Caveat Emptor

Tweet2

I’m following the Pope on Twitter.

Yeah…I’m Catholic-ish—more of a denominational mutt—but that’s not the reason for following: he’s tweeting in Latin now. Love it. If there were ever a language that needed a comeback, it’d be that one.

When I was a kid…God, when did I turn into my grandfather?…anyway, when I was a kid, Latin was already considered a defunct language and no longer taught in schools, pretty much dead with the generation before me.

Semper Fidelis

It was still around, mind you, in places like my dad’s job, where Semper Fidelis (always faithful) could be found everywhere: on bumper stickers, sides of buildings…tattooed boobies. I know—boobies. Go ahead and laugh. Back then that’s what I called them, but grew up, as we all do, and now refer to them by the more proper and mature, “ta-ta’s.”

Where was I? Oh yeah. “Semper Fi” is the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps, in case you didn’t know, and was the first Latin phrase I learned. Hoo-RAH!

In Hoc Signo Vinces

Then, my second exposure to Latin was in hoc signo vinces (in this sign, you will conquer). According to legend, back at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312, the Greek equivalent of the phrase appeared in the sky above the emperor, Constantine, accompanied by a cross.

Constantine didn’t know what to make of the apparition until the next night, when Jesus came to him in a dream and told him to go forth and conquer under the sign of the cross. Constantine translated it to the Latin, in hoc signo vinces, adopted it as his battle cry, and Christianity spread across Europe.

Fascinating, yeah?

Of course I was but a wee lad when I learned it and said, “in hock sig-no vinces,” pronouncing the “gn” like that in “magnum” instead of “lasagna.” But my knowledge didn’t come from a church lesson or a vision in the sky. Nope.

It came from a pack of smokes: Pall Mall red and Pall Mall gold, the motto of the brands my folks bought. I always thought it meant, “Outstanding…and they are mild.”

A pity. Gone are the days of honest advertising and wholesome smoking with the Cleavers. Watch the lady’s reaction at 45 seconds…are they still making the Pall Malls with red opium?

So it’s ironic that my dealings with another tobacco company (and I use that term loosely) is what prompted my mind to wander to … and wonder about … Caveat Emptor.

Let The Buyer Beware

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my switch from smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes to the healthier (or so I’ve been led to believe) alternative of “vaping” electronic cigarettes, which, in essence, is huffing back on a personal nicotine atomizer.

It seemed to make perfect sense; there was none of the smoke or 4000 toxic chemicals to attack your lungs, but instead, pure nicotine and steam to do it. The internet was chock full of information and great deals—one in particular:

The Victory Mega E-cigarette Starter Kit $99.99 Now only $31.90 with membership in the monthly refill club.

EcigKit

$99.99? What the heck have you been vaping? I’d never pay that price!

No, no…but I would pay the sale price—$31.90—and would gladly participate in their program.

That’s what they’re hoping for…

After all, I’m a smoker…soon to be vaper…and the refill program is equal to $10/carton. I smoke three cartons a month—perfect. There haven’t been prices like that since the opium days of Pall Mall!

EcigOrder

So I bit…and ordered three of the Mega E Kits for all the “vapers” in the house. It would have been a victory for the company, too—about $120/month with shipping.

But there was a problem … wait! … make that two problems.

The first problem, an easy fix, was with the order itself, which promised two batteries per kit, but only came with one. Of course, being a conscientious shopper (and gettin’ my money’s worth!), I went to the website to contact them and rectify the discrepancy immediately.

That’s when the second problem came into play. They were unreachable. The Untouchables. Sure, they had a “contact” page, but that got me absolutely nowhere. It did have a phone number, though, so I called and it rang. And it rang.

And it rang. Then finally…a pick-up:

Thank you for calling Victory E-cigarettes…” began the spiel, …blah, blah, blahblahblah…caller number 39 with a 76 minute wait.”

Caller 39…76 minute wait?! You’ve got to be kidding me. Lots of calls, lots of problems—not a good sign. After waiting for about ten minutes (still at #39), another message piped in:

If you don’t have time to wait, choose our return call-back option. Press 2.

I pressed 2.

An answering machine asked for my name and phone number, which I gave, along with the order numbers, date ordered, and details of the problem—everything a vendor would need and then some. I was a freakin’ Stepford customer, for Pete’s sake.

No call back the rest of the day (I called about 2:00, after the mail came). Nor the next. So the following day, it was back to the site for the phone number and another call. No more phone number; it had been removed and only the email address remained.

The fine hairs on my body stood on end.

Jotting off an email with all the particulars, I immediately got an automated response: “We’ll respond to your problem within 24-48 hours.” They responded to tell me they would respond later. Oh, goodie.

Needless to say, none of this was resting easy with me. With the phone number removed and the email response automated, I began investigating further into Victory, trying to actually get a real person to deal with.

I tweeted. And tweeted. No response, which, for an online company with a Twitter account, was ludicrous. So I tweeted again:

Tweet1

Not a peep.

I went to their Google+ page. That’s where I first saw the flood of problems, with people adding their complaints to the few posts of positive testimonials. Those testimonials, by the way, were posted by Victory, and as far as I’m concerned, tainted. Needless to say, I added my two cents—make that a whole nickel.

Then, back to their site to follow their “Follow us on Facebook” link. It took me to my own page. Victory doesn’t even have a Facebook page. What? Follow us on our non-existent page!

That was too much. I went to the bank and cancelled my card; it was either a scam or a poorly-run company, and I wasn’t going to risk another $120 withdrawn from my account.

Perhaps the company rose too quickly in a fast-growing market and couldn’t handle the demand. I can understand that.

But keep your customers informed of the situation. Make real contact. Don’t dodge them with excuses. Otherwise, it looks like you’re being dishonest and running a scam.

It’s been almost a month since all that took place, and I’ve never heard a word concerning the missing batteries from my orders. Like I said, perhaps it was too much, too soon, and they just couldn’t keep up. I’ll give them the benefit of that doubt, but only because they did seem to want to do business…just not good business.

I’ve been back to their site and there have been some changes:

  • There are no more sale prices or “great deals..” $60 and $100 kits. Ha!
  • The phone number has been added back to the contact page as “Priority Support.” I called…#7, with a ten-minute wait. Twenty minutes later, still at #7, I hung up.

  • The refill club is now “pay as you go,” with no monthly memberships. Had I not cancelled, would they ever have alerted me? Doubtful. Would they still have charged me? Probably.
  • Still no Facebook page.

And to top it all off, during the course of writing this, the Pope has resigned, effective the end of February. Crap. There go my free Latin lessons.

Peace,
ML

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9 thoughts on “Caveat Emptor

    1. Thanks for coming over, Julie! Your first comment on my new site. I actually had to moderate! All future comments should be fine, though.

      As I wrote this, I almost just stuck to a shorter Latin lesson, but the whole point was about buyer beware. I didn’t want to make the story too tedious…but…I did. 🙂

  1. Love the tweet in Latin part! My kids are both taking Latin lesson, and they’ve been giving me a few as well. Our family favorite Latin quote is from Julius Caesar, “Vini, Vidi, Vici.” = I came, I saw, I conquered. We learned that one way back in elementary history lessons, but we still apply it to any down and out situation and remind each other to have a Vini, Vidi, Vici attitude . . .about conquering fears anyway, not people.

    1. Tyrean! What a joy to see you here. I was just over at Tomorrow News and saw your name on the link list for Indies and was thisclose to visiting you, but my mom needed me and I got sidetracked. I will be over, though!

      Like the new place? It’s coming along, but has a long way to go. Pardon the messy navigation. Just been so busy, busy, bizeee!

      I love Latin and had heard the vini, vidi, vici, quote. I think it’s time to resurrect that language, don’t you agree? Let’s go for it and start commenting in Latin. 😀

  2. I really like your piece on Latin. I’m Catholic, and had the pleasure of participating in a Latin High Mass back in the ’60s in the LA California Cathedral before Vatican II threw the baby out with the bath water! For those that have never witnessed a Latin High Mass, it’s one of the most beautiful religious ceremonies to be seen, in my opinion anyway. I’m saddened those days are past.
    As for Victory, my experience with them differs from yours. In December, 2012 my daughter purchased a Groupon deal for my birthday for a Victory E Cigarette Kit for $25. It came with 2 batteries, 15 cartomizers, three ways to charge, and a hard carry case. A good deal. It was delivered quickly. All product was there, and I quite liked it. I actually cut down on the regular tobacco cigs from 1 pack per day, to a half pack per day inside two weeks. I have been a smoker for 40 years, and the wife, kids, and grandkids ride me all the time to quit. I’ve tried, and this may actually be the way! I started to run low on the original order of cartomizers, so I placed an online order for the platinum (15) cartomizer “membership”. This was when they had quit offering recurring shipments. These came quickly, as they should, I live in TN, they are in GA. This order was not very good. Several of the cartomizers were total duds, and the others didn’t last but for maybe ten cigs worth of vapor. I called Victory. Caller #14 with a 29 minute wait. I waited as I have lots of time on my hands, being disabled. The queue moved along slowly, but surely. It took 48 minutes until I became caller #1, and the lady apologized for the long wait. She said it was shift change, and the night shift was always inundated with calls. I gave her my order number, and the order number from where my daughter had ordered for me since I feel the batteries are not performing as they should. She said normally the procedure is that I send the defective cartomizers in to them, but since I didn’t have them, and they were obviously a bad batch since I was satisfied with the first order, that she would make good on the cartomizers, and send me a battery. She also told me that they had reinstated the recurring shipment membership if I was ever interested in doing that. Anyway, I shortly received a package from Victory, and found not only had Amber snt me what she promised, but actually sent me an entire starter kit with 5 cartomizers, battery, and complete charging set, but also 2 boxes of 5 cartomizers each, another battery, and a hard carry case! THAT is great customer service. I had read where they got themselves in some hot water around December by giving away some free kits, and were overwhelmed by the requests, and had a lot of trouble fulfilling these, and their regular orders due to unexpected volumes of product needed. It looks like they have got themselves back on the right track now. They have a good product that they do stand behind, and is reasonably priced. The only way you can get E Cigs cheaper is to order directly from the manufatureres in China. The Chinese invented the E cigarette, and almost every E cigarette is manufactured in China. I’m sold on Victory products, and wish them well in their business. So, please don’t write them of just yet.

    Blessings!

    Michael Driver

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Michael. Apologies for responding late…I have been battling a bad bout with the flu and had to take a few days away from the computer to recoup. My head is still quite muddy, but I feel well enough to venture back on from the comfort of bed.

      I’ve experienced High Mass myself several times at the Infant of Prague Catholic Church and was absolutely moved to tears. They were the most beautiful services imaginable. For some reason, when delivered in Latin, it feels like a direct line to God.

      I’m glad that you had a (semi) great experience with Victory. I say “semi” because, in my opinion, although you eventually received more than was necessary to satisfy your order, you shouldn’t have had to sit through an hour wait—with any company.

      As caller #14 with a 29 minute wait, that’s an average of two minutes per caller. And that’s a good average…for ONE customer service rep. With the heavy demand for their product and the problems they were encountering, they should have staffed better to handle the influx of calls.

      When a company offers a call-back option, they should honor it. To this day, I’ve not received a call-back. An online company that doesn’t tend to tweets, especially since they offer that as a means to contact them? Preposterous. That should be the exclusive job of a single staff member. None of my tweets have been acknowledged.

      Email? Ha. Not only were there two identical auto-responses that apologized for the heavy demand of the holidays (this was a month after Christmas), but (and this happened after I wrote the article) when, on Feb 15, I finally heard from them via email, it was:

      “Valued victory customer,

      Please contact our customer service representatives with any questions you may have. Please have the order # ready for prompt assistance. Sorry about the wait & we appreciate your business!”

      All that information was included in the two previous emails I sent! Explained, in full. Yet they passed it back over to phone contact. NO. I tried that. Even if I did have an hour of free time to wait, I’m certainly not going to waste it listening to the funky music and constant voice-overs to get you to choose the call-back option that is really designed to get you off the phone (since they never call back).

      I’ve also had “duds” in my cartridges, which tells me of a lack of quality control.

      I did quite a bit of research about e-cigs, and had chosen a different company…until I saw the value in Victory. Value doesn’t equal good service. You are the first person I’ve met who has given them any form of recommendation. My tweets were answered with others who had problems.

      I’ve worked customer service before, have dealt with backorders and unhappy customers, but always kept in constant contact with them.

      I contacted them numerous times via every way available. All they had to do was contact me back in a timely fashion, which they never did.

      Thanks for coming by and may you continue to have good service from Victory.

      1. Hello ML, glad to hear that you’re feeling better, flu is the dumps! I haven’t had a case of flu since ’91, when I had the unfortunate circumstance of coming down with it twice! Once while in Australia, and again six months later after returning to the US. That’s the last time that I failed to get my flu vaccine, and have not had flu since. I practiced as an OR RN for 30 years until I became disabled by a spinal cord tumor, and flu vaccine was offered every year by the hospitals for free. I was usually first in line. I never had any reaction to the flu vaccine, or any vaccine for that matter. Being 56, and disabled now, I am very careful to protect myself from anything that would be of further detriment to my health. I also have two school age grandsons living with us that are exposed to everything under the sun, so I have to be extra careful.
        Anyway, I gave up emailing Victory as they NEVER reply to emails. I received the replacement items in record time, and those also had duds in the cartomizer packs!
        This time I saved the, and am sending them straight back to Victory.
        I recently ran across a very good deal from Weekly Plus. You can get a Victory Starter Kit which has 5 cartomizers, 1 battery, a USB charger, wall charger, and car charger for $9. The code can be used instantly on Victory. You have to pay $4.95 shipping on Victory’s sit, but $14.95 isn’t bad considering the cost of the kit equals that of one battery, one pack of cartomizers, and so forth. I ordered 5 kits, and have already received 1 within 5 days. The others show as being shipped from GA, and I’m in TN, but I haven’t seen those 4 yet. I’ll see if they come today. If not, I’ll be making another call! Interminable hold yet again. I will call before shift change time though.
        I am seriously giving consideration to trying an order from the Chinese manufacturers website. They offer every imaginable iteration of the E Cigarette that you could think of. And, their prices are very reasonable even with shipping added into the mix. The Chinese are the ones that invented the E Cigarette, and the vast majority of E Cigarettes sold in the US are made in China. SOME cartomizers are imported from China empty, and filled in the US, but the E Cigarettes themselves are still made in China, but are filled with US supplied vapor, and nicotine liquid. There’s exactly ONE US E Cigarette company that claims to manufacture their standard appearance E Cigarettes in the US, and do state that their batteries are imported, but are sourced from countries other than China. I believe they’re sourced from Japan. There are a couple of other E Cigarettes that are manufactured in the US, using Japanese sourced batteries, but these E Cigarettes look like you’re smoking a Mini Maglite! Not really something you’d whip out and join others for a quick smoke unless you wanted some strange looks! If you’re interested in the Chinese E Cigarettes, their website is: e-cig.com
        Take care, and hope your recovery from flu continues quickly.

        Michael

      2. I think their problem is bad management.

        Check out my post, “If My Body’s A Temple…” It was the research I did on e-cigs. My research had directed me to V2 cigs, but I fickly chose Victory at the last minute. Some of that Chinese fluid is a little questionable.

        A reader chose V2 on my recommendation and has had wonderful results.

        I found a local vaping shop and know of the odd looking units you describe. I’m sorry, but I want something that looks like a cigarette and not a crack pipe. But they did show me how everything works in detail.

        I’m hoping that I can refill my cartridges with their liquid. A more money-saving option!

        I wonder why they didn’t send all five together. Yet more time spent on the phone to rectify.

      3. And I apologize for the formatting on my posts from January and earlier. The importing from my other blog did not fare well, and I haven’t had time to pretty them up.

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