For a little bit of fun on this Friday, I wanted to share with you a customer service experience gone horribly wrong. This CS nightmare revolves around an order of shampoo from The Vitamin Shoppe and, unfortunately for The Vitamin Shoppe, the customer they wronged was comedy improvisation veteran, Ben Wellington of Cherub Improvisers. Ben’s personal website is here.

Below is the sarcastic and very funny replies that Ben sent to the company all while trying to just get his order of shampoo. As sellers and customer both, there is plenty to laugh at below. I have not edited these in anyway other than to remove Ben’s personal info.

Ben and I went to college together so he gave me the OK to re-post this here. He is a damn funny fellow, I can attest from watching him in quite a few improv shows. Let us all hope that someday his hair will be clean again.

Dear The Vitamin Shoppe,

I am writing to express my heavy disappointment with my online shopping experience with your store.

Let me set the stage for you:

I walked in to a Vitamin Shoppe retail store a few months ago out of curiosity, and to my delight, I found that they carry my JASON shampoo for a price way below most other retail establishments in New York City. It costs a little over $5, compared to $8-$9 at a certain famous supermarket chain called, say Fole Whoods.

When I returned a few weeks later, they did not have the item in stock, but I was referred to your website my a helpful employee.

I was happy to find the good price in your website, and so I placed an order on March 20, 2007 for six bottles of the popular product. (#JS-1244). The website said it was out of stock, but that it should come in a week or two. I decided I was not in a rush, so I placed the order, expecting a minimal wait. Luckily, I still had a mostly full bottle in my shower.

On April 1st, I noticed I had used a decent amount of my current supply and wondered how the reinforcements that I ordered from you were doing? I called and CSR told me that is was out of stock but it should come in next week. I was OK with that… I still had enough shampoo left.

Next after completing my taxes on April 17th, I noticed my shampoo bottle getting lighter and lighter. I decided that it would be a good time to check on the 6 bottles that were soon to arrive. I called and I was told it was out of stock but it was expected to come in next week.

Then today, on May 14th, I called to see how the order was doing. I explained to the CSR that I had been told for 2 months that the product was coming in “next week” and that the situation was getting serious… Oi probably only had a few washings left in my shampoo and my hair was getting longer by the day!!! The CSR told me that they are always told that a product is coming in next week, regardless of the expected date, and that that promise really means nothing at all. She said there is no way to really know when a product is coming in.

This was extremely disappointing to me as a consumer, and it is a poor practice on the part of your company. Regardless, I found a similar item listed under a different code (JS-1097) and I inquired if this item was in stock. The CSR cheerfully told me it was, so I asked to change my order to the new item. At this point, I was mildly frustrated but I figured it I got my shampoo before I ran out, I would still be a happy returning customer, despite the unknown arrival time of your products.

The CSR canceled my old order and placed a new order with the new item, but when she did she has some startling news. “The new item is out of stock” she told me! “It should be in stock next week.” I reminded her that she had just told me that it was in stock, and that is why I made the change, but she informed me that the website “told her” it was in stock, but the “order said” it was out of stock. So it was out of stock, despite what she had told me and despite what the website had told her. I felt sweat roll down my face, but I carefully avoided letting any get in my hair because I was growing weary if JASON would ever arrive.

Well, I figured all I could do then is wait for my original order, so I asked her to not cancel it so I would not lose my place in line for this semi-precious JASON shampoo. Clearly the demand is high, since I was on a two month waiting list!! “It’s too late” she said. She explained that she had already canceled my order, so all she could do is place a new one. I told her that would put me behind hundreds of hungry JASON needing people and she said that there was no other option. At that point, I realized that my hair was doomed.

When I requested to speak to a manager, she said she would speak to one, then put me on hold, then came back and told me that the manager could do nothing. All I could do is place a new order, and wait indefinitely, (something like purgatory I believe). She tried to explain to me how the mistake has happened, (the website told her it was in stock, but it wasn’t, etc.) I told her that I understand that, but that I should not be shampoo-deprived for another two months because of problems with the Vitamin Shoppe system. She repeatedly told me there was nothing she could do.

As a last effort to keep me as a happy customer, I asked if they could apply a credit to my account, if I was going to have to wait another 2 months for my shampoo. And her response was priceless. She told me that I was a first time customer, and since it was my first time ordering, there was nothing she could do. “Maybe if you were a good returning customer we could apply a credit, but you have never ordered from us before, so I can’t help you”. This is a disgusting thing to say to a first time customer. After all, all of your customers were once first time customers. I was obviously very excited about the product, excited enough to order 6 bottles and a bunch of other items from your store, but because I was a new customer she made no effort to make me happy. I thought I knew you better Vitamin Shoppe…

I feel I was extremely patient and amenable through out the entire process, I treated the CSR with the utmost respect, telling her that I understand that it’s not her policy or her fault, but asking if there is any way we can fix the problem.

So the conversation ended there. I told her it was sad that they treat first customers like that, because I was clearly going to be a repeat customer if things had worked out between us. I was excited about our future together Vitamin Shoppe, and I feel like you just dumped me. (Plus, I am out of shampoo.)

But I wish you well in the future, and no hard feelings.

Benjamin Wellington
New York City

The long awaited part 2 followed shortly after.

Dear The Vitamin Shoppe,

I am writing with regards to a shampoo order I placed at your online store on March 20, 2007. The original order number was WO8457262 and the shampoo was listed as shipping within 3-10 days. After receiving my letter (attached below), someone from customer service left me a message apologizing for the way I was treated, and explaining to me the difficulty that Vitamin Shoppe is having with liquids in the warehouse. She explained that they cause messes, and so they can only order the shampoo from JASON once they get a large enough order from customers. She also explained that she had given me a $10 credit and she resubmitted my canceled order for me, and told me if I did not want the order to be resubmitted, I should call back and say so. She resubmitted my order with number 3523452.

That was in May. It is now August and I wanted to keep you up-to-date on some happenings in my life. You see, I have recently moved. Of course, It was careless of me to place a shampoo order in March with the knowledge that I was moving in August, but I made that mistake. So I was hoping that I could give you my new address to update the order:

It is
[omitted so Ben doesn’t get stalkers]

I will be sure to keep you up-to-date with any further happenings in my life; name changes, future moves, changes of shampoo preference, etc.

To be safe, I have also added a note in my will to inform the Vitamin Shoppe that upon my death, if the shampoo is still not delivered, I would like it forwarded to my mother in Connecticut.

I certainly hope I will receive my order before I pass on, but I realize how difficult this shampoo order must be for you.

I’d appreciate a note back simply confirming that the address on the order has been changed.

Faithfully yours,

Benjamin P. Wellington
Order 3523452
New York City

p.s.: Everyday since i have ordered the shampoo, your website has informed me that the item is “Out of Stock: ships in 3-10 business days.” While other companies chose to be brutally honest on their website, you take the more optimistic approach. Reading those 9 words keeps me alive each day, dreaming that my hair will be clean again in two weeks! So I applaud your choice to make up shipping dates on your website to keep your customers feeling positive! (I’ve waited 98 business days and counting!)