Createspace Customer Service: A Horror Story

Here’s the thing, I love Createspace. I love their website. I love how easy it is to get the books printed there onto Amazon. I love their pricing – I mean seriously, you CAN’T beat their pricing. I love their proofing options. I like pretty much everything about Createspace, except for one thing …

Their customer service stinks.

Now I don’t want to scare anyone off of their service, so please read the following story with an understanding that I’m still using Createspace to this day. I’ll probably keep using them for a very long time, even with their crappy customer service. After all, Createspace is an entirely automated system, and 99.9% of the time you don’t need any customer service. But for that 0.1% when you DO need to deal with someone, let this be fair warning:

A few months ago I helped a pastor at my church publish a book. I used Createspace for her project because (as I’d mentioned before) I like them a lot. Originally I ordered her one copy of the book so that she could see the finished product. It turned out beautifully. Then we ordered a batch of 50 so that she could give them to some of the people in the church. Again – we had no difficulty. The books were beautiful. Everything was awesome.

But then demand started to grow – people who weren’t computer savvy wanted to be able to buy copies of the book in the church bookstore. So we ordered another batch of 50. And this time when we got the books the covers were dark, oversaturated, and … well just ugly.

So I went online and found the Createspace customer service page. There was no phone number, but there was a fill-in-the-form-to-send-an-email complaint section. So I used it to send them a message, explaining the problem (including pictures of the original printing of the cover together with the latest batch, so that they could see the difference) and asking why it happened and what could be done about it.

In response I received a generic form email saying that they were sorry to hear about my problem and could I provide them with additional information. I clicked on the link that they included only to discover that it sent me to the exact same fill-in-the-form page that I’d originally used.

I thought it might be a mistake, so I filled in the form again, and explained in my message that this was the second time I was sending it.

The response? The same generic email saying the same thing and sending me to the same page to fill in the same form!

By this time a few days had passed and I was starting to fume. So I filled in the form a third time, and this time I expressed how much this was “NOT OK!” (my exact words). And when (before I received a reply email) I was prompted to complete a survey about my customer service experience, I took advantage of the opportunity to let them know how frustrated I was.

This time my response was from a real human being – a customer support “specialist” who wrote to me in real-human-English as opposed to computer-generated-boilerplate-lingo, and had a name and everything! She apologized for the inconvenience, acknowledged that from the picture I’d sent, it seemed that there was a severe variation in the covers, and then asked me to send her the book id #s from a few of the books in the latest batch so that technical support could look into the problem (“You’ll find it right under the bar code on the very last page of the book” she said).

Now, at this point the books were at the church, and so I had to wait a few days until I could get back there to look.  But that didn’t really bother me, since I finally felt like progress was being made. However, when I finally got one of the books in my hand I was confused to discover that there was no book id, no bar code, nothing at all on the last page.

So the next morning I emailed my customer service representative to explain the problem that I was having and to ask, basically, “what now?” and “am I an idiot or something?” And a few hours later I opened a freshly-received response from Createspace only to find ANOTHER BOILERPLATE EMAIL asking me to fill out that SAME STUPID WEB FORM and requesting PICTURES (remember I sent them with my very first request) and THE BOOK ID#s (which I had just informed them I couldn’t find!).

That’s when I lost it.

And by “it” I mean my patience. And with it my cool, and my ability to remain anything close to calm. I’m pretty sure my response was typed in all caps. I know for a fact that it was scathingly indignant, and generally enraged. It was virtually dripping with distain and general contempt at their utter lack of competence. It wasn’t nice …

So I guess I wasn’t that surprised when I went yet a few more days passed without hearing anything back from them. But this time, when I did there was another (different) actual human person on the other end of the email. This one had apparently done her homework. She actually:

  1. Apologized (again) for the problems
  2. Explained why I didn’t find book IDs (these books were outsourced to a different printer)
  3. Explained that they couldn’t do their normal quality checks because of #2
  4. Offered to ship me 50 new books to replace the dark/ugly ones
  5. Promised that they would do everything possible not to outsource any work from our account again (and therefore hopefully avoid repeating the problem again)

As promised, the new batch of books was shipped – and it was beautiful. So it ended up being a completely acceptable resolution to the problem, but frankly it shouldn’t have taken that much time, frustration, aggravation, or screaming on my end to get there. Because in all honesty, if I have to yell at you to get you to do your job, then really … you’re not doing your job.

Has anyone ever had a similar experience? Have your customer service experiences with Createspace been better? Leave a comment and let me know

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5 thoughts on “Createspace Customer Service: A Horror Story

  1. I’ve been publishing with CS for at least 4-5 years and occasionally I have problems manufactured for me, usually by their onsite review team. I say “manufactured” because I’ve had them reject my galley proofs for the most ridiculous of reasons. Now, when I proof a novel, I do it both on disk and physically in the galley proof I get from South Carolina as a backup. Over the last week, they’ve rejected the latest version of my novel because they’re claiming there’s a copyright restriction of a free font I’d downloaded from a website that specifically says it’s fine for free commercial use and that it’s Freeware. Last night, I’d copied a screengrab from the site from which I’d downloaded it (for context’s sake, I should stop here to say they’d printed my 2nd galley this summer with the font in question) and sent Customer Service the file attachment. Today I woke up to find yet anther generic email telling me they rejected my galley for the 3rd time in a row because of a nonexistent copyright restriction.

    Here’s the problem: If you wish to complain about this, you can’t just contact the Onsite Review Team but Customer Service. And the problem with THAT is Customer Service, incredibly, is forbidden from contacting the Onsite Review Team. Their only go-between is the Technical Services Department, which, unlike the 24/7/365 CS and ORT, works 9-5, M-F. In other words, CS is placed in the absurd position of having to speak for a department from whom they’re forbidden to contact. The executive assclown who thought of THAT little piece of innovation on the org chart needs to get their ass fired on the spot.

    Here’s where it gets really interesting: When she began asking questions, the CS rep told me the Review Team’s actual reason for rejecting my manuscript was not because of a copyright issue but because the Buffied font that’s at the center of this wasn’t embedded. Which is pure bullshit because, again, they’d printed that font in the 2nd galley and #2 the font shows up fine on the Digital Viewer. So the Onsite Review Team’s reasons for refusing to print my galley are shifting and both without merit. Here’s the actual notation they put on my book’s file review page: “The interior contains the font Buffied cannot be embedded that we are unable to embed. Please embed all fonts in your PDF.” Not only is that blatantly wrong, it’s not even literate. I fell like I’m dealing with Latka Gravas from TAXI. (Note: You can’t embed fonts in a .pdf file. It has to be done in the native Word file, which I’d done.)

    I’ve demanded to speak to an executive twice within the last few days and have waited by the phone for nothing. And it seems every time I write to a CS rep, I get a response back from a completely different person who doesn’t take the time to review the history of the correspondence. It’s, as one person described it years ago, “like deaf people talking to each other.”

    You’re right: Their publishing and marketing platform is wonderful. It’s a seamless entry into the biggest online book market on earth and the rates are pretty OK. But it’s their setup and execution that sucks big time.

  2. Yes, I’ve had similar nightmare customer service from CreateSpace–parts of both of the above, almost exactly. Frankly, I wonder if they even have a real CS service at CreateSpace. Instead, I think it’s a computer-generated faux CS presence, complete with names of reps, etc. that pretends to respond, address complaints, etc. but actually does not. The responses lead you to think someone is “on it” but the promise of action fades, or just doesn’t happen. You’re kept confused by emails that address stuff that has nothing to do with your complaint. You begin to see the same boilerplate coming up again and again. Once I complained about a washed-out print job in the physical proof. They said, yes our bad, we’re sending another, improved one. It was identical to the first. And so on. And don’t think their ready phone access is any help. The voice on the other end of the phone is not empowered to solve your problem, only toss it into the same que you’d be in if you emailed. Again, the ILLUSION of service. I think this is what they’re about, rather than giving actual service.

  3. “Frankly, I wonder if they even have a real CS service at CreateSpace. Instead, I think it’s a computer-generated faux CS presence, complete with names of reps, etc. that pretends to respond, address complaints, etc. but actually does not. The responses lead you to think someone is “on it” but the promise of action fades, or just doesn’t happen. You’re kept confused by emails that address stuff that has nothing to do with your complaint.”

    God, do I feel your pain.

  4. Horrible, horrible, horrible company – No Customer Service whatsoever. Glad the folks above were able to get sort of help, but I was overcharged and it appears I’ll never get my money back. Like the others, I found their product set-up to be just fine, but being overcharged & then ignored is hard to handle. I left many, many messages via phone and e-mail, even to “real” people who I had worked with on production, but never once received any sort of response. Horrible people. Will never work with them again.

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