Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It started, I'm sure, as just another day.

But, when frustration mounts, people can begin to go to extremes.

You might feel, therefore, the pain inherent in these words from a frustrated man: 

Second to last resort to get the support I need. Resorting to bad PR.

In this world of rampant social media, customers know that making a noise, one that just might lead to a stink, is the most powerful cudgel possessed by everyday people.

For some people, like Redditor u/Cheetohz, resorting to bad PR wasn't exactly palatable. 

He said: 

Hate that it had to come to this.

Who had driven him this far? Google.

I recently returned a defective white pixel 3, so that I could re purchase a not pink model. Problem is, I was only refunded $80 (tax) I'm still owed $900 by Google. With the shipping is my not pink model, Google screwed up and shipped me 10.... At $1000ea, that's $10k of product I now legally have in my possession. In all, I'm actually in the positive by $8k.

I fear one or two people would try and profit from Google's gaffe.

After all, who wants 10 not pink Pixel 3 phones when they only wanted one? (If you haven't seen one, they're more of an insipid pink than brightly-colored things. That's why they're called not pink.)

And by the way, how on earth could Google send 10 Pixel 3 phones to a customer without noticing this wasn't quite what he wanted? Or was this some form of twisted West Coast punishment?

We're dealing here, though, with an ethical man. He continued: 

Well, I want to do the right thing and return them. But I'm not willing to do so until my refund is processed properly. If I don't get the proper support here, I'll going to attempt to return the extra 9 phones via $1000 COD. If the shipment is rejected, I'll be selling them to recoup my money that wasn't refunded. Again, not the right thing to do but I've run out of patience and options.

Naturally, given that he'd posted on r/Google Pixel, a Googlie contacted him with a view to offering some sort of resolution. And he did, indeed, get one.

This amusing tale, though, offers a powerful contrast with one of Google's biggest rivals, Apple.

Many laughed when Steve Jobs decided to open the first Apple Store in May 2001. 

So-called experts derided Apple as "crazy" to enter the ugly world of retail.

Yet now America's malls beg for an Apple Store because they know its mere presence brings in other brands.

What Jobs understood--and what Google may never understand--is that if you're selling a customer an actual physical product, you'd better have excellent customer service to back it up.

Too many tech companies sniff at the mere concept of customer service. 

This is partly because the likes of Google and Facebook are used to giving their services away for free. 

It's mostly because too many tech companies were set up with an inherent disregard for users and didn't want to invest in hiring real people to deal with real people.

"Email us," they said. And the email sat there unanswered. Or, worse, answered with an automatic, irrelevant reply.

Check out our FAQ. If you don't find the answer there, too bad.

Tech founders, after all, were so very clever. Real people, on the other hand, were laughably unaware of what these clever founders were doing. 

Surely, the founders reasoned, one could just sell them a product online and that would be that.

As u/Cheetohz points out, it isn't so easy. Bothering to create a customer service structure, with well-trained staff to make eminently sensible decisions, is its own talent.

For all that Apple Stores have become overcrowded, they're still a place for customers to go to get their gadgets fixed.

There's still a physical presence for them to touch. And there are well-trained staff who are generally very helpful.

Google has tried more than once to launch phone brands.

Its first effort was called the Nexus. A perfectly good phone, with essentially no customer service attached. I'm not sure things have got that much better.

Indeed, here's someone who got 16 Google phones and describes the customer service experience as "hell."

Of course, single hilarious (or painful) instances of customer service snafus can happen to anyone.

I have a feeling, though, that they happen less often to companies in which customer service is a committed part of their business.

Indeed, as u/Cheetohz mused, once he'd heard Google would set things right: 

I hope Google had learned a good takeaway from this and can work to better service the entire community. Probably not, but we can always dream.

Published on: Apr 20, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.