The longest, dumbest story about a barbell but also about not looking dumb to your customers

Holiday eating season is coming, my friends. You know what that means? Pie. Cool Whip. Pie as a carrier for Cool Whip.

I ordered a barbell so I could lift weights in preparation for shoveling large quantities of pumpkin pie into my face. Have you seen a pumpkin pie from Costco? It’s a 110-pound deadlift, easy, and it’s what my dreams are made of.

Anyway. So I ordered a barbell from the big-box store, Walget*. It was cheap and they could get it from the warehouse to the store in two days, and I’d pick it up there.

Fast forward to pick up day. My partner goes to pick it up and the store crew lets him simmer in the waiting area for 35 minutes before admitting they simply cannot find this barbell that was delivered to their store the day before. Re-order or refund were our only options. They re-ordered it for us, transferring our original payment to this new order.

A few days later we go to pick up the second barbell. After a tense ten minutes, they found this second barbell. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. They also found my original barbell. They offered it to me, but because my parents raised me right, I declined. I paid for one barbell. I’m only taking one barbell. Finally, we were on our merry way.

My phone rings in the Walget parking lot. It’s Walget. They want to know what they should do with the first barbell.

Me: I… I think you’re asking the wrong person? It’s technically your barbell. Do whatever you want with it. Pie season is upon us, maybe take it home for yourself and get serious about pielifts, good sir.

Walget: Oh, right, haha, duh. I totally knew that. I pray for your blood sugar, but thank you.

I hung up, sad for and incredulous at Walget’s incompetence.

The other day, two weeks after this whole situation resolved itself, I got an email from Walget. “Your order is ready for pickup. Please come get your barbell before we have to ship it back.” I rolled my eyes, chuckled at yet another glitch in their process, and ignored it.

Today I got another, more urgently-worded email telling me to come get my barbell. You know, the barbell I’ve already picked up. Twice, technically.

Now maybe it’s because I’ve been cooped up with my sick daughter for four days and any excuse to leave the house is amazing. Maybe it’s because even though my parents did raise me right, I’m still kind of a shit. But I decided I’d go to Walget and just see. Would they really have a barbell? Would they let me leave with it or would they realize their mistake at some point during the pickup?

They let me leave with it. I carried it through the entire store… straight to the returns counter. They let me return this barbell I never paid for, and let me walk out of there with $58.

Me, in disguise while I kind-of steal a barbell and then write about it. Also Walget in disguise because they’re embarrassed.

Look, I know $58 is a rounding error’s rounding error to a company like Walget. But it’s not really about the $58. It’s about looking dumb as hell. Even though I got a free barbell, I don’t want to shop there again because I have learned that 1) they’re going to screw up my order multiple times, 2) they’re going to say it’s fixed and then annoy me with confusing emails that demand even more of my time, and 3) they run the entire world and they can’t get their ordering system right with three tries? BRUUUUUH.

I’m coaching a client now who was having this problem. The service they provide is amazing and the team really cares, but their process and systems are just so disjointed, unreliable, and error-laden that it makes them look stupid and terrible. It was making people cancel a service they otherwise loved. That’s a damn shame.

The friendliest team members in the world won’t make up for repeat incompetence. Hell, even free money won’t make up for repeat incompetence. You’ve got to make sure your systems work and make you look good.

Is there a process in your business that you could improve so your customers have an easy, breezy, beautiful CoverGirl type of experience, every time? If you’re not sure yet, do you know how to find out?

*Store names have been changed to protect, well, me, because I already spent the entire gift card on Cool Whip and I’m not** going to repay them

**That’s not true; I will keep the gift card in case they realize their mistake, because my parents raised me right.

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