Friday, March 5, 2010

How Not To Manage Customer Service, or, Why Lending Club Sucks

I've been wanting to play around with peer-to-peer lending, and so I picked from the two big online sites in this field: LendingClub and Prosper. LendingClub seemed to have a more straight-forward model, so I opened an account with them and moved a little money in via paypal.  Getting my portfolio up and running was painless.  I  reviewed a bunch of loan requests, choose a couple that looked interesting, and diversified my portfolio by lending in small chunks.  Two months later, I wanted to move some more money in, and this is where things quickly went downhill.

After logging into the site, I clicked a prominent "Add Funds" button.  My choices were "Fast Transfer (about 15 minutes)", "Wire Transfer (1 business day)," and "Bank Transfer (4 business days)".  I went with "Fast Transfer."  There was some fine print about how this only was available to new investors, but there was still a large "Transfer Amount" input, and a "Transfer Now" button (with a paypal logo), so I figured I was still allowed to use the instant transfer option.  The transfer seemed quick and easy, and the money was gone from my bank account.  It did not show up in my Lending Club account in 15 minutes.

I patiently waited a whole week for the funds to show up in Lending Club.  I called their support number after 7 days and Sarah (the Lending Club support person, not her real name) was unable to find my deposit in their system and suggested I contact paypal.  When I told her that was unacceptable, and that I trusted paypal a lot more than Lending Club, she put me on hold to go talk to the accountant.  A few minutes later, she was back and had found my transaction in their system.  The fact that she had tried to just brush me off instead of doing due diligence on her side was frustrating, but she said the funds would be in my account the following day, so I just accepted it and that was that.  The following day, however, the funds were not in my account.

Three days later, I send the following email:
It is well past when you told me the funds would be available in my account.  What is going on?  If Lending Club is simply unable to process a deposit, please give me my money back.

I received no response.

Another week and a half passed, and another email:

Is it really possible that you all are unable to find my money *and* unable to respond to my queries?
My money was deposited on Jan 25th. On Feb 1 I spoke with you and you eventually were able to find out that my money was indeed in your system, but wouldn't be available until Feb 2.  That was 13 days ago.
My money is still not in my account.
In my last (unanswered) email I requested that my money be processed or refunded.  That was 10 days ago.
What is going on? 
Patrick Schless

I received no response.

Two weeks passed, and I called again to speak with Sarah.  What she told me about their customer service procedures I found very disturbing (as a customer).  Apparently their system had misplaced my first email (despite the fact that it was sent to the same address as the others, with the same subject "Attn: Sarah").  She had gotten the second email, and forwarded it along to the accountant.  She did not see any need to contact me to let me know that my request was being looked into.  The accountant (according to Sarah) gave my account a cursory glance, didn't see anything wrong, and disregarded my request.  He/she also did not see any need to contact me.  I, of course, had no idea that my request had been silently ignored, so I ended up just waiting, with my frustration and anger growing.

Sarah told me that when the accountant was in for the day, she would speak with him about the matter.  I told her I expected to hear back from her (as it is apparently not their policy).  An hour later she called me back, saying that they had found my money (again), and that they weren't sure why it wasn't in my account (but at least they agreed there was a problem, unlike the accountant's first opinion).  Twenty-five hours later, she called one last time to tell me the problem had been fixed, and my funds released into my account.

Personally, I won't be sending Lending Club another dime.  They apparently have serious problems keeping track of their customers' money, despite the fact that that is precisely the business they are in.  However, this encounter for me is less about why Lending Club sucks, and more about how not to manage customer service.  The company I work for routinely gets high, unsolicited praise for its strong customer service.  I always found this a little odd, because I just expect good customer service from any company I do business with (especially ones where we're dealing with potentially large sums of money).  I understand that software can have bugs, and the fact that my initial transaction wasn't successful isn't what pisses me off.  What really gets me are the multiple points of failure on their customer service side.  If Lending Club had followed through after the first call (when they said the money would be available the next day), or if they hadn't lost my first email, or had responded to my second email, (or had responded to my tweet), this all could have gone very differently, and I would likely have remained a (reasonably) happy customer.

UPDATE March 9, 2010: I was contacted by a representative from Lending Club to tell me that it was regrettable that things went down this way, and that they will work on refactoring their process.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gaylord Opryland Resort

I was at a developer conference this weekend, held in Nashville, TN.  I've written on my tech blog about some of the talks, but I didn't mention how much I grew to hate the place where I was staying (and where the conference was held): the Gaylord Opryland Resort.

For starters, the idea of "southern hospitality" doesn't seem too prevalent here. Maybe people are just friendlier in the midwest (so I have unrealistically high expectations), but I was really surprised at how rude some of the employees were, particularly those at registration. 

The thing that really got to me was how the hotel nickel-and-dimed me for every little thing.  The room was $109/night, but the fees and taxes came to another $50.  That's 46% of the room rate!  This includes a $15/day charge for the "Resort fee" (two bottles of water, access to the gym, etc), and $19.67/day parking fee.  That's not valet or any other sort of special parking.  It's just me putting my car in the cheapest lot the resort had.  The resort had a bunch of stores and places to eat, but of course they were very proud of their food and wares, and priced them accordingly.  The high prices I can understand (it's a resort, after all), but the 46% taxes & fees is just deceptive and pisses me off.

If I go to the conference again next year (and it's at the same place), I'll definitely stay anywhere but the Gaylord Resort.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dentist Aftermath

I wrote previously about trying out a new dentist, since my childhood dentist was something like 40 minutes away now that I'm farther east into the city. It turned out to be a very bad experience -- partly because he told me I had to have my wisdom teeth out, and partly because he didn't answer my questions and didn't have a nice chair-side manner. In addition to needing my wisdom teeth out, he told me I had cavities, and would need to go back to have them filled.

I wasn't in any hurry to go back, but when I started having discomfort in my remaining lower molars, I called my childhood dentist to make an appointment. She wasn't available but the receptionist suggested another DDS (Dr. Matthews) in the same office, whom I ended up seeing, and it was an entirely different (and very much improved!) experience. For starters, he spent at least half of his time with me explaining how various dental things work. He didn't talk down to me, but didn't talk over my head either. He told me that I did not have any cavities, and explained how the previous dentist might've made that mistake. He told me that my discomfort was actually due to me grinding my teeth at night -- I wasn't aware of it, but he said he could clearly see the wear on my teeth. He also said that the cleaning I had had 3 months prior was done very poorly, and that I really should have it done again that day (which I did).

While I was happy to end up continuing my no-cavities streak, the extra cleaning was out of pocket, since I had had the insufficient one only a few months before. It's hard to put a price (either in dollars or time & mileage) in having a doctor that you trust and respect, so I will definitely be willing to make the longish drive in the future, rather than try and shop around.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lost At Sea

I went kayaking down the mighty IL River this weekend, and I figured it would be a great opportunity to try out both my new G1's camera and some Android GPS tracking software (on the G1)...

The sea was angry that day, my friends. A giant wave overtook me and my little boat, sinking the lot of us, and when I surfaced I found that both my G1 and my keys were gone. The keys, of course were mostly unduplicated -- I had a valet key stored at my mom's, but I had never bothered to make copies of my apartment keys (which in hindsight seems like it would have been a good idea).

While everyone else went off to Fast Eddie's in Alton, me, my passenger (Laura, whose keys were in my car), and a friend (Jenn) with AAA coverage hung out at the kayak place, waiting for a tow truck to come open the car. Even though it wasn't her car, the AAA coverage somehow applied, and that didn't end up costing anything other than time.

A day later, I'm back in my apartment (my landlord gave me the orignal set of keys, for me to copy and return). I have my valet key, and a new phone will be in the mail in the morning. Last week, when the T-Mobile salesman asked if I wanted to pay $6/month for insurance, I almost said no, but he specifically mentioned water damage, and I thought of the upcoming kayak trip and said yes. So, for $6 plus my $130 deductible (which feels like a rip-off), I'm getting a new phone. I'll call the Honda dealer in the morning to see about getting a new key. I remember them telling me when I bought the car that the keys are expensive, because of some chip inside them, but I'm hoping that the phone will remain the costliest part of the day.

Sadly, I'll have to take bolt cutters to my bike lock.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Google Phone

My 1 year old AT&T phone has been randomly shutting off, and it's been getting worse with age. When I went to the store a few months ago and complained, they assured me it was the battery (even though I had already tried a new battery). I told them that if they were wrong, and just wasting my time, that I was gonna drop AT&T, and I finally found the time to do that this week.

I ended up getting a G1 (aka gPhone or Google Phone). It's great! Since I use a ton of google services already, I benefit from the seamless integration between all their apps and the phone.

My first task was to use a custom map I created on Google Maps to drive around and photograph some houses for my dad's genealogy project. The default maps program didn't support my custom maps, so I had to download My Maps Editor from the marketplace, but the whole process (figuring out what I needed, finding it, and downloading it) only took about 10 minutes, which wasn't a big deal. For each house, I got direction and GPS tracking, and when I got there, I could use My Maps Editor to take and upload a picture (to google maps), and change the flag on the map from red to green. And, it was very easy and intuitive, other than the poor integration between My Maps Editor and the default maps app, which is needed for GPS and directions. (Hopefully those two will be merged into one app before long.)

Ultimately, I'm looking forward to using the non-Big-Brothered Android marketplace to write some apps, which I'll write about on techspeak if I ever make progress with.

There are three downsides I've seen so far, and unfortunately two are significant.
  • My T-Mobile plan is about $20/month more expensive than my old AT&T plan. To be fair, if I had a comparable phone (iPhone) at AT&T, I think I would have to upgrade my plan anyway. I did, though, have a decent employer discount with AT&T, which I've had to give up.
  • The battery life is really horrible with this thing. I get a day out of it if I'm not driving around using GPS. But, since it's my new toy, I'm using it pretty heavily and I've seen plenty of "You have 15% battery power remaining." messages. Fortunately I have a car USB power adapter, so I should just need to get a spare USB-gPhone cable, to combat the expensive GPS features.
  • This thing has a full QWERTY keyboard, which is nice, but the letters light up when you're using it. At night this is helpful, but when it's not dark the letters light up and become the same color as the keys, which means you're typing on effectively a blank keyboard. I can touch type fine on a real keyboard, but just because my fingers know where the keys are doesn't mean my eyes do, and I find myself holding the phone at a severe angle to try and see the letters. I don't consider this too bad a defect, because I know my keyboard well enough that I think I will become comfortable with the blank keys before long, but it would be much more of an inconvenience for some.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chain Update

Ok, so several weeks ago I started a chain. The idea was to get out and ride (or otherwise exercise) for 5 hours a week (up from zero). For a couple weeks I diligently blogged my progress, and then I stopped reporting.

The good news is that even though I wasn't talking about my progress, my chain does remain intact. I've gotten a ton of biking in, seen lots of deer and turkey families, and annihilated my previous record by riding 92 miles one particularly energetic week!

I'm starting to really appreciate St. Louis' (and Missouri's) great bike culture. I live in the city (proper), and I have several nearby options for after-work rides, and some great longer trails for the weekends. If I ever end up in another city I imagine I'll miss the environment here, so I'm definitely trying to appreciate it while I'm here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Last-Ditch Effort

Only two weeks into my chain, and already I'm having trouble maintaining it... This past week was rainy, which meant no trail riding. I was hoping for some sunshine over the weekend, but by the time Saturday rolled around things changed -- I ended up sitting inside on the computer, working on a high-priority issue from the office (despite the *beautiful* weather!).

I had begun to rationalize breaking the chain ("two weeks isn't much of a chain yet"), but a 4-hour pick-up volleyball game on Sunday brought me back around. It was perfect weather (and the sand was hot), and the sun was just what I needed after a stressful week at work. A short bike ride on Grant's trail afterwards put me at 6.5 hours for the week (26 miles + volleyball).

..and man, I am sore!