08/18/09 – You may or may not have read about the recent incident that occurred when I tried to use the self serve computers at FedEx Kinko’s.
In my article I talked about how I went to a local FedEx Office to try to print out a contract for the Gay Ad Network and was blocked from viewing their website because it was filtered out as ‘pornography’.
At the time, knowing that I am a blogger and Executive Editor of this site, I knew how big of a problem this could be for the company; and so I wanted to give them an equal and fair opportunity to fix the problem before I posted any information on the incident.
I called FedEx as soon as I got home to register my complaint. During the call I received an apology and validation that what happened to me was wrong. My main concern was in having the filters fixed and making sure that this didn’t happen to anyone else. I was told that the company would contact me once they had reached a resolution.
I want to make it clear that I very well could have rained a media storm on FedEx Office over the incident that happened to me. Being the Executive Editor of this site gives me access to many media outlets and allies. I very well could have pursued the situation via various well known LGBT organizations who could have took this story way more public than I chose to.
My main reason for approaching the situation the way that I did in the end was to show the world exactly what happens to average, everyday LGBT individuals on a frequent basis. As any customer would, I gave the company 48 hours to respond to my customer complaint with a satisfactory resolution. When three days passed and there was no word from FedEx on the incident, I then posted an article on the situation, asking for other customers to register complaints as well.
However, time continued to pass, and one week later there had still been no word back from FedEx as to a resolution or any type of information relating to my complaint. I forced myself not to call and be a pesky customer and simply wait for a call back on my original complaint. I truly believe that if I had told the clerk right off the bat that I was the Executive Editor of a major LGBT news site, or told the woman on the phone that I was with the media, I would have gotten a much quicker fix to the problem.
Some readers did let me know that they were able to access their documents at other FedEx Office locations throughout the U.S. and so the outcome did look good. Yet, contacting the company with a customer complaint of discrimination was not enough to warrant a call back by them, so about one week after posting my article here I contacted FedEx via email to inquire about my original complaint.
Here is what I said to them in the email…
Re: Discrimination Complaint Made on July 31
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Dear FedEx Office,
My name is Julie Phineas. I made a complaint to your customer service phone number on July 31st and still have not heard back from your company with a resolution. I wrote a story on my blog about the situation which you can read here: http://lezgetreal.com/?p=20058. I have found since then that the problem I encountered was not an incident that was isolated to just one store. My main concern is in having your company implement a plan to update the filters on all self serve computers so that the word “gay” is not considered adult content. My experience was with just this word, but I suspect that words like “lesbian” and “transgender” might not pass your filters either which would be discriminatory, so that is something that needs to be evaluated as well.. I hope that there is a satisfactory resolution to this problem that I can report back to my readers and I truly thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
You can contact me with any questions at (### or ###)
That prompted an auto response which let me know that my email had been received and would be responded to within 48 hours.
The next day I got this reply…
Response from FedEx Office Customer Relations
Thursday, August 13, 2009
From: “FedEx Office – Customer Relations”
August 13, 2009
Dear Ms. Phineas:
Thank you for your e-mail.
A third party automated monitoring system automatically blocks content
that could be potentially harmful to FedEx Office’s systems or
customers. Occasionally, content is incorrectly blocked by this
automated system. When this matter was brought to our attention, we
corrected the problem within hours. We also have adjusted some of the
settings to prevent similar content from being blocked in the future.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We regret any
inconvenience this may have caused our customers.
I was very happy to receive this response, but disappointed that FedEx did not contact me to let me know a resolution had been made ‘within hours’ as they claim.
I am really glad that they took the initiative to fix the problem, but they weren’t really falling over themselves to make me happy. I am not saying that I expect that personally, I just know that in situations where you have disappointed a customer you should want to make that customer happy so they won’t take their negative opinion of your company around with them everywhere they go. FedEx kind of missed that lesson.
I did take a trip back to the same FedEx location where the incident occurred to reenact the situation and verify that the filters had in fact been fixed. I already knew that one reader (thanks Sue!) was able to verify that they had been in fixed in her location, but it was important to me to see if this location had been fixed as well.
I am happy to report that I was in fact able to access the very same forms I had been blocked from accessing before, and the Gay Ad Network is no longer considered pornography by the FedEx Office self-serve computer filters.
The clerk who initially told me that corporate wouldn’t have time for ‘stuff like this’ was not on duty at the time. Although I would have loved to have had a conversation with her afterwards and get her thoughts on the matter at this point. I have to say I was very proud of myself for standing up and helping make a change in the world with this small victory.
I also feel very grateful to the people who wrote in, commented, and circulated this story. Thank you to Nerve, Back2Stonewall, and L.A. Metblogs for circulating the story to their readers, and thank you to FedEx office for updating their filters.
I hope that other corporations with similar services are able to take away a more sensitive attitude towards customer diversity and the needs of all communities of customers, not just those that are considered mainstream.
One very good resource for corporations and business owners is the International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. You can also find some goood information about how you can become more sensitive to diveristy at work and more from the Out and Equal organization.
Thanks again to those who supported me through this situation, and also a BIG thank you to YOU, the readers, for without you this site wouldn’t exist.
I also want to mention, if something like this happens to you (no matter your orientation!), don’t stand for it. Don’t be afraid to register a complaint, write a letter or make a phone call; and if that is not enough to warrant a resolution, let us know and we’ll post your story here.
In addition, to help say thank you to FedEx for fixing their filters, please send an email to email@example.com.