Fumble, Recovery, and Fumble Again at the Sir Francis Drake

A well-executed service recovery can go a long to towards cementing a positive reputation in a customer's mind. On the other hand, a poorly-executed recovery can make a bad experience that much worse. My wife, Sally, and I recently experienced both after staying at the historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Here's a quick re-cap of what went right, what went wrong, and something just for fun.

The Stay
We decided to stay at the Sir Francis Drake hotel on a recent trip to San Francisco because of its proximity to Union Square, the fact it is a Kimpton hotel (we like Kimpton), and above all else the historic, but quirky image it projects. Overall, the stay was good and in line with our expectations, but we did experience a small problem at check in.

We arrived early, so our room wasn't yet ready. This wasn't a big deal, so went out for a bite to eat. We checked back after an hour and a half and were told the room would be ready in 20 minutes, so we continued waiting in the lobby. Another 45 minutes went by before we checked with the front desk agent again (who knew we were waiting) and she admitted she had forgotten about us. Finally, we got checked in, but then had to wait another 30 minutes for the bellman to bring our bags to the room (after being told they would be right up). None of this was major news, but it wasn't as high a level of service as we would expect.

The Recovery
Like many hotels, Kimpton sends out a survey to guests after they stay at one of its properties. I took a few moments to complete their survey, giving full credit for the exemplary service we received in several areas and also mentioning the small service problem at check in. To my surprise, the front desk manager called me a day or two later to ask for additional feedback. He was very polite, very apologetic, and offered to send me a certificate for a free night's stay to make amends for the problem. This was much more than I expected, so I was very happy. The manager's actions also caused Sally and I to rethink our decision to try another hotel the next time we visited the area.

The Fumble
The promised certificate never arrived. Maybe my neighbors received it instead, or maybe the mailman's dog ate it, or maybe the front desk manager never sent it. The reason it never arrived doesn't really matter at this point, and I don't plan on calling to ask for it. Yes, it would be nice to have a free night's stay, but the issue was great service (or lack of), not getting compensated. What is really too bad is Sally and I felt the front desk manager had worked so hard to recover our future business before this disappointing turn of events.

A Final Surprise
Did I mention 'quirky' was one of the reasons we decided to stay at the hotel in the first place? Our room was very small, but it did have a walk-in closet. In the closet was a set of leopard-print pajamas for sale. Simply open the plastic and enjoy, and a small charge of $30 will be added to your room bill. Nice.

When being right is really wrong

Major League Baseball's opening day is fast approaching and hope springs eternal. You'd think this would mean they are gearing up the customer service at their online store, but at least one experience suggests this may not be true.

Full disclosure: this 'one experience' is represented by my wife, Sally. She represents 100% of the people I know who have recently made a purchase at http://www.mlb.com/, so according to my data 100% of the people that shop there have a bad experience. Yes, I know that's not statistically significant, but it's significant enough for me.

It all started when Sally ordered two items, paid for overnight shipping, and then received one item a day later than expected. She responded to a survey she received from a 3rd party and shared her dissatisfaction:

completely dissatisfied with shipping. Paid a high shipping cost to have the items delivered overnight - while it did say 1-2 business days, I received 1 item in 3 business days, and another in 4 business days. I will be requesting a refund on shipping.

Proactive Service
Sally received a prompt email from http://www.mlb.com/ in response to her survey response. Very good move, but the email she received wasn't so helpful:

Dear Sally,

Thank you for contacting Customer Support at www.shop.mlb.com.

We have received your response through BizRate regarding our website and thank you for your feedback. Your opinion as a consumer is greatly appreciated and will be used to aid in the development of our online store to better serve our consumers.

We apologize for any misunderstanding. Our records show that the both packages shipped on 03/13/08 and that the one package that was shipped via UPS was received on 03/14/08. The package that shipped via DHL was also shipped on 03/13/08 and was delivered on 03/17/08, which was the 2nd business day. As indicated on our website, business days are considered Monday-Friday, excluding weekends and Federal Holidays. We hope this information is helpful.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Support at www.shop.mlb.com.


Magritha M.
Customer Service Representative
Customer Support at

What part of 'overnight' takes 2 days???
Dear Margritha,

When I confirmed the order and items said were in stock, I was expecting to receive by Friday, 3/14 at the latest, for overnight shipping. Per your email, you state that both packages shipped on 3/13. Overnight shipping would arrive by 3/14, for both packages.

I am requesting refund for overnight shipping of the one item not received by Friday, 3/14. This was the expectation, and what was paid for, and you have confirmed in your email the item was not shipped overnight.

Appreciate your cooperation,


Really MLB?! Really?
Dear Sally,

Thank you for contacting Customer Support at www.shop.mlb.com.

We again apologize for any misunderstanding. Our website indicates that if you select overnight shipping that you can expect the order to arrive within 1-2 full business days. Business days are Monday-Friday, excluding federal holidays within the United States. Both items were delivered within the stated timeframe, and we can unfortunately, not credit you back the shipping. To view the shipping information as indicated on our helpdesk please click on the link below, or copy and paste the link into the URL of your internet browser:


We again thank you for your order. We apologize that we could not assist with your request.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Support at www.shop.mlb.com.


Magritha M

Read the fine print
If you read the fine print you'll discover Magritha at MLB is technically correct. And, I don't even doubt she's responding exactly as she's been instructed to respond. The problem here is them item was shipped via 'overnight' shipping and it took 2 business days to arrive. If you dig through the MLB website, you'll find their text explaining that their 'overnight' service is really 1 - 2 day service, but then why call it overnight? Undoubtedly because it saves MLB a few bucks on shipping costs, but it sure creates confusion and unfulfilled expectations.

Lessons Learned
Confusing policies are dumb for any business and it gets even worse when you stick to the fine print at all costs. A few bucks would have bought some good will and kept Sally satisfied. Saving that money cost MLB a lifetime of future purchases from Sally, from me, and anyone else we can convince not to shop there. Be careful of any policy that may seem cost-effective, but really drives customers away!