Customer Service: Where did it go? #1: Penn State Industries

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Blog entry by Kenny posted 10-03-2011 10:02 AM 4279 reads 0 times favorited 39 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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What ever happened to caring about your customers? Why is it that once a company starts to grow and become successful, their customer service falls apart? Really big companies give the absolute worst customer service, and will often tell you in not so few words: “We are too big to care about one customer.”

Case in point: my recent order and dealings with Penn State industries. I’ll start off by saying that until now, they were my absolute favorite mail order company, hands down favorite, no questions asked.
But now, that has all changed. I placed an order this past Monday (Sept. 26 and it was actually 2am Sunday night), and since I could wait a few days before I really needed it, but didn’t want to wait for their “standard shipping”, I went priority, which I figured would be four days, five at most. I live in Maine, which isn’t far from Pennsylvania, and I’ve had things shipped from them in 3 days via priority in the past. So I felt 4-5 days was giving myself plenty of time to get the order shipped. Or so I thought. And then I found out just how wrong I was.
To start off, I noticed on Wednesday my card had yet to be charged. Strange, but I wasn’t too worried yet. Figured it may just be taking a bit to update.The next day, I check my order status and find it still has yet to ship. Ok, now I’m starting to panic a bit, as I need this stuff by Saturday at latest.
I call customer service, and they tell me my order shipped a bit earlier that day (Thursday) and the woman tells me since it was priority, I should have it tomorrow, Saturday at the latest. Ok, that’s a load of my mind!
So today, Saturday, I check my order status to be sure it’s on it’s way to be delivered to me. And this is when I about had a heart attack: “EXPECTED DELIVERY DATE: Monday, October 3, 2011!” Houston, we have a problem!!!
The issue now, is I am scheduled to attend a fair from Sunday, Oct. 2 through the following Sunday, and I am to be selling my stuff there and had items coming from Penn State that I was planning to bring!
So, I call Penn State, and this is where my whole attitude towards them changed, and let me tell you, this was a real eye-opener!
I get a woman at customer service and I explain the situation to her, and then I ask why my order took so long to ship when it states on their site that ground shipping takes 1-4 days to ship and all expedited services ship same or next day. And this is when her attitude starts in. She rudely states that “Priority is the same as ground and is no more money and is no faster”. That’s funny, I paid more for priority shipping? I explain that isn’t how it’s stated on the site, and she replies “Well if you needed it so soon, why didn’t you order it second or next day? It states plainly that ground shipping takes 5-7 business days.” I try to explain that I didn’t choose the “ground shipping” option, that I chose “priority”, which is faster from every place I have ever ordered from and also more money. I also asked why, if I ordered so early on Monday, that my order wasn’t shipped until Thursday? She snaps back “We get 2,000 orders a day, this is the busy season and things take longer to ship. Again, if you needed it so soon, why did you not chose next day or second day shipping?”

So now, as I’m getting aggravated that this woman is giving me such an attitude when I have, what I feel, is a legitimate issue that I’m trying to resolve, I reply “Because I don’t think it should be necessary for me to spend $20 to ship 2lbs worth of stuff and have you actually care about when I receive it. You should give my order just as much attention as any other order that comes through, and if you can ship a second day order same day, why should it take FOUR days to ship my priority package? In my experience, PRIORITY means IMPORTANT and to be dealt with in an efficient fashion, not ‘give it the same treatment as standard shipping’. What ever happened to caring about the customer and every customer and every order being an important order?”

And her reply, my friends, says it ALL about Penn State and how they feel about those who spend their hard earned money with them and actually support their business: “When we have 2,000 orders a day to fill, we’re not concerned with when you thought you would receive you order, it gets shipped when it gets shipped. If you don’t like it, than don’t order from us.”

That had me completely floored! So I reply “Well OK then, I just want to let you know that I won’t be returning to do business with you again.”
And again, how much your business means to Penn State really shines through: “That’s fine with me sir. That’s your prerogative. If you don’t want to order from us, than you don’t have to. We have 2,000 orders a day to keep us going, one order won’t be missed.”

Well OK then! I’m glad my support of your company is so appreciated! will be sure to let everyone it can know that “our one order won’t be missed”.


As a final note:

I am FURIOUS with Penn State Industries and determined to let as many others know about how much they care about their customers.
Spread the word and don’t give your hard earned money to ANYONE who doesn’t appreciate your business!
We have the choice to make a company fail or succeed! If you want a company to care about you and the service they provide, don’t do business with those who blatantly state they DO NOT CARE! It will come back to bite you when you really do need their help on an order that has come in incorrectly or isn’t shipped in a timely manner, as they won’t be there for you!

How would YOU feel if this is the way YOU were treated? I am curious to hear from others and their feelings about this. I know I’ve never been made to feel so used by a company before. I’ve always supported them with my money, and now when my income depends on them shipping my items in a reasonably efficient manner, they openly state they do not care about me or my order.

And trust me, I understand they are busy, but I would understand a LOT more if they posted on their site that they are so busy and that shipping is running very slow, that way I would have known about this before it was too late.

-- Kenny

39 comments so far

View firehouse's profile


45 posts in 2847 days

#1 posted 10-03-2011 11:29 AM


-- duke 66 ocala fl.

View MOJOE's profile


548 posts in 3325 days

#2 posted 10-03-2011 12:11 PM

Glad you posted this, I’m considering a midi lathe and have been reading Penn State reviews…....seems like the poor quality/poor customer services is a theme that keeps popping up.

-- Measuring twice and cutting once only works if you read the tape correctly!

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3852 days

#3 posted 10-03-2011 12:16 PM

I’d have asked to speak to a supervisor personally, and see if I got a better response from them. Of course, as Mojoe points out, this seems to be a recurring problem with them so it probably wouldn’t have done much good.

Of course, the woman you spoke to forgot that in this day of the internet, that one customer can reach thousands upon thousands of potential customers and make that “2,000 order a day” dry up to practically nothing. And who gets laid off first? Probably the customer service people. After all, they won’t be needed to deal with non-existent customers.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 2837 days

#4 posted 10-03-2011 12:39 PM

Customer service should, in every instance, be about crafting a relationship with a special kind of friend, a patron. Crafting a relationship means that the special little touches, like apologizing, groveling, and working to make things right when things go wrong, are easy and natural orders of business.

Thank you so much for sharing your Penn State Industries horror story.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3800 days

#5 posted 10-03-2011 01:30 PM

I agree with Tomcat, I would have asked to speak to her supervisor. I also don’t let them get me riled on the phone. You get abusive, they get abusive. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar thing. I will agree, it’s not normal for Penn State to have someone that has this attitude. I’ve always had good reactions from their customer service.

View ken_c's profile


323 posts in 3218 days

#6 posted 10-03-2011 01:33 PM

you should email this link to pennstate. Thanks for the post. I will remember your troubles, I like to learn from others…

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 2941 days

#7 posted 10-03-2011 02:29 PM

I did not read all of your post – the head line and first few sentences told me the story. This is truly a sad case in America. Customer Service is the only product that any company has to offer a customer. Oterwise I will find it elsewhere of do without. And the real issue is, it is so easy to provide. Ask the customer what they and provide it. Well not quite that simple but that is the idea. If a customer leaves feeling they got most of what they wanted they they will return. If not the will not be back, and like in your case, tell lots of others. Keep spreading this word and perhaps, someday, compaines will realize that they exist to serve customers not the other way around.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View woodzy's profile


418 posts in 2735 days

#8 posted 10-03-2011 03:13 PM

I don’t have any experience with Penn State Industires … .. .
but bad customer service perplex’s me.
I’m a business owner, and have to admit i recieve my fair share of “customer feedback”. All in all i appreciate it. 100% of the people who offer “feedback” have purchase my products.
So i consider there “feedback” (regardless of emotions) to be very helpful in keeping their business and correcting a problem other customers are no doubt encountering.

Only 1 in 10 customer will make their complaints known to a company.
For a busniess owner that can get very scary.
3 complaints = 30 poetentially P’d off customers ( some will just never come back)

Thanks for the Heads up. I will heed your warning.

-- Anthony

View tom427cid's profile


294 posts in 2527 days

#9 posted 10-03-2011 03:21 PM

Hi all,
I run(or it runs me) a small shop not in a metropolitan area. I have also done emergency field service work.
I am so aware of good customer relations. Even doing stuff for nothing,if that’s what it takes for the customer to be satisfied,then so be it. If you treat your customers fairly,charge a fair price,attempt to do things in a timely fashion,then and this is the important part-your customers will treat you well. An example; I quoted a project for one of my customers,during the process things changed and the amount of time tripled. I commented to the customer that I sure did miss the boat on my quote.I figure that a quote is a contract. If I don’t know my job well enough then I need to learn it better! Anyway my customer insisted that we renegotiate the quote.Because as he said he knew that the changes had created a number of problems.
On the flip side of the coin I will tell you you that I will not tolerate stupidity in any of its varied forms. And there is a very short list of people that have been very politely told to get the he-l out of my shop. It’s their loss not mine.


-- "certified sawdust maker"

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2710 days

#10 posted 10-03-2011 06:26 PM

I dropped Penn State Industries about 4 years ago because they got to big for their britches. I sent several inquiries to customer support and they all went unanswered. I tried calling several times and never could get a return call from them. I finally decided to drop them and go a different route for pen making supplies.

It’s to bad because when they were not too big for their britches, they were very good and I enjoyed working with them.

It’s to bad companies get this way when they become successful. It’s usually because of good customer service that they become successful in the first place. Then they go and abuse it and loose customers like crazy.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2504 days

#11 posted 10-03-2011 07:50 PM

Thanks for the support, it really is appreciated! It’s good to see I’m not the only one who feels I wasn’t in the wrong here.

Now that I have had some more time to think about this, I’m even more aggravated with PSI.

I really just feel that after all the money I have spent with them, they could try a bit harder to keep me happy. I know what I have spent there isn’t a ton in the big scheme of things, but I think I’ve done enough business with them to at least deserve a “What can we do to help solve this issue?”

Really, is that too much to ask? What ever happened to asking the customer what can be done to make things right? When did it become accepted practice to tell the customer they are not important?

I’m really considering sending PSI a link to this page. I’d love for them to see that I’m not the only one who feels they need to work on their customer service.

-- Kenny

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2749 days

#12 posted 10-03-2011 07:59 PM

“it gets shipped when it gets shipped. If you don’t like it, than don’t order from us.” That’s easy enough to do. PSI used to be one of the only games in town. I used to order from them but they screwed up more orders than they got right. There are plenty of other hungry retailers if Penn State can’t eat another bite.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View ChuckV's profile


3131 posts in 3583 days

#13 posted 10-04-2011 02:05 AM

This quote:
”It gets shipped when it gets shipped. If you don’t like it, than don’t order from us”
makes me think of those restaurants that purposely have rude service. One time during a layover in Chicago, I met my cousin for lunch at a diner like this. It is kind of a fun experience. Since we had a lot to catch up on and I had a long layover, we sat talking after eating. The waitress yelled at us, “Are you going to be pitching a tent?!”

But at least in that case, we knew what we were getting into.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View JamesVavra's profile


304 posts in 3372 days

#14 posted 10-04-2011 04:03 AM

I switched to ordering turning supplies from Penn State to Woodturningz their customer service is very good. They primarily do pen kits and blanks, so it’s not a full replacement for Penn State, but they offer great, prompt service for what they do carry.


View pierce85's profile


508 posts in 2618 days

#15 posted 10-04-2011 04:53 AM

I’ve never been a Penn State Industries customer and never will be given these testimonials.

Question: Is Penn State Industries one of the least expensive games in town so-to-speak – more or less, by and large…? Something is generating all those customers, even if it’s half of what the CS rep. stated, and I’m guessing it’s not their customer service. It’s usually so-called “bargain prices” that draws people to these places like mouches à merde.

Sorry to harp on this point, but there’s really no such thing as “bargain prices” when it comes to big companies. Someone pays for their success and it’s almost always the customer who eventually ponies up for it in the end – as Kenny so rudely discovered. It might not be you this time around, but it will catch up with you at some point. It always does.

Simply put, big business wagers heavily on the consumer taking the self-interested gamble of ”this time I’ll win in this bargain pricing game and let some other poor slob take the hit.” But like all gambling, the house always wins. We hold on to this illusion that the economy is an open system – it’s not. It’s a closed system.

We need to stop playing this self-destructive game. There are plenty of small, local, non-big businesses out there that do not (cannot) play this game and actually treat their customers with some dignity. Yes, you’ll pay a little more but you’ll be happy customer as a result, which is worth something in my book.


Okay, I’ll move away from the pulpit now.

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