How to Piss Off Your Internet Customers

Recently I got perturbed by a company’s shoddy website design, which made me feel like they really just didn’t care to have me as a customer.

Please view this as an exercise in how _not_ to treat your customers. The actions applicable to your company are left as an exercise for the reader, but this at least:

Make sure your organization’s feedback mechanisms are actually working. Yours are? Really? Prove it.*

Update: I have a call with Martin, a customer service rep from Indigo, scheduled for this afternoon. They’ve done at least one thing right: monitoring the social media for signs that things aren’t going well. Good catch. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Update #2: Just finished my call with Martin, a pleasant CSR who walked through all my issues with me and documented them for his Vice President. After my initial experience I have to say I’m impressed. They were on top of things right away, and even if the website is a little kludgy, they’ve won me back. I’ll try again. Thank-you.

“Dear Unnamed Traditional Bookstore Trying to Claw Back Market Share From Amazon,

Why are you making it so hard to use your website? There’s no reason for it and it just makes you look stupid, as if you don’t want customers, or both.

1) When hitting the feedback button, and I’m ALREADY SIGNED IN, why do I have to fill in my name and e-mail address again? You already know who I am.
<yes, <span=”” class=”hiddenGrammarError” pre=”” data-mce-bogus=”1″>i=”” realize=”” i’m=”” shouting.=”” there’s=”” no=”” reason=”” for=”” bad=”” interface=”” design.=”” this=”” is=”” design=”” at=”” <span=”” class=”hiddenGrammarError” pre=”at “>it’s worst: punishing the user for your lack of forethought. Ever heard of a “use case“? They’ve been around for a while.>

2) My original challenge was to add an existing reward card to my account. In this regard the help is less than helpful. Telling me that I can do it, but not telling me how or providing a simple link to the appropriate form is just malicious. Hunting around the “My Account” pages (which also has dead links, by the way) hasn’t endeared me to your company either. Maybe it’s there, but I can’t find it. MAKE THINGS EASY FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS PLEASE!

3) I received an e-mail from you because of my in-store rewards card. The e-mail led me to a website that encouraged me to create an account, which I did. I now have two reward card numbers? Really? Isn’t that just confusing for your customers and a headache for your staff? Isn’t the cost of administering two numbers for one customer driving up your cost and reducing your responsiveness?

4) When I finally hit the submit button I expect my feedback will actually submit. Instead it gets stuck in limbo and never actually reaches your company servers. That’s time and effort I’m never going to get back.

I came to the website looking for an e-reader, ut if you can’t run a simple retail website why should I trust you with my money? Retail e-commerce is not that easy, but it’s not like you’re inventing the wheel here, is it? It’s been done before.

I was sceptical that I wanted an e-reader to begin with. Some of my clients and peers told me I should really try it out. I like books. I like the feel, the weight, the fact that I can write in the margins and turn down the pages. That I can go back years later and re-read my favourites, lend them to friends, or even pass them down to my children.

You think I’m kidding? My wife has a cabinet with glass doors dedicated to her grandmother’s leather bound books. That grandmother was one of the first women to graduate from McGill University at the turn of the last century with a degree in literature. We don’t have a family room downstairs. We have a library with room for a TV and a sofa.

I’ll stick to my real-life books for now**, and you’ve lost a revenue stream.

In summary:

1) Stop wasting my time (like identifying myself more than once, looking for simple functionality that doesn’t exist, submitting feedback that doesn’t get to you)

2) Stop doing things more than once (like issuing more than one loyalty number to a customer)

3) If you want feedback, please make sure the mechanism for submitting that feedback works so you can identify and fix issues.

Kindest Regards
Bernie May

* This post started with me actually filling in the feedback form on the Indigo / Chapters / Coles “Plum Rewards” website. When I hit the submit button it didn’t actually go anywhere. That’s when my calm became damaged.

** Just in case you think me a Luddite, I begin my professional life as a programmer. Most of my hesitation about getting an e-reader centre around Digital Rights Management, which have real-world impacts.


Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with

7 thoughts on “How to Piss Off Your Internet Customers

  1. Hi Bernie,

    I am very sorry to hear you had a bad experience on I have forwarded your post to our head of customer service, who will be reaching out to you via email to follow up.

    I’d also like to thank you for the post. We take our customer feedback very seriously, and we will be investigating all of the issues you have described here.

    If you have any additional questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to email me:

    Roisin Bonner
    Social Media Specialist, Indigo Books & Music Inc.


    1. Thanks bro. I found a couple more, fixed now.
      I’ll be talking on the phone with them later today or tomorrow about my “negative post”. I prefer to think of it as “constructive feedback”, but I see their point. I wasn’t exactly using neutral language.


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