It all started so innocuously. My sister (S) ordered two identical flowergirl dresses from the Dino Direct online shopping store in Hong Kong and arranged for them to be delivered to me (the wedding is here in Melbourne, and she is in Germany). They were ordered separately to minimise postage and handling costs. And when they arrived with me on consecutive days, all seemed to have gone to plan.
At my sister's request, I opened the two packages while we were having a skype session. At first glance the two dresses appeared to be the same . . . but then a few discrepancies became obvious. The pink ribbons around the middle were different. The embroidered decorations were different. One had tulle underneath to provide body, the other didn't. One looked to be a larger size in the bodice, but was in fact a shorter style.
Bottom line: They were completely different dresses. It was a bit difficult to show to S via skype, but I grabbed mum and dad for a second opinion in daylight and we took some photos, including some with a tape measure superimposed (because there were no size labels on the dresses). Based on the size charts on the web site, neither dress was a 6 or 8 as ordered. Rather, they seemed to be about a 4 and a 10 or 12. (Are you with me so far? It's really not that complicated . . .)
The decision was made to exchange both dresses. The size 4 might have been OK, for I got S to measure the two girls, but we decided the chances of ending up with two identical dresses if we exchanged just one were negligible.
A complicating factor was that the dresses had to be returned within 30 days of receipt and S was about to embark on a family holiday to Croatia (with limited internet access) for two weeks. She decided to send an email advising Dino Direct that I would package up the dresses and return them. In exchange she wanted two replacement dresses that were identical to each other in the sizes requested. (And here she made the fatal mistake of changing the sizes she wanted . . .)
But just as I was getting ready to mail them back, I found the instructions regarding their return policy and discovered we needed to apply for a Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA) form, which we would have to print out and include with each package when we returned them. Otherwise, the packages would likely get lost in the system and we'd end up with nothing . . .
So I logged in to the Dino Direct web site as S and set about applying for two RMAs . . . (Goodness, I need wine just thinking about what happened next!)
The Dino Direct web site is not terribly intuitive. Nor does it work very well. Instead of sending me to the RMA request section, it caused me to open a 'Case' and I entered into some private message board style dialogue with their customer service team on S's behalf. Here, I tried to explain the situation, referred to S's email, uploaded one of the photos, and requested RMAs be provided.
We parried back and forward over a few days, them telling me we had to pay for return shipping because we'd ordered the wrong sizes, me repeating myself and clearly reiterating (I must ultimately have stated it at least 5 times) that the main issue was that one of the dresses was in fact the wrong style completely and that neither was the size ordered.
They asked me if a $10 gift voucher would be appropriate. I said no.
Finally they told me that if I really wanted an RMA, I should apply for one in the RMA section. What?! I thought that was what I had been doing!
This time the RMA link sent me to the correct form and I filled it out, uploading more photos, including a copy of the receipts (which I had to PDF and then JPG from an email), and explaining the situation again. Over the next week, they then requested I upload all the information I had just uploaded, and stalled some more -- I can't remember the reasons given (probably asked me to check the sizes again) and they have now removed all record of my RMA request from S's customer account.
Meanwhile, I have been maintaining dialogue with them in the case file (really now for sport), but the whole thing is going around in circles. They alternately have a) asked for more information, b) stated that we ordered the wrong sizes and they can't help that, c) suggested I take the garments to a seamstress for adjusting, and would a $15 gift voucher compensate us for our troubles?
I wish I could copy in the full transcript of our 3-week dialogue, but they have now deleted all but the following:
Me Jul 27,2011I am sorry but I do not think you understand the problem. One of the dresses is the WRONG STYLE. And neither dress is the size I ordered. Please do not tell me again about the size charts on your web site. That is not the issue. The issue is that the dresses sent to me are NOT WHAT I ORDERED. Please issue me RMA for both orders immediately. I would like a full refund. This has been going on for nearly 3 weeks. Dino Direct has made a mistake. Not me. Please acknowledge this.
Me Jul 28,2011Why have you deleted the history of our conversation above and my RMA request? This case is not resolved.
Customer Service Emily, Jul 28,2011Thank you for your email.If you want to return it back, you have to pay the shipping fee and send it back to our China's warehouse. If you agree on that we will provide you the return information.Have a nice day!
Customer Service Emily, Jul 28,2011Thanks for your email. As you have said you were unable to apply a RMA, we advise that you should have a try latter, because you are received your order really. We are sorry to see that the style is different, you can return this item back to us, and we will resend you a new one or give you a full refund, but you a supposed to pay for the returning shipping fees.Your understanding and cooperation will be highly appreciated.
So, are you laughing?
That final comment from 'Emily' is the first acknowledgment from any of the three or four service assistants we've dealt with that one of the dresses is the wrong style. Until now, they have willfully misunderstood this key fact and focused on the size issue. (Initially I reassured them several times that we would be happy to receive the sizes 6 & 8 originally ordered (not the new sizes S requested), but after a week of this BS I decided to go for a full refund for both dresses.)
Now I contemplate what my answer to that little missive (on S's behalf) will be . . .
I should perhaps mention that we think the most likely outcome from this is that we sell the dresses on e-bay and start again. But, although it's been frustrating, I figure we have nothing to lose by seeing how far we can push. At least I haven't sworn at them yet.