Go Cold Turkey

Deliver frozen, flightless fowl, and you, too, may win the worst-of-the-web contest.

What do George Shaheen and a frozen turkey have in common? Both have managed to generate media attention for Webvan.

Shaheen, CEO of the online seller of groceries, books and other items, put Webvan in the spotlight in 1999 when he joined the company from Andersen Consulting. But a frozen turkey recently got its turn.

Webvan was deemed one of the three worst customer-experience stories of the 2000 holiday season, according to a contest organized by eConvergent, a business solutions provider that specializes in CRM. The pivotal event involved a customer who ordered her familys holiday feast via Webvan and got a frozen turkey instead of the fresh one she had ordered.

Webvan also made some funky food substitutions, such as cilantro instead of parsley and a pineapple instead of garlic. [email protected] cooks will tell you theres nothing like a little minced pineapple to liven up your holiday sauces.

But back to our story. Sharing the virtual dunking stool with Webvan are BestBuy.com and HarryandDavid.com. BestBuy.com was noted for a situation in which a customer ordered two DVD movies, received one, and subsequently spent four days, five phone calls, and two e-mails to untangle the error. HarryandDavid.com was cited for sending 17 phantom gift baskets with the shipping label covering the senders greetings note. The outraged customer also noted that one gift basket contained rotten apples. (Note to consumer: Try ordering your apples from Webvan next year; youll do no worse than frozen pineapples, or possibly cilantro).

But the contest lauded three companies for providing the best online shopping experiences: SharperImage. com, Art.com and Chicco. com. Those companies actually delivered what the customer ordered.

The annual eConvergent customer-satisfaction competition was based on submissions from consumers who described their holiday online-shopping experiences. A panel of journalists from USA Today, Working Woman and Yahoo! Internet Life (the latter owned by [email protected] Partner parent Ziff Davis Media) selected the best and worst sites.

Its anybodys guess whether the offending Web merchants will clean up their act next holiday season. In the meantime, consumers can enjoy their leftover frozen turkey—and that delicious pineapple cilantro stuffing.