Why Microworkz didn't work
June 17, 1999
June 17, 1999
by Christina Wood
(IDG) -- When Microworkz announced its $299 Webzter Jr. PC this March (monitor not included), the media descended on the small firm, hailing the arrival of the appliance computer. Finally, everyone cried, here was a computer cheap enough for anyone to afford.
Cheap, yes. But while the price was great, the chance of getting one was another story.
Along with many other would-be Microworkz customers, Kenneth Mann ordered a PC (and his credit card was charged) in March.
Eventually, he decided he'd made a mistake. "I asked for a refund after waiting six weeks for my order and being told when I called that there was 'no way to check' my order status."
Unfortunately, Mann had just as much trouble getting a refund. In the end -- two months after he placed his order -- Mann received a computer. But only after he wrote to PC World's On Your Side column about his problem.
Mann was not alone. PC World received dozens of similar complaints.
Swamped with attention
"We got buried," admits Microworkz Chief Executive Officer Rick Latman. According to Latman, the Webzter Jr. was announced before it was ready and the media attention it received took the company by surprise.
When the Webzter was announced in March, Microworkz was a small company with 39 employees. "We were doing 10,000 computers a month," says Latman. Then came the media blitz. "There were 743 articles on the Webzter and I did 43 TV appearances in March," explains Latman. "It was way too much too soon."
"When the Webzter hit we took 60,000 or 70,000 orders in ten days," says Latman. The company didn't have the phone lines or staff to handle the orders and the Webzter wasn't even completed yet. The company started hiring, going from 39 to 239 employees in less than three months. It moved to a larger facility and ramped up production to handle the orders.
All caught up?
Latman says the company is caught up on orders right now and that anyone who places an order today will get a computer right away.
"When I say caught up, though, I say we think we are caught up," he adds. "I don't know how many people fell through the cracks."
Refunds are a particular problem. When customers canceled orders, the delay to issue credits was so long that many customers gave up and contacted their credit card company to dispute the charges. As a result, Microworkz ended up giving credits for charges that had already been disputed. To prevent this, they had to double-check every refund before issuing a credit, causing even worse delays.
Latman admits the company may not have credited everyone and asks that anyone waiting for a refund contact the company again at 888/306-2044.
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