Justin and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad JCPenney order

I normally don’t like to rant about merchants. I know first-hand that dealing with buyers can be tough, and sometimes things won’t go as smoothly as they should. My last order from JCPenney, though, convinced me that I will never shop with them again.

Here’s a chronology of what has happened since I placed my order on November 14.

  • November 14: Placed an order on JCPenney.com for seven items. Six were available and one, a fleece jacket, was specified as on backorder with an approximate shipping date of November 29. (I would have ordered eight items, but the site said on the final page of the checkout that one of the items was not available even though the product page had allowed me to add it to the cart.)
  • November 23: Visited the Bangor JCPenney store and picked up five of the items. At this time I was informed that there was a warehouse shortage on the sixth item after the order had been placed and that I would not receive it. I was credited for that item.
  • November 25: Emailed JCPenney customer support about the inventory problems I’d had with my order.
  • November 27: Received a response back explaining the site’s inventory system (based on region).
  • November 30: Wrote back asking about the status of the fleece jacket after logging into the site and noticing that the jacket had been changed from “Backorder” to “Not Available” on my order.
  • December 3, 1:30 PM: Received a response saying the jacket was not available and asking if I wanted to reorder the item since it had once again become available.
  • December 3, 11:30 PM: Wrote back with the following: “Would I be able to receive the Columbia jacket for the $23.99 price at which I originally ordered it? If that is possible, I would like to reorder the item, shipped to the Bangor, ME store as I had specified on the order. If the jacket is only available at the $29.99 price that is currently displayed on the site, then I am not interested. Please let me know which is possible.”
  • December 10, 10:30 AM: Received a response: “Yes, if the jacket is available, we are able to reorder for you at the
    same pricing you were originally charged.  Please advise us how you wish to proceed.”
  • December 10, 5:30 PM: Wrote back: “Please reorder the jacket at $23.99 and have it shipped to the Bangor, ME store. Thank you!”
  • December 18, 1:00 PM: Received a response: “At this time the jacket is back ordered till 1/13/11.  Do you still want
    us to place the order to be shipped to your local catalog desk?”
  • December 18, 4:45 PM: Wrote back telling them to cancel the order.

I strongly believe that if you complain about something, you should provide suggestions on the situation could be improved. In JCPenney’s case, there are a few changes that could be done to alleviate some of the problems.

  1. Hire enough customer support representatives for the holidays. It should not take eight days to respond to a support request. At the very least, update the customer service page on your site to provide a reasonable expectation for response time. (The JCPenney site says that normal response time for email requests is 1-2 business days.)
  2. Put an escalation system in place for follow-up support requests. Assign priority to follow-up requests. If someone is trying to reach you again, chances are they’re getting frustrated.
  3. Don’t use boilerplate text in responses. Every response I received from customer service included the following text: “Customers like you are our most valuable resource for creating the optimal shopping experience. Thanks again for your email. We look forward to serving you in the future.” Don’t patronize customers with text like that, especially when you know they’re frustrated. Do it if you have to on the first request, but after that, be human.
  4. Use an online shopping system that reads inventory appropriately. I experienced a host of inventory problems with my order. First, the site allowed me to add an item to my cart but only specified it was unavailable on the very last page of the checkout (it wasn’t available in my region, apparently). After the order was placed, one of the items I ordered was cancelled due to an inventory shortage. And the status of the fleece jacket I originally ordered, due largely to the delays in responses from customer service, changed back and forth from “backordered” to “not available” at least three times in the process. If this does happen, provide clear communication with the customer about why the change happened and how it will be resolved.

I won’t be shopping at JCPenney again after my experience with this order. I hope other merchants can learn from JCP’s mistakes in order to better serve their customers.

December 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Apple announcement brainstorming

A mysterious teaser appeared on apple.com today to announce an announcement happening tomorrow. Most people have landed in one of four prediction camps: the launch of cloud- or subscription-based iTunes, Beatles availability on iTunes, the release of iOS 4.2, or a small, insanely hyperbolized announcement to grab the attention of the media. And yes, it’ll probably be one of those four scenarios.

But what if it’s not? As an exercise in complete absurdity, here’s some wild speculation about what could (theoretically) happen tomorrow at 10 Eastern:

  • Live, streaming concert of a major band (let’s face it, it’d be U2)
  • Steve Jobs chats on FaceTime with caller #52 to a super-secret Apple number
  • A complete archive of every major TV show and movie ever
  • An MP3 option for iTunes downloads
  • A free MobileMe account with cloud syncing for every iTunes user
  • A Hulu competitor1 (iAd-supported streaming TV shows)
  • Steve Jobs announces a new product or service via live video from his office
  • iTunes for Android and/or WP7
  • A new super-simple way for independent musicians to submit songs
  • Steve Jobs goes Oprah: free iPod nanos for everyone!

I realize that half of the list above will never, ever, ever happen. Complete and utter absurdity, remember?

1 I’d say a Netflix competitor, too, but Apple seems to be pretty buddy-buddy with Netflix lately.

November 15, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Final thoughts on the Maine gubernatorial race

If you want to see what’s wrong with Maine, look no further than the gubernatorial race this year.

Maine’s a state that doesn’t know what it wants. We know we’re not in a good place right now, but we don’t know how to move forward. Many of our key industries (forest products, shoes, and more) have moved in large part overseas or to more business-friendly locales in North America. On top of that, we’re an aging state, and many of the people my age leave the state in order to find better jobs in places where the kind of jobs we want are more available.

Now look at this year’s gubernatorial race. The three serious contenders for the office have either worked in politics for decades or, in the case of LePage, help run a business that screams “old Maine.” Compared with the 2008 national election during which two charismatic forty-somethings – relative newcomers in politics – took center stage, the policies raised in Maine’s gubernatorial race make it seem like we’re stuck in the past.

Vision for the future, however, isn’t dependent on youth. Unfortunately, this year’s candidates seem to believe that we can find success by tweaking the Maine of yesteryear. We can shrink government. We can consolidate and reorganize schools. Those proposals don’t encourage students to stay in Maine after they’ve graduated. They don’t encourage businesses to be innovative and try new ways of making money. They’re just a way to console voters by saying, “We know it’s rough. But we’ll change some things, and it’ll be better.”

Our next governor needs to look beyond our past to find the solutions to the state’s problems. We need to encourage and invest in new ways of attracting new kinds of business to Maine. We need to support our wonderful tourism industry and allow people to visit our state easily and frequently. We need to support biotechnology, genetics, wind power engineering, call centers, and telecommuting. We have a beautiful state with a great way of life, and we need to use that to our advantage in every way we can.

Above all else we need to encourage young people to stay in the state after they graduate high school and college. We can reform our government and educational system all we want, but Maine can not keep losing its children. If we don’t encourage youth in our state, it will continue to grow harder to foster innovation and the change we need in Maine.

I’m a 27-year-old lifelong Mainer, and I was very disappointed by the choices in this year’s gubernatorial race. If we’re going to move Maine forward, a change in residency in the Blaine House isn’t going to be enough. We all need to do our part to make Maine better.

November 3, 2010 at 8:03 am

The order in which I would have voted for gubernatorial candidates had they appeared on the ballot

  1. Peter Mills
  2. Steve Abbott
  3. Rosa Scarcelli
  4. Steve Rowe
  5. Matt Jacobson
  6. Eliot Cutler
  7. Pat McGowan
  8. Libby Mitchell
  9. Shawn Moody
  10. Kevin Scott
  11. Paul LePage
  12. Bill Beardsley
  13. Bruce Poliquin
  14. Les Otten

I voted for Cutler. What’s your list look like?

November 2, 2010 at 8:02 pm

EvDaWriMo

For a number of years I’ve had three main pillars that I enjoy: web development, photography, and writing. Between my full-time job and a few projects I do on the side, I definitely keep my development interest going. I cover photography by going on day trips on the weekends; even though I don’t take as many photos as I did a few years ago, I still have the chance to explore and make my mind work in a creative way. Writing, however, is a different story; I haven’t focused on that lately, and I really miss it.

The month of November is National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. People who take part in NaNoWriMo strive to write a 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. A few of my friends on Twitter are trying it out, and I wish them the best of luck. It’s a great challenge; as many writers say, the best way to improve your writing is to practice as much as you can.

I’ve never been much of a novel writer, though. One of my English teachers in high school told me that I did my best when writing concisely; I really struggle whenever I have to write anything over ten pages. I also haven’t written any real fiction since high school.

I might not have the determination to do NaNoWriMo, but I want to focus on writing in November. I’ve decided that I want to make it my goal to write something – anything – of at least 250 words every day in the month. It’s my EvDaWriMo, or every day of writing month. I might write a blog post over on our newly refreshed Sephone blog, a post at Another New World, a post here, or something on a couple of other ideas I have. I might even write some fiction. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll share everything I write, but the important part is that I just want to focus on writing for a bit.

Let’s go write!

The month of November is National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. People who take part in NaNoWriMo strive to write a 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. A few of my friends on Twitter are trying it out, and I wish them the best of luck. It’s a great challenge; as many writers say, the best way to improve your writing is to practice as much as you can.
I’ve never been much of a novel writer, though. One of my English teachers in high school told me that I did my best when writing concisely; I really struggle whenever I have to write anything over ten pages. I also haven’t written any real fiction since high school.
I might not have the determination to do NaNoWriMo, but I want to focus on writing in November. I’ve decided that I want to make it my goal to write something – anything – of at least 250 words every day in the month. It’s my EvDaWriMo, or every day of writing month. I might write a blog post over on our <a href=”http://blog.sephone.com” target=”_blank”>newly refereshed Sephone blog</a>, a post at <a href=”http://www.anothernewworld.com” target=”_blank”>Another New World</a>, a post here, or something on a couple of other ideas I have. I might even write some fiction. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll share everything I write, but the important part is that I just want to focus on writing for a bit.
Let’s go write!a number of years I’ve had three main pillars that I enjoy: web development, photography, and writing. Between my full-time job and a few projects I do on the side, I definitely keep my development interest going. I cover photography by going on day trips on the weekends; even though I don’t take as many photos as I did a few years ago, I still have the chance to explore and make my mind work in a creative way. Writing, however, is a different story; I haven’t focused on that lately, and I really miss it.
The month of November is National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. People who take part in NaNoWriMo strive to write a 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. A few of my friends on Twitter are trying it out, and I wish them the best of luck. It’s a great challenge; as many writers say, the best way to improve your writing is to practice as much as you can.
I’ve never been much of a novel writer, though. One of my English teachers in high school told me that I did my best when writing concisely; I really struggle whenever I have to write anything over ten pages. I also haven’t written any real fiction since high school.
I might not have the determination to do NaNoWriMo, but I want to focus on writing in November. I’ve decided that I want to make it my goal to write something – anything – of at least 250 words every day in the month. It’s my EvDaWriMo, or every day of writing month. I might write a blog post over on our <a href=”http://blog.sephone.com” target=”_blank”>newly refereshed Sephone blog</a>, a post at <a href=”http://www.anothernewworld.com” target=”_blank”>Another New World</a>, a post here, or something on a couple of other ideas I have. I might even write some fiction. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll share everything I write, but the important part is that I just want to focus on writing for a bit.
Let’s go write!For a number of years I’ve had three main pillars that I enjoy: web development, photography, and writing. Between my full-time job and a few projects I do on the side, I definitely keep my development interest going. I cover photography by going on day trips on the weekends; even though I don’t take as many photos as I did a few years ago, I still have the chance to explore and make my mind work in a creative way. Writing, however, is a different story; I haven’t focused on that lately, and I really miss it.
The month of November is National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. People who take part in NaNoWriMo strive to write a 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. A few of my friends on Twitter are trying it out, and I wish them the best of luck. It’s a great challenge; as many writers say, the best way to improve your writing is to practice as much as you can.
I’ve never been much of a novel writer, though. One of my English teachers in high school told me that I did my best when writing concisely; I really struggle whenever I have to write anything over ten pages. I also haven’t written any real fiction since high school.
I might not have the determination to do NaNoWriMo, but I want to focus on writing in November. I’ve decided that I want to make it my goal to write something – anything – of at least 250 words every day in the month. It’s my EvDaWriMo, or every day of writing month. I might write a blog post over on our <a href=”http://blog.sephone.com” target=”_blank”>newly refereshed Sephone blog</a>, a post at <a href=”http://www.anothernewworld.com” target=”_blank”>Another New World</a>, a post here, or something on a couple of other ideas I have. I might even write some fiction. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll share everything I write, but the important part is that I just want to focus on writing for a bit.
Let’s go write!
November 1, 2010 at 9:23 pm

My new netbook (wait, what?)

As those of you who have seen me rave about announcements from Steve Jobs know, I’m a bit of an Apple fan. My primary computer’s an iMac, I use a Mac mini for work, and I carry around an iPad and an iPod touch almost everywhere I go. That’s why my purchase of a Asus Eee netbook on Tuesday night might confuse a few people.

Turns out I need a computer to fit a very specific need. I’m working from home a lot more, and while I like the peace and quiet that it provides, sometimes I feel the need to actually see people every once in a while. I needed a computer with:

  • Great battery life (at least 6-8 hours, for a full day of work)
  • Very portable (so that I don’t need to lug around a backpack)
  • Multitasking (so I can check Twitter e-mail while I work)
  • A command line interface (for Subversion and server management)
  • A keyboard (for long stretches of typing and keyboard commands)
  • A low price tag (just in case I lose the thing; I grabbed the netbook on Newegg for under $200 shipped)

Normally I’d use my iPad out on the road. It actually features everything I’ve listed above in one way or another, but it’s an ideal machine for coding. Sure, there’s Gusto and command line apps. And Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard is pretty convenient to carry around, too; I brought it along on my trip to Acadia yesterday. It just wouldn’t work well for a full day of code, though. I need commands running in the background, multiple documents opened at once… using the iPad would kill my zone. The netbook has the added benefit of having Windows 7 (as well as Linux, once I install it), giving me a physical computer I can use to test sites on Internet Explorer instead of using Parallels on my iMac.

So yes, I bought a netbook. But I want it to be clear that I bought it for a very specific reason. If you’re an average user who spends 80% of your time on the web and reading e-mail, buy an iPad instead. I’ve had mine for six months, and I still absolutely adore it. It’s a case of different tools for different jobs; a netbook’s what I need for what I do as a geek, but for the things everyday users do with computers, I hands-down believe that devices like the iPad are the future.

October 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm

In addition

I wrote my first blog entry on July 7, 2001. (I didn’t call it a blog back then; I actually went so far as to say “This is not a blog. I’m not that dedicated.” at the top of the page.) I’ve always had one guiding principle when I blog: write what I want to write, when I want to write it.

That mantra has led to trouble sometimes. Some people say I write about geek things too much, and I can understand what they mean. That’s one of the big reasons why I created Another New World a couple years ago; I wanted a place where I could focus on my tech interests without completely boring my normal (non-techie) friends here. For everything else, though, I write what I want to write.

And then there’s Twitter. Twitter’s a strange beast. I love writing on it, and it’s delightfully random. I want to write whatever I want, whenever I want, but at the same time I know how annoying it can be to follow someone who does exactly that to an extreme.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to try an experiment. I’ve created a second account called @justinaddition that will catch all the excess passion, in a sense. I’ll probably use it a lot during live events (like an Apple keynote or a gubernatorial debate, for instance) and really any other time I feel like it, too.

If you enjoy bursts of random rambling, I’d check out @justinaddition. If you’d like a tamer Justin Twitter experience, the tweet count over on @justinrussell will keep going up. Follow one! Follow both! The choice is yours.

October 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

Questions for a governor

The latest story in the Maine gubernatorial race involves a prompt ending to a press conference by Paul LePage, the Republican candidate for the office, after a question about his property tax history in Maine. I’ll let you decide whether he ran away or just stormed off in an unprofessional fit, but the fact remains that there is now another entry (well, two, actually) in Paul LePage’s colorful history with the press.

The issue of LePage’s tax history – like that of Cutler’s residency – may not turn out to affect the election in any meaningful way. Even so, they’re still reasonable questions to raise. Is Paul LePage sick of the question? Obviously. But that doesn’t mean that the questions will stop. One of the responsibilities of an elected official (or his representatives) is to control the message and answer relevant questions when they arise.

The obvious spin on this story would be that the press ambushed LePage with a question he deemed unimportant. Granted, the Maine media isn’t exactly perfect, as we’ve seen this weekend and as we’ve seen previously. They do have a tendency to focus on issues of lesser importance, and they sometimes linger on those issues.

So why is this bump on the campaign trail important at all? It’s all about the message it sends about a possible LePage governorship. Will he shy away from questions or refuse to answer those that aren’t to his liking while in office? How can we trust a state leader who doesn’t respond to questions that he doesn’t feel are appropriate? A governor has to address the criticism of the state and use that feedback in a productive way to best govern the state’s interests. If he denies any discourse with the press or with his constituents, his governorship won’t be a valid representation of the people. That’s not how to lead a state government.

September 13, 2010 at 7:23 pm

You gotta want it

Seems to me like we always focus on the minutiae of political races. Who’s taken money from whom? What associations might we not see with the candidates?

In reality a big part of winning a political contest is the drive of a candidate and his or her followers. To win a race, either you or your supporters (and ideally both) have to want it more than the other guys. Part of that equation is the desire to lead and inspire. Another part is a passion to change something about government — or to maintain the status quo. Together, in the right combination, the parts lead to a winning campaign.

A lot of the key players in Maine just aren’t showing this kind of fire so far in the campaign. Mitchell doesn’t seem to be making much headway in the area, and Cutler, while showing some promise, seems more caught up in a race for second place than he does about winning the whole election. The state’s Democrats, for the most part, pretty much have everything they want right now: a liberal governor, massive new programs at the state and national levels, and a pretty solid lock on federal leadership (for now).

Right now (in Maine, at least) the drive is firmly in the corner of Republican voters. They’re tired of how things have been done in the state, and they want their leadership to change. LePage, the leader of their movement, doesn’t seem as passionate as some of the voters he represents, but he’s well aware of those who want to see a different kind of government. For them, he’ll do.

Conservatives hold the fire right now, but it hasn’t always been that way. Obama’s win in 2008 was largely due to the backlash from voters who wanted to move as far away from Bush’s policies as possible. In that race, Obama had the added advantage of being more charismatic and telegenic than his seasoned opponent.

The humor of this year’s Maine gubernatorial race is that LePage may be elected because of the same idea that worked for Obama two years ago. While the substance between the two is much different, the message is the same: the voters with the most passion and desire want change, and they want it now.

September 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Big questions

I’ve been struggling to find a real direction for what I want to do for a while now. Seems like there’s a lot of guidance and suggestions around the web for finding your passion or your aim, but that’s not exactly the issue I’m having; rather, I simply have too many things I want to do all at once.

I’ve found that my quest to find a good direction (or two) revolves around big questions about the world and how changes in our lives will affect us in the future. Lately I’ve realized that I want to know what big questions other people have, too; maybe we can find some way to approach them together.

Here are a few of the questions that rattle around in my mind quite a bit.

  • How can we learn to recognize bias and motives while at the same time encouraging research and reducing mistruths in news and other communication?
  • How do we balance an increasingly documented and data-centric world with our need and rights to privacy?
  • How can we encourage people to understand others’ points of view, even if they don’t agree with them?
  • How does our changing view of friendship as a result of social networking and other tools affect interpersonal skills and our relationships in physical space?
  • What’s the best way to approach law and government in a way that does not infringe on anyone’s religious beliefs or rights?
  • How can we make waste reduction (including packaging reduction, recycling, etc.) a priority for normal people?
  • What’s the best way to balance our energy needs with the risks associated with more productive forms of power generation?

Of course, you’ll probably notice a few common threads in those questions; those threads are my passions. Your questions will probably have some shared central ideas, too.

I’d love to hear what you think are the big questions that should be discussed and debated. If you feel comfortable sharing them publicly, leave a comment or send me a note on Twitter. If you’d rather share privately, shoot me an email. Hopefully we can build a discussion from there.

September 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm