Update: this blog post published on May 8, 2012. For the week afterwards, I continued to try (unsuccessfully) to get feedback out of Cabela's customer service department. On May 16, I was contacted by the Cabela's corporate office, who clearly noticed that there was a problem with my order. On May 24, I received a phone call that some resolution to this issue is underway. I'm holding my breath - Cabela's seems to be trying to fix this issue for me and for other customers as well. Much more to come!
Update II: I didn't hear anything more from Cabela's after May 16th. A freight shipper called on May 24th with news of a mystery package from "Dutchland Plastics" or some such nonsense. Happy to report that on May 29th, the kayak in question arrived at my office. Cabela's worked hard to fix the problem described in the original post (below). In mid-June 2012, I'll be posting a more thorough write-up of this (and other) drop-shipping issues in the world of outdoor gear, along with some tips for dealers, manufacturers, and customers alike.
I've been a loyal Cabela's customer for 15 years. I've bought almost all of my outdoor gear from them, and they have responded with excellent customer service and high quality gear. I've even driven three hours through the snow to patronize my "local" Cabela's store up in Pennsylvania. It feels good to be a loyal customer - especially to a family-owned business. Oh yeah. They send me the hard bound catalog. And I buy more gear from them.
But as of today, our Facebook relationship status would read "it's complicated."
In April 2012, I was in the market for a new fishing kayak, specifically a 12' sit-on-top rigged for fishing (could also be used for work), and in a drab color (in case I wanted to use it for hunting). I was just about to order from another outdoor superstore, when I thought, "you know, Cabela's might have something I like." <
Could it be? A boat I'd heard of (and like), made in the USA, meeting all of my technical requirements, from an outdoors dealer I'm loyal to, offered at 20% off?! It was, and so around midnight, I clicked, "Confirm Purchase." There was a little note on the webpage that stated, "Ships directly from manufacturer in 2-3 weeks." I figured, "Hey, it's a great deal on a good boat. I can wait."
Two weeks passed.
Three weeks passed.
I called Emotion Kayaks. No response.
I called the company who apparently just purchased Emotion Kayaks, speaking to two clueless employees before being transferred into someone's voicemail (they have not called back in the week since my call). No resolution.
I heard from Matt from Functional Fishaholics. He ordered the same exact boat a day after I did, and Matt was getting the same runaround. He spoke to someone at Emotion Kayaks who had not received any orders from Cabela's. Ruh Roh.
Matt and I both called Cabela's. This is where the story gets bad. We spoke to representatives in both Customer Service and Drop Shipping. Both departments were very apologetic and promised to figure out the problem and get back in touch with us - in three to five business days. What? Thousands of dollars in missing merchandise, paid for by Cabela's customers....ehhh....three to five business days. I guess this is commonplace at Cabela's???
On the third business day, Matt and I both called Cabela's back. A staffer in the Drop Shipping department told me, "Good news! Emotion says your kayak will ship on May 15th!" I again explained my frustration, and she graciously said, "You know what, let me call them and see if they can expedite that." Ahh, Cabela's. I ended the conversation by saying, "Please let me know by lunchtime, CST."
Little did I know that Matt was getting a different story at almost the same exact moment. He was told the bad news - the kayak hadn't shipped, the kayak wasn't going to ship, and in fact, the kayak did not even exist, and there were no plans to make more kayaks. He was offered a refund.
When Matt told me this, I thought about my plan of action for a few minutes and then noticed that I had a missed call - and an ambiguous voicemail - both from Cabela's, around noon CST. Gulp.
I reached out to the Drop Shipping department again. The first person I spoke with just came right out and said, "yeah, so, I guess they don't have any of those kayaks, and they're not going to make them any time soon, so is there another boat you want to order instead - for the same price?"
You have got to be kidding me.
I explained to her that I use a kayak both for personal and for work use, and that I'd been waiting for a boat from Cabela's now for almost a month. I gave her my detailed history with Cabela's and how they've always made it right. She said, "Well, how about a refund and a $25 gift card?!"
Wow. I declined the gift card. I tried to describe for her that anything less than a spectacular resolution to this issue would make it impossible for me to remain a Cabela's customer. I think the response was something to the effect of, "Aww, I'm sorry to hear that." And so, instead of losing my temper, I asked to speak to someone else.
The reception I got on the second attempt was just as helpful. "Well, gosh, we sure are sorry about this." Period. I specifically asked, "So what you're saying is that once you send your customers' money to a vendor, you have no way of knowing whether that vendor actually delivers the item to your customer?" The response, "Yeah, we can't track that in our system." I asked again, "As somebody who spends thousands of dollars a year on outdoor gear, how can I possibly be confident in Cabela's to purchase gear?" He had no answer. I asked, "What if I didn't receive the kayak in a year? Would Cabela's have any idea?" He said, "No, we can't really track that." I told him, "You know what? Go ahead and issue a refund and close my account."
He said, "No problem!" Period. And Cabela's lost at least one big money transaction - and maybe many to come. If you can't track your inventory, I can't trust you with my credit card. That's for damn sure.
How do I think they should have handled it? They should have thanked Matt and I for detecting this error - saving them reams of embarrassment by unhappy customers (and tens of thousands of dollars in unfilled orders). They should have offered us a refund at the retail price, not the sale price. More importantly, they should have asked, "What can we do to fix this?" Hint: A $25 gift card will not fix this.