When it’s time to complain: my Boots experience

Bit of a random (chatty/ranty) post for me but I had an experience in Boots recently which made me realise a post on ‘when it’s time to complain’ was way overdue. I’ve worked in retail my whole life, I started a Saturday job in Boots as soon as I turned 16 and worked my way through a few different retailers before starting my own retail based business. I know it’s a hard job, I’ve come home from work with dead feet from standing all day, I’ve been yelled at, had rubbish thrown at my feet for me to ‘do my job’ and been talked down to more times than I care to remember! But I’ve also had repeat customers who pop in for a chat, people praising my customer service, people popping a thank-you note in the post or a christmas card on my desk (thomas cook) I think working in retail is a marmite job, and I definitely love it (I cannot say the same for Marmite though!) So here is my ‘when it’s time to complain’ experience…

After moving to Canterbury I was pretty shocked at how different some of the staff can be, maybe I never noticed this in London but in a smaller city it seemed like people were a little bit less friendly and a bit harder to engage with (this isn’t a sweeping statement there are plenty of lovely retail staff here but this was my initial impression!) In the past year or so I definitely noticed that Boots in particular was becoming a bit lax, as a beauty blogger I spend a ridiculous amount of time in store and our Canterbury Boots is pretty big which means they stock a lot of great brands, but something was ‘off’. I would go in looking for a new release and not be able to find it, a quick look in the drawer below would show me they had loads of it and staff would say ‘sorry not had time to put it out yet’ a week later the same stock still wouldn’t be out. The makeup stands (not the ones with their own staff, but the ‘self service’ Rimmel/Maybelline ones) would be mixed up with Collection makeup on the Soap and Glory stand, Rimmel on the Maybelline stand and everything was just a bit chaotic. I am talking about a regular occurrence of this, not a ‘busy day’ in store. I would see broken nail polish bottles, lipsticks smeared all over the stand and open products just everywhere. At the same time staff would be standing in groups chatting, not concerned about the mess and not being particularly helpful either.

I thought back to when I was working in Boots and the managers were so on everything being clean and tidy and if I am honest I was shocked, this wasn’t basic tidying this was just gross and it put me off buying anything in store for a good long while. Going to pay for some pain killers on the self service tills which are right next to the main tills one day and seeing there were no bags out (but lots behind the main tills which weren’t busy) just enraged me, I know that sounds silly but it just seemed so lazy, it would have taken 2 seconds to pop some bags on the self service tills but the staff didn’t care. I decided to complain, I went looking for a manager and asked a few members of staff for one and no one would/could point me in the right direction. Undeterred I decided to use social media (which always seems to get you a faster response when complaining!) and took some pictures of the mess and the lack of bags and explained the situation in store, I want to stress I didn’t want any sort of  ‘compensation’ I just wanted to be able to shop in-store without needing wet wipes and worrying about getting makeup all over my clothes! The response shocked me, it was a generic ‘we will pass this on’ no sorry, no taking the falling standards seriously and no follow up. Needless to say nothing changed and when I saw one woman working on her own on a busy afternoon covering the main tills, the photo desk, the click and collect AND the self checkout, I complained again on the newly formed twitter, again no proper response but I did noticed the store started to look cleaner and tidier again.when it's time to complain(these pictures were taken after I had used the nail polish remover, hence the whiter than white bits of my converse which were covered in polish too, these marks are permanent)

That was at the beginning of the year and slowly the lack of care started creeping back in, the counters were grubby again, things weren’t being put out and worst of all I would find myself being told off for getting what I needed from the drawers even though I was only rummaging through them because no staff members were replenishing stock! Cut to Monday and I popped in store to buy some personal items and my Mum wanted to look at the Barry M polishes. I was showing her a good one and she had picked it up and we were turning to walk away when I heard a sort of crashing sound, I turned and saw a palette and a broken polish bottle falling and as it fell I could see it was open (it was actually broken but I couldn’t tell at first) and polish was going EVERYWHERE. It was a split second and my reaction wasn’t quite quick enough, I ended up with one converse and one leg of my bottoms covered in red nail polish! There was broken glass everywhere and I was in shock to be honest, I turned popped my head around the corner and saw three members of staff standing chatting with each other, I can’t believe they didn’t hear the crash but they hadn’t reacted at all so I called over, they looked at me and just carried on talking- I was pretty upset at this point and a man shopping nearby then called them and begrudgingly one of them came over- funnily enough he grabbed a roll of paper towels as he came over- I don’t know if this means this happens a lot or they actually did hear the crash and chose the ignore it at first (!)

Now baring in mind at this point I look like I have been in a blood bath & there is glass everywhere, I would have hoped someone would have said ‘why don’t we take you somewhere private where you can clean yourself up’ heck even a ‘shall I go and get you some polish remover’ would have sufficed! But no I got the mans back as he turned to tidy the mess, totally ignoring me. I said ‘I need some nail polish remover for this as it is all over me’ and he finally turned around, looked at my leg and converse and said ‘it wont get it out of that lace though’ and carried on ‘cleaning’. Like a moron I stood there sort of reeling for about a minute or two waiting for someone to come over and apologise or to bring me polish remover but no one did. At this point me and my Mum went in search of it ourselves, had to pay (!) for it and then sat on the exit seats in full view of everyone cleaning me up!

I was actually on my way somewhere and wasn’t able to find or speak to a manager so I decided to tweet the company with pictures of the damage. In my opinion they should replace my ruined converse as this isn’t my fault- if the staff who were chatting and not working had been tidying the counters they would have seen the broken polish bottle and I wouldn’t have been wandering around town, late for meeting my Cousin looking for new laces. More than that though what if I had had a small child with me, the heigh of the crash could have meant the polish going in their mouths or *god forbid* in their eyes. Not to mention the glass on the floor! At this moment Boots are ‘investigating’ the incident but tbh I won’t be buying in my local store anymore which is both sad and inconvenient but I have lost faith in the store and to be honest the brand a little bit!

I think I wanted to share this with you because as a nation it’s sort of a well known joke that British people don’t complain, but I tried to do so on more than one occasion and was brushed off with generic responses and a lack of care, it makes it hard not to be that obnoxious person screaming and complaining in store when being polite gets you absolutely nowhere!

So what do you think is a ‘when it’s time to complain’ sort of experience? Maybe this was all a bit #firstworldproblems for you or maybe you’ve had a bad customer service experience you want to share with me?

I’d love to hear from you so leave me a comment letting me know your thoughts/experiences!


I have have been speaking with Boots via email and far from resolving the situation I feel like I have become even more enraged by the companies behaviour. Considering the size of Boots plc I expected that they would use their PR department to organise either a replacement of my converse (they have an invoice from me with original order so the know all my details like shoe size, item ordered and address) or to offer me a cheque for me to go an buy a replacement myself. Neither of these things were offered, they instead asked me to email them my bank details……trying not to be difficult here but it is NEVER a good idea to send private banking details via email, and I was gobsmacked a company like Boots would ask for this! They also offered me a £50 Boots voucher, I accepted on the condition they send me a cheque for security.

Today they came back to me and told me they could only do a bank transfer (seriously!) and if I accepted that they voucher offered was for £25*. As in if I wanted them to replace my trainers (which is there responsibility anyway!) then the voucher I would get as an apology would be halved. Seriously- a company this size actually tried to haggle compensation with me. I am sitting here reeling! This could have been a fantastic PR exercise for them to show how they solve terrible customer service but instead it has become an absolute disaster- both for me and for them, I obviously refused this and have now decided to escalate this as I feel they have treated me appallingly. I wont be shopping in my local Boots store now so the have lost a previously loyal and regular customer.

*JUST to be clear, I didn’t complain to receive a Boots voucher but they offered me one as an apology only to halve it when I asked them to confirm they were going to replace my converse which had been ruined in their store. To then half the ‘sorry’ voucher because I reminded them this voucher wouldn’t been accepted in any store where I could get a replacement of my Converse is just shocking! The wording of the email was such that I felt they thought this was a ‘haggle’ situation and they could keep throwing numbers out until I grabbed one.


  1. 20/05/2015 / 9:18 am

    That’s such crappy service. I can’t believe they didn’t try to do more to help you! I complained to Boots previously after a lady working on the Benefit counter walked off halfway through giving me a makeover and didn’t come back. I was actually stood there with one half of my face foundation matched and the other blank and she just wandered off and left me there! x

    • charlotte
      20/05/2015 / 1:30 pm

      omg that it so bad!!! My mum had a similar thing on the clinique counter a few months ago- she walked off to check something and never came back- the worse part is that we could see her chatting away with a friend totally blasé! It makes you wonder what goes through these peoples minds! xxx

  2. 20/05/2015 / 10:12 am

    gosh that is awful! Like you said if there was a child involved it could have been horrendous! It sounds like they just don’t care about the store which is so bad for such a big company. I hope they sort it out for you.

    • charlotte
      20/05/2015 / 1:31 pm

      thanks Jenn! I know I am so glad I didn’t have my nephew with me! It makes me sad to see falling standards as I loved working in Boots when I was younger! xxx

  3. 20/05/2015 / 10:19 am

    Funnily enough, I’ve had this exact incident in the Hanley store, but with my Michael Kors coat. In the store at the time they were hard pushed to give me a tissue (it went on my hand and flared up my dermatitis too!) so I complained when home on Twitter….

    Luckily there wasn’t that much on my coat, and they did offer to clean it for me… But I wouldn’t get my coat back for ages, so I sucked it up and decided to go with the £20 worth of boots cards points they offered me instead – such a mug! But sometimes you just don’t want to make a fuss do you? HMPH.

    • charlotte
      20/05/2015 / 1:35 pm

      I know it’s so British isn’t it, I can’t imagine what an Americans reaction would be! I think I would have had a mini breakdown if it was something expensive like that! £20 of boots points is an insult really, they are lucky you didn’t invoice for the full coat cost. I am still wondering why/how people are breaking/cracking polish bottles all the time- I’ve seen snapped off lids and all sorts- bizarre! xxx

  4. 20/05/2015 / 11:55 am

    That’s such a shitty experience! My absolute pet hate is staff chatting away in the corner and ignoring their customers – especially in food services!

    I’d write directly to Boots instead of venting on Twitter – I find that something written down in a letter or an e-mail gets a much better response!


    • charlotte
      20/05/2015 / 1:37 pm

      I feel exactly the same!!! The worst is when you go over and they almost seem annoyed that you’ve interrupted their conversation lol. My Dad said the same about writing a letter, I am always worried I will lose the e-trail of communication by using a letter or the phone but I guess I could have sent it recorded! xxx

  5. 20/05/2015 / 1:17 pm

    That’s absolutely awful customer service. I hope that the issue is resolved, it’s a shame you had to complain so many times as well. You’d think they’d want their stores to be well presented, and I doubt you’re the only person who went to that branch and thought things were below the standard you’d expect.

    I hate it when I see staff talking to each other and ignoring their customers. There’s a Tesco’s petrol station near me, and the amount of times I’ve gone in there to pay for my fuel and been entirely ignored because the two cashiers were too interested in their own conversation is ridiculous. I’ve had to interrupt their conversations in the past as well.

    • charlotte
      20/05/2015 / 1:39 pm

      you are so right Rosie, the worst thing is they only just updated the store to include big brands like smashbox etc so you would think they would want to keep that investment safe by having it properly maintained! It’s my biggest peeve too and it’s put me off going in a shop before, when they all stand chatting like that it can be a bit intimidating! I’ve had to interrupt the conversation too and they actually looked annoyed about it! xxx

  6. 20/05/2015 / 2:12 pm

    I’m really shocked because I always associate Boots with excellent Customer Care. I really hope they get back to you and do something to rectify the situation, but also re-train all of their staff! Please keep us updated! xx

    • charlotte
      20/05/2015 / 4:26 pm

      me too 🙁 it make me sad because when I worked there they were so on customer service! Thanks hun, when I get feedback from them I will update the post so keep an eye out! xxx

  7. 20/05/2015 / 5:26 pm

    My experiences in the Canterbury store haven’t been quite that bad, but I’m not particularly shocked – there have been several occasions when I’ve had a problem at the self service checkout and no one has come over, even though I was clearly standing there waiting (and the store wasn’t particularly busy), to the point where I’ve abandoned my shopping and walked out. I’ve also noticed that a lot of the staff just stand around and chat as well, which isn’t what you want. I prefer going to Boots when I’m in Cardiff, it’s much more organised xx

  8. charlotte
    20/05/2015 / 8:01 pm

    I’ve done that too- and gone straight to Superdrug who are really helpful and the store is also really clean! I just don’t get it- you would think they would want to be busy (I know for myself being busy and chatting with customers makes the day go quicker!) yeah I use online boots now/go in London/just go to Superdrug! xx

  9. 21/05/2015 / 9:08 am

    How awful and I am very surprised it was a Boots store, I rely on them to be the better of the main pharmacies when it comes to customer service. I’ve boycotted Superdrug altogether since they are terrible when it comes to customer service and I found that at multiple stores. I was accused of lying about an offer I saw advertised when I questioned why I didn’t get a discount at the till (in truth the offer has expired and they forgot to take the sign down and did it after I asked about said offer pretending the sign was never there). On another occasion, I got home to find the lipstick I purchased had been used and they said “just this time” they would believe me and let me exchange, but “don’t do it again”. I complained to head office every single time, but they just gave me generic responses so I stopped shopping there altogether. Hope you find a better store!

  10. Anonymous
    21/05/2015 / 9:10 am

    That’s terrible! They should certainly be issuing you compensation to replace your Converse and giving their staff a bollocking for such shit CS!

    I’m actually going to complain to Superdrug as a store I’ve frequented lately is absolutely disgusting and sounds similar to your local store. The make up stands are dirty, opened products lie discarded and

    • charlotte
      28/05/2015 / 4:52 am

      I totally agree, it’s become such a hassle to get them to resolve the situation- if it was my store I would be mortified and want to get it sorted ASAP! I am so glad you feel you can complain now (I’m hoping this post has helped?) we shouldn’t have to accept shitty customer service anymore! xx

  11. 22/05/2015 / 11:27 pm

    This is just so bad, although I cant say I’m surprised. I live near another Boots in Kent and they are just the worst at customer service. I really hope this gets fixed for you!

    Annabel ♥
    Mascara & Maltesers

    • charlotte
      28/05/2015 / 4:51 am

      thanks hun, it’s so sad that so many people have had problems in their stores too, I did bring this up in my email to them but they seem incapable of giving any sort of valid response! xx

  12. 25/05/2015 / 6:32 pm

    I think what happened to you was appalling! As someone who works within customer service I go out of my way to make a customer happy, the way I would equally want to be treated.

    One of my local Boots is clean, but one of the members of staff can be so arsey if you want to use your points. She was giving me attitude about it and I already felt like crap so I ended up snapping and saying, “Look if it’s an issue then forget it and I’ll use my points at another store.” and she apologised saying it was fine, to which my mom then asked her why she was acting so arsey about it then, huffing and puffing. The woman didn’t reply and continued to serve it. I felt bad for what we said to her but I had heard after this from friends that she was always funny to them about points being used too.

    I have a points system where I work and it doesn’t bother me to use their points instead of taking cash. If anything, it’s a lot easier!


    • charlotte
      28/05/2015 / 4:47 am

      I was so shocked when I read this! There is just no need for that sort of behaviour- I’ve always been baffled by it, on the one hand being miserable all day must make the day draaaaag, on the other you could end up losing your job if you had a few too many complaints- it’s a lose lose situation really! I worked for Boots and people paying with points made absolutely no difference to my process of serving some people are truly bizarre! xx

  13. 26/05/2015 / 5:24 pm

    Oh wow, this is appalling! I know Canterbury Boots and it is massive bit clearly they don’t train their staff at all. Totally know what you mean about customer service being below standard outside of London though, it’s something that surprised me but have come to expect – despite having worked in retail and knowing what standards different companies expect.

    • charlotte
      28/05/2015 / 4:48 am

      I am so glad I’m not the only person who noticed this! I had this idea that everyone would be MORE friendly outside London so I got a bit of a rude awakening when we moved lol xx

  14. claudiabeauty18
    26/05/2015 / 6:13 pm

    I worked at Boots for 2 years and have to say, it’s the worst company I have ever worked for. They are so rubbish at dealing with anything whether it be a staff complaint or a customer one, they just don’t deal with them. Useless. Your experience is just awful, I wouldn’t shop in there either if that happened to me!! xxx

    • charlotte
      28/05/2015 / 4:45 am

      thats terrible! I worked for them for a year and they were so on any sort of bad customer service (I did have a bit of a dragon boss though!) thanks for commenting! xx

  15. 26/05/2015 / 7:23 pm

    Bad customer service puts me right off a store, to the point i will not shop at a store if I’ve had a bad experience. This has made me view Boots in a different light, such a massive name, you would think they would be quick to resolve issues and make sure the customer was happy. I can’t believe how unhelpful they were, shocking.

    • charlotte
      28/05/2015 / 4:44 am

      I’m the same, I feel like I gave them loads of chances to sort themselves out but when your getting your clothes ruined in-store and no one cares, well enough is enough! thanks for commenting hun! xx

  16. Beth
    27/05/2015 / 9:11 am

    Oh wow that is appalling!!! I used to work at Boots for about 5 years and, without being biased, always tried to ensure all my customers left happy. Customer service always seemed a massive thing for them so I’m surprised at how bad they were at this particular store!

    Beth x

    • charlotte
      28/05/2015 / 4:43 am

      I worked for them too, I know what you mean apart from actually enjoying giving good customer service, in my store is wasn’t an option and if this had happened they would have gone above and beyond to resolve it! xx

  17. 28/05/2015 / 4:13 pm

    This is such a shame to hear. My local boots is quite big and I’ve found that there are hardly any members of staff on for the size of the store. Also, they really do stand around and chat. There is a smaller boots nearer to where I work and although there is hardly any products, the staff are so much more friendly! It’s a shame when you get so many bad experiences it just puts you off going back to that store.

    prettymadthings.blogspot.co.uk // x

  18. 06/08/2015 / 11:12 am

    That is just shocking! I can’t believe they treated you so horribly! I worked in a local Boots in Derry, Northern Ireland during my masters and if any of the staff had acted like that they would have been crucified by management. It just goes to show that a store with bad management really suffers, and if the upper levels don’t even care what’s going on it can be really off putting!

    I do absolutely love Superdrug though, their Makeup Revolution range is fantastic.

    I hope you get this resolved soon!

    Laura x

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