


Witches' Knickers

I have pretty much given up on BBC Breakfast News now (and they on me, so not much to lose), as they have pretty much given up on news, or at least reporting, in favour of creating visuals of press releases.

However, around the cornflakes it can still often be lurking on in the corner, and I just caught the tail-end of the latest worthy initiative surrounding plastic bags.

Now as I missed the beginning I am not quite sure what it was all about, but here's a link to today's programme, and as this will soon disappear to the initiative in question: mosbags, guerilla bagging.

Sounds fun. No harm. Good luck to them.

But, now, enviROI.

I learned something. 'We' apparently demand/use/dispose of 290 bags a year, and the reporter was seen under a pile of them. Yuk. Thing is, how much plastic is that? No, really, how much? I don't know, but ignoring litter (which IS an issue) and killing wildlife (ditto, though I wonder how much other rubbish in the sea and fields does more), in terms of plastic weight (not volume), how much are we actually talking here? As the aspiring beneficiary of the RE:tie's contribution (though that is turning something that has no use, save disposal currently, into an actual second useful item) I am the first to wish to say every little bit helps, but context is important. If compressed into a block, how many Albert Halls are we talking here or, more personally, how many bottles of fabric softener for example, with one in our kitchen now destined for the bin because I don't know if I can pop it in with the PEP fizzies in the local plastics skip - which to me is a MUCH BIGGER ISSUE!???!

As it is a critique sometimes levelled at much that and I come up with, I also wonder about consumer uptake.

With a family of four and time pressures, my trips to the supermarket are few, far and frantic. What I have done is kept several cardboard bottle carriers in the boots of both cars, which I take with me and pop in the trolley. These make a big difference to the bagging, and with bottles double bagging, that used to be done. I also have a few score hemp jobbies from council shows and eco-expo giveaways, which it now occurs to throw into the mix, too. So this piece has done its job with a slight awareness boost, and credit to them.

But I have to say I need about 10 to handle it all. I noted that this piece was again a bunch of young, single, urban trendies, on foot picking up a sarny and a bottle of Evian (how many bags' worth?), and again wonder how that equates to a harassed parent trying to get the week's shopping in and done.

Personally, if one were organised, I always thought the crate system was better, though the sheer amount of plastic making them seemed huge and possibly poor enviROI from the get go. But the word there is organised. For spontaneity, we are back to remembering to take these no so little bags with us. For a 5 item dash to the corner shop, why not, but for a bigger effort, by foot or even car, how many are going to go there (though logically why not if you are to struggle back with several laden bags) with all these efforts hanging out of your pockets? There is a supposition one is just carrying out that task, from your home base. Is that practical? Is it going to be done?

But, as noted, other countries seem to do fine, and waste is waste, so it must be addressed. I just wish we could be a bit more joined up, recognise some practical realities, and sell it in ways that might appeal beyond a twenty-something BBC researcher's local street community and PR mates, authority box tickers, real-issue, greenwash-distracting, knee-jerk marketers, etc.

Finally, and on a practical note, I was also a little intrigued by the reporter's choice of recycling bin for his 290 bags at the end of the piece: what looked like a street skip. Now unless there are industrial sized collection facilities in his neck of the woods, I'd hazard that all that ends up in there ends up in a landfill, and so to ensure they stand a better chance of actually being recycled would probably advocate popping them in the bin at the supermarket that says 'plastic bag recycling'.