Editorial on Customer Service

On Customer Service and Digital Seamstresses . . .

I was recently slammed in a customer service review on Marketplace by a customer, we shall call them #15 so as not to mention names.  #15 had issues with LL but took it out on me.  It told me the Marketplace had not delivered an outfit, so it bought another one, got that one, and expected me to refund for a double buy, ten minutes apart.  Later the outfit was verbally slammed in their Marketplace review.  They didn't even know what the undergarments of that period were called, and said that no undergarments had been included in spite of the ad.  I double checked the package that is in the Marketplace server, and yup, there were the undergarments.  How does a merchant refute lies?  It is a frustrating feeling.  But back to the issue of non-delivery from Marketplace for #15.

At this point I should have referred them to Linden Labs, but trying to give good customer service, I replied and tried to help. You see I had emails confirming both deliveries to #15. These are transfer outfits, and so I offered a gift card for the price of the supposedly missing one. The gift card was dropped back at me with a demand, yes demand as if I were an ATM, for the lindens back.  I replied that if they would drop back to me an outfit, still boxed, I'd be glad to make a full refund.  None ever arrived.  I was told most merchants would immediately refund a double buy.  Well, most merchants deal with no transfer items, I do not.  That is also always inworld accidental double buys.  I have refunded those, but only with the return of one of the items.  Also, nothing gets my hackles up faster than to be told 'whatever everyone else' does.  We are all individuals.

Now folks, I try to be understanding, I know there's another human on the other side of the screen, but this one was rude. After another few demanding IMs wanting the money back, I finally decided it wasn't worth the aggravation and ruination of my weekend, and I dropped the lindens back to #15.  Who wants to be harassed?  With that refund I requested that the person not buy any more of my items as they seemed to have no idea of how Marketplace works. I then banned them from every store I own, muted them, and called LL.  By the way, that is only the third person I've personally banned from my stores in three years.  It is the only person I've told flat out, 'Please do not buy from me again'.  See?  Polite even in rejection of a customer.

Now let's be clear here, this is the second call I've made to Linden Labs since I opened an account in 2007, so it's not like I go running there every time something gets uncomfortable. I was told a few things. First off, I could have filed an abuse report on the person involved for harassment. Nice to know and something I filed away for future reference. Next up, any future issues with Marketplace delivery should be referred to LL as it is a system issue, and NOT MINE! Let's repeat that piece of information.  The merchant has no control of where the product goes once the system removes it from the marketplace server box, and is not responsible for non-deliveries to other users.

I was told the steps to tell my customers, and while I feel badly that any customer would have to go through LL's ticket system, I cannot continue to give out items that supposedly don't deliver or refund the rude and harassing #15's of the world.

I try to help my customers to the best of my abilities.  However, I don't refund cash any longer, except in the verifiable circumstances of a double buy at a store vendor.  That double buy has to be in under a minute, and I will check both my transaction history and my vendor records, and if need be, I will call LL to verify and report accounts that try to scam me.  Think it doesn't happen?  It does, I'm part of a merchant group and listened as another merchant told of a customer who admitted trying to scam her out of the price of a dress.  You must also return to me, intact, the accidental second buy.

Most merchants work for pennies.  I've often thought of digital seamstresses in the same context as Victorian or Edwardian seamstresses, who spent hours working on gowns of great beauty that sold for sometimes thousands of dollars, yet literally made only pennies for their work.  The digital seamstress of today, and I include every clothing designer in Second Life, work for hours to make items, package them, market them, and literally make pennies on the hour for their work.   If you're lucky, if you work hard and have a great product, if you have a decent stock of goods and stay in the game long enough, you might eventually make enough money to support your store tiers, and even cash out lindens to help with real world items like oh, food and phone bills.  But it takes a long time, and a lot of hard, dogged work to make a virtual business in Second Life profitable in any way.

Then there are the #15's of the world who decide to use their internet courage to slam a merchant.  I have posted before to LOOK at the ads.  The products offered are shown in all their well lit glory, but I cannot make up for different computer systems.  What I see on my screen may or may not be what you see on yours.  So look at the ads as I don't retouch them or fake them.  They are pictures taken in a picture studio to show the product as best I can.  I recently invested in a new computer, the other one I had was seven years old.  Yup, that's not a typo.  I'd managed to open and build Seamstress on an old Dell computer.  Now with a brand new Dell computer I see things I didn't know before about my garments.  The skirts move a bit differently with a faster processor, the textures in some cases look different, and all from a change of systems and monitors.  So if you really want to know what an outfit looks like, do look at the ads closely.  It will show what your system will see of an outfit.

People get online and get a form of internet courage that makes them think they can be as nasty and as snarky as they please with no repercussions.  Folks, I've been in the online community for a very long time, and I've seen some really cruel stuff.  People think there's no emotional connections between their fingers on the keys, the words on the screen, and the person on the other side. How untrue, unthinking, and unkind, that point of view is.  If you're going to buy from a Second Life merchant, realize that someone on the other side of that screen spent some hours putting together whatever it is you bought.  Understand that while you may be a stellar person, righteous and honest, not everyone is and the merchant has probably dealt with all kinds of issues.  Try being polite, not demanding and rude.  It'll get you a lot further along in any life, cyber or real.  And most of all, if you really like a merchant's goods, tell them, and make it known to those you interact with.  Put good reviews up on Marketplace so the merchant benefits from your kindness if you buy through that venue. 
I've dealt with numerous customers to their satisfaction, though that is rarely noted in a public way.  I've given gift cards when I had no need to, reissued bits of outfits, etc.  I've helped as best I could with requests and appreciated every kind comment I've gotten on my work.  I keep a folder of notecards with the comments to remind myself that there are people out there who love my work and who continue to purchase it.  To those customers, I say thank you very much.  It is the many kindnesses over the last three years that I prefer to remember over the small and petty #15's of the world.
Cordially yours,