Friday, March 7, 2014

When Customer Service is less than Beautiful

In order to protect the guilty (and avoid legal issues), I won't be using any company names in this post.  Let me state: all opinions contained in this post are that of an individual consumer and events that happened to me personally. Some events may be worded differently as to avoid identification of a company.

One of the most frustrating parts of being a beauty lover, in my opinion, is dealing with beauty companies. I've had some horrible experiences lately that have left me just wanting to buy what's in-store... when the in-store experience isn't awful.  Ah, the things we do for beauty.


Site #1: I found an in-demand product on the site, and promptly ordered it. I waited 8 days before finally contacting customer service on when I might see it. I received unwarranted attitude, and finally learned that it was due to ship First Class Mail.  This item, although small in size, was worth between $50-150.  No tracking information would be available for me, and allegedly I would see it in another week and a half.  The company would have protection, but I would not.  I've had issues with mis-deliveries lately with the mail, so it was quite possible that it would appear to be delivered but I wouldn't receive it. I would merely be out the money and the product. It was a two-day fight just to cancel an order that hadn't gone to a warehouse and hadn't shipped. It took threatening to go to the media to their consumer reporters to have it canceled. (My point was that they were sending products worth a non-insignificant amount of money in a way that the company would be covered but the customer could end up defrauded.) I'm done with them.

Site #2: I placed an order for an item that I wanted very much, and it was suddenly canceled after three days. I re-placed the order and after another three days, it was cancelled again.  It took 20 minutes on hold with customer service to be told that the item was out-of-stock.  That's understandable, but the out-of-stock item has been available to order for more than a week. When I told the representative that it was still available on the website, I was told "that's not my department. Goodbye."  And yes, the phone disconnected.  Customer service at its finest there. I just feel badly for everyone else who will go through the canceled order dance.

Site #3: This is actually not about the sender but rather the shipper. I had several fragile items sent more than 1500 miles away when weather threatened.  They'd gotten to my state and within 150 miles at that point. It took an additional week to receive the items- and when I opened them, they were damaged. I've had many issues with this company (there are only a few), but this latest nightmare left me quite unsatisfied.

Just when you thought it was safe to purchase in-store, here are a few horror stories I've encountered lately:

Store #1: I am a huge fan of this store, but there is one location that I will not enter the beauty department.  This is a store where you can check online inventory. In my area, I have access to numerous locations of all the major chains. My heart sinks if this is the only location with the items in stock, because it means I'll have to order online and wait the greater part of the week for the item. When you walk even within 10 feet of the periphery of the department, you are immediately mobbed by 3-4 associates who will not stop hounding you no matter what. Even if it's merely a cut-through to the exit, you'll leave feeling battered and worse about yourself. This store stands out as a aberration for this chain, as the other local location is just lovely.

Store #2: Don't even bother trying to get service unless you're carrying all of the following: designer handbag, designer accessories, and loaded shopping bags from the other high-end retailers in the mall. An obviously well-dressed and wealthy male shopping companion is a bonus.  This isn't the norm for this chain- even in our area. It's just this location. It's a shame, because it's the largest counter for one of my favorite brands in the region. Inevitably I end up frustrated or annoyed if I try to shop here. There are three default attitudes for the associates here: gracious and catering (if you obviously have money), persona non grata, or treated as a potential shoplifter.

Just to end this post on a happy note, here are a few gold stars- and not to the expected raves:

1. Bloomingdales- I found the item I wanted from story #1 on backorder here.  I placed the order, expecting it to arrive in April.  I was shocked to discover that it shipped yesterday, and I'll have it on Monday.  This is more than 2 weeks before it was originally scheduled to ship. No fuss, no muss.  That's exactly what you look for.

2. Burberry- I refused to order from the site until the advent of ship to store for one simple reason: for the customer's protection, all items ship with a required signature upon delivery. It doesn't matter if you're buying a $20 bottle of nail polish or $1000 handbag, you're going to have to sign.  I find it lovely that they care about the customer, but it's ultimately impractical for those of us with a 9-5 (or greater).  Ship to store eliminates the requirement for a signature and gives you ten days to pick up your item.  The only downside that I've personally experienced is that beauty items tend not to be the first items in the order unpacked- so don't hold your breath on next-day availability. Still, it's a wonderful service.

3. Chanel- Unlike other high-end retailers, they actually do not print CHANEL on the outside of your package.  It's a great thing that means that your package is less likely to be swiped since it's less inviting. I just wish others (hello, Dior?) would take the same approach.

What are your rants and raves?

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