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E-Newsletter responses 5

From the Jan. 18 Numismatic News E-Newsletter:

Should the U.S. Mint have postponed selling Bald Eagle commemoratives until it could take online orders?

Here are the answers sent from our e-newsletter readers to Editor Dave Harper.


Should the Mint have delayed the Bald Eagle program?  Duhhhhh…..

Should the Mint have figured out how to get the speculators out of the First Spouse program?  Duhhhhh….. (Now that the speculators have left that one, they can?t sell them all.)

Should the Mint figure out how to run a business?  That would be a good idea.

They haven?t a clue.

Tom Reed
Bryan, Ohio

Yes, the Mint should either have postponed the release of the new commemoratives or postponed their switching of servers. The apparent disregard for the customer is the only consistency that the Mint can boast.

Aron Burian
Redlands, Calif.

I recently sent you an e-mail informing you about my unhappiness with the U.S. Mint for their ?changes? right before the ?Bald Eagle? products went on sale at noon Jan. 15.

I have spent a total of six hours on the telephone (on hold) attempting to place my orders. Well, today, Saturday at 4:10 p.m. I finally got through.  And to my surprise the three-coin Proof set and coin and medal set were still available.  The rep I spoke to informed me that only a little over 11,000 of the three-coin Bald Eagle Proof set had been sold. I was shocked. I thought for sure they would have sold out.

Chris Williams
Neptune City, N.J.

No, but the Mint should have waited until after the first week of sales to transfer their Web site to a new service. They also should have made better preparations for the increase in telephone volume while the Web site was down. People calling couldn?t even get put on hold; they had to dial repeatedly. Having more operators or outsourcing the calls to a third party service could have accommodated buyers even with the web site down.

They also should have warned buyers that this was going to happen.  As it was, the Web site was up until about 30 minutes before the sale started and then it just went offline. People already connected simply got error messages.

Frank Sonnenberg
Chester, N.J.

I was one of those collectors who was chomping at the bit for noon Jan. 15 to arrive. I sat down at my computer about 10 minutes early and began to log on. Slowly but surely it connected, but not to the shop page. Oh no! Did everybody on the planet want the same coin as I did? Nope. The U.S. Mint changed server services. Bad timing for collectors, great timing for the new server company for a dry run, maybe? Just a thought. Thanks.

Finally got through by phone the next day.

 Rich Imfeld
Stillwater, N.Y.

Let me just say,  heck yes they should have waited!

I stayed on the durn phone all day, from high noon ?til  5:30 p.m. when I finally got a party on the other end that I could not understand and had to go over my order several times as she could not understand me either. Boy, talk about screwing up a good day. Now let?s see what and when gets shipped to my front door.

I sure hope if the Mint has this come up again they just post it and tell all what is going on and just let us know when we can order and all will be a heck of a lot better for both sides.

Harold Ferrell
Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Sure would like to know who the brainiac was that scheduled IT work causing the shut down of the Web site at the same time a hugely popular commemorative coin program goes on sale. Of course the offering should have been delayed or the better yet the IT work. My wife is an IT manager and this is covered on page 1 of the ?IT 101? manual. Never take your site down but if you must do it during a slow time.

Greg Monk
Kalamazoo, Mich.

I tried for two hours and finally reached the Mint to order the Bald Eagle commems.  I think the Mint should have delayed the order period until the online ordering was up. I?m hoping the program will be a sellout.  

John Hamer
Bradford, Mass.

The U.S. Mint had previously experienced a ?mad rush? for highly sought after coins with the First Spouse coins during 2007. To take down their online Web site and make the online ordering ?unavailable? minutes before the release of the 2008 Bald Eagle commemorative coin showed just how poorly run the U.S. Mint is. These ?problems? should have been worked out before, and not during the first day release of any coins.

 Who makes these calls? So the phone lines were overwhelmed with calls and I bet they didn?t significantly increase personnel to answer all the extra calls.  I know this because I called over 200 times on Jan. 15, the first day for release for the 2008 Bald Eagle commemorative coin and every time I heard a recorded message stating the U.S. Mint is unable to answer my call.  
I did finally get through to the U.S. Mint during the second day and ordered my one three-coin set. However, the U.S. Mint showed the worst judgement on removing their online ordering just in time for the release. Who makes these decisions?

Bill Jahn
Duluth, Minn.

Heck, yes! Took me seven hours to get though.

Tim Harris
Dayton, Ohio

No, I don?t mind that the Mint did not postpone the sale of these coins.  I will most likely buy the three-coin set, but I have no problem waiting until the Web site is back up. Since the introductory price is good until Feb. 14, coupled with the nearly unlimited mintages just means I will wait to order. Had it been a much more popular coin with a limited mintage I would be upset with the phone only option.

Matt Antalek
Philadelphia, Pa.

I think this is the dumbest thing the Mint has done yet. Release a limited edition coin set with the Web site down. Some one should be fired. I tried about 100 times on phone and gave up.

Don Drysdale
Layton, Utah

I definitely think the program should have been postponed until the Web site was working properly. After trying to call all day Tuesday, and half a day Wednesday, I decided to give up.  Then on a whim, I tried one time on Thursday and got through on the first attempt. I was able to order the three-coin proof set.

Paul Cashdollar
Butler, Pa.

 Yes. Simply put, I found it very irritating as I do most all my ordering by the net. Then there were the phones! I just wanted the baby eagles, and only 1 of each the proof, unc, and a youngster starting set.

I feel the Mint, knowing they were in the process of changing things around to send out e-mails to those of us who subscribe to the e-mails and buy online; to inform us of the inconvenience! As it is, I never get e-mails from them and I have subscribed to them so I can be better informed.

And so, I received the mail in form and had to use it to order the coins. What a bummer! Snail mail!

Pam Hampton
Meadview, Ariz.

Yes, I think it should have been postponed until the online system was up.  It took me two days to get in on the telephone lines but I did get my orders submitted.  Even though the order taker was probably overwhelmed, he was courteous and efficient.

Blaine Coffey
Lees Summit, Mo.

The Mint really goofed up on this one.  They should have delay orders until the their Internet problems had been corrected. I was able to get through on the phones and place my order.

Jeff Keadle
Aiken, S.C.

Yes, it should have been postponed.

Stephen Schein
Scottsdale, Ariz.

I opted to wait until noon on the 17th to combine my order of Kennedy halves, Sac dollars, Bald Eagle commems and a few other items to save on the shipping charges.

Like lots of others, I was very surprised that the Mint Web site was down.
The site suggested that the best time to call was late in the evening or early in the morning.

I opted to call first thing Friday morning, hoping that the Bald Eagles would not be sold out yet. I got to an order-taker after about a 15-minute wait, which was not bad.

I was surprised to hear that the Sac dollars had not yet been placed on sale, even though they were scheduled to be released on the 17th.

Everything that I ordered was back-ordered except for the Madison First Lady bronze metals.

The clerk seemed to be dismayed because I did not know the item numbers and I had to explain to him a couple of times that I normally order online and the item numbers are posted there.

Ron Maifeld
Cincinnati, Ohio

?Backed up the phones? is putting it mildly … it totally overloaded their phone system!

My answer to your question is yes, with different ways they could have handled this ridiculously ill-timed decision.

The Mint?s (lack of) logic and common sense in taking down their Web ordering system on the same morning a new, and potentially wildly-popular, commemorative issue was to go on sale was the pinnacle of bad management and one of the worst examples of corporate ineptitude I?ve ever seen. What in the world were they thinking?

The PCGS boards and Rec.collecting.coins on Usenet are filled with hundreds of postings about this by disgruntled collectors who had to spend (or waste) HOURS trying to get through to the Mint by phone. Many got through and placed an order. Many suffered through hundreds of re-dials and gave up, only to try the next day and have to deal with the same thing. How many simultaneous calls can the Mint?s live phone ordering system handle at once? … a few dozen? … hundreds? No one seems to know.

As the saying goes, ?the fish rots from the head down.? The director of the Mint should be held personally accountable for this debacle. The timing couldn?t possibly have been worse! Days later, the Web ordering system is STILL not back up (as of Friday, Jan. 18). People are still hammering away at the phone lines ? some getting through, many not.

Sure, coins are a luxury item. No one needs to spend tens to hundreds to thousands of bucks on coins. No one needs a coin collection while people are starving all over the world, and a huge percentage of Americans go without health insurance, while many seniors have to make a choice between paying the rent or affording their prescriptions, while Joe Worker has to pump $3.50/gallon gasoline into his car just to get to work. But the screwball nature of our current economy aside, for those who can afford what can be a very expensive hobby / pursuit, to have the U.S. Mint hype the new Bald Eagle coins for months and then shut down their Web ordering system for an overhaul the very morning these coins went on sale is a monumentally stupid thing to do. Someone should lose his or her job over this … or at the very least offer a public apology and some kind of rebate / freebie / compensation to all of us who had to deal with hundreds of re-dials, like, maybe, ?Free shipping on this or your next order to apologize for the inconvenience,? because the Mint?s phone ordering system was totally over-loaded (leading me to believe they probably don?t have hundreds of incoming lines, but maybe a few dozen). And God only knows how those overworked order-takers could deal with it and still retain even the slightest bit of their composure without wanting to run away from their desks screaming. From the reports I?ve read, most of them didn?t even know the Web system was going off-line that morning, so the Mint didn?t even prepare its own employees for a mad rush of incoming calls.

If you, Dave, tried personally to get through to the Mint to order, then you know exactly what I?m talking about.

Yes, they should have postponed the beginning of sales of these coins, or they should have done their system upgrade weeks ago in anticipation of thousands of orders for these coins, or they should have left the Web ordering system alone and done their upgrade some time in February with at least a week?s prior announcement. Instead, they did it with absolutely no warning of any kind, no announcement ahead of time, and the result was a lot of very frustrated, angry people ? excuse me, CUSTOMERS.

Harv Laser
Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

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