I’ve written before about poor customer service from mobile phone networks and banks, and the morgue-like welcome we received from a car dealership, and still it goes on. In this protracted recession companies and brands should surely make every effort to reward and inspire people who actually try to spend money with them; because they need every customer they can get, because delivering such an experience will spread positive word of mouth, because giving good service might make staff feel good about themselves.
I think you can guess what’s coming…
A few weeks back we went into the Clarks Factory Shop at the McArthur Glen Outlet Centre near Bridgend. It’s a big store with a big Clarks logo above the door. It gives you Clarks bags and boxes for your purchases. The Clarks-trained assistants assessed and fitted a pair of boots for my four-year-old daughter. Interestingly, Clarks won’t sell children’s shoes online, because as they so rightly state on the website…
…measurement is only a guide – the most important part is checking the shoes when they’re on the foot.
So it was troubling that within about 10 minutes of wearing the boots the next day, it was obvious that a seam down the side of the boot was rubbing my daughter’s ankle raw. As we live in Gloucestershire, we went to our nearest store in Cirencester to try and return the boots for something more suitable.
But this wasn’t possible, because apparently the store we visited in Bridgend was a Clarks Factory Shop, not a Clarks Shop, and it’s not company policy to offer refunds or exchanges from non-Clarks Shops. Well, forgive me for not knowing the difference – I was just going by the sign over the door. The staff in Cirencester were adamant. The only way we could get a refund or exchange was either to go back to Bridgend (170 miles round-trip), or to post the boots to Head Office. And before you ask, no, they weren’t running forward to help us with that option.
So we phoned Head Office, and we were told (in effect) that the staff in Cirencester were quite correct in their application of the policy. Head Office almost seem to congratulate them for their rigidity. Eventually we prized out a concession (I think it was a concession): Head Office would send us an authorised refund for the price we paid for the boots, and we could return them in Cirencester.
But when it arrived, the refund was actually a credit note we could only use in a Clarks Store. At this point it seemed churlish to suggest that as the boots we had bought weren’t actually fit for purpose, surely we were entitled a complete refund without holding us to a further purchase. We just wanted some boots.
So we took another trip to Cirencester, where if anything the staff seemed to have hardened their position. They weren’t impressed with our credit note, and certainly didn’t seem to want to accept the original pair back. In the end we did buy a new and lovely pair of boots, and so grudgingly (and not before an interminable call to Head Office) they did.
But we haven’t used the credit note. This isn’t over yet. At no point have we received any sniff of an apology or regret for the rude attitude of Clarks’ staff in Cirencester, nor for the poorly-fitted original pair of boots, nor any inkling of regret or recompense for 60 miles-worth of petrol, 40 minutes on the phone, and hassle of taking our daughter out in the pouring November rain. My wife sometimes gets exasperated by my indignance at poor service, but for once we are united on this.
Clarks’ service has been unacceptable. The boots don’t fit, but because of the way they classify their stores we have been stuck in some Brazil (the Gilliam film, not the country) -like vortex, where nobody does what they promise, staff are annoyed by having to serve customers, and it feels like it’s our fault. We shouldn’t have to put up with it. Act your age, Clarks, not your shoe size…