How To Insult Your Customers In Just 2 Emails

Gin & Tonic imageI had a really frustrating experience with an online store during the run-up to Christmas while buying a gift for my better half. I usually try to stick to sites I’m used to (, Amazon, etc.) and this reminded me why…

I wanted to buy this gin gift set from The Whisky Exchange (oh yes, those are nofollow links – they ain’t getting no SEO love from me!) and I hoped/assumed that the process would be pretty painless. In fact, given their 9.7 out of 10 score on Trustpilot, I imagine that this is the process that the vast majority of their customers go through:

  1. Place order
  2. Receive an automated email saying that “your order… will be despatched shortly”
  3. Receive order
  4. Receive another automated email, this time saying that they hope I’m “enjoying [my] drinks” and asking me to leave feedback on Trustpilot (an independent review site)

Well… my experience was different.

Lesson #1: don’t tell someone that their order “will be despatched shortly” when it won’t be

I was sent the email when I placed the order saying that it’d be processed soon, followed by an email saying that it’d been processed and would “be despatched shortly.” However, a couple of days after that second email, I received an email from someone in TWE’s customer services team telling me that the product was out of stock and that they had to await the arrival of new stock.

Why tell me that it’ll be sent to me shortly when it won’t be? How daft is that? In the end, I placed my order on 9th December and didn’t receive the product until the 20th. Forgive me but eleven days is not “shortly.”

Lesson #2: don’t tell someone that you hope that they’re enjoying your product when they haven’t even received the product in question yet…!

This was so silly that I was just laughing in the end.

On the 15th (bearing in mind that my product didn’t arrive until the 20th), I received another automated email asking me to leave a review on Trustpilot. Its opening line in particular was a corker (no pun intended):

“Thank you for your recent order at The Whisky Exchange. We hope you found our service satisfactory and that you are enjoying your drinks.”

…Drinks? What drinks?

I know it’s only intended as a friendly, harmless statement, but sending that to someone who’s currently in the middle of a customer service ordeal in chasing up what’s happening with their order is a bit insulting (if also mildly amusing).

The moral of the story: be careful with automated emails

As I said earlier in this post, for most customers this wouldn’t have been an issue. They would’ve received their order pretty promptly and probably in time for the “enjoying your drinks” email that followed, which would have been absolutely fine. However, TWE (and perhaps others) can learn a few things from my experience, where things didn’t go as swimmingly:

  • If possible, perhaps change the process for people who you know won’t receive their product straight away. Is there a way to not send the “despatched shortly” email until you’re absolutely 100% sure that it’s definitely the case? Is there also a way to manually delay the review email, until the customer has definitely received their products and would actually be enjoying said drinks?
  • Perhaps the language could be changed – is there a way to say something instead of the “…enjoying your drinks” line that wouldn’t lose its meaning yet wouldn’t be unusual to those who are still awaiting theirs?
  • Otherwise, to be on the safe side, should the review email be delayed by a few more days or a week or two (for everyone)?

I didn’t really mind the fact that the product was delayed – it was the way that it was handled by the company that bugged me. The first email lied to me; the second email was eye-rollingly annoying to read (but funny – let’s not forget funny). But hopefully (if they read this) they can learn from this, improve on it and push that 9.7 out of 10 score to an 9.8 or 9.9…

[Gin & tonic image credit: Pedro Moura Pinheiro]


  • CD

    December 28, 2012 at 9:54 am Reply

    Steve, this business of Trustpilot ratings is a really messy affair. Many of the companies that are rated high on Trustpilot are hand in glove with them and they pay Trust pilot good money, so it is win win for them while consumers dont come to know of negative feedbacks.

    I will tell you how this process works. Trustpilot asks companies to send in verified customers who had shopped from their website. Once this is done, they get in touch with these customers and ask them to provide feedback.

    Companies are smart enough to only send details of consumers who have had a good shopping experience. So most of these ratings reflect positively on the company. So really 9.7, 9.8…9.9, they dont really give a true review of the company.

    • Steve

      December 29, 2012 at 10:15 am Reply

      Hi CD, thanks for the comment. That’s very interesting about Trustpilot, if what you say is true… However, your theory that they only send those emails to happy customers – are you sure that’s true? I mean I received one after all (and I was far from happy)!

  • Pix

    January 15, 2013 at 4:50 pm Reply

    This is Epic….And so true! Can you let Topshop know that telling customers to enjoy their products when in fact they didn’t even place the order and by the time they realised it was out of stock is REALLY just rubbing salt in my wounds? Thanks! 😉

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