Broken UX – Shopping Experience

I’m opening a new category here – “Broken UX”. It’s supposed to be similar to Mark Hurst’s great website ? describing some opportunities for organizations to just perform better. This first post deals with my (first and ? presumably ? last) shopping experience at
Two weeks ago, I wanted to get a telephone for my parents. It had to be a special made (because of the perculiarities at their house), and it was not easy to find. I missed two or three auctions on eBay, then decided to go and try the standard way and just buy it.

Using one of the (in Germany) very popular least-price search engines, I was happy to find the model at a reasonable price at Quelle is a huge German catalog shopping with a long history and loads of satisfied customers. I had not thought about buying anything there, but then I thought, well, it won’t be much different from the other online shops I know.

The first thing that irritated me was that the least-price search engine feed obviously was out of date: While the product I wanted to buy was listed as available, on it was sold out. So I had to go for the bigger model, higher price and nearly double the money my parents had wanted to spend on a phone. Well, I thought, better this than none. (I must add that I was under a certain time pressure – they were getting DSL, and I had to do the setup the following weekend at their house, so everything had to be there in time. It was Monday evening already.)

I put it into the shopping basked and went through the checkout process. Fairly standard procedure ? enter your name, address, etc. I kept looking for a place to enter the shipping address ? remember, I wanted the thing to be delivered to my parents’ house ? but couldn’t find it. Ok, I thought ? I’ll have to add this later, once the order has been taken.

I submitted the order and instantly got an acknowledgement email, giving me an order number and a customer ID. Interestingly enough, they said (in the email) that they couldn’t give me a final confirmation for my order. But they listed all my customer details, including a delivery address I had not entered (my standard address). So I went back to the website to have a look at the “Meine Quelle” (“my Quelle”) section, expecting to see something like the order status reflected there as well and maybe a possibility to add or change the delivery address. I was astonished to find I had to request a special “Meine Quelle” ID that would be sent to be via snail mail before I could even enter that area. I requested it and (obviously) changed some of my profile data.

I don’t like talking to customer service agents a lot. I mean, most of the time it’s just ok, most of them are rather nice and friendly, but still I prefer doing things like changing my data myself. Anyway, I got on the phone (it was 10:something pm by then) because I really wanted this delivery address to be changed. The lady I talked to was very nice, and she could look into my account, but she couldn’t see my order there. She asked me to please call again the next morning – they would be restarting their computers in an hour, maybe then the order would show up.

On Tuesday I called to learn the order still was not visible in the system. They asked me for my phone number (I seemed to have erased it from my profile) and asked me to call again that evening or the following morning. I then wrote them an email, expressing my surprise at their processes, describing the chain of events so far and asking them to add the delivery address and tell me about the expected delivery date. In case the data still wasn’t in the system, I asked them to tell me so I could maybe set up a second order or something.

The next morning (Wednesday) I called again. (The weekend was approaching rapidly.) The lady again was very nice and first of all asked me what I had ordered ? she couldn’t see anything in the system. Somehow she then said the article would arrive either Friday, Saturday or Sunday. She then proposed I could set up a second order of the same article with express delivery; that would be an extra 10 Euro, but then a delivery on Friday would be assured. I could send back the superfluous (original) article once it arrived, it would only cost me the postage. She added the delivery address for the express delivery, but then realized express delivery was not possible for that article. So I asked her to cancel the additional order again.

The next morning (Thursday) I got an email from Quelle customer service. They said the order was visible now, but they couldn’t give me a delivery date. I responded I had been given Friday to Monday as delivery dates and whether they had different information. They didn’t answer the mail but rather called the next morning, telling me (rather rudely) that they still didn’t have a delivery date but now they had two orders in the system – whether I actually wanted two telephones. That was the point when I decided it wasn’t worth it. I wrote them an email asking them to cancel my order.

They answered they were sorry I wanted to cancel my order but they couldn’t cancel it anymore as it was already being processed. The “My Quelle” order status page told me something like “No information can be given on this specific order ?” (I had been sent the credentials in the meantime). So I thought it couldn’t be helped, and let’s see what came out of it.

On Saturday I went to my parents’ and installed everything, but the telephone didn’t arrive. It did arrive, though, on Tuesday of the following week ? at my place, not my parents’. The accompanying letter was kind, telling me how much they hoped I would be satisfied with my Quelle shopping experience. I sent the parcel back the following day. (Till now, in my “Meine Quelle” payments page, the invoice hasn’t been cancelled – looks like I still owe them.)

To me, this was one of the worst shopping experiences ever. I find it especially hard to understand how a big catalog shopping house like Quelle doesn’t seem to be able to synchronize their systems and give real-time information to their customers. The “Meine Quelle” page features an outrageously bad usability, forcing you to enter article numbers to get an order delivery status and making you make lots of superfluous decisions. And it’s interesting to see they rather send out unwanted (customer-cancelled) parcels and forcing their customers to return those things than adding a final checkpoint to their inhouse delivery chain (how can it be they cannot cancel an order on Thursday when the parcel only arrives on Tuesday?).

I must say I’m extremely dissatisfied with this Quelle experience, and I wonder how they can run a business at all with processes like this. But then, maybe they haven’t made the transition yet from a paper-and-pencil catalog shopping house to an online store. They better did ? soon.

Update: What makes this experience even worse is that seems to just have undertaken a major redesign effort, officially resulting in a much improved user experience.

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