Start your complaints at the top

Disclaimer: The following may be a fairly lengthy explanation of the (somewhat) interesting point I’d like to make, but I’ll bore you with the details anyway to help demonstrate my claim effectively.

The situation:

A couple of weeks ago I bought a pair of jeans from yd, a division of the Retail Apparel Group. (I’d like to mention straight up that I used to work for Connor [who’s website seems to be currently down]; another division of the RAG, along with Tarocash.) So anyway, I bought these jeans on 20th December 2009 as a Christmas present for myself. For various reasons, I didn’t get around to trying them on until into the New Year, only to realise that they didn’t fit.
Now I’m the kind of guy that wants his clothes to fit perfectly, or I simply won’t wear them. So on 7th January 2010 (a little over 2 weeks later) I attempt to return the jeans in exchange for a refund.

Step 1 – Refund attempt #1:

The problem I faced was that I originally bought the jeans without the tags on them. Having worked within RAG previously, this kind of thing is common practice and not at issue in any way. However, when I tried to return the jeans, the manager at the Forest Hill store of yd was less than helpful, claiming that I could not get a refund for the jeans because I did not have the tags.

To the letter of the law, yd’s refund policy states that for a refund, one must return garments:
  • within 30 days (check);
  • with proof of purchase (check); and
  • with the barcode (which I never recieved).

yd has no other disclaimers on their refund policy leaving a grey area, however whilst I worked at Connor it was fairly common practice to allow returns of items without the barcode, provided it was clear that the garment had not been worn.


Regardless to say, I was unhappy with the outcome. Those who know me will know that I don’t like being ripped off as the customer, and this case was no exception.

Step 2 – I take it to the next level:

Well, I lie. I didn’t quite take it to the next level. I took it many levels higher. A quick phone call to the RAG head office explaining the ridiculous situation to one of yd’s chief of staff resulted in a phone call to Forest Hill’s area manager and then to the Forest Hill store.

Within 5 minutes of wandering the shopping centre I received a phone call back from yd head office with the green light to head back to the store and claim my refund. All in the time it took to get my brother’s birthday present.

Why is this an interesting story?

Well the point that I make is that maybe it’s best to start your complaints at the very top. The big guns in companies don’t have the time or patience to deal with the day-to-day problems which really should be easily fixed by their bottom tier. I honestly believe I spent more time arguing with the store manager at the yd store than I did on the phone getting my issue resolved! All you need is a little bit of heavyweight authority coming down the chain of command to get what you want. I’ve found this same technique to be effective in may different scenarios where the pleb you’re forced to deal with can’t seem to (or simply doesn’t want to) help you.

So next time you find yourself wanting to throttle the person on the other side of the counter (or over the phone), ask for their brochure or look up their website and find their head office phone number. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you get some action when the big boss is involved!

Side note: Those who know me will be pleased to know that I enjoyed the power trip of getting what I wanted when I walked back into the store. Needless to say, the store manager was much more helpful second time around.

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14 Comments

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  1. Hope your jeans look nice mate, what's the lesson here? Whinge and win?

  2. adam.jaffrey says:

    @delperro dispatches

    Amongst others, yes… Whinge and win!
    However, the lesson learned from this experience was when complaining, start your complaints at the very top. It gets definitive action quicker!

  3. Morris Orchatd says:

    I used to love yd until recently. I like the clothes and I can afford the odd purchase their each year. The employees seem to be on commission now, which will get them one sale, but I'm too irritated to go back.

    Did you try the jeans at the store?

  4. adam.jaffrey says:

    @Morris Orchatd

    Well I can categorically tell you that yd employees are paid on a semi-commission basis. It is mostly an hourly rate, but for sales exceeding $400 a flat bonus is paid. That's why they bring you hundreds of additional items while you're in the fitting rooms!

    They also have weekly store & personal sales targets to aim for, which explains why the Forest Hill yd manager did not want to concede a negative sale against her sales record.

    In response to your question, Morris. I did initially try the jeans on for size briefly, however I was in a rush and didn't get a proper chance to analyse the size properly.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So let me get this right Mr. Jafferey, you went into a store and didn't properly try the jeans on to get the right size (ok, happens to us all every now and then) You then proceeded to leave the store without the tag/barcode (which you working there know it should come with) and wait over 2 weeks to try your new clothes on.

    You then walk back into the store and don't get what you want so you go high as possible straight away. That's cool… you did well.

    I don't get your complaint about the Store Manager. He was doing his job. The store POLICY states they can't accept refunds without the tag. He was following policy. You say that other employees don't always follow this rule, they are in the wrong.

    Maybe your gripe should be with the company and its policy, not the person following it!

  6. Adam Jaffrey says:

    @Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment and taking the time to read my somewhat lengthy article.

    The detail I may not have explained properly is that when I originally purchased the jeans, they did not come with a barcode. There was not one attached to the garment within the store. Having worked for the same company, I knew this was a common occurrence and occurs periodically. However it does present an issue when the refund policy does not allow for a resolution in this situation. Generally, staff allow for some common sense and will allow some leeway in order to ensure customer satisfaction. However the motives for not allowing a refund in this scenario were for a different reason, as I will explain below.

    Regarding the store manager doing her job and following the company's refund policy: I have no problems with this. However, the reason she did not provide me with a refund was not because of the absence of the tags, but because she did not want to incur a negative transaction against her sales statistics (because I originally purchased the jeans at the Eastland store, not the Forest Hill store where I attempted the refund). Again, I may not have clearly mentioned this in my original post, but she did explicitly say to me that she did not want to receive the refund at her store, and that I should try going back to Eastland. She was using the refund policy as a tool to benefit her own motives.

    So to conclude, my gripe is not with the company and its policy, but with selfish workers not allowing for common sense and instead benefiting themselves at the customer's expense. Employees (especially store managers) should be sensitive to customers' needs and try to please the customer at every opportunity (one of Retail Apparel Group's defining company principles).

    Going straight to the top was a tool I used to achieve my satisfaction as a customer, when the employee was not able (or not willing?) to do so herself.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am the manager of a yd. store, and while I apologise on behalf of our company for your inconvenience, I do feel that the way you handled this situation by bypassing all reasonable tools at your disposal to resolve the situation and going above everyone in that company's heads to achieve your desired result [possibly seriously impacting many people within the company who had done nothing wrong]was extremely immature.
    In fact, the girl who served you during the return did nothing wrong, as our policy clearly states that all garments must be returned with tags and receipts, unworn, within a reasonable amount of time, or a refund or exchange will not be available. There are several reasons for this. You cannot possibly know what her motives were behind this decision not to return your jeans, so please do not assume it was because of sales statistics. It is possible that the person who originally served you when you purchased the jeans was in the wrong, for not noticing or pointing out that you would not be able to return the jeans as you purchased them without tags, and this should have been rectified with a note on the receipt. However, we do advise customers to both check garments for possible faults/missing tags (which you clearly noticed upon purchase, and did not object to, despite knowing our return policy, which you agreed to when you purchased the item), and we advise them to do so before buying the item. We would also never recommend that a customer purchase an item for themselves without trying it on first, as this makes everyone's lives harder when you then return the product weeks later and expect a refund. It is true that refunds impact our sales statistics, but I would think that being someone who has worked in retail, you would actually understand that it is not fair to blame staff for wanting to steer customers away from that path. If the jeans were the incorrect size, why did you not simply exchange them for the right size? Why demand a refund?
    I can assure you that in any case, requesting to speak to the person that that staff member directly reported to would have solved your query in a fair manner, as opposed to going above all heads involved in the actual running of the store and making all employees of our company seem incompetent of solving these issues, which is certainly not the case.
    If you have worked in retail, you are surely aware of how many people steal items from stores with many different tactics used to scam a refund. This is part of the reason why we require garments to be in the condition they should be in when purchased if you wish to return them.
    The reality is, most stores will never provide a cash refund because the customer has their own shortcomings and chooses not to try a piece of clothing before purchasing it, or because the customer has a change of mind/heart. Faulty items are really the only items that should result in this, and often, many people falsely claim original faults in their items to swindle refunds out of retail stores. Store credit or an exchange is always applicable and reasonable for these situations, and while you may not feel that the person who served you was considerate of your needs, you did not consider anything but what you wanted.

  8. Adam Jaffrey says:

    @Anonymous

    Firstly, I should probably clear up that the lady who served me was in fact the store manager. When she eventually accepted the refund, she (probably shouldn't have, but) did admit that she should have accepted it initially but was hoping that I returned to the place of purchase so that she, herself did not have the refund transaction and impact her store sales results! The fact that her personal reputation and store sales is more important than pleasing the customer is what this post is about!

    The reason for going straight to the top was because the staff member I “attempted” to deal with was incompetent for not solving my issue in the first place. She was the store manager—so I don't see how it would be possible for me to speak to her immediate manager? I solved the problem using the only way I know how as a consumer—call head office. I am sick of large corporations treating consumers like dirt simply because they have all the bargaining power!

    You notion that I, as a consumer, was not considerate to the needs of a large, multi-chain conglomerate is absurd! This blog post is about marketing, customer service, and customer relations. Companies need to consider the long term impacts of their decisions before treating consumers like shit. Experiences such as these (and, participially ones where the consumer does not receive an equitable result) result in a sour experience with that retailer and a reluctance to purchase from them in the future. It is not as if I am normally a difficult customer—only if you treat me unjustly. Far better to take a loss (if it can even be called that!) on one occasion in order to preserve any future business that customer will likely have with you in the future.

    Worse yet: Treat one customer (me) terribly and you'll deal with this post as top result for the Google search query “yd refund” for the rest of eternity.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately the customer experience and personal service once provided by happy, attentive yd management and staff has changed with the times and is reflected in your negative experience as it was also in my own. I was a loyal yd customer at the Maribyrnong and Melbourne city stores since I made my first purchase in 2005. I felt that I was amongst friends when shopping at yd and always wore the product with pride and confidence knowing that the staff had selected on trend, fitting styles especially to suit my needs for any event I was preparing to attend. My friends, work mates, and Brothers all followed suit and embraced yd for much of the same reasons. In the past couple of years my loyalty to the brand has waned as I just don't get the same enjoyable experience from shopping with them these days. After all IT IS ALL ABOUT ME!! and I choose to spend my dollars where the staff make it just that.

  10. davo says:

    I brought two tee shirts from connor clothing Mandurah, stone washed I think they call it. One lasted until the first wash when 10% of the cotton around the neck 100% fell off down to the see through cloth. The other not so bad but looking old after second wash. Don’t buy from this clothing brand because its over priced rubbish.

  11. alan says:

    This problem is only a reflection on the store manager. I shop at the Townsville store at castle town great service and no problem with the clothing.alan smith

    • Adam Jaffrey says: (Author)

      Hi Alan,

      I completely agree, and it’s unacceptable.

      The takeaway, though, is that when you’re being mistreated at the store level you can usually get some action by escalating it to head office.

      Adam

  12. Mehdi says:

    All the YD stores are like this they have shit customer services and that happened with me as well.

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