Musings on Photography

How to not do business

Posted in business, ethics by Paul Butzi on February 9, 2007

So here’s a little story.  Way back when I bought my Epson 9600, I was getting help in getting started from a bunch of friends.  They pointed me toward Lexjet.com as a good place to buy consumables – paper and ink.  And, I was pretty happy doing business with Lexjet.  They offered decent prices, prompt shipping, and they didn’t screw up.

Here’s where the story gets fun.  Some time after I started doing business with Lexjet.com, I started getting spam at the email address I used ONLY with Lexjet.com, and nowhere else.  Someone at Lexjet.com had passed on my email address.  Now, I think this is pretty rude, so I asked Lexjet.com about it, but they never answered my questions.  I guess they didn’t care.  And I wrote it off as a one time incident, and kept doing business with them.

But just recently, I got MORE spam sent to that email address, this time from a marketing firm, Marathon Press.  Somehow my email address had gotten from Lexjet.com to Marathon, despite the strongly worded privacy statement on Lexjet.com’s website.  Again, my email query about this went unanswered.

Silly me, I kept on being tolerant.  Just this week, I sent email to my account rep at Lexjet.com, asking if they’d match the low price on Epson Ultrasmooth that I’d found on another company’s website.  I’d point out that Lexjet representatives have repeatedly called me on the phone several times to urge me to contact them if I had questions like this.

And, in response, I got email which said (in part):

Our company has 40 plus people working to give excellent customer service to our customers.  Here is an example directly from their website… “Feel free to e-mail us to inquire about orders already placed or to inquire about the availability of an item 24 hours a day! Please allow 24-48 hours for a response”  Our over head is a lot more than this internet company that probably has at most 4 employees and is probably run out of someone’s house.  Sorry Paul, our business is not to be the cheapest, but to ensure quality, help when you need to call us we answer the phone.  We have our phone number listed unlike this company so that our customers can call us when they need help or want to learn the correct process to print.

Memo to the folks at Lexjet.com:

  1. Passing out the email address I use ONLY WITH YOU to spammers and marketers is a good way to piss me off, as well as being unethical.
  2. If you’re going to denigrate a competitor, it might make sense to not make claims like ‘We have our phone number listed unlike this company’ when it’s easy to look at the company’s web site and find their toll free number right there on the ‘contact us’ page.  It makes you look both unethical and stupid.
  3. If you’re trying to persuade one of your customers to remain as your customer, you’ll probably have more success by focusing on how you better serve the customer’s needs than you will running down your competitor.  The odds are good that a) the customer can check your claims about the competitor, b) running down the competition just makes you look bad.
  4. If you’re trying to persuade one of your customers to remain as your customer, it’s probably not wise to say things like “this internet company that probably has at most 4 employees and is probably run out of someone’s house“, especially when the customer is an internet company which consists of a single sole proprietor (no employees) that is, in fact, run out of my home. (ok, actually, it’s run out of my studio space, which is about 70 feet from my home)
  5. Small companies (including companies with at most 4 employees) and businesses that operate out of homes often offer superior turnaround, superior person-to-person customer service, superior pricing, and superior product quality than high-overhead companies with 40 employees.  Welcome to the 21st century.
  6. The company you bashed has been around for 12 years and earned top ratings from customers, as reported in several review sites on the internet.  And the odds are good that they don’t give out customers’ email addresses to spammers and marketing companies.

I don’t care how big a company is.  I don’t care if the business is run out of a home, or a garage, or in the top floor of a Manhattan skyscraper.  I don’t care how many employees a company has. 

What I care about is good customer service.  I expect that you will not sell the information about me to other companies when your website says you will not do that.  And when you do screw up and do that, I expect you to answer my questions about it honestly, and not duck the issue.  And when I do as you asked, and give you a chance to match a price and keep my business, I expect that I won’t get a puerile, juvenile tirade bashing your competitor.  Match the price, decline to match the price – either way is fine.  I don’t always do business with the company that offers the cheapest price.

But I’ll never do business with you again, ever.  So long, lexjet.com.

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Rob Ferguson said, on February 10, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Well, that just cost Lexjet the opportunity to sell me a HP Z3100.

  2. Chantal said, on February 10, 2007 at 11:06 am

    lol Good on you, Paul…if they ever respond, I hope you post it!

  3. Ed Richards said, on February 10, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    If you are considering an HP, the factory warranty is a pretty good deal, and I think they now send techs out. I have a 130, and they just do a swap when it acts up. I get a big overnight package with a replacement, put mine back in the box, and away I go.

  4. Dave New said, on February 10, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    I didn’t think anyone else except me tended to use unique email addresses for every different web site I exchange information with, but since I’ve owned a domain for about 12 years, I have a ‘catch-all’ (and boy, does it ‘catch all’) account set up so that anything directed to my domain name ends up in my in-box (minus about 1 to 2 thousand dictionary-attack type spams a day [wow, there must be a lot of folks named ‘chuck’], that the spam filter does a very good job on classifying and dumping into a bulk mail folder for my online review and subsequent purging).

    Then, when I download my email, my email client has filters set to automatically sort the mail into folders, so (for instance) mail from Amazon always ends up in a separate folder from mail from Adobe, and so on.

    Using this system, I can immediately detect when someone was bought or sold one of my unique email addresses.

    In all the years I’ve done this, I’ve only encountered two unscrupulous online vendors (one of them a photography equipment site), and in both cases, they at first denied any knowledge of selling my email address, and then when I suggested that then perhaps someone must have hacked their sites/files and stolen my address (inferring, of course, that other more interesting data, like credit card info, might also be at risk), I got (in one case) a curt notice from their ‘security’ person that no such incursion could have possibly taken place, or (in the other case) that their security staff was looking into the possibity.

    In both cases, I neither heard back from them, despite repeated email requests on my part, nor received any further spam to those addresses.

    One of these companies is a well-known tax software firm (not *that* one), and I had used their software one year in protest of another firm’s heavy-handed software activation tactics (yes, *that* one). Fortunately, I was able to switch back to my former firm the following year, and have never dealt again with the one that somehow let my email address ‘slip out’.

  5. Gordon said, on February 12, 2007 at 11:50 am

    I also use unique, disposable, blockable addresses for every online contact I have, that isn’t someone I know.

    You can get this for free at http://www.spamgourmet.com
    I’ve been using it for several years. Worthwhile to see who ends up with what addresses.

  6. bryant said, on June 23, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Can you recommend a good supplier of the same goods that Lexjet offers? They are horrible!

  7. Lloyd Aaron said, on February 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Never had 1 problem with lexjet. Prompt service and very helpful.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: