Grounded Chips

So Bigwidesky is in a holding pattern. Things have changed and will change again. Such is the way of things. As an incredibly brilliant person just suggested to me today, “I know I will not get out of this life alive…” That obviously means what it means, but perhaps less obviously it suggests that the only constant is the lack of constancy. How’s that for a self-referential paragraph, eh?

But I’m not interested in digging into all of that right now. I’ll be saying more about Bigwidesky shortly. Right now I’m employing my potato chip greased fingers to clack out this little experiment. It’s an experiment that has been tried many times before. I’m not going to dig up specific links at the moment, but you can go to the consumerist and elsewhere and find other things like what I’m about to blog. But hey, I’m in a potato chip induced, altered state of consciousness.

To be brief, I had a hard time opening a bag of Terra Chips. In particular, Terra Kettles. This isn’t the first time. So I should have known better, but I’m in my office and I don’t have scissors, so I applied the requisite pressure to actually the open the bag; which is to say the same amount of force necessary to move the Earth to a new orbit. Needless to say, my hapless-self got chips all over the place. I decided I should let the people who make these chips know that while the chips are good, they are packaged in an armored truck.

I had a little trouble with the site. Not unlike the way I had trouble with the bag of chips. Perhaps this is a little like Charlie Brown in the Halloween special where he comes to the party in a sheet filled with holes and explains that he “had a little trouble with the scissors.” I admit it, I have brain damage. But putting that aside, the bag really is hard to open and the website really does leave something to be desired. I could explain further, but I’ll just let the bit that I wrote them do the explaining for me:

“To begin, your product tastes great. So consider my criticism in light of that. I have a small complaint, which is unfortunately exacerbated by your poor online mechanism for communicating it to you.
My complaint is simple: your bags are too difficult to open by hand. Not a deal-breaker, it’s just annoying. I still buy your product, but if I find an alternative that matches the quality of your product and is packaged in a manner that allows easier access, I would likely switch.

However, I did not want to have to provide you with my address in order to tell you this. I would suggest you unhitch the opportunity for your consumers to provide feedback from your marketing efforts. Just because I might care enough about your brand to tell you about a problem with it doesn’t mean I want to give you my personal information. If I wasn’t feeling benevolent, I would have just put bogus data in your form. I mean you actually have the audacity to require me to give you this stuff just to submit the form. I’m not signing up for a service. I get absolutely nothing in return for telling you where I live, whereas you get another address in your database. Not a fair exchange.

From a user experience perspective, “contact us” is a poor navigational device to lead users to an opportunity to offer insights such as the one I’m offering. I don’t have to tell you. I could have just switched to another brand and you would have never learned the insight. I would encourage you to call out the opportunity to offer feedback more directly with nomenclature like, “tell us how you feel about terra chips” or similar. It should be conversational and approachable in order to be effective.

Further undermining user experience is that when I navigate to the “privacy policy” page from your contact form, when I return to the contact form, state is not maintained. What is meant by that is that all the data in the form is lost. You probably lose a significant amount of comments right there because people fill out the form, see that they can read your privacy policy, click the link and then come back to an empty form and decide it’s not worth the trouble to fill it all out again.

Now comes the fun part. I have a blog. I’m going to write about this experience. You’re lucky. I’m telling you about this. Most won’t. I would charge my clients for this knowledge. Frankly, I’m not even sure why I’m offering you all this valuable advice except that I really do like the way your chips taste. That and I’m sitting here with a bag of them that is half empty because the force required to open the bag tore it apart and chips went everywhere. So let’s see what you do next. I’m interested to find out. Maybe I’ll get to praise you in my blog. Maybe not.”

So we’ll see what happens. I’ll let y’all know. I mean, given that no one has posted here in months, “y’all” in that last sentence may refer only to myself, but Google will index this post like a good little monkey and people will read it and the Terra Chip folks will either reap the benefit or the negativity. Or maybe they’ll hire me to consult on how to improve their relationship with their consumers. Or maybe I’ll get a clue and just use a tool to open the bag next time. Y’know, like a blowtorch.

Update 1:

Well, their autoresponder works. Yay. I got an email saying:

“This email is to confirm that we have received your email and will reply as soon as possible. Your questions and comments are very important to us. For immediate assistance our Consumer Relations Team is available to help you at 1-800-434-4246 (Monday – Friday, 7:00am-12:00 & 12:30-5:00pm MT). Thank you for your interest in our products.
Terra Chips Consumer Relations”

So far, so good I suppose. I find the tenor of the email pretty cold. But hey, it was sent by a computer. Also, “Terra Chips Consumer Relations”? I know, 99% of all CPG companies have a customer service or relations group that calls themselves something like this, but it’s a damn terrible name. It’s got a real Terry Gilliam’s Brazil kind of thing going on. How about something like “The Chip Herding Team”? Oh, and I’ll take you at face value that my questions and comments are important to you, but my experience with the site kind of belies that. In fact, maybe don’t even tell me that. I should be the judge of whether you really think what I have to say is important. Show it, don’t tell it.