The Customer Cares: Good Design, Poor Design

A satisfactory customer experience comprises many aspects or “touchpoints,” which range from promotional appeal to product quality to ease of the transaction to delivery and billing.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I care a lot about how it feels to work in my office. (See The Pleasures of the Office.) The collection of plants I keep there adds to my work satisfaction.

I needed some self-watering pots for African violets and located four beauties online — asymmetrical and with a green glaze that complements the color of the African violets’ leaves. The pots were on sale, so the value was very good — and I felt like a smart and accomplished shopper for finding them.

A Hole in One or More

Photo of African Violet potAfrican violet pots have an outer pot that acts as a reservoir, into which is inserted a smaller, only partially glazed pot that absorbs water slowly through its unfinished walls. When the pots arrived, I was excited to see a special feature I hadn’t noticed in the photos when I placed the order. Near the edge on the top of each outer pot is a small hole for inserting the spout of a watering can, so you can add water without having to lift out the inner pot and risk dripping and mess (as I do with another African violet pot). The clever design was an added bonus, and made me feel like an even more skillful shopper.

Excessive styrofoam packagingBut the packaging — well, that made me feel downright dumb. The cardboard box the pots arrived in was sturdy and marked with the company’s name and logo. But not only were the pots swathed in multiple layers of bubble wrap, and the box filled with those dreaded Styrofoam peanuts that cling to everything and have to be taken to special locations for recycling, but there were actual sheets of Styrofoam — an old-fashioned packing material that has long been out of favor and for which many alternatives exist. It’s remarkable that a business that sells such wonderful pots could also use such ecologically unsound — and undesirable — packing material.

Thinking Very Far Inside the Box

What’s a caring customer to do? As a smart shopper, I’d like to order additional pots from this company, and not just for African violets. But patronizing a firm whose shipping practices are from the early 1980s would make me an irresponsible shopper. Do I need to do the work of trying to educate this company so I can buy more products from it?

Why would a company put its customers in this awkward position? Your company isn’t doing anything like this, is it?

Onward and upward,


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