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May 7, 2007

Hey guys, just wanted to chime with a couple things I think are worth mentioning. It's hard to throw a rock anywhere and not hit someone who's had a terrible customer service experience, but how often do you hear about really GOOD service? Today, I give you not one but TWO such stories! Both of these examples come from companies I have shopped with for a long time, and both examples are the only times I've ever had problems with either. Kinda weird they happened within weeks of one another.

First off, DVD Empire. I like the Empire: good selection, fast shipping and generally low prices are always nice. I've shopped with them a long time, but after a robbery last year I lost my Criterion Collection version of Hard Boiled. I've been keeping an eye out for a replacement, and found one at a (sadly) unbelievable price on the Empire through one of their affiliate sellers. This was my first purchase from them this way, but at the low price I figured I was safe. The DVD came quickly, but right out of the wrapping something looked off. There were two funky scratches on the play side of the disc, which were clear marks that someone had tried to rub off commercial branding on a burned disc. Also, I tracked down a copy from friend at work and sure enough, there were very subtle differences. Still, impressive work by the bootlegger. Most people probably wouldn't have been anal enough to notice, but I'm a bit OCD on these things so I spotted it right away. I jumped right on the DVD Empire site and got a chat session up with one of their guys. He was very quick to offer a refund, and this message came shortly after in my email:

"I understand you’ve received a bootleg copy of 'Hard Boiled: The Criterion Collection’; I also noticed that the same seller has two other copies listed on our site. If possible, I’d like to send you a pre-paid shipping label so you can send the DVD you received to us. We will review it, and remove that seller from our site once we’ve confirmed that it is a bootleg. lease reply back and let me know if you have a printer, and I’ll email you that shipping label so you can send that bootleg to us without incurring a shipping charge.

I appreciate your help with this – we do not condone selling/producing bootlegs, but we have to confirm the charge before closing a seller’s account.



Now this is completely reasonable, I don't expect them to take my word for it and they're acting on it fast. Already I'm happy. Here's my response:

"Hi Doug,

Not a problem. Send along that shipping label and I'll be happy to send it back. I've attached three images to this email, which may help with your review. The ones labeled 'Disc Front' and 'Disc Back' are scans I made of the disc I received, and the last one labeled 'Genuine HBCC Disc' is a scan of an authentic copy a friend owns. The differences are very small, but they are quite obvious once you see the two discs next to one another. What immediately caught my attention are the scratches on the back of the disc I got that are clearly attempts to cover the branding of the media used to make the fraudulent disc. While I'm disappointed that I didn't get the movie I paid for, I have always had great service dealing with DVD Empire direct and I will continue to recommend your site to friends looking for good prices on movies. Thanks for all your help with this order.


See, it pays to be nice to people when they're trying to help. I included the images just so that when they got the disc, they could see what I saw clearly. Here's what came within a few hours of that email:

"Hi Joe,

Thanks for your reply.  The images you’ve sent are quite enough – we appreciate you passing those along.  We’ll deactivate that seller today.  Let me know if you ever have any problems or questions in the future, and I’ll be happy to help you.


My second example comes from Amazon, a site I'm sure a lot of you already know about. I ordered a PS2 Capcom Classics Collection, which was supposed to arrive within the usual 3-5 days. The email confirming shipping that came had an invalid tracking number, but I chalked that up to a mistake in sending, which I'd had happen before and could always find the right number in my account info. I tend to like to see where my things are, so I generally check on their progress once a day. I went into my account to get the correct tracking number, but found that the number there was also invalid. Amazon has this cool support feature where they call you, instead of you hanging on the phone waiting, so I had them call me. This was where the service initially was extremely bad. The person I spoke to not only didn't bother to research the bad tracking number, but also assured me the package would be to me by the end of the week. Now the lack of any effort to get a valid tracking number bothered me, but it wasn't a critical item so I figured I'd just wait it out. By the end of the week, still no package. Amazon had sent a along a follow up service email, which I responded to with my irritation about the lackluster interest in helping me and the unfulfilled promise of the item arriving. Nothing nasty, just the facts and my opinion on the shoddy support work. Within a day of sending out that follow up, I received this message:

"Thanks for writing to us at

I'm sorry to hear about this situation and to know that you had an
unsatisfactory experience when you called us previously.

Allow me to explain that in checking the tracking information it
appears that this package has been lost in shipping.

Usually, I'd be able to create a replacement order that would be
shipped to you as soon as possible at no additional charge.
Unfortunately, I can't do that in this case because the lost item is
now unavailable from our supplier at

Instead, I've requested a refund to cover the cost of the
item and associated shipping costs. We'll send you an e-mail to
confirm the refund once it has been processed.

As a token of appreciation for your business and for the trouble
this matter has caused you, I have placed a promotional certificate
claim code for $5.00 on your account. This claim code will appear
automatically when you check out, and amount should automatically be
deducted from your next purchase on

Further, I see that this item is also available for purchase from
one of our third-party sellers. If you are in urgent need of this
item, you may also consider purchasing this item from them. Please
note that if you buy an item at Amazon Marketplace, the individual
seller will process and ship your order.

You may wish to check this page and place a new order:

If the original package should eventually arrive, please let us know
by visiting us here:

We are aware that our choice of delivery services reflects on our
business as a whole, and we appreciate your feedback. I have passed
your message along to our shipping department, as I know they will
want to read about your experience.

We appreciate your understanding and thanks again for your interest

Again, this is what brings customers back. I never asked for any compensation beyond the item price, but it was offered anyway and much appreciated.

In summary, these kinds of rare examples of being good to your customers is what makes people like myself come back. I don't expect these companies to move the Earth for one person, but simply being responsive and even offering a little something for my trouble makes all the difference.

Loyalty, baby, it means everything.