Raw Spice Bar botches customer service

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Customer service is a big problem for many companies but it never fails to surprise me when I encounter it as a consumer…

I’m a serious cook, and I recently subscribed to a paid service called Raw Spice Bar. For $6 dollars per month ($10 in Canada, where I live) you get three freshly ground packets of spice with a regional theme and three kitchen-tested recipes for using those spices every 30 days. The offer sounded way too attractive for me to pass up.

I was excited when the first mailing arrived. The spices smelled fantastic and the recipes looked interesting. (I also liked that they were laminated. Helpful for cooks!) Problems arose however, when I went to prepare my first meal. The recipe just wasn’t well written. I’ve edited three best-selling cookbooks, and I know what to look for. It’s nitpicky work to edit a recipe. But it’s the only way to ensure your home cooks will be able to follow the instructions.

In the case of one of the Raw Spice Bar recipes, the “method” (or directions) called for an ingredient not listed on the ingredients list. Yikes! That’s always a really bad sign. Other shortcomings and mistakes I discovered as I was cooking made me resolve to write a helpful email to the company as soon as possible.

My vague resolution became more solid the very next day when I received the following month’s spice mailing. I opened the envelope and — whoosh — a clump of garam masala sprinkled itself my desk. The spice envelope had come undone in the mail. Now I was mad! Not only did I have a mess on my desk but I was going to have to throw out the spice. (I fished it out of my garbage can to “stage” the photo above.) Still, I wrote a very politely worded email. Here is the response I received, in its entirety:

Thank you so much for your very constructive feedback. We really appreciate receiving emails like this as it helps us improve our service. We will be sure to have this our top priority. 

 As for the damaged spice, this happens during shipping process as the seal does not really last long but we’re working on fixing this as soon as possible. We would like you to dispose of it and will have you resend a new Garam Masala packet. I hope this helps and please let me know if there’s anything else I can do. 

The first paragraph felt like a form letter to me. And the sentence “we will be sure to have this our top priority,” seemed both vague and insincere. (If they didn’t even acknowledge what “this” was, why would I think they’d make it a “top priority”?) The second paragraph was slightly better because it was more specific. But the phrase “the seal does not really last long,” did not make me feel reassured that the company is serious about food safety.

The company has no phone number published on its website, so I emailed back immediately and asked to speak with someone senior. I have not heard back from them. My next step? It will be cancelling my subscription.

If you have any involvement with your own company’s customer service, make sure that it’s better managed than what this company does. Letters or emails should be carefully and sensitively written and should address the issue raised by the complainant. Even if your product or service is really good, poor customer service can be your undoing.