January 12, 2009

Sam's Club Photo Center - Thumbs Down

After seeing this post, one of my fellow blogging friends, who was one of the WalMart Moms, pulled some strings for me and got me in contact with upper management and they were able to resolve the problems. They were very good about it. It's just a shame it had to go there. What if I hadn't been a blogger with influential friends?

I'm glad they fixed the problem, were cooperative and apologetic. I'm still wary of using Sam's Club for their services around the holidays, but at least now I know I need to do this type of thing way far in advance. I'll try again sometime and try to provide an updated review if things have improved.

Today, on 1/12/2009, I spoke to Christina in Sam's Club customer service for the online division. She noted a "quality isssue" and "refund" along with investigating the mysterious $6.53 charge as well as why there was a $0.05 discrepancy between the invoiced and actual charged price for greeting cards I ordered for our 2008 holiday cards. Christina tells me she only sees 2 of the 4 online orders under my name in the system currently. These orders were placed shortly before Christmas and the day after. I have asked for a refund and that the mistakes be corrected at no additional charges. I'm currently awaiting a follow up on this call.

Until then, here is what I'd like to share:

Ordering Christmas gifts for my family this past year (2008) from Sams Club proved to be a truly disappointing experience. This was not the first time I have been let down by the Sam's Club Photo Department. In 2005, the Reading, PA location ruined my wedding photos and inconvenienced family members and myself in having to go back to the department to have prints corrected. Despite the negatives and compositions being correct, heads and other body parts were cut off on prints and digital files saved to CDs. Imagine getting a great shot of the Father and Bride dance only to get the photo back and the Father's head is cut off! Or a photo which had been correctly centered by the photographer and the print being returned with the feet cut off and a black bar at the top of the print! The experience was extremely unprofessional and a major disappointment to a new bride.

Now that I live and shop at a different Sam's Club — on the other side of the country, my recent experiences had been more positive. The online photo ordering and 1-hour pick up has been great. Although not perfect, the online uploading interface has been slightly improved from last year. I can use drag and drop directly from iPhoto into the Sam's Club Photo Center website using Safari.

I really enjoyed the experience when I used Sam's Club Photo Center Online for my Holiday Greeting Cards this past year. It was relatively easy and quick and I got them within an hour.

Instant gratification is very popular with me.

I even ordered a second set right away when I realized I was going to run out of cards. I didn't even have to do that part online as I was able to phone the re-order in since they still had my data in the system. The young man on the phone was even pleasant. (Once I could understand what he was saying when he answered the phone!)

In October I had ordered photo gifts in the form or a coffee mug and magnets to send to my Nana and she received them on her birthday and was completely delighted. After those experiences, I had nothing but a positive experience to expect for the holidays when I decided to order photo gifts to send to my family as Christmas presents.

I placed a total of four online orders and over to $150.00. (after taxes and shipping charges were tacked on.) Two of those orders were 1-hour pick ups at my local store to give to family here, and the other two were to be delivered to two different addresses out east in time for the holiday season. These were to be gifts the whole family could enjoy and I was excited to be able to have everything shipped to just 2 locations out east to be divied out among the family members when they were all together celebrating the holidays.

Everything was going smoothly until I went to place the fourth order to be delivered to a different address. I could get all the way through the ordering process but I could no longer get to the part where it would process the order and charge my account. There was no communication from the website that there were any problems or errors. Four times in a row it just sent me into a loop and I'd end up right back at the beginning again. Since I deal with computer "problems" for a living, I checked all of the usual computer/web related issues that could occur such as emptying the cache, reloading the page, logging out and logging back in and even switching web browsers. Nothing would allow me to place an order like I had done the previous three times in a row. So, I waited a day which prolonged the delay in getting these Christmas presents out to my family. This began my frustration and overall disappointment.

I still had no luck after a day, so I called and spoke to a customer service representative who told me that they were aware of the problems the site was having and that Fuji was working to resolve the issues. Huh, nice of them to let the online customer know! (An error message would have been nice.) She said that at the time I called, no photo department service personnel were available but that she would enter an encounter and someone would be calling me back.

I never got a call back. Good thing I didn't hold my breath.

I tried again to process the same order online. The Online Sams Club Photo Center never once communicated any problems or issues with the processing of orders. (Despite being told that "Fuji was on it.") Finally, out of desperation to get the gifts out for Christmas of the currrent year, I processed the order as a local pick up instead of having the items shipped directly to the relative. Even though I asked my family ahead of time, this was a huge inconvenience for my family members to go and have to pick up their own gifts on separate occasions as not all of the items were delivered to their local store at the same time. One of my relatives was even given poor treatment when he went to pick up his gift at the location. Not only was it not his fault that the gift wasn't delivered to him like it was intended, but then on top of it he was treated poorly by the staff!

We all know that the holidays are a stressful time, but shame on Sam's Club for using this as an excuse to dole out shoddy customer service all around.

As you may already know, photo printing and ordering services are big on my list of services and products I use and my product reviews for this have gotten lots of traffic. I was planning on reviewing Sams Club again this year to compare to the review I did last year. I was really hoping to be able to write up a positive review recommending Sam's Club as a reputable photo gift service. I am sad to say that I can not do that this year at this time.

Sam's Club Online Photo Center did not deliver for me this year.


The local 1-hour pickup is handy and I will continue to use that service, but I will continue looking for something else to replace it since we are considering switching to COSTCO for our bulk purchasing. Not only might Sam's Club be losing a regular photo department customer, they might also be losing a regular store and vision department customer as well.

If people keep reading my reviews, they might even lose more customers. It could happen.

We'll see what happens and what other services I find this year to compare to theirs and how they stack up.

Of course, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment!

Here is a list of things Sam's Club can do to win me back:
If I don't hear back from them soon, this is part of what may go into a letter after discussing most of this on the phone already.

I am disputing a charge on my checking account statement for $6.53 on 12/25 (transaction date) charged on 12/26 listed as "SamsClub.com" I do not have any receipts reflecting this charge and no record of it anywhere. (And I KEEP pretty good records.) I would like an explanation of this charge and a refund if it is found to be an error.

I would like to be refunded $22.56 (the cost of the 6 magnets that were not properly produced.) Each magnet had a white line running down the right side. All, but 2 of the photos were different. The error was consistently reproduced on not only all 6 magnets, but my mother also received an envelope from the "Wal Mart Return Center" containing an additional 6 magnets and they all had the same error as well. I only placed an order for 6 magnets as the confirmation I received below reflects. I do not know why an additional 6 magnets were sent because they were not corrected.

The order needs to be corrected and re-shipped at no charge to the same address as the original order.

Thank you for placing your order with the Sam's Club Online Digital Photo Center. We received your order and will begin processing it soon. Your order information appears below for your review.
Order Number: xxxxxxxxxxxx
Contact Information: xxxxxxxxxxxx
Payment Method: Card Number: Visa xxxxxx Authorization Number: xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Order Details:
Qty Item Price
1 11 oz Coffee Mug @ $9.87 $9.87
6 Magnet (3x4) @ $3.76 $22.56
59 4x6 @ $0.0834 from complimentary prints $2.00
1 5x7 @ $0.34 $0.34
1 US Mail $20.50
Subtotal: $55.27
US Tax $3.32
Total $58.59
*All prices are in US dollars.
Delivery Information: xxxxxxxxx

Please allow 2-3 weeks to process gift orders and 2-4 days for prints. Shipping time applies after your order has been processed.
We will send you an e-mail when your order has been completed. To check the status of your order, click here.

On 12/20/20008 at location #6692 AZxxxxxxxx $11.35 was charged to my checking account on 12/22/2008 but the confirmation I received said the price would be $11.30 so I'm not understanding why the nickel difference. I would like that explained.
Thank you for placing your order with the Sam's Club Online Digital Photo Center. We received your order and will begin processing it soon. Your order information appears below for your review.
Order Number: xxxxxxxxxx
Contact Information: Melissa Davis
Order Details:
Qty Item Price
1 Wishing you a Joyous Holidays & Happy New Year
pickup after 5:35 PM* on 12/20/2008 @ $10.50 $10.50
Subtotal: $10.50
US Tax $0.80
Total $11.30

Please improve your website! The drag and drop uploader is STILL lacking from last year in both Safari and Firefox for the Mac. (Especially in Firefox 3 for the Mac.)


Two words: iPhoto. Picasa.

Sam's Club really needs to take a look at the sales in Apple's laptop line. People like their photos and they like their photo gifts. I just worked with a client who used Apple's online photo services for ordering his photo gifts. One big reason was because I could not confidently recommend Sam's Club to him. That could have been a few hundred dollars in Sam's Club photo products that was lost due to lack of development for the Mac platform.

I really hope to hear back from Sam's Club — and soon. Right now I'm being nice even though I've taken a lot of crap from them. Finances are much much tighter now and I can literally no longer afford to accept anything less than perfection from services where I spend our ever shrinking budget. I hope Sam's Club as well as other places keep this in mind moving forward this year and in the future of our uncertain financial crisis.

What photo services do YOU enjoy? Drop me a line!