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.(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.