I do my best to give businesses the benefit of the doubt and speak positively when I can. Because, let’s be honest, I want local businesses to succeed. Good retail is good for the local economy, and that is good for me as a resident.
That said, every once in a while a company inspires me to take a different approach to my reviews. This is one of those times.
I should have known better.
I know what they say. Don’t buy things from the kiosks at the mall. They’re not even real stores, they’re fly-by-night operations. They’re shifty. I avoid mall kiosks because you never know what you’re going to get. And this week I was reminded why.
It all began when I lost my favorite watch in the whole world, a beautiful Fossil with Austrian crystals. It was missing for three months. I have been devastated. After searching far and wide for it, I returned to the store to see if they had it in stock. They didn’t. And so on Thursday night, I found myself at Chesterfield Mall on my way home from work, searching for a replacement watch.
I came across a kiosk called Precision Watches. They had some very beautiful watches in some very reputable brands. I first looked to see if I could find something similar to the watch I had lost. Unfortunately, Fossil has jumped on the ceramic watch craze so my watch from last season was nowhere in sight. I finally settled upon a very nice Sottomarino Italia watch. I had never heard of the brand but the woman at the counter was very keen on it. It was a very pretty watch. And it was on sale. After giving it some thought, I made my purchase. The woman removed a couple of links and put them along with the watch in the box.
On my way home, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I found my beloved Fossil watch now that I have spent $56 on a new one?” No way. That would never happen.
Except it did.
I came home with my mall purchases and eagerly started organizing my closet so as to hide the items from my husband. After all, we have an agreement to be careful with our frivolous spending these days. And, while I’m sure most people would agree that the embellished black flats from Bakers and the scrumptiously scented perfume I bought from Bath and Body Works were necessary purchases, I decided to hide them anyway.
In my cleaning frenzy, I came across an overnight bag and thought, “No, no way did I forget to check this bag.” Right there in the side pocket, hanging on my closet door, was my beautiful Fossil watch! Hooray! I was so excited I ran downstairs to show my husband. He was understandably confused seeing as this was about 20 minutes after I had just shown him the new watch I had bought. I’m sure he imagined that my “losing my favorite watch for three months” was all a scheme to have an excuse to go shopping for another one.
No problem, I thought. The watch is still in the box. I have my receipt. I wore it for a few minutes at most. I will just stop by and return it this weekend. Friday and Saturday I wore my beloved Fossil with pride. The new watch sat undisturbed in the sweet orange box it came in, ready to be returned.
Yesterday, I went back to the kiosk. A young man was there this time.
Me: (smiling and unsuspecting) Hello, I’d like to return this watch. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just found my old one the day I bought this one.
Him: (looking oddly defensive for no reason) Ok…um…hang on a second.
At this point he walked away from me, got on the phone, made a call and returned to the counter.
Him: Yeah. I just spoke to my manager. You can’t return a watch that’s been customized. You sized it.
Now, I’ve heard of customizing cars, customizing computers, hell, I’ve even heard of custom stereo systems. But I had no idea what customizing a watch entailed. Visions of watches with spinners and sound systems popped into my head.
Me: (confused) Customized? I did what to it? What do you mean? I didn’t do anything to it. It has been sitting in the box for two days.
Him: When we removed the links, it was sized.
I kept my cool, even though I was starting to realize what had just happened. I had just been beaten by the mall kiosk fine print.
Me: But the woman never said anything about the watch being non-returnable.
Him: It’s on this sign. (motioning to a placard on the counter which I had not noticed when I was staring at all the pretty watches two nights before)
My heart sank. really? Who can look at a sign when there is a case full of shiny objects in front of them? Ok, I admit. I should have read the sign.
Me: But, it hasn’t been worn. It is still in the box. And she even put the links and hardware right there in the little packet in the box. It only took a few seconds to remove the links. Can’t you put them back in to sell to someone else?
Him: We can’t.
Me: Okay, well can I at least find out when a manager comes back?
Him: (handing me a card) We don’t have a manager, but here is a toll-free number you can call. They can help you better than I can.
I left feeling like there was some hope I might be able to return it still. I mean, the guy said that the toll-free number would be able to help me better than he could, right? It seemed pretty unfair that the woman just removed the links without telling me I was permanently “customizing” the watch. I immediately called the number. No answer. I called again. No answer. Just a recorded message telling me to visit their website.
Then I figured, well, if I have to keep this watch, I might be able to either give it as a gift or sell it on ebay or Craigslist. I knew I would never wear it because I had my Fossil watch back. Besides, if I kept it, I would always be reminded of my foolish decision to shop at a kiosk. I decided if someone else might want it, I should put the links back and let them “customize” it on their own. I went back to the kiosk.
Me: Can you please put the links back in to the watch?
Him: Why? (He sneered. I swear to God, this kid actually sneered. He gave me the most disgusted, condescending look I have ever received from any retail person. Ever.)
Me: (what I should have said) Why? Why?! Because it’s none of your Goddamn business, you little punk. That’s why!
Me: (what I actually said, smiling sweetly) Because I might want to sell it on ebay.
An extended uncomfortable silence.
Him: It will be $15 to put the links in.
I was shocked by the audacity in asking a customer who has literally just bought a watch to pay for an adjustment to the watch she had just bought. Really? You have an obviously disappointed customer, and all you have to do to make it right with her is to return the watch to its original form. Yet, you have the chutzpah to ask me to give you even MORE money at this point? Wow. At this point it wasn’t about the $15. Hell, I spent more than that on the perfume I bought at Bath and Body. Now I was just annoyed by this guy’s unwillingness to do anything to help me out. It was an opportunity to squeeze a few more bucks out of me, the dope who bought a watch at a kiosk.
Me: So, do you normally charge people who just bought a watch from you $15 to adjust the size of the watch? The woman was all too eager to do it last time.
Him: Well, maybe I can give you a discount. Or you could just sell it the way it is.
I called the customer service number two more times and no one ever answered.
As I was leaving, I decided NOT to blog about this experience because I figure I am at fault for not reading the fine print. I readily admit that. However, I gave this company several opportunities to make things right with me, and they threw each one back in my face.
Today I changed my mind about the blog entry when I went to the website for Precision Time. There is a page encouraging customers to use social media, particularly bloggers, to promote their company. In fact, here is what it says, literally (I can’t make this shit up):
“We at Precision Time want to harness the power of the interweb, specifically the power of the blogger. We figure if we get the bloggers on our side, the Twitterers and Facebookers will soon fall… follow…..We will give you watches to blog about our special sales and promotions. It’s a great way to stock up on gifts or grow your watch collection.”
Wow! That’s awesome, Precision Time. You must be very proud of yourself for harnessing the power of social media. As a marketing communications professional, I admire your embrace of social media. But here’s the thing, it’s not all about getting followers and fans. You also need to provide good customer service when real humans are visiting your real kiosks. And when you treat your paying customers like shit, you are giving me a reason to blog about that too.
The coolest part is, you didn’t even have to give me a free watch to write about you. In fact, I paid for it AND you got a review out of it.
So enjoy the free publicity from THIS blogger!
Update: A follow up to this post can be found here.