Tuesday, May 14, 2013

And the Telephone Rang...

It really did. And guess who was on the other end?

Guess? Come on take a guess?

Oh never mind, you'll never guess in a million years. I'll spill...

It was Karen Brooks. Who on earth is Karen Brooks, you might ask?

Karen Brooks is the wife of Don Brooks. Come on, you remember Don right? They are the owners of Winter Promise. And as you might know, From Millan.Net Winter Promise and I did not part on the best of terms.  So imagine my surprise to find Mrs. Brooks on the other end of the line.

So what did Mrs. Brooks want??? She wanted said that she wanted to touch base with me on a couple of things. I'll admit I was a little leery of what she might have to say, being that I have not hid my displeasure with my experience, from them or the world. Possibly she had read my blog?? (Yes. )

So here's the lowdown...

First of all, she wanted to let me know that if you order their e-books, you will not be charged shipping. (I told you she read my blog.From Millan.Net ) Long story short, whatever web system they use can not differentiate between physical and e-books. So when you load up your cart it will show shipping charges. At the very end of the check out process, this charge will be removed. Score 1 for WP. That might be something that they want to announce all over their web site though. Loud and proud.

(And as long as I'm offering up opinions, maybe Bill Gates could spend his "brains", money and time creating some kind of affordable system for small businesses that will remedy this type of problem. You know, instead of sticking his hand into the business of educating children. Something that he has know knowledge of or business in. Just sayin', in case Bill happens to be reading too. Stick with your area of expertise buddy.)

Secondly, she apologized to me for the miserable experience that I had with their program. She seemed very sincere. She offered up a lot of reasons why there were so many problems with the 2011 Children Around the World program. I do empathize with how difficult it must have been with many of the titles in the program being discontinued and how they had to scramble to come up with some kind of fix for it, I do. I get that they are a small, family owned company and it's hard. It doesn't make me feel any better about my experience or the money I lost but I appreciate that she owned it for the most part.

Lastly, and most importantly, she thanked me for letting them know about my experience so they could look into the problems I mentioned and take action.  She said that she went through my email point by point, and that I played a pivotal role in the complete overhaul of the program.   I know, right?


All joking about my awesomeness aside, (I'm not joking), I was beyond thrilled to hear that actually listened and made changes. And totally shocked.

How good are the changes? I don't know. I haven't seen it.

Here's what I do know... 

From what I've been told...

The maps have been redrawn. I believe they now include the border of Eastern Europe and Iceland. I'm so happy for Iceland. And maybe even some of those seas over in Europe no longer look like land-locked lakes. I'm taking her word on it.

They have gone through the books and removed quite a few that I thought were  complete snooze fests filled with useless information. (Feel free to thank me for sparing you from having to butcher the Mandarin language while reading aloud to your child.) It's true. I checked. Those Find Out About books are outta there.

Mrs. Brooks mentioned that she completely redid the World Travel Diary to include more information to beef it up and help the student complete the assignments. I peeked at the sample, it does look vastly improved from what I saw.

Here's What I Don't Know...

I don't know whether the scheduling of the books is more cohesive. I'm not sure if you'll still be reading about Switzerland while studying Russia or Africa. Or the Caribbean while studying Switzerland. I really don't know. I can't imagine why they wouldn't look into that since I had mentioned it. So a hopeful maybe?

I don't whether or not you'll be able to get your money back if you don't like it. They have altered their return policy a little bit. You now get six weeks to use the program. Unfortunately the six weeks now begins at the time you place your order instead of when it ships. And word on the street is that the company still has difficulty getting the orders out in a timely manner. It took over 5 months for me to get my (in)complete order, the IG being one of the last things we received. We were out a grand due to that return policy. By the time our return policy expired, we had only a few items.

I don't know why they were so surprised by what I said. They have both told me that they've never been told these things before. Like I've previously written, a lot of my complaints were the same ones that I'd found on their very own message boards from years prior. I can only assume that running small business on top of caring for and homeschooling a family doesn't allow for making the reading their boards a priority. But still you'd think at least once in all those years they'd have caught something.

So Now What???

I was really pleased that she called and told me that she took what I said to heart. She seemed really sincere and very passionate about making the changes. I really appreciate that she took the time to let me know. It couldn't have been easy for her. I was pretty ticked at the end and, quite frankly, I'd have been a bit nervous about making the call had I been in her shoes.

I'm really glad that they are trying to make their product better for their customers. While the improvements don't help those who bought the program when I did, or help any of us recoup our losses, it was the right thing to do.

Am I ready to write a glowing endorsement??

Probably not. Part of that is because I'm sticking with what works for my family, so I'll likely never try the new stuff. The other part is more of a once bitten, twice shy kind of thing.  But different strokes for different folks, right?

After this conversation, I do believe that Mrs. Brooks sincerely wants to provide a good product. I believe that she's working hard on it. It's probably going to take some time to get it where she wants it. It's a small company and she's had to learn some publishing lessons the hard way. The kinks are still being worked out but she's learning as she goes.

So if a Winter Promise program looks good to you, here are some tips...

You may or may not get an itemized list of what you order. (I didn't.) So make sure that you make a detailed list about what you should be receiving, down to the last item.

I'd order the IG first. In fact, I'd probably call and ask how long it's going to take to ship. That is important because, remember, the six week return policy starts when you place your order. So if you don't receive the product until week seven (or month 5) then you will have lost the option to return it before you ever receive it.

I'd personally order as much as I could from another company, like Amazon, and only order WP exclusives from them. You'll get your stuff faster.

Go through the IG and exclusives as soon as you get them. Remember time is ticking. If you find something wrong/missing/whatever, alert WP immediately.

What I've Learned...

First, research before you buy. Had I looked on their forums I might have made a different decision. Sample are great, word of mouth is better.

Secondly, and most importantly, companies can't fix something if they don't know it's broke. I've posted a lot about my experience with this company and I have received a lot of comments from others who've  had a similar experience with some of their other programs. Many of whom admitted that they never said anything to the company about the errors and issues that they had.

If this experience taught me nothing else, I've learned that I can make a difference. (Who knew this mouth was good for something?) One person speaking up brought change for others. It didn't recoup my cost, but hopefully it made someone else's experience better.

Most of us homeschoolers are single income families. We need to make those precious dollars count. Most of us cannot afford to lose a thousand dollars.

Knowing this, we should look out for each other. If we find a problem with a curriculum purchase, it's our duty to alert the company. In that way we will be helping our fellow home schoolers from experiencing what we did. We're helping the company provide a better product. We're helping everyone make those hard-earned dollars count.

I urge you to start notifying companies when you have a problem. (And feel free to share what you liked as well.)  It can only benefit us all.



Kym Thorpe said...

WTG!! This post with the WP update is probably just as important as all the earlier ones letting people know everything that went wrong with WP. I agree that we need to share our info and experiences with our fellow homeschoolers - and with the businesses that want us as customers.

Mary said...

Glad to hear they may be taking steps to improve. I used two programs from them and the lack of cohesiveness drove me crazy. I "tweaked" both programs so much they were almost unrecognizable. I hope they work it out, I hate to see businesses fail.

Megan Greiner said...

This was exactly my experience with Winter Promise. It is good that they are trying to improve, but for me, it's too little, too late. I had such a terrible experience with them last year (had to ditch the entire curriculum because I didn't receive the guide until January of this year) that I will never go back. I am ALL ABOUT customer service, and they fail big time in that area.

Linda Noullet Irwin said...

Way to go Stef!!! They should try to make it right with you. They do not know how influential you are!! You had a big hand in most of my homeschool purchases.


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