[Disclaimer: my UPS package was stolen a couple of hours ago, so this blog post may be laced with some emotionally-derived negativity.]
Last week on the so-called "Cyber-Monday", I found out that the online Microsoft Store offering the new Acer W510 tablet at a $100 discount -- for $399 instead of the regular $499. While I had no original plans to purchase an Intel Atom-powered tablet (due to the perceived lack of processing power), this was a tempting offer as a month ago I purchased a third-generation iPad for my father for his birthday. I say tempting because the iPad had essentially been reduced to a PDF reader instead of its expected usage as a family digital photo album. Long story short, my father attempted to load photographs onto the iPad but found using iTunes to be too cumbersome and so promptly gave up. Knowing that he is much more familiar with Microsoft Windows, this Acer tablet seemed like a good trade-off as it offers tablet-like functionalities along with a complete version of the new Windows 8 OS on the background.
So I placed an order online through the Microsoft Store and received an estimated delivery date of 12/03/2012 a day later -- a bit slower than I had hoped but not the end of the world. In hindsight it seems a bit perplexing that UPS did not operate on weekends, as noted by a disclaimer on the order page. Fast forward to today, the alleged shipment date and....no package when I came home. To my horror, the UPS shipment status stated that the package was indeed delivered in the early afternoon. I questioned my neighbors but to no avail. Thus my last resort was to report the incident to Microsoft Store for some resolution. And this is where the annoyance starts.
The only way to contact a customer service agent is via chat or by phone. I opted to do chat and was promptly served by an agent named "Barbie". The weird name aside, I explained the situation to Barbie and was only reassured that she would follow up with UPS on the missing package between 6-8 business days. Let's read that again: 6 to 8 business days! That's essentially a 2-week wait time. I protested this but to no avail. In my opinion, the whole situation could have been avoided had a signature been required to receive the package -- I had assumed this would be the case, or otherwise I would have tried to wait at home for it. It is absolutely ridiculous that a $500 package could be left at the front door without further security measures, a procedure I attribute to Microsoft Store as they handled the shipment process. Why wasn't a signature required for the package? (I do realize that UPS could have been at fault too for negligent delivery.)
This situation becomes worse when I reflect on my experience in ordering the iPad, which was purchased from the Apple Online Store. In this case, the price of the item was similar but the whole experience was completely different. Maybe it was because of the carrier (Apple uses FedEx). But I remember receiving live updates of the location of the package (as opposed to UPS, which only provided an update when the package entered the U.S.) as well as the ability to digitally sign the package. Did Microsoft cheapen out on the shipping by selecting UPS as the designated carrier? Or was it just incompetent on UPS' part.
Either way, I probably will refrain from ordering from the online Microsoft Store in the future. For all their attempt to emulate Apple, it seems they missed on the critical lesson of catering to their customers. Without customer approval, the idea of Microsoft Store is has no viable future.