The KellyAnne Conway School of Customer Service

It’s just a few weeks into a new year and unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve been exposed to interviews with White House Counselor KellyAnne Conway. She has masterfully demonstrated how to dodge questions, provide “alternate facts” and generally frustrate the media in their efforts to get to the truth. In a recent interaction with Samsung, I’m convinced that the customer service agent received training from KellyAnne, as I’ve never experienced such a roundabout set of back-and-forth email communications from any major brand — ever!

KellyAnne Conway[Editor’s note: Update — Today, White House officials told CNNMoney that Kellyanne Conway has been sidelined from TV appearances because her comments last week about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn contradicted those of the White House. On Fox News, she denied being sidelined.]

It’s just a few weeks into a new year and unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve been exposed to interviews with White House Counselor KellyAnne Conway. She has masterfully demonstrated how to dodge questions, provide “alternate facts” and generally frustrate the media in their efforts to get to the truth.

In a recent interaction with Samsung, I’m convinced that the customer service agent received training from KellyAnne, as I’ve never experienced such a roundabout set of back-and-forth email communications from any major brand — ever!

Let me start with a little background: I don’t know about you, but I am not happy when it comes time to replace my mobile phone. Just as I get all my settings to work the way I want, and can flick screens, open apps and manipulate my device with minimal effort, the device inevitably starts to fail. First, it started shutting itself down when my power level fell below 50 percent, then it would freeze at the most inopportune moments, and finally, when it refused to hold any charge at all, I cried “Uncle!”

Okay, all you iPhone owners can start snickering now … because I own a Samsung Galaxy (and no, not the kind that self-ignites), and have done so since my Blackberry became a dangerously obsolete option (I still miss that qwerty keyboard!)

I braced myself for that ugly visit to the AT&T store. The one where no one seems to know how to import my contacts, or set up my email; true in keeping with my past experience, I was in the store for a full two hours and left with my old phone, a new phone and a promise to return in 24-hours after I had figured out how to set up my Exchange Server email myself. But that’s a story for another day.

The fun really started after I was upsold a Samsung tablet for $0.99 in the AT&T store. That probably should have been my first clue …

About 24-hours after my purchase, I received an email from Samsung congratulating me on my Tablet purchase and offering me 30 percent off on a tablet cover. Since I planned to carry my Tablet in my bag as a notepad, I figured a cover was a wise purchase decision. I copied the promotional code, and clicked the link.

The landing page presented me with a number of colorful Tablet cover options. I carefully looked at each one, compared the colors, the way they opened/closed, made my purchase selection, pasted the promotional code and checked out.

But when the Tablet cover arrived 10-days later, it was too big for my Tablet!

I immediately went to the Samsung customer service link and advised them of my plight. The customer service agent, Brian, started the conversation just like KellyAnne had taught him. Repeat the key word used in the question, but take your answer in another direction.

Even though I had clearly laid out the details of my transaction, Brian advised me that if my tablet type and the tablet cover purchased “matched” I would be offered a full refund. Since this was my first clue that there was a “tablet type” we all know where this is going … clearly they were not going to match because the cover didn’t fit!

After a very convoluted set of email exchanges, it turns out there are multiple tablet types, and even though Samsung knew what type of tablet I had purchased (it’s all about BIG data!), it never occurred to Samsung marketing people to send me to a landing page that presented tablet covers that would actually fit the device I had purchased. Instead, knowing I might own multiple tablets and want to purchase one for every tablet I owned, they presented me with all their tablet cover options. Never once did they point out “make sure you select a tablet cover that fits YOUR particular tablet type” or “Hey you idiot, there are multiple tablet types. Check your receipt to learn which tablet type you purchased and match it to the tablet cover.”

Call me dumb, but I honestly thought marketing would have linked their email to a landing page with covers that fit my device, and then offered a link to additional covers in case I owned additional devices. Now that would have made for a smooth customer journey.

Brian was not very helpful either. He ignored any facts relating to the email conversation I presented, he was dismissive of any data exchanges between AT&T and Samsung, and his reality was that I made a purchase error … and it was all my problem. Golly gee, KellyAnne trained you very well!

Now I can’t decide if I should pay to return the cover and get a new one, or simply sell the cover on e-Bay or sell the cover and the Tablet and call it a day. If you’re interested in any of these options, email me and I’m sure we can cut a deal that doesn’t involve Russia.

Amazon’s Just Taunting Me – When Retargeting Goes Wrong

I’m generally pretty happy to be marketed to, especially when it’s well-personalized. But when retargeting is done wrong, it can go really wrong. And Amazon, with me, has gone really, really wrong. To the extent that this e-commerce scion isn’t just wasting its money, it’s actively ticking me off.

I’m generally pretty happy to be marketed to, especially when it’s personalized. Facebook ads, retargeting me across the Internet, direct mail … All of those things were on display in my Christmas post.

But when retargeting is done wrong, it can go really wrong. And Amazon, with me, has gone really, really wrong. To the extent that this e-commerce scion isn’t just wasting its money, it’s actively ticking me off.

Amazon Retargeting
And God help you if you click on one of those ads to see if the size selection changed …

Clothes are hard for me to find. I’m very tall and very big, and going to anything but big-and-tall stores is pretty much a waste of time (big-and-tall stores are basically the place to pay Brooks Brothers prices for K-mart quality and fashion sense, but that’s for another post).

So I do a lot of clothes shopping online with search terms like “3xlt” and “56 long.”

The problem is, search technology is baffled by this arcane language! Look up “men’s trenchcoat 3xlt” and you’ll see this:

Google Search for Men's TrenchcoatNone of those links takes you to trenchcoats in xxx-large tall. It doesn’t matter if I spell it “trenchcoat” or “trench coat.” It doesn’t matter if I use “3xlt” or “xxxl tall” or “long” or “XXX Tall Coat.” (Admittedly, the last one works a little better, but not by much.)

It’s hard to zero in on clothes in specific, uncommon sizes. So I wind up clicking on a lot of links that lead to clothes that do not come in my size.

And then, I start seeing ads for things like this:

Asian Large Trench Coat
I’m sure it’s huge in Japan.

That’s actually a nice-looking coat! I’d love to get that … Except once I click around, I see they only make it in Asian sizes that sound about as big as one of my socks.

I can get over that. That’s been my life since I was 10 and grew out of “huskies.”

But then these ads, in the immortal words of Denny Hatch, Start. Chasing. Me. All. Over. The. Internet.

Seriously, I’m seeing Amazon ads for trench coats in essentially children’s sizes on Facebook, Yahoo, every article I visit, and even occasionally in our own Today @ Target Marketing newsletter (which sometimes serves network ads via LiveIntent).

Some of the dangers of retargeting are well documented. Yes, it’s annoying to see ads, sometimes even sales, for things you just bought and products you could’ve bought instead. It’s annoying to see ads for things you shouldn’t buy but tempt you, even after your willpower won the battle against temptation once.

It’s another thing altogether to see hundreds of ad impressions for a piece of apparel that is actively making you angry because they don’t make it for you.

That’s when the customer experience goes from “OK, this can be useful, but today it’s annoying” to making me go full Picard.

Amazon PicardTargeting algorithms aren’t going anywhere. I’ve personally been enticed to spend way more thanks to them — when they’re not actively taunting me.

But the deeper we get into this uncanny valley, the more we see instances where your AI sales assistant acts dumber than your pimple-faced summer stock boy. And I wonder if that will ever change.