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customer service

M&S Breaching Sale of Goods Act?

Posted on 31st March 2012 in customer service/ M&S

I had the most ridiculous conversation with a cashier in M&S Cambridge today.

In a nutshell, we bought some things and one of them was in the sale. At the till the cashier said that the sale item cannot be returned. We queried why this was and she said that people try to bring them back and claim they were bought at the original price.

This immediately made me feel as though she was implying that she thought I might do this.

I said that surely you would need the receipt in order to return an item.

She said it is just their company policy and that she would have to stamp the top as ‘soiled or damaged’ so that it could not be returned.

I would point out here that we have no intention of returning the top. It had been tried on and fitted fine. It was just the sheer principle of the matter.

We then queried that if we got the top home and found it to be faulty, surely we would have the right to return the top?

She agreed that yes we would. We then said that if she’s stamped the top as ‘soiled or damaged’ surely we then wouldn’t be able to return it if it was faulty?

She repeated that it was just company policy and then said that we didn’t have to take the top if we don’t want it.

We said that we do want the top but it is factually inaccurate of M&S to stamp it as ‘soiled or damaged’ when it isn’t.

She again repeated that it was just company policy. We asked her if the top was soiled or damaged: she agreed that it was not.

I said to her that I couldn’t believe that M&S would have a policy to stamp an item as ‘soiled or damaged’ that was in fact not soiled or damaged. I said that if the intention was to stop items from being returned then perhaps they should have a better returns policy?

She said that if an item was at its final reduction price they were told they HAD to stamp it as ‘soiled or damaged’ to prevent people from ‘trying to pretend they bought it at a higher price’.

I pointed out that made no sense. Surely if it was a M&S decision then they would get a stamped made up that stated ‘non returnable’ or ‘final reduction’ – I cannot believe that a massive company like M&S would opt to instruct all of its staff to inaccurately mark clothing as soiled or damaged when it blatantly was not?

As you can see, we bought the top, stamped as soiled or damaged and, at our request, the cashier wrote on the receipt that it was not! Pointless much?

I will be sending this on to M&S as I would love to hear their official response!

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RESPONSE FROM M&S, 3.4.2012:


Thank you for emailing Marc Bolland about your experience when you bought a top in our Cambridge store. As a member of Marc’s personal team I’m replying on his behalf.

I am sorry you are disappointed by the service you received when you bought your top. I appreciate the advice we gave you was confusing and didn’t seem to make sense.

We use the “S” stamp in question on two occasions:

     If an item is in either our “Final Reductions” sale or our “Managers Reductions” sale

     If an item is soiled or damaged

In both instances, we use the “S” stamp to indicate an item can’t be returned under our goodwill refund policy. However, customers may still be entitled to a refund in accordance with their legal rights (eg if the item has a manufacturing defect).

We hold “Final Reductions” and “Managers Reductions” sales to clear stock before we introduce new styles and designs. This means our customers can buy our high quality clothes at significantly reduced prices. Your top was in a “Final Reductions” sale, and was therefore stamped accordingly.

As you’ve rightly pointed out, your top wasn’t soiled or damaged, and I’m afraid my colleague in our Cambridge store appears to have misinformed you. Please accept my sincere apologies for this mix-up.I’ve discussed your concerns with {name removed}, a XXXXX in our Cambridge store. XXXXX will review this matter with the assistant concerned, and will ensure any relevant refresher training is completed as soon as possible.

I acknowledge it’s not ideal to have the same “S” stamp for two different types of reduction. I assure you our Board of Directors have been made aware of this matter, and that we will review this policy as part of our ongoing service improvement programme.

Thank you very much for taking the time to bring this to our attention. I hope I’ve clarified the situation but if you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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AFTER giving it further thought, I have replied:

Thank you for your email.

I think you are mistakenly pegging this as a ‘training issue’ when that is clearly not the case. If you look at the comments left on my blog post you will see that several people in from many different towns have experienced the same issue. It very much appears to be exactly what your staff are taught to do and say.

One commenter in particular raised an excellent point:

“So I buy a top that’s perfectly ok, it’s in the sale and gets marked with an S. I get in home and discover a hole under the arm. My mate buys a top with a small hole on the arm, it’s marked as soiled and therefore unrefundable. We both turn up to the customer services counter for a refund. Who gets the refund? I’m confused.”

Perhaps you could clarify exactly how your staff would differentiate? If, as it would seem, they cannot, then it would very much appear that M&S are breaching the sale of goods act.

I have always viewed M&S as a shining example of correctness, quality and excellent service and it saddens me that your staff are trained in this manner.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Their reply: to me this suggests that they are agreeing that they cannot differentiate?

Thank you for your further email about our refund policy.

I acknowledge it’s not always particularly clear when we will refund an item that has been “S” stamped. However, I would like to stress that if a customer is entitled to a refund in accordance with their legal rights (eg if an item is faulty), we will always refund them the price they paid. This is irrespective of whether an item is in a sale or soiled/damaged.

I accept that a potential complication arises where we sell as soiled/damaged an item that already has a fault. In these circumstances, we will highlight the fault to the customer before they buy the item, and we will not subsequently offer a refund in connection with this fault.

However, if a different fault then arises, we will offer a refund. In the hypothetical example you’ve cited, we would refund the first customer. We probably wouldn’t refund the second customer because we should have already highlighted the damage (the hole on the arm) before he or she bought it.

Nevertheless, I agree we don’t necessarily know why an item was originally “S” stamped when it is returned to us.

If the returned item is faulty or damaged, we rely on the discretion of our advisers and the honesty of our customers to ascertain whether a refund is appropriate. If there is any doubt, we will offer a refund. All our advisers should be following our “S” stamp policy correctly, and I’m concerned by your suggestion that we’re not.

We investigate every instance where we’re not acting in accordance with our own policies, and I’d like to thank you and your contributors for bringing these examples to our attention. I’d like to reassure you that our Board of Directors will review our use of the “S” stamp, and that we will take any appropriate action accordingly. We are generally reducing the number of soiled/damaged items we sell in our stores, and this will help to prevent the complications you’ve highlighted.

I hope this is helpful but if you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I think this clearly shows that they ARE currently in breach of the sale of goods act as (as highlighted by the experiences shown in the comments below) if an item is stamped with the magic ‘S’ stamp then they WILL NOT give a refund on it.

ODEON #goodcustomerservice

Posted on 6th November 2010 in complaint/ customer service/ odeon

Recently I was a little ticked off with the Odeon, here is why.

However, I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by the response – from the Odeon – to my blog.

The other day I received this email:

Dear Mrs Hall,

Firstly, I would like to introduce myself. My name is XXXXXXX and I am
the new XXXXXXXX at the ODEON in Colchester. I have been informed of
a situation which occurred at the cinema when you and your family came to
watch Despicable Me 3D, and although this is my first week in the job, I
felt it necessary to write to you about your experience.

During my time within the cinema industry I believe that the most important
thing is people. Whether it be guests or my team, they both come first.
Therefore, I carried out a search online to find out what our guests
thought of the cinema and their experiences. I came across your blog and
after reading it felt you were completely right in what you were saying.

Although the toy does come as part of the Filmfeast package and cannot be
sold separately, as a gesture of goodwill I would of asked my team to give
the toy to your son given the amount you spent within the cinema. This is
something which I have already discussed with the team here.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for your visit which I agree was not
up to the expected standards. If you have any further issues please do not
hesitate to contact me on this e-mail address or in the cinema.

If you would like to forward me your postal address I would very much like
to offer you and your family complimentary tickets for a return visit to
the cinema.

What a lovely email. You know what I liked best about it? I liked the fact that he had taken the time to google and see if there were any good or bad comments being made about his new branch, the fact that after finding my blog he then obviously went away and looked up my customer record to find my email address and then took the time to sit and write me a very lovely email.

Top bloke.

So my faith in humanity (a little strong?) and indeed good customer service is now restored!

 

ODEON #CustomerService #Fail

Posted on 24th October 2010 in complaint/ customer service/ odeon

Today the Odeon have displayed appalling customer service. I am actually quite surprised as it would have been incredibly easy for them to rectify the situation and turn it into excellent customer service – but they chose not to.

Today we took the 4 boys to the cinema to see Despicable Me. As a ‘premier’ member I booked online before we went. The tickets cost £47.70 including the extortionate booking fee.

At the Odeon each child then used their pocket money – 3 of them bought the £2.99 ‘film feast’ and one bought a large bag of sweets costing £2.90 – so in total at the Odeon we spent £59.57.

We watched the film – which incidentally was very good – and once we came out the child who hadn’t bought a ‘film feast’ bag realised that he didn’t have a ‘build your own despicable me’ toy. The other 3 boys had received one free in their bag.

So we queued up again at the counter and asked if we could buy one of the toys. We were told no. We explained to the guy what had happened and asked politely if we could buy a toy for a £1. He again said no.

We left the counter and approached another member of staff – I asked if she was a supervisor and she said she was. So we again explained to her and asked if we could buy a toy. She said no. I asked why and she said it was because they don’t have a code to ring it through the till because they are given away FREE with the ‘film feast’ bags. I said could we pay for a drink (so they could ring that through the till) in exchange for a toy? She said no.

I said I thought that was very unreasonable, that we’d spent nearly £60 in the cinema today and that the child hadn’t realised that the toys were in the bags or he’d have bought one of those. She again said no.

I asked her if I wrote to Odeon HO and explained what had happened, whether they would agree with her. She said “Well if you do the letter will just come here.”

I asked if there was a manager on duty – she said she would go and get the manager. She came back a few minutes later with the branch address written down and said the manager also said no.

I said to her that I would buy an entire ‘film feast’ bag in order to get the toy and then write and complain to the Odeon – she said again that the letter would just come back to her anyway….

So, we bought an additional ‘film feast’ bag just to get the toy.

Meaning that we actually spent £62.56 at Odeon today.

Guess what Odeon – it wouldn’t have cost you anything to have just given my son a toy. But we weren’t even asking for that – we offered to pay.

Your customer service today was despicable. (Pun intended.)

UPDATE: I should add to this that I received a very lovely and genuine reply to this blog post from the new GM at my local Odeon. You can read what he said here.

Making The Best Of It

Posted on 25th August 2010 in brighton/ children/ complaint/ contact/ customer service/ Premier Inn/ son/ step-dad

The plan was that my boys went to stay with their dad for a week (commencing Sat 21 Aug) and that me and my OH would go to Brighton for 2 days leaving on the 22nd.

We would never, ever book for a whole week as my ex is too unreliable for that!

To cut a long story short, sadly (for my boys) my ex did not have them at all. Leaving us with our precious 2 days away disappearing before our eyes AND 2 very disappointed boys.

We decided to still go to Brighton with our vast budget of £200(!). After much trawling of the internet we found a nice looking hotel on Regency Square which offered a ‘family room’ that was actually a double room and a twin room with interconnecting doors via a bathroom – for £120. Huge chunk of the budget but at least it meant that once the boys were in bed we would have our own space to quaff ludicrous amounts of wine, eat chocolate and watch a movie.

Unfortunately, when we checked into the hotel it left A LOT to be desired :(

We’d been really trying to be upbeat about not having time alone, we’d accepted that our trip to Brighton would be very different with 2 boys in tow than on our own, but the state of this hotel was a bridge too far.

Quick list of complaints: damp patch on ceiling in twin room, damp pillows in twin room, no tv in twin room, the double room was actually a twin room too, tiny tv in double room, no chair or mirror in either room, bathroom had a back door in it that was half glass and looked out onto god knows what, bathroom had damp all up one wall, bathroom looked as though someone had vomited up again back door, bathroom paint around the sink was falling off in clumps.

There were other things but that will do. So I got our money back (OH was stunned – said I had no chance of a refund) and we walked 5 mins into town and checked into the Premier Inn.

£77 for a massive family room, all clean and all dry – and we all breathed a sigh of relief!

Off to the pier we went and the boys discovered why mummy saves up change in the big pepsi bottle in the lounge! After we’d emptied a disgraceful amount of change into the machines at the pier we went off for lunch at The Seven Stars – the boys loved it and the OH was very happy too as he had a sneaky pint of Bombardier.

We sat on the beach while the boys threw stones at the sea (never understood that, must be a boy thing), we walked along the sea front and wound our way through the lanes. OH showed the boys the shop where we bought my engagement ring (we got engaged in Brighton – didn’t tell anyone – then on xmas day that year my OH ‘proposed’ on one knee in front of our families).

We had dinner in the Ha Ha Bar which was really nice and the waitress was lovely, we were reminded of how good customer service can be!

Back to the room and we popped the TV on for a 5 minute chill out and OH couldn’t find the freeview channels. After much button pressing, head shaking and tutting he rang down to reception and a lady said she would ‘send someone up’ sure enough, 5 mins later a lady came up, pressed 1 button on the remote and hey presto there were the freeview channels! My 9 y/o who was sitting on the bed with my OH (his stepdad) said “That must have been the only button my dad didn’t press!”. #MagicMoment

Bedtime went smoothly, the boys were good as gold and didn’t make a sound after we’d put them in bed (the promised trip to the LEGO store if they were good may have helped).

Next day started with a massive breakfast (the boys were ridiculously impressed with the premier inn breakfast) and then off the the LEGO store where for some reason our £40 of LEGO rang up at £30 – I did query it as I’m too honest for my own good, lol, but she said if that’s what it rang up at then that’s what it was. Cool. They have a snazzy machine in LEGO shops where if you hold the box up to the screen a 3D image of all the little men and the LEGO model come to life – it’s really cool and OH and I played with it while the boys chose what to buy! My 10y/o was mesmerised by the LEGO Architecture range.

We had booked Sea Life tickets in advance online as it is £15 cheaper that way and had a lovely trip around looking at on the fish, the rays were especially wonderful as we fed them and then they kept sort of standing up in the water and showing us their lovely smiley faces! The boys loved the glass bottom boat trip where we saw sharks and turtles and discovered that a cute little yellow fish was the most dangerous thing in the tank!

A late lunch at an italian restaurant was yummy and then we began the trip home – sadly all the roads were shagged which meant that a 2 hour drive turned into a 4 hour drive but we still all came home happy.

In retrospect, although we missed our weekend away, I think the weekend that we ended up with was pretty special too and I know that it has created some happy and lasting memories for the boys.

T is for… Taste London – customer service deficit

Posted on 21st May 2010 in auto renewal/ bad service/ complaint/ customer service/ debt/ review/ taste london/ theft

For anyone who has a taste london card, please be aware of their auto renewal clause. I signed up for a taste london card after receiving a 50% off special offer email. I did not know that I had signed up for auto renewal.

I tried to use my card in the restaurants stated, but each time I tried the restaurants said that because they had other incentives running the card could not be used. I wrote it off as a bad purchase and forgot about it until recently when I spotted that taste london had debited my account. I then immediately emailed them – via their website as they don’t show any actual email addresses – and below you will find a copy of the emails in which they repeatedly refuse to issue a refund.

Web site enquiry

number2: Hi – you seem to have deducted £29.95 from my bank account but I didn’t actually want to renew my card. Please can you cancel this and refund my account.
Many thanks.

Tue 4th May 2010

Good morning Lisa and thank you for taking the time to contact us.

When you first join tastelondon you cannot proceed with your order until you have clicked that you accept the terms and conditions of the membership (copy below). I am unable to offer you a refund however if you do not feel you will use the card over the next 12 months but a friend or family member may benefit instead please return the card to me with details of their full name and I can transfer this for you.
You must read, agree and accept all of the terms and conditions expressly set out below and those incorporated by reference before you may become a member.

We reserve the right to amend these terms and conditions at any time by giving you Notice (“Notice”) by posting the amended terms and conditions on the Site.

Any amended terms and conditions will govern new memberships after the expiry of 30 days following the date of the Notice

“We”, “Ourselves”, “Our”- means Taste London and Taste Marketing Ltd

“Site”- means www.tasteuk.co.uk

1. The tastelondon Club is an ongoing subscription service so your membership is continuous, your membership is renewed automatically at the end of each membership year. We will send you a reminder by email (or by post if you have not supplied us with your email address) approximately 3 weeks before your renewal is due, to advise you of details of the new subscription. If you do not want to renew your membership you should contact us by telephone at any point within your 12 months membership period and at least 7 days prior to your renewal date. You are required to inform us if you change your correspondence address (both email and postal) – and we will not be liable for any non receipt of communication from us, this includes the renewal reminder.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee

Tuesday 4th May 2010

Hi TasteLondonEmployee,

Thank you for your email.

I am very unhappy with your response. If you make it compulsory for people to tick the autorenew option then I do not believe that to be fair and I certainly did not realise that I had done that when I bought the card.

I do not want my card to be renewed. I do not live in London and I have not been able to use the card as the restaurants that I have tried to use it in have always had other promotions on at the time meaning that the card cannot be used – thus making the card pointless.

If you are unable to issue a refund I would be grateful if you could pass this matter onto your supervisor.

I look forward to receiving confirmation of my refund.

Lisa

Wednesday 5th May 2010

Good morning Lisa and thank you for your reply. The reason why we do not allow customers to proceed with their order until they have clicked that they have read and understood the terms and conditions is to avoid circumstances such as this. I have cancelled your renewal for 2011 and as I said before we can transfer the membership to a friend or family member for the next 12 months if this is something you would be interested in.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee 
Operations Director

Wednesday 5th May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

I have written to my bank today to complain about this under the terms of the Direct Debit guarantee.

I do not agree that I gave you permission to auto-renew. I did not receive an email ‘reminding me of the renewal’ (as stated in your email of the 4th of May) if I had of done I would then have cancelled the subscription – within the permitted timescale.

I would again request that you do the decent thing and cancel my renewal and refund the debit.

If you refuse to do so, I hope that the bank will be able to enforce the Direct Debit guarantee. Either way, I think this is an appalling lack of customer service on your behalf.

Lisa

Wednesday 5th May 2010

Good afternoon Lisa,

Thank you for your subsequent email. Our subscription is not a direct debit, it is a continuous authority transaction and therefore not covered by the guarantee to which you refer.

I hope this helps clarify, I am now away from the office until Monday 10th May. If you would like to transfer the membership into another name please contact a member of the customer service team on the free phone number below.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee 
Operations Director

Thursday 6th May 2010

No TasteLondonEmployee, it does not clarify.

I makes it sound even more like a sneaky loop hole built in to ensnare the unsuspecting.

However, as you did not honour your own terms and conditions, it is quite clear that you have violated them and I would like a full and immediate refund.

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010 – sent high priority

TasteLondonEmployee,

I still have not had confirmation of the refund.

Please can you action this and confirm urgently. As we have established, I did not want the card renewed. I did not receive any notification of the renewal and I would like a full and immediate refund. If you are not authorised to action this please can you kindly pass it on to someone who is.

Many thanks,

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010

Good afternoon Lisa,

As I said before I am the Operations Director for Taste Marketing Limited and I cannot process a refund for you. I can transfer the card into the name of a friend or family member instead if you would like to do so.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee

Thursday 20th May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

I have absolutely no intention of letting this drop.

You have renewed the card without my permission and I want a refund.

As you have refused several times to give me a refund I will now look into how I can escalate this complaint. I am absolutely disgusted with the attitude of taste london over this matter and think you need to take a long hard look at your customer service. If you believe that tricking people into renewal is good practice then you are very wrong.

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010

Lisa,

At no point have you been tricked into a refund and it’s disappointing that you have suggested this in your email, you yourself accepted the terms and conditions of the membership when you joined and this would also have been flagged as a reoccurring transaction on your bank statement at the time.

With almost 200,000 members we cannot waive these terms or get into a situation where we are making any special exceptions. That said when a member does forgot to cancel their membership we do everything we can to assist them in transferring this and cancelling the renewal for the following year.

Kind regards,

TasteLondonEmployee

Thursday 20th May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

I was not aware that I had signed up for anything other than a 1 year membership.

In your email of 4th May you said “1. The tastelondon Club is an ongoing subscription service so your membership is continuous, your membership is renewed automatically at the end of each membership year. We will send you a reminder by email (or by post if you have not supplied us with your email address) approximately 3 weeks before your renewal is due, to advise you of details of the new subscription. If you do not want to renew your membership you should contact us by telephone at any point within your 12 months membership period and at least 7 days prior to your renewal date. You are required to inform us if you change your correspondence address (both email and postal) – and we will not be liable for any non receipt of communication from us, this includes the renewal reminder.

I did not receive a reminder. As such I feel that I was tricked.

I have explained to you that I have been unable to use the card. I have asked you 6 times for a refund. As stated in my last email I am now looking into ways to take this further. My bank have already assured me that they agree with me that payment should not have been taken and they will be contacting taste london to request a refund. In addition to this I am now investigating whether the financial ombudsman or the office of fair trading will be the most appropriate person to complain to, I have emailed Money Saving Expert for their advice, I have asked on Twitter what people suggest (and warned them not to be tricked in the same way) and I will now continue to seek further ways to complain.

As I said in virtually every email, I am disappointed and quite frankly disgusted that you have refused to refund.

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010

Lisa,

I can assure you that our transactions are all perfectly legal, not in any way misleading and have been reviewed and approved by all the relevant authorities. We work closely with Money Saving Expert and they are fully aware of the terms and conditions of our membership. We will have sent you the reminder email however there are a number of firewalls that block certain traffic – for example those with links to social networking sites which is why we also notify members when they first join that we cannot control any correspondence which does not get delivered.

We do have exceptional levels of customer service which is reflected in the high percentage of members who stay with tastelondon year on year and take the time to write in offering their thanks or congratulating the team on the work they do. Members cannot proceed with their initial order without first confirming that they have fully read and accepted the terms and conditions of the scheme which quite clearly state that this will renew unless we are notified otherwise. We allow members to do so at any point within the twelve months, providing this is no later than 7 days before the expiry date on their card.

When you do contact your bank they will inform you of the details of your initial transaction and verify the legality of the “continuous authorised transaction” which you yourself accepted and authorised . I have noted that you are seeking advice from the financial ombudsman and the office of fair trading who will also confirm the same, therefore I shall now leave the matter and assume it closed.

On behalf of everyone at tastelondon I would like to thank you for your custom and wish you the very best for the future.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee

Thursday 20th May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

Whether or not you consider the matter closed – it is not.

I have already contacted my bank who, if you read my earlier email, do not agree with you and have confirmed that they are writing to you to request a refund.

I would be grateful if you could send me a copy of the document which you have stated “which you yourself accepted and authorised” along with a copy of the email that was sent to me “approximately 3 weeks before renewal is due” .

Your arrogance during this matter has been most unpleasant, please can you also provide me with the taste london complaints procedure along with clear details of how I can escalate this complaint within your company.

I look forward to hearing from you and receiving the items requested above.

Lisa

Thursday 20th May 2010 – sent high priority

TasteLondonEmployee,

It has just occurred to me that I have not received a new card anyway!

IF you have sent a new card, you need to cancel it immediately. And please DO NOT issue a further one.

Lisa

Friday 21st May 2010

Good morning Lisa, I will answer both your emails at the same time.

Firstly with reference to the non receipt of the renewed card, I note from our earlier correspondence that you no longer reside in London therefore I assume that you had not updated your address details with us and the pack will be at your old address. Under normal circumstances we ask for the card to be returned to us before we re-issue it in the name of a friend or family member but I had already taken that into consideration and offered to issue one without receipt of the original.

As our terms and conditions have been approved by all the financial regulators the matter is closed. I am disappointed to hear that you feel the company and I myself are arrogant in our approach, this is certainly not the case. We offer a fluid and ease of transition service to all our members, as I said before we prevent you from being able to join the scheme in the first place before you confirm that you have read and accepted our terms and conditions.

Kind Regards

TasteLondonEmployee

Friday 21st May 2010

TasteLondonEmployee,

I have never lived in London.

I have not received the card and would again request that you therefore cancel it with immediate effect and that you do not print a new one.

I look forward to receiving your confirmation of this along with the items requested in my previous email.

Lisa


No reply, as yet, will update if/when there is an outcome.

UPDATE  – I am delighted to say that on the 26 May 2010 the sum of £29.95 was re-credited to my account by my bank who are now going to take the matter up with Taste London themselves.

M is for… MADs!

Posted on 25th April 2010 in adultery/ benefits/ Blog/ caffe nero/ cats/ Cattery/ child/ Christopher Biggins/ coffee/ cream/ Cry/ customer service/ debt/ divorce/ doctors/ eczema/ Elvis/ Feral/ guarantor/ health/ house/ Itchy & Scratchy/ James Blunt/ Kreativ Blogger/ MADs/ Rihanna/ self esteem/ skin/ son/ starbucks/ steroids/ Take That/ Titanic/ Twitter/ Vets/ writing workshop

Blimey O’reily my name has popped up in the MADs list!

I wonder if it was my rants about coffee and customer service?

My frustration over my son’s battle with eczema?

My honest account of my recovery after the breakdown of my marriage?

Maybe it was learning that Dermot O’leary used to lay on my desk?

My tale of a random act of kindness?

Maybe someone liked reading about my cats Elvis and Maisy?

I doubt it was my infinite playlist….

Whatever it was I am very grateful to Twitter and the blogging world because it is really fun to share experiences with people, I’ve been reduced to tears (both of sadness and laughter) from other peoples blogs and I know I don’t stand a hope of winning with my 7 posts, but it is still pretty cool to take part!

If you would like to vote for me – I’d be delighted! Just click here and then enter my blog name www.coffeecurls.wordpress.com into the areas where you’d like to nominate.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE

S is for… Starbucks

Posted on 24th April 2010 in Art/ Blog/ caffe nero/ coffee/ customer service/ review/ School Governor/ starbucks

Anyone who has kindly read C is for… Coffee, Cats and Caffe Nero will know that I have recently expressed my views about the differing levels of customer service that I have experienced in Caffe Nero and Starbucks.

A million years ago when I used to work in customer service I was taught to invite feedback, whether positive or negative as then you get the opportunity to: ‘turn every complaint into a compliment’

For this reason, I feel strongly about bad service and if I ever experience it, then I do like to the let the company in question know. Equally if I feel that I have received exceptionally good service I also like to let the company know – it does a person good to know that they are appreciated.

So I wrote C is for… Coffee, Cats and Caffe Nero as a way of acknowledging the great service I’d received at my local Caffe Nero. But then as I had made some less than complimentary comments about Starbucks I thought it only fair that I offer Starbucks the chance to see what I’d said.

I think it is true to say that I wasn’t really prepared for the events that followed!

After exchanging a couple of tweets, the Starbucks UK MD (nice American man called Darcy) rang me and said that he would arrange for the district manager to call me and arrange a meeting.

The meeting was set up for Tuesday 20th April and I duly went along to Starbucks, not really too sure what to expect.

OK – The Good Points

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how seriously they took my concerns.

I was in Starbucks for about an hour and a half, which means that the district manager and the branch manager both gave up an hour and a half of their time just to speak to me.

I asked them all the questions that I had been given by the good people of twitter, they listened, made notes and answered them all.

They gave me a coffee at the start of the meeting (latte – with an extra shot of course) and about half way through a barista delivered a caffetiere with some different coffee in for us to ‘taste’. What was nice about that was that the branch manager had specifically selected the blend of coffee as it was one of their ‘bolder’ coffees because he had noted from my blog that I prefer strong coffee.

They were both very knowledgeable about Starbucks. After listening to the DM at length, I am also now very knowledgeable about Starbucks! The branch manager, in particular, came across as being genuinely concerned that he had an unhappy customer, which was quite touching.

They have a display of ‘local art’ on the wall, they see this as being of benefit to the community. I thought that was quite a nice touch.

And – The Bad Points

On Sunday 18th April I did a ‘secret squirrel’ visit to Starbucks with my family as I suddenly felt conscious that I hadn’t been in for a while and maybe it was lovely now….  However, we were served cold coffee, we weren’t offered any cutlery with our food, there was a broken plate on the floor and the staff were quite unattentive even though the place was very quiet. Also the upstairs was roped off, leaving only the downstairs tables and just one toilet available to customers.

I’m left a little confused as I felt a real sense of Starbucks being a ‘corporate’ enterprise and I wonder if that is why they are lacking the personal touch.

My Questions

1. Myself and people from various different towns on twitter feel that Starbucks is lacking cleanliness, especially in it’s toilets. They made a note of that and said they would feed it back to HO.

2. Is there a problem with your wifi as people have mentioned that they’ve found it very frustrating to buy a coffee, then sit down with their laptop only to find they can’t connect. The district manager did admit that this was a problem that Starbucks were currently experiencing, he said they are currently changing their service provider which will hopefully alleviate the problem.

3. Why are your drinks sometimes cold? Apparently the ‘flat white’ is meant to be served at an immediately drinkable temperature – in one gulp.

4. I have had cold latte before – is that because your milk isn’t hot enough, if so, could there be a risk of bacteria? They said the only way that could happen would be if a barista had steamed some milk for one customer and then let it sit and used it again for a subsequent customer rather than steaming more milk. The branch manager said he would speak to his staff to make sure this wasn’t happening.

5. Why don’t you have a full range of merchandise in all stores.Apparently merchandise is only available in larger or newly renovated stores. The district manager told me that Starbucks merchandise is quite collectable.

6. Why don’t you offer a loyalty scheme – like the Caffe Nero buy 10 coffees get 1 free scheme. The DM said categorically that Starbucks would never do a scheme like that.I said I thought that was a little short sighted and that the reward card is very popular and I couldn’t believe that it didn’t lose them customers. He did say that it was potentially a problem for them in the London branches.I have to say I felt he spoke quite derisively of the Caffe Nero loyalty scheme which surprised me.

7. Will your ‘proudly brew’ concessions ever do frappuccinos? The DM said that Starbucks will very soon be bringing out a massively extended range of products across the board including ice creams, shots in a can and many take away items.

8. On behalf of @nudieprincess I asked why in the Brighton store they often serve a latte with half a cup of froth. The DM told me that a latte should have no more than a quarter inch of froth. The BM said that if you are served a latte with much more froth than that then you should return it to the counter as ask for a fresh one. They also said you need to ask for a ‘wet’ one if you want no froth.

My Conclusion

I massively appreciate how much effort they took to listen to me. I am after all just one disgruntled customer in a sea of happy ones. When I left they gave me a couple of coffee samples from the Via range and a preloaded starbucks card (which I haven’t decided yet whether or not to use – I’m not sure if it would be hypocritical of me to use it?). This was nice of them but certainly not what I went there for.

What meant more to me was that the BM wrote down both his email address and mobile number and asked me to keep in touch. The DM asked me to ‘work with the BM’ and feedback after future visits to say whether I felt there had been improvements in the branch.

I went there thinking they would tolerate me, that they would listen for 10 mins, give me a coffee and then send me on my way. But they didn’t, and whether I like their coffee or not, whether I feel their branches could be cleaner or not, I cannot fault Mike and Carl for the way they handled my complaint and the fact that they both made me feel that they valued my opinion and had all the time in the world to listen.

I can’t say right now that I’m ready to ditch Caffe Nero, but I can say that Starbucks have an impressive reaction to customer complaints which is clearly led from the top – and the branch manager of my local Starbucks is a real asset to their company.


C is for… Coffee, Cats, Caffe Nero and Customer Service

Posted on 7th April 2010 in caffe nero/ cats/ coffee/ customer service/ review

CoffeeI’ve realised recently that some of my most favourite things being with the letter C.

For example: cats; chocolate; cuddles; cakes; coffee and customer service. Not exclusively those but they spring to mind as favourites, as it goes I quite like crocuses, clouds, crusts and charisma too!

Two of my favourite things have led to my first blog (insert first blog sytle fan fare here…..) and they are coffee and customer service, two things that I happen to be quite passionate about.

I remember feeling quite exotic (yes, exotic) when a branch of Starbucks arrived in town! Had a few coffees in there, once you got over the odd aroma that I’m sure they pump into every Starbucks, it felt decadent, luxurious and almost naughty to go somewhere just for coffee.

But then, one day on the way to Starbucks I noticed a Caffe Nero sign! When had this snuck into town? Why hadn’t I known before? I had visited Caffe Nero in Lakeside (buy peanut & choc chip cookie from Millies, take to Nero’s and sneakily eat while drinking coffee = heaven) and had marveled at the depth and strength of their coffee – buy the wrong thing and the coffee was strong enough to make you nauseous….

And so began my love affair with Caffe Nero and the grande latte *sigh*. The staff were smiley, the air didn’t smell of strangely burnt plastic, the chairs were large and comfy, it was relaxing – it felt like home!

I began going there once a week, sometimes with BF, sometimes with DH and after a couple of weeks the lovely lady started remembering what I drank and would say those most flattering of words ‘your usual?’. I began looking forward to my chat with this smiley lady almost as much as my massive coffee and soon my coffee drinking became more like visiting friends. Even the grumpy (in a nice way) manager soon managed to remember my drink and once I’m sure I saw him smile.

I looked for a facebook page to join in support of my Caffe Nero, there wasn’t one so I set one up. Soon after the lovely lady added me as a friend – now she added ‘I love your wedding pics’ to ‘your usual?’ – ah personal service I love thee so!

There was a dark day, when out for lunch with friends and one of them insisted on Starbucks…. Suddenly I was back in the burnt plastic aroma, no smiles at the counter, tasteless coffee that you had to wait for ‘at the end’ – the drinks appearing in no discernible order making you feel both impatient and unimportant.

The sheer level of customer service that I (and indeed all their regular customers) receive at Caffe Nero was summed up for me recently when I visited the day after my birthday. My lovely lady has long since been promoted – she deserved it and the grumpy (in a nice way) manager was serving ‘did you have a nice birthday?’ he asked, followed by ‘did you do anything nice?’ and ‘these are on me today’. After at least 4 years in this town would anyone at Starbucks even know what I drink? “I think not baby puppy.” ( #Cats & Dogs – 2001 great film http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0239395/ )

These two staff members, lovely lady and grumpy (in a nice way) manager could start a customer service revolution. You guys are great and I thank you for making me feel special just because I ordered a coffee – ok and the occasional almond croissant..

I read recently that in Japan there is now a coffee shop where you can rent a cat for half an hour to pet while you have your coffee – hmmmm I haven’t been to Japan, yet!

UPDATE

The UK MD of Starbucks has kindly offered for me to meet up with my local Starbucks District Manager to discuss company ethos – I have agreed and supplied my email address. Will let you know a) if a meeting happens and b) the outcome

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