, Undone by Lazy Customer Service

UPDATE: We’ve reconsidered. We messed up. We came across like stupid whiny bitches. We tried to abuse the power of blogs to get what we wanted. There was a good way to go about this, and an asshat way, we chose the latter. We’re sorry, Threadless, Shondi, Consumerist readers and all witnesses of this online travesty. Egg on the face while eating crow, scooped in with our own foot, really. You can keep reading further if you’re the type who enjoys slow-moving car accidents.

So this weekend we ordered three t-shirts from but found an otherwise fine experience unraveled by flippant customer service

After finally paying off our long-standing credit card debts, student loans and personal loans, and saving up a decent chunk in the emergency fund, we decided to treat ourselves by getting some new items of superficial pleasure, i.e. funky fresh t-shirts.

We were excited to be shedding our burlap sacks held together with twine. We were going to write a ballad about it. Instead, we found ourselves intoning “The Sweater Song” by Weezer…

We love the idea of threadless, that designers submit their creations, the site visitors vote and the most bestest ones get printed and sold. While some of the site’s social interactivity options, blogs, profiles, comments, come across as a bit too faux myspacey for our taste, its emo heart is in the right place.

After scavenging through the designs, we picked up three shirts, “Everyone is a Designer,” “Piece of Meat” and “Flowers in the Attic.”

However, we actually placed two orders (by mistake, didn’t see the “continue shopping button” the first time) which will ship 3 t-shirts in two packages. Pretty dumb. We’ll lose a couple bucks on shipping. We realized this moments after placing the final order and quickly sent an note via their online contact form, which they say is the fastest way to contact them, asking Threadless to combine the two orders and refund the difference in shipping.

This all was Saturday. This morning, we got this email:

    “Mon, 1 May 2006 09:19:37 -0500 (CDT)
    To: [redacted]
    Subject: (#063[redacted]) Order Inquiry
    From: “Customer Service”

    Hello Ben!

    Sorry! We are unable to combine orders since they have already been sent to fulfillment. Each

    order will be sent separately.

    Have a wonderful day!


    Threadless Customer Service

    Thank you for shopping at!”

We think this is very lame, espcially as the request was filed, seriously, like five minutes after we put in the order. The shipping for one shirt is $5.50 and for two, it’s $6.00. Now we’re out five bucks and they seem to have absolutely no interest in resolving the problem. We’ve sent a strongly worded followup inquiry. We hope they find it in their heart to fix this. As we’re writing this post, we received two more messages to inform us our t-shirts have shipped, which will invariably complicate matters.

While overall Threadless seems great, we’ll think twice about shopping there again. Shipping being out of shipshape aside, many of the designs are a little to “la la la” for us, if you know what we mean.

What’s your fav online t-shirt shop?

UPDATE: Here’s the notice we sent:

    “I’m new to the site and after I punched in my first t-shirt, I wanted to continue shopping, my
    eyeballs missed the continue shopping link and instead placed the order.

    Moments after I entered orders 317705 and 317707 this Saturday, I wrote in your contact form for

    the orders to be combined and the difference in shipping costs to be refunded.

    This morning, customer service wrote back to say that was impossible as the orders “had already

    been sent to fulfillment.”

    May I suggest you talk to “fulfillment” and resolve the issue the way I’ve asked?

    What is the use of a contact form that you tout as being the fastest way to contact you if I can’t

    use it to fix an order I just placed?”

Here’s Shondi’s reply:

We don’t work weekends, so sending an email is the fastest way (as opposed to leaving a message in
our phone system). I answered your email very promptly this morning, but your orders had already
been printed and may have been packaged – sorry we are so fast. Actually, both your orders have
already been picked up by UPS. As the site says, we cannot change orders once they are sent to
fulfillment. Sorry.

Have a wonderful day!


Threadless Customer Service

Thank you for shopping at!

And here’s our retort:

    “(Follow-ups to order inquires #064106 and #063977)


    The critical issue is that I placed an order and then, very shortly afterward, asked to make a change. If your system doesn’t allow for this, that’s a failure in your system that I should not be responsible for.

    Saying “sorry” doesn’t solve my complaint and saying “sorry we’re so fast” strikes me as inconsiderate.

    I understand the order has shipped. I am pleased that you are fast. Overall, I think threadless is really great, has some cool designs and very cool governing principles.

    Now I just want five dollars refunded.

    I’ve posted this story on my consumer affairs blog visited by 10,000-15,000 people per day.

    You guys can decide whether you want to make this a customer service story gone right or whether bad press is worth five bucks.

    If you’re not authorized to make this decision, pass this matter up to someone who is.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. The best thing about The Consumerist is the fact that you can write a letter just like your last “retort!”

    I’ve had similar issues with Amazon as well. The world of online order processing interfacing with a shipping department is a mysterious thing indeed.

  2. clever epithet says:

    Oh come now — this is getting ridiculous. How was her reply flippant? “…masturbatory gratification of the American consumer’s own sense of entitlement” indeed. They fulfilled your order in the way you entered it. You tried to change the order after the fact, but you tried to do that while customer service isn’t around (as it’s the weekend). What I’m really starting to hate is pulling the “I-have-a-web-site” threat. This site has gone from interesting and snappy when it started (what, like three months ago?) to ‘let’s stomp on as many small business as we can when they make small mistakes that we can blow up into big deals.’ Amy’s Ice Cream, anyone? American Apparel? Threadless, ignore them. Their complaint is infantile.

  3. lgf says:

    So, now you are bullying CSRs because you made a mistake in placing the order? This sounds bad on your side too, you know?

  4. Scott Kidder says:

    Perhaps she would rather have to wait for her orders to be filled by a human? I bet that would cause complaints when orders weren’t fast enough.

    Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some, but next time look for the Continue Shopping button!

  5. Scott Kidder says:

    Oh, wait, now I get it — is this you, Ben, who placed the order?

  6. Ben Popken says:

    Clever, are you the American Apparel representative I gave a login to this morning? If so, please identify yourself as such.

  7. mand0 says:

    I ordered three t-shirts mid april and it took threadless about a week to get them shipped. They warned that they were having issues and/or upgrading their systems and consequently, shipping could take up to a week. I am glad they’ve finally gotten themselves together and were able to ship that quickly.

  8. beelerspace says:

    In their defense, we’ve ordered from Threadless a couple of times. They are _extremely fast_ on shipping; one day I ordered in the morning and – no kidding – we had the t-shirts the next afternoon, all paid by standard shipping.

    But of course we didn’t have to do anything related to customer service.

    Busted Tees is more expensive, but maybe that’s because their customer service is nicer.

    I’d say your best bet in getting this resolved is to submit to threadless a cool, hipster, iconic t-shirt communicating your angst.

  9. clever epithet says:

    Nope. Not the AA rep. You gave me a login a couple of weeks ago, I just hadn’t signed up until now. I’m not affiliated with any company — just a long time GawkerMedia reader. That Amy’s thing really infuriated me, and going after Threadless with threats like “I’m going to blog about you if you don’t give me back my five dollars I accidentally spent” seems, as lgf said, to be bullying.

  10. Ben Popken says:

    Scott, yes I placed the order.

    LGF, yes, I made a mistake.

    Clever, A reply is “flippant” when it doesn’t address the real issue and I’m just quoted policy.

    I’m just pissed that I tried to fix it LIKE FIVE MINUTES LATER, and I’m told “tough noogies.” Clever, I’m “supposed to know” that no customer service is around on the weekend?

    I know, the “I’ve got a website” card is a bit of a low blow and perhaps I am a bully. I’m trying to bully them into actually addressing my complaint instead of rubberstamping a reply.

    I’ve served burgers at Johnny Rockets, I’ve shoveled popcorn at Clearview Cinemas, I’ve sold ads for college radio, and I write a consumer affairs blog; I know what good customer service is and this is not it.

  11. Kos says:

    I’ve ordered from threadless couple of times. Three times were great an really quick. The other was a bomb, but it was right after they announced a big sale. I emailed them and they said they were getting crushed and doing the best they can do. I think you got to keep in mind that it is a small company and sometimes screw-ups occur. While they did screw-up here, the bigger mistake was missing an opportunity was fixing the problem to earn loyalty… Shondi sounded a bit like a flippant northside hipster.

  12. SeekBalance says:

    “Dude. It’s six bucks. …. Give us a fucking break.”

    I know, you wouldn’t have tipped the $5 you lost, but even so, this is pretty small. I would have tried to get it rectified, too, but I wouldn’t have taken it this far. Once the order were shipped, I would’ve let it go.

  13. Ben Popken says:

    The six bucks post was not written by me, it was by Brownlee.

  14. megan says:

    I have to agree. This is just getting picky. It was your mistake. I don’t necessarily agree with the way that they responded, but I think you share responsibility as well. Why didn’t you ask for an adjustment? They might have done that for you. Sometimes you catch more flies with honey, as well.

    Better luck next time.

  15. julian says:

    I’m sorry but this was clearly your mistake, while the “Continue shopping” link isn’t huge, surely a combination of the “Next Step” button, the green tick next to the “Verify Your Order” tab, and the way they asked for payment information should have made it clear to you that you were making and confirming an order.

    While it would have been nice to get a refund for what was essentially a $5 screw up of your own, demanding it from a CSR with the threat of naming and shaming them on the blog really doesn’t seem like the right way to go about it.

  16. Scott says:

    Customer Service is dead in all but a few places (where it’s currently coughing up blood).

    Yes, it sucks that some face-pierced little punks think they’re doing you a favor by doing their jobs (rather than understanding the whole customer-clerk dynamic), and it sucks that management cares about nothing but the bottom line, but it’s not going to change when we have people who’ll support them.

    You’ve heard the saying “we get the government we deserve,” right? This is the same thing: you get the customer service you deserve; if you allow it, and if you accept it, and if you come back for more, you deserve it. Why does it cost $150 for a concert ticket? Because you’ll buy it. Why does it cost $35 for a couple movie tickets & a bucket of shitty popcorn? Because you’ll pay it. Why do famous people get away with murder? Because you don’t do anything about it. What the hell is my point? As much as I hate to agree with heterotard Ben, I think he should yell as much as he wants, and use every avenue available to him to do so. If you feel like you’ve been had, then you absolutely should make some noise, tell the world about it, and NEVER SPEND YOUR MONEY THERE AGAIN (nor accept their advertising dollars on your site).

    Whether it’s $6 or $600, it doesn’t matter; it’s the principle. Poor customer service, unfair business practices, and ineffective management are worth fighting no matter what the dollar amount.

  17. Ben Popken says:

    Just because a company is small doesn’t mean they should be held to a lower standard. If your argument is “up with small business,” what is the benefit of coddling? They’re certainly not going to get any stronger by a kid glove treatment.

    I made a mistake, yes, I tried to fix it and they wouldn’t let me even though I asked not five minutes later. That and their disinterested reply is their mistake.

    It shouldn’t matter how “nicely” I phrase my request, my complaint is legitimate and it hasn’t been addressed. No apology, no offer of say, five dollars off my next purchase, just a “that’s the way it is.”

    It’s not the “right” way to go about it? They should be figuring out how to do their job correctly, not I figuring out how to angle my request so maybe it will tickle their fancy to do the correct thing.

    And look, I’m not saying Threadless is a bad company and I’m not going to create post after post tracking nitpicking their every pockmark. I disagreed with certain actions and inactions on their part and felt let voicing my opinion with the platforms at my disposal.

    I took a hard tone because they were being completely intractable. I will most likely love my t-shirts when they arrive in two seperate packages and I may even shop at Threadlessa gain. I like beelerspace’s suggestion best of all, that I should, “submit to threadless a cool, hipster, iconic t-shirt communicating [my] angst.”

    I’m thinking something with a unicorn fucking a cupcake while making a He-Man allusion.

  18. P33KAJ3W says:

    Did you make a mistake? yes.

    Should they fix your mistake or eat the cost? yes.

    Word of mouth is like gold to a small buisness and even if you did not post it on this site the poor word of mouth, and loss of a new customer, is worth alot more than $5.

  19. dozerdude says:

    I’ve been an avid reader of the blog since Day 1. Second read, after Deadspin.
    Seems to me that you are being a bully with Threadless, and just whiney here in comments.
    “completely intractable”!!?? Phhhht.

  20. method_one says:

    I’ve ordered from threadless probably 8-9 times and never had a problem which needed to be addressed by customer service. I’m a very satisfied customer.

  21. billhelm says:

    If every company bowed to every customer with an entitlement complex, not many of them would be in business.

    Also, why doesn’t gawker media publish who is writing what on most of their blogs. this is the most annoying, especially after this post comes after one telling someone not to sweat 5 bucks…. its really non-sequiter…

    you really didn’t get any tips better than this one today?

  22. matto says:

    This whole miserable thread was worth it for “heterotard Ben”.

  23. rikomatic says:

    I very much enjoyed this slow moving car accident. Thanks for keeping it up in all its glory. I’m sure that delete key looked awfully tempting.

  24. Chris Gibson says:

    The “Continue Shopping” button was too small? Honestly, that’s the beef? You HAVE shopped on the Internet before, right? The whole “billing information – shipping information” thing wasn’t a clue you were checking out?

    Hey, I’ve done the same thing, and it was just me asleep at the wheel, and sometimes the CSR helped me out, and sometimes they didn’t, but like I said, it was me that done the deed, so it’s hard to bitch too much when my own doofusness cost me an extra five bucks.

    I so wanted to enter a paragraph or two of additional witty commentary about whining and threats and such, but I read that when you (or others) woke up this morning and smelled the Starbucks, better sense prevailed.

    Kudos for just hitting the strikeout tag, I admire that.

  25. dozerdude says:

    Not a big fan of “me too” posts, but have to agree with Chris Gibson.
    Your mea culpa has restored my high esteem for your work in aid of us consumers.

  26. SeekBalance says:

    Something I’ve wished for from Gawker for some time now is the name of the poster near the title of each post. Time posted would be cool, too.