Ordering through phone apps and online — especially during the pandemic — has become so ubiquitous that many of us hardly ever think much about it — until something goes wrong. 

I had just such an experience two days ago.

Without revealing the name of the company (sigh of relief — it wasn’t an automotive aftermarket company, but the story offers an important lesson), here’s how it all went:

    1. I used the company’s app to place an order.
    2. I soon saw an alert that my credit card was charged. Then came an email saying my order was being prepared. The email said to drive to the store location, tell them I’m there for a pickup, mention my order number and that’s it. (So far, so good!)
    3. I drove to the store and waited a bit only to be told that they couldn’t find that I’d ordered anything.
    4. I showed the staff my order on the phone, including the store location, order number, the amount charged and what was ordered.
    5. The manager approached and said it “wasn’t in their system” and there was nothing she could do. She then said she wasn’t about to “give away free products.” That last bit irked me as you might imagine, as the company charged my credit card.
    6. The manager tells me to call “the 800 number.” I asked what that number was and she said she didn’t know. (I later searched the company’s website and found no such number.)
    7. I leave the store and use the app to request a refund, arguably the easiest part of “doing business” with the company. One of the reasons the app allows users to cite as the reason for a refund? “Store said it never received your order.”

Sometimes, apps and websites look like they’re working but they generate phantom orders. Credit cards may get charged but somewhere in the virtual piping, the message isn’t getting through.

I am not entirely sure what occurred in my experience, but I know one thing: as we move further and further toward an economy in which the bulk of business is conducted on a phone or watch, customers will have little tolerance for a system that doesn’t work. 

For the latest news and information on the global automotive aftermarket industry, visit https://aftermarketintel.com. Do you have news? Contact Aftermarket Intel Editor Mark Phillips at mark@lpnewmedia.com.

Join your colleagues in the global automotive aftermarket. Get the Aftermarket Intel Briefing, edited by Mark Phillips, AAP.

* indicates required