How To Really Piss Off a Customer

Don’t Make These Stupid Customer Service Mistakes

If you want to lose business, check out today’s podcast (and/or read the blog post). Yes folks, this really happened. Please don’t make these mistakes!

Don't let business slip away because of bad customer experience

Don’t let business slip away because of bad customer experience

On July 31 I bought a product that was supposed to automate the process of finding email addresses for people who have reviewed books similar to yours, so you can offer them a review copy in the hopes they might want to review yours.

I’d already done that manually with a couple of reviewers I’d spotted, and they’d given excellent honest reviews of PeopleShock (for example, the PeopleShock review by Amazon Top Reviewer, Robert Morris),  so the idea of not having to hunt for their contact info sounded great.

The product came with a 30 money back guarantee, so I decided to give it a try.

When you sign up it gives you an introductory video on how to use it, which I watched, and then went to test it out.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

Now I really wanted it to work, so I emailed the company to ask what could be done about the problem.

Here’s what happened. At each step, I want you to think about what the customer was likely thinking and feeling, and what the owner of the small business that offered the software was probably thinking and feeling. You’ll watch the whole thing go off the rails.

July 31


I’m just trying out your software. A couple of things:

1. The Export to CSV doesn’t work. It returns this in the spreadsheet:

Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 268435456 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 84 bytes) in /home/breview/public_html/software/db.php on line 82

2. It would be wonderful if your lists would also return info on what star rating they gave the book, and how many people voted their review helpful.


(When I checked back, I saw that it was, in fact, supposed to provide that information, as well as their actual review.)

A bit later, I wrote back:

Hi again,
I noticed that many (most) of them are website urls rather than emails.

Two days later, on Aug 2, I got this:

Hi Tema

Please watch the first video: Main Overview of The Entire Process

On this page
http://[link to video]

This will help out a lot.


I replied:

Hi D,

I had watched that. I still have the problems noted. See screenshot [attached]. Even for those that do have an email address (and most of them are websites rather than emails, it does not show the review stars, or text nor link to the review. And the Export to CSV doesn’t work.

Aug 2 reply from her:

This has been addressed and fixed 🙂

Three days later, on Aug 5, I tried it again.

Hi D,

So the Export to CSV works now, but it still doesn’t provide me with much data. No
– email addresses
– Review URL
– book name
– Author
– Review Stars
– Review text

So not very helpful. Is there something I’m misunderstanding?

Aug 7, her reply:

The new searches should work better moving forward

To which I answered:

Hi D

I tried a few today and it doesn’t seem to have done anything at all with them. It said on [the website] that the searches had been sent, but I didn’t get confirmation emails and no sign of results.

Aug 8

I see that your books are in the queue.

Please watch the main overview video on this page:

=> http://[link to intro video page]

This is how the tool works.
Thanks, D

Aug 8 I replied:

I have watched it, D. It does not work as shown.

She replied

As I mention in the video – there is no email confirmation when the results are there. You need to check the system back after a few hours.



Yeah, I know. I meant the emails I got after the first batch saying that they were in process. But, either way, I’m not getting results showing up, from yesterday nor this morning.

Aug 9 – D writes:

We found the issue and reset the system this morning 🙂

Note that there’s no apology there.

Aug 9 (a few minutes later):

Please restart your searches.

A few days later, on August 15, I had time to try again.

Hi D,

So we’re getting a bit more info now, but still not much. See attached. It only shows content for 2 reviews. Thoughts?

No reply. Time went by, I tried a couple more times with the same problems happening, and finally, when I realized I clearly wasn’t going to hear back from her I decided to cancel and request a refund.

Aug 29

Hi D,

I’ve been enjoying your webinars, but I’d like to cancel my subscription and request a refund. It just doesn’t provide as much info as I was expecting. Maybe it works better for fiction books.


That got a reply.

Just checking your account – looks like you’ve extracted quite a bit of emails.

Thanks, D

To which I replied:

Very few of them are actually emails. Mostly just websites, which I can easily find myself.

Her shocking answer:

There are a ton of emails in there. You can find all of this info fast on your own? hmmmm….

I do have a return policy but red flags get raised when

1) i see the system has been used extensively
2) The refund request is on the last possible day.

While i do have the refund policy, I don’t take this lightly when i see this behavior. I will put you on my buyer’s blacklist and that will go into a network blacklist where you won’t be able to purchase many other products. I do this to protect others from people who abuse the generous refund policy.

I was stunned! I’d clearly been trying to make this thing work, and I’d been polite all along.

D, you know I’d been having troubles with it all along. I emailed you
repeatedly. (And only some of those emails were answered.) The first
several batches I tried did not provide the reviews (as you know from my
earlier emails). So pretty useless.

As you will see on the attached download records, in my more recent attempt
far fewer than half have emails, and of those, only about half actually
show the reviews. (I haven’t bothered attaching all the earlier tests that
showed no reviews, but feel free to look them up.)

I really wanted your software to work, D, and was more than happy to
pay for it. That’s why I held in for this long, hoping you’d fix the
problems that I pointed out in my earlier emails.

So given that I did get a few email addresses and review records (far less
than 1/4 of what I asked for), how about you keep 1/4 of my payment? I’m
trying to be fair here; my goal is not to rip you off.

Got bounce messages, so on Aug 31 I tried again.

Apparently my reply to you has not gone through. Please see below, D. ( Please scroll down to the actual original message, which I sent the day I got yours.)

September 1, her reply:

Tema – if you need book reviews – you should just stay on. The system is working great right now and i am working on developing some major improvements. I can give you some discounts if you want on later products.

Sept 1, mine:

I might re-sign on later in that case (without a trial), but for now, can we do the 3/4 refund for the reasons I outlined, please.


Got more bounce messages.

September 4 I tried again, giving her the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve been having trouble with my email, so I’m not sure if you got the reply below.

No reply.

Two weeks later, on September 19, I tried again.

Hi D,

I have not heard back from you on this, nor have I seen a refund. Please see the proposal I sent you on Sept 1 (see below)

No response for nearly a month.

I tried yet again on October 13.

Hi D,

Further to our conversations, I have not seen the refund for this.

A few hours later, this curt reply:

There’s a 30 day refund policy.


C’mon D. I spoke to you within the 30 days. Please review our correspondence!

No answer, so next day I tried again.

Are you going to issue the refund your site claims is available and that I DID claim within the 30 days? Or do I have to start complaining publicly? D, I’m a reasonable person, and have tried to discuss this with you in reasonably ways right from the start, but not got anywhere. This is very disappointing.

Total silence.

It was really grating at me. Not so much the money, but the attitude. So on November 4 I posed in an author’s Facebook page warning people about the product and the fact that they did not honor the refund policy.

That generated quite a bit of buzz, and eventually word got to D.

On November 10 she called me pleading with me to remove the comments. What’s sad is that even then she started off defensive. When that didn’t work, she went into a sob story about how she’s trying to do so much and it’s tough running a software company. I explained that I too have run a software-based company and I know how hard it is. But that doesn’t justify treating customers this way.

It took a very long time, but eventually she did say she was sorry and has learned from this experience. She offered to refund in full and give me credit towards other products of her. (Not something I plan to take advantage of, given this experience.) Now, would I please take the comments down?

I had mixed feelings. I don’t believe that she’s really learned much, nor that her behaviour will change significantly. But, kind of like half of Americans saying “We hate Trump, but now we’ve got to give him a chance,” I decided to give her a chance and not have her product and name slammed online in perpetuity. That said, if I hear anything negative from others  I’ll certainly resurrect it. And on a one-to-one level, I will certainly steer any authors I know away from dealing with her.

I was also pretty tempted to leave her name in here, because I see she’s got the manager of that Facebook page to take down the note I’d written when I removed the original post. In that follow-up one, I didn’t mention the product or owner by name, but said simply, that some of the readers might have read the discussion, and then explained the reasons I just gave you here for why I took it down.

This all could have been avoided had she simply been responsive in the first place.

What To Do Instead

As I explained to her, several things need to be done differently:

  1. If your product has problems, admit them up front, so buyers know what they are actually getting.
  2. When customers ask for help, respond immediately and don’t treat them as though they were stupid (e.g. watch the video we told you to watch). Work with them to figure out where things are going wrong.
  3. When you promise a 30 money-back guarantee, you have to honor it, even if you think the customer may be taking advantage of you.
  4. Never threaten a customer! (Especially not one with a social media following! But even if they don’t, you never know who their friends are!)
  5. When you’ve really screwed up, apologize immediately and see what you can do to make it right.

What do you think? Scroll down and share your comments, experiences, or replies in the comment section.


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4 comments on “How To Really Piss Off a Customer

  1. This definitely sounds like a company trying to take advantage of folks but in general, I do
    wonder how much the nature of email communication plays into the customer service experience. Its easier to “hide” behind email or make assumptions that that customer isn’t following instructions and assume they are stupid. When you talk with someone you get all those contextual clues and you can have a back and forth in real time vs waiting days (months) on end with no response because your email got buried. I cannot fathom anyone speaking to a customer on the phone with the same words and tone used in the emails from this company – I just don’t see anyone having the gall to be that rude! Maybe email isn’t the best medium for customer service when the situation is complex and perhaps that’s when you pick up the phone and try to solve the problem (provided you really do want to solve the problem).

    The part about trying to cover up when you went public is not surprising but is disturbing particularly after threatening to blacklist you!

  2. Hi Tema:
    I empathize with your frustration, have had similar experiences in the past and totally agree with your “To Do” list for better customer service.
    I also agree with Katrina’s assessment that email is often a very poor medium for effective communication. In our company, we try to stick to the “three email rule”, whereby, if you don’t resolve an issue in three emails, you must arrange for a face to face meeting where possible and, if not, pick up the phone. It doesn’t always resolve the problem but it often helps avoid things getting escalated to heights it’s difficult to come down from.

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