PR gone bad…or….

Don’t seek the publicity if you can’t handle the response.

OK, I am really annoyed. I know it’s the holiday season and all, and I should let minor irritations roll off my back, but I just can’t.

Last month, before Thanksgiving, I spotted a Good Morning America deal of the day that I thought might make a good end of year gift for the women on my team.  I typically do not check out these deals, a) because I don’t have the time and/or I forget by the time I’ve left the room, and b) because they are often small retailers that I fear will not be able to handle the volume of responses and the process will be infuriating.  In this case, the items looked beautiful, and I could envision giving them to my team, each with her own individual variation.

Guess what? I should have let myself forget, because I went online, to a not-very-user-friendly or sophisticated site, and bought several custom-made items (non-spoiler alert: I don’t want my team to know what they’re getting so can’t be more specific at this point).  At checkout, a mere one hour after the deal was publicized, I chose standard shipping, and then expected to receive these within a couple of weeks.  Did I mention that this was in November, before Thanksgiving??? Plenty of time to arrive in time for our team holiday lunch and to give them before anyone took off for the holidays.

A couple of weeks later I received an email saying–guess what?–due to the overwhelming response to their deal…THE DEAL THEY CHOSE TO PROMOTE ON NATIONAL TELEVISION…they were running behind on their orders. The email said that they would arrive in plenty of time for the holidays.

On Monday, one week before Christmas eve, I contacted the company, who told me that my shipment was going out that morning, USPS, 3-day priority.  So I might have them before Christmas, but I definitely will not have them in time to wrap and give to my team before some of them leave, and will not have them when we celebrate at our holiday lunch.

Furthermore, when I spoke to the company, I asked how the …ummm…items were packaged, whether they were each in their own boxes.  I was told no, and that “it was probably a miss on our end not to package them properly.”  So not only are they not here, when they do arrive, they will not arrive close to ready for gift giving.

I know, buyer beware….nobody made me buy these items.  I knew the risks of dealing with a vendor that I have not had any prior experience with.  But for God’s sake, if you are going to go to the trouble of having your PR person bust his or her butt to get your product on something as visible as a network morning show, have the ability to deliver whatever you offer.

It is a cardinal rule of consumer PR that (at least at Castle) that we don’t try to secure national coverage of a product or service that doesn’t have widespread distribution or that may not have the ability to handle the response. Because all of the good PR for your product is gone in an instant if you can’t handle the customer response well.  And that good PR becomes bad PR with long-lasting implications.  Because don’t we just love to use our social media to complain about a company??

(Happy to share the name of the company if(?)/when(?) I finally am able to dole out the gifts!)

Next year, I’m going brick-and-mortar or tried-and-true online. Ho Ho Ho.

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