Gerber Knives can teach Sun Tzu a new stratagem: The ox does not run from one mosquito, but will flee from a swarm.
A couple of weeks ago, I was informed by Amazon that an item I’d purchased was being recalled by the manufacturer. The item was a parang—essentially a heavy machete that I use to lop off branches in the back garden—made by Gerber Knives. The long blade of the parang, it seems, has a tendency to snap off at the hilt, creating a “risk of injury.”
Amazon suggested I contact the manufacturer. Sounded like a good idea to me. Unfortunately, that’s where the information and assistance ended.
Hunting around the ‘net, I found the Gerber Knives website. The website, however, had no links to any information about a parang recall, not in the support section nor in the site map. Doing another search, specifically looking for “parang recall,” I found a link to a page within the Gerber site that did, indeed, have more information. Instructions were to email them, requesting a send-back kit. I did.
Then I waited. Four weeks later, a flat box arrived in the mail. Inside were instructions on how to assemble the box using the strips of tape they so thoughtfully provided. (Seriously? You’ll sell me a 15″ long machete, but you think I need instructions on how to assemble a cardboard box?) The instructions also told me how to properly affix the label. The instructions told me how to put the parang (cardboard sheath provided) into the box (another brain teaser). The box was square (4×4) and long (about 20″) It was longer than it needed to be by a good bit, so the parang rattled around inside. This didn’t seem like a good thing, but hey, the instructions did not say anything about packing materials.
What the instructions did not mention, was how to mail the box back to Gerber. Looking at the label, it had no logo or instructions. Up in one corner, however, was the word “Fedex” which led me to deduce (brilliant as I am) that just handing this to my mailman wasn’t going to get me anywhere.
So, I had to contact Fedex to have them pick it up. On the Fedex website, you have to sign up for an account before they’ll come and pick anything up. The registration process required a credit card, even though I wasn’t going to purchase anything. I don’t like giving my credit card number, etc., to folks who don’t need it, so I opted for a drop off.
There’s a Fedex drop-off box outside my USPS office, so on my way to work, I swung by. The box provided by Gerber—the one that was bigger than it needed to be?—that was to be sent via Fedex, was about four inches bigger than could fit in the standard Fedex drop-off box.
This is no coincidence. This is an “annoyance stratagem” that I’ve seen played out many, many times. I smile at you. I say I will help you. I say that you must do these three meaningless, overly-detailed tasks first, and then I can help you. Once you have done that, I note that one of the items is wrong, or that I’m not really the person you should be talking to, or that congratulations, you did passed the first stage, and now I have three new meaningless, overly-detailed tasks for you to perform. I do all this to help you. I do all this, to annoy you. I do all this, because you will do just one annoying thing, you will do two annoying things, but if I keep sending you these annoying, frustrating, seemingly endless steps toward your goal, you will eventually give up and go home. I will have helped you in every way, but I will have done nothing for you.
I will have won, by forfeit, which in business, is good enough.