Customer Is Always Right

In January, back in the depths of winter, which really isn’t that long ago, I purchased an item of clothing from that well known fashion emporium trading as Marks & Spencer. As is often the case when I make a purchase, it is not always worn immediately, partly because it may not be suitable at the time, and also because one needs to purchase items in advance lest they disappear from the shelves! That was the exact scenario regarding this particular item.

With the advent of slightly warmer days, I decided to bring the garment into use a fortnight ago. It still had the stock label and description attached proving to anyone who might examine the item that it had yet to be worn. Upon making a comparison with a similar shirt already in my possession, it did appear that the item was somewhat larger. Naturally a slight variance in size is to be expected but this appeared to be considerably larger than others in my wardrobe. When trying it on in readiness to go out, I was almost swamped!

Closer inspection of the well-hidden size label confirmed my suspicions. Now I invariably fit into a size medium in the M&S range and the tag attached to the garment clearly showed it to be size medium. It was therefore a surprise to find that the inner garment label stated that it was large, and furthermore the stock code number was completely different from that shown on the tag, which incidentally is scanned at the point of sale. This meant that I had to return the item to the store but needless to say the original purchase receipt was nowhere to be found. To compound matters, M&S changed their once legendary refund policy about 18 months ago and now one only has 35 days in which to return any unwanted or unsuitable items.

It doesn’t take a genius to calculate that the approximate time between original purchase and planned return fell way outside the company parameters. However, at the earliest opportunity and not to be deterred, I ventured into the store and dutifully queued at the Customer Service desk until an operative became available. I duly explained the situation, pointing out that the description tag and garment label were in conflict with each other. After examining said item, the assistant said that I could have a refund of £7. Well, I nearly exploded on the spot… the item had originally cost £35! The assistant’s explanation was that the item had been put into a sale and that was the last price at which it had been sold. As I am fully aware, having previously worked in a retail environment, the mark-up on fashion is collossal, and I knew that at £7 the company would not be making a loss.

However, I digress! Without deviation or hesitation, I rejected the offer of £7. Politely but firmly, I told the assistant that the item had been purchased in good faith as per the affixed tag. It was therefore the fault of the company as they mis-sold the garment. Sadly the assistant was having none of it so I had to play trump card number one. I insisted that a member of management was called, to which the assistant disappeared behind the scenes. After what must have been a five minute wait, she returned and agreed that I could have a full refund. As a gesture of good faith on my part, I accepted a credit note which apparently can be spent in dribs and drabs and is valid for 12 months!

Now, had trump card one failed miserably, trump cards two and three were literally waiting in the wings. My next course of action would have been to write direct to the outgoing chairman of M&S, naturally criticising my local store for their error and inflexibility. The other card would have been to tell the world via Twitter just how I had been treated. Thankfully, neither action had to be implemented on this occasion. I left the store a happy bunny and the company can rest assured that I will continue as a customer so essentially a victory on both sides. It does pay to stand one’s ground and to be firm, but polite, in these situations as the customer is always right!


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