There are many posts on this blog about companies who over promise and under deliver. But this one highlights a company that has surprised, impressed and embarrassed me. Embarrassed? Yes, I was gearing up for a good old rant, but I’m ashamed to say I was being prematurely negative – the “shopping experience”, after a shaky start, turned out to be a very positive one.
For my birthday last year (early July) my wife bought me a “steel fireplace”, which was basically a type of brazier for burning logs on the patio – a nice focal point and source of warmth for when you sit out on a summer’s evening with a few beers. However, for various reasons, we only unpacked it this Easter weekend (eight months later).
Whilst putting it all together I found that a vital piece was missing – part of a side panel, that enabled it to be bolted to the base, had not been welded on (and was entirely absent). It had also become slightly bent in transit (softest steel I’ve ever come across – Time Team won’t be digging it up intact from my garden a thousand years from now). And it was less than easy to get the bolt holes in the roof aligned with those on the sides. Eventually I gave up in disgust, leaving both of us rather disappointed – it was a birthday present, after all. Plus you feel a bit stupid for not checking it earlier.
Chances of a refund – super slim
Finding the delivery note we realised it was not made by Tesco, but a company called Wayfair. Going onto their website later the following Thursday we found the number for returning products and called them. The service team, from what I can gather, are in County Galway, Eire.
We explained the situation to Connor, who a) spoke good English b) was not in a noisy office, so we could hear him clearly c) was very helpful, patient and professional with our slightly inadequate explanation of our engineering challenges. He asked us to send him some photos of the product, to show the problem (and prove it was unused) but pointed out that returns had to be requested within 30 days – so there might be an issue with getting us a refund or replacement.
We emailed the photos (and noticed in the process that some of the welds on the base had come adrift, which we also photographed and documented), requested a full refund then awaited his response. I have to say I was less than optimistic. I fully expected that they would stick rigidly to their 30 days clause. Or send us some replacement parts. Or insist, as per their returns policy, “that you are responsible for the costs of returning the items to us unless we delivered the item to you in error”.
Too big to care?
In the meantime I trawled the net for more information on Wayfair. Founded in 2002 by two college mates, with headquarters in Boston, it rapidly grew into a network of 250 different websites selling a huge range of stuff for homes and gardens. In 2011 these sites were amalgamated into one Wayfair site, doing in excess of $600 million. By the end of 2013 they hit over $900 million in annual revenue and now offer 7 million products from over 7,000 suppliers across five distinct brands, promising to “create the ultimate home goods shopping experience”. Hmmm, I said to myself, let’s see about that…sounds like a company that has grown too big too fast and can’t offer the service.
I was getting myself ready to write the post from hell when Connor called back on Friday afternoon. He said he’d been “speaking to the warehouse” and they had contacted the manufacturer and were now awaiting a response. He couldn’t promise anything other than an answer on Monday. But he had called back, as agreed.
I have to eat my words
On Sunday afternoon (!) we get a call from Stephan, one of Connor’s colleagues in Wayfair customer service. He said that the manufacturer accepted responsibility, that my wife’s credit card would show a full refund in a few days (the delay being the result of the fact we had been billed by Tesco, not Wayfair) and that we could “dispose of the item as we saw fit or just go ahead and use it as best we could”. Either way, we could keep it, no charge. No mention of 30 days, no mention of shipping us replacement parts, no mention of us having the hassle of sending it back at our expense.
He then asked us to check our inbox for a written confirmation of all this. It hadn’t arrived so he sent it again to one of our other email addresses. I offered to call him back when it arrived. He was insistent that he’d wait on the phone till it came through, so we chatted about life in Galway for about a minute. Once it had appeared and I had read it back to him he gave us his number and extension so that we could call him if the refund didn’t come through from Tesco.
Finally, on Monday, Connor called, as promised, and confirmed what Stephan had told us and checked we were happy with how we’d been treated. So, the original product was a disappointment, but the customer service “exceeded expectations” and I’m left feeling guilty that I ever doubted them!
Maybe these guys would like to take over BT and sort it out?!
Image courtesy of twobee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net