Sunday, 6 July 2008

No speakers to speak of

Whatever happened to "the customer is always right"? I stormed out of a RetraVision store this afternoon in a steaming frenzy, swearing never to set foot inside that particular store again. I've calmed down now of course, but I need to share this particular debacle.

Back on Boxing day (26 Dec) I went shopping and purchased a new LCD TV, amplifier and a fully paid-for pair of speakers on order. The speakers were supposed to arrive within a fortnight. I would have been irritated at having to wait, had I not already had my existing speakers, which I cheerily hooked up to the new system. Hooray! Now I could finally play CDs after some months. It didn't matter that the fancy $50 cable I bought to connect the DVD player and amplifier had the wrong connections. I would change that when I went down to collect the new $460 pair of speakers, and use a cheap cable in the meantime.

Only, the speakers never came.

They said a fortnight. I gave them a month before I decided to ring -- only, by the time I got around to remembering to ring it was 2 months. I spoke to someone who said the speakers weren't in yet, but that they wouldn't be too much longer. Someone would call if they were going to be too much longer. I confirmed they had the correct phone number. Yes.

What constitutes 'too much longer'?

After another month had passed, I knew there was something wrong. By that time I had also decided I didn't want the speakers. My old ones were fine for my ear and since it had been so long there was a small matter of principle. So I resolved I would ask for my money back.

Problem was, so much time had passed that I had trouble keeping it at the forefront of my mind. And then there was the wavering -- maybe I really did want the speakers? And the dread of confrontation if I didn't. And the hassle of going down the store in person . . . Many things caused me to postpone any action.

Until last weekend.

Last weekend I decided that enough was enough and I went into the store and, being extremely nice about it, explained that it had been six months and that I would like my money back please. The first guy I spoke to couldn't make head or tail of their computer system, which was obviously missing some information. According to it, I didn't have ANY of my goods! So he grabbed a manager, who said he needed to speak to the sales guy from Boxing Day. He would call me the next day. I left the incorrect $50 cable as well, and they marked the receipt.

So I left with no refund, but all was looking positive. Nevertheless, I wasn't too happy that I was going to have to go back to the store again, once he'd spoken to the sales guy. When he called, explaining that all was fine and I could go in for my refund, I said I would go the following weekend. He said, fine, but I should speak to 'Aaron'.

Which brings me to today.

I went into the store and asked for Aaron. He nodded and took me away to a service desk. So far so good. I mentioned that I needed a refund for the cable as well and he looked at the marked receipt and entered something into the computer.

Wait a moment, I say, that's not the right cable. The cable I returned last week wasn't a $15 cable, it was a $50 cable. Turns out, though, that the wrong cable on the receipt has been marked.

Aaron rings the guy from last week, who says the cable I returned is in a particular drawer. Aaron goes away and comes back with a $15 cable that is NOT the cable I returned. I explain this as patiently as I can, thinking OMG what's going on here. Aaron is now regarding me suspiciously as though wondering how the hell I know one cable from another anyway. This is the cable that was in the drawer, he says again. And again. But the cable I returned, I say, was an optical cable with optical connections that were the wrong type for my DVD player. This is a normal RCA cable.

We're at an impass. I have no proof, because I foolishly left the cable in the store last week and didn't confirm which one had been marked on the receipt. Aaron says he doesn't want me to be unhappy. I tell him that I am CLEARLY unhappy, as this whole thing has been a great debacle. Clearly there are some chaotic goings-on in this store.

Aaron does not like me saying this.

He says a few things, including 'possibly' this is our fault. I look at him agape. Well, it's certainly not my fault, I say. But why did you wait six months to sort this out? he says. Most normal customers would ring after two weeks. I say it's not my responsibility to keep chasing them up, and that when I rang after two MONTHS, the speakers weren't in anyway. He says these are speakers they always have in stock and they probably only took days to come in. I have no response to that, except to reiterate my accusation: whoever I spoke to at the two-month mark rather proves my point. He asks me if I have the name of who I spoke to. I say, no!

In the end I do get my full refund, including that for the $50 cable. I apologise (a little) for losing it, but explain this has been very frustrating. He says he doesn't mean to imply that it's my fault but reiterates that I shouldn't have left it for so long. My last words to him are, 'You're quite unbelievable!" and I storm out of the store.

Once I get out of the store I double-check that the receipt says "refund".

RetraVision Brighton lost me as a customer today, and it was the fault of no-one but Aaron. I completely understand that mistakes can happen, particularly with computer systems. If I had been truly inconvenienced, I would have been ringing every week, not leaving it the six months I did. I hold no animosity towards Richard the sales guy, or either of the two sales people I spoke to last week, despite the inconvenience of having to make another visit. They were polite and courteous and I am not unreasonable.

But I was seriously annoyed with Aaron's attitude, along with the fact that he was so obviously sceptical about the cable. (OK, yes, I'm mad that they mixed up the cables, which might have been the fault of last week's manager. Who knows?) But surely when a customer has been messed around like this you don't go around implying that it's their fault? Certainly it would have inconvenienced me less if I'd followed up earlier, but that is so not the point!


  1. I can certainly empathise with your situation. I have also been in several situations where I have asked for a store to call me when the receive an item that is at the time out of stock. I am still waiting to hear from them....years later! Fortunately, no money had changed hands and I had managed to find the items elsewhere. But it really seems that the onus is one the customer to keep reminding the shop that you still want your item. What's a bet that RetraVision call within the next few weeks to say that your (refunded) speakers have arrived!

  2. Unlikely - they were already in stock and had been for months (and months)!

    Obviously I wouldn't be so mad if I hadn't paid for the speakers. Perhaps that was naive. Anyway, all's well that ends well. I now have an extra $500 in my pocket!