Monday, April 4, 2011

(Updated/twice) Chanel Online Customer Service Falls Far Behind Its Product Quality

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I realize this post might upset loyal Chanel fans, but I think it is important for beauty bloggers to talk about the good and the bad, especially when a pattern of bad emerges.

I have been a Chanel customer for more than 20 years, buying scent, cosmetics, and leather goods, spending small fortunes over time. Until recently I had made most of my purchases at retail counters, where I have always received exceptional service. So I was extremely disappointed recently when I discovered how disorganized and seemingly apathetic Chanel's online customer service was. It certainly did not measure up to service provided by the employees at Chanel boutiques and department store counters, and it was in marked contrast to my experience with just about all other online sites where I make my purchases.

The first issue occurred late this winter when a friend sent a gift to me directly from chanel.com. I knew immediately that one of the items would not work, but the gift was such a lovely gesture, I did not want to hurt her feelings—especially when Chanel made it easy to avoid embarrassment by including a packing slip with an exchange form. I could return the unwanted item for a color I wanted in an even exchange—and my friend need never know.

Using Chanel's exchange form,  I returned the item immediately, and then I sat back and happily waited for my new item to arrive. And waited. And waited. Finally I called chanel.com to trace my order, only to be informed that Chanel does not honor exchanges, even though their return slip indicates otherwise, and there was no mention of this discrepancy in the returns page on their web site. I was told that the item I returned would be refunded to the original purchaser's credit card, and if I wanted something else I could order it myself. But it had been a gift. If I'd wanted to buy something for myself I would have done so. Moreover, you can imagine my embarrassment when my friend called shortly afterward to ask if I knew why she had received a $x refund from Chanel—she was concerned that something had happened to my gift.

That instance was only moderately inconvenient, and I mentally dropped the matter once it had passed. However, it was my first clue that chanel.com was not managing customer expectations.

A few weeks later, I placed a large order. I had no problem doing so online, as I already knew I wanted every single item. When my package arrived, I was surprised that two items were damaged (cracked pans), so I returned them promptly. I already knew that I could not exchange them, and I wanted to wait until my refund came through before I reordered. A wise decision. I checked my credit card statement a couple weeks after my return and noticed that my refund was short. They credited me for one item when I had returned two.

I called chanel.com customer service and asked about the missing item, which I sent back in the same box, with the receipt wrapped around the two eyeshadow boxes, held in place with a rubber band, and then placed in a baggie! The woman with whom I spoke said someone on staff would investigate and call me back within 48 hours. No one called, and it slipped my mind. I called about a week later, and I was given the same information—that my request had to be looked into at the warehouse, reviewed by "management upstairs," and someone would get back to me within 48 hours.

Again no one contacted me. Again, it slipped my mind. A couple weeks passed, and when I called customer service again, I was both surprised and extremely frustrated to learn that there was no record of either of my calls, so I had to go through the same information all over again. And, guess what? I received the same story about having my "claim" reviewed by management, and that someone would get back to me within 48 hours.

This time I did not forget. I added a reminder to my calender, and after 48 hours had passed and no one from Chanel called me, I called them again. I was now unwilling to be pushed off. I asked to speak to a manager, but I was told I could not; no reason given, just NO. I then requested the corporate address (intending to write a letter), and the woman I spoke with told me that all customer complaints are handled over the phone. Although this battle was over a mere $28.50, it was MY $28.50, and her statement pushed my last button.

It became clear that there was to be no resolution. Each time I called, my "case" was simply dropped. No one took notes during my calls, so that the next time I called there would be no record. Obviously, no one had looked into my concerns. Chanel did not care that I had been shorted on a return due to their disorganization, nor did Chanel care that they had an extremely dissatisfied customer. I was told during that final call that the the item had probably been lost in the warehouse. I sat through an uncomfortable 20 seconds, waiting for the phone rep to say more, but that was it. How, I asked, was that my fault—especially when they had issued a refund for one item that had been attached to the second. Obviously a return had been made. Didn't my use of Chanel's return label (which ships back UPS) protect me and/or insure the items?

Nope. Sorry. Nothing we can do. Too bad for you.

Suffice it to say I was not happy. I was being made to pay for their incompetence.


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I should make it clear that no one at chanel.com was ever rude or nasty. It was clear each time I called, the phone rep had the power to do nothing but shuffle my complaint "upstairs to management," though I am not entirely convinced she did even that. Perhaps that's unfair of me, but it's how it appeared. I experienced complete apathy on Chanel's end. So whether anyone actually looked into the missing item, no one ever called me back (a dispute that stretched out for a couple months), and I never received the refund due me.



UPDATE 1:  After stewing for a while, I realized that Chanel had robbed me. I opened a dispute with American Express. I had hoped to resolve things amicably with Chanel, but it seemed clear they hoped I would give up and go away. And I did, for a little while.

American Express, who has excellent customer service, immediately reversed the charge while they conducted their investigation. A few weeks later, I received an official letter from AmEx informing me that my claim had been honored. It took Chanel over three months to do the right thing, but they did so only only after I sent American Express after them. Not only did Chanel not call or e-mail me an apology, they couldn't even bother to send an e-mail notification that the refund finally took place. Was it worth the risk of losing a customer over $28.50? I guess so.

I feel disappointed. And sad. I realize that Chanel's online customer service department doesn't know me (though surely they can analyze how much I spend each year through my account), but I have been a steadfast  customer since the mid 80s. I'm not sure what I will do over the long term, but right now I am taking a much-needed Chanel break.



UPDATE 2:  Customer service at chanel.com has improved. They have updated their return forms (to remove any indication that you can make a mail order exchange), and e-mails about orders are now more detailed. Nevertheless, my love for the brand has been irrevocably tarnished.

26 comments:

  1. That's awful. I think writing to their corporate offices is a great idea.

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  2. Thanks, I hope so. I'll miss Chanel nail polish and No.19 perfume, but I am ready to move on.

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  3. I think you should suggest a free bottle of No 5 in exchange for your grief!

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  4. Have you read Cafemakeup.com bad experience with Chanel? She wrote them a letter and it seemed to help!

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  5. I had not seen that! Thanks, Anon. Re a letter, I tried to get an address from Chanel customer service, but she refused to give me one, and the address I found online in NYC ... I don't know, I just don't have much confidence my letter would reach anyone who cares. That shouldn't stop me from writing one, though.

    I don't want anything from them other than an apology and the refund they owe me. But the issue is still under investigation with Amex, so I can only conclude that Chanel is fighting AmEx so they don't have to give me the refund.

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  6. Gosh I'm furious on your behalf!

    Just found this if it's any help?
    You could try phoning & asking for the name of head of customer service or marketing?

    Chanel
    Rotherwick House, 19-21 Old Bond Street
    London
    W1S 4PX

    020 74933836

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  7. Strawberry Blonde, thanks very much!

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  8. Chanel.com needs a lot of work. I just ordered something and immediately I got that "you have 48hrs to respond or we will cancel your order" email. They had additional questions, so I reviewed the invoice and could not find anything wrong. So I was they can cancel it if they want I can buy it somewhere else. So after 48hrs I got no email or call and they still shipped it. Crazy Chanel.com

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    1. Beauty, that's odd. I read Cafe Makeup's experience after a commenter above mentioned it and it made me sad. Probably no beauty blogger I follow online ordered more Chanel makeup than her or Sabrina from The Beauty Look Book, and I believe both have received equally shabby treatment.

      I wonder how long Chanel has been selling online. When I do business with a brand like Vincent Longo or Laura Mercier, I can tell their online customer service is very small. In fact, I tend to get the same person when I call on the phone. I like that they are small because it feels more personal, but if I ever have an issue (and I have with both), they are wonderful at resolving it. I don't mind if Chanel is getting used to the online world. What made me furious was being treated like a pest for their mistake.

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  9. I always avoid to order directly from brands, because they mostly are not used dealing with customers directly (even if their products are really expensive!!), better to buy from big online shops (like asos or amazon), refunds are often very quick and easy with them.

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    1. Cupcake, I hadn't thought of that but it's an excellent point. I have ordered Chanel makeup since last spring, but I either bought in person or from e-taliers that have great customer service, like Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom.

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  10. As yourself, I have used Chanel for years, but due to their falsifying boxed products to make it look like you are getting three times more than you really are, from an ethics point of view - I'm done.

    I went to Macy's and asked to see a moisutrizer. The Sales Associate happily suggested one and then took it out of the the box. I was surprised at the size of the box when I saw the container. But the S.A. then nearly had a heart attack when I lifted the top off the product which revealed the container was only one third full. She actually blushed and said I shouldn't have done that. It wasn't allowed.

    I replied, "So I'm not permitted to see how much I'm actually purchasing, or to be more specific according to this container - ripped off?

    Again she just blushed. I had paid for the product but decided the stress over such deceit made me realize it wasn't worth it. That every time I looked at the container I would be reminded how low the company had sunk in its attempts to get my money. Game over. Good-byr Chanel.

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    1. What a frustrating experience! Times are hard and companies are doing what they can to save money, but using trickery is not something I appreciate. Hiding .08 ounces of product under a giant cap borders on unethical. Haven't these people heard of "truth in advertising"? Even more upsetting would have been told, "It's not allowed." Grrrr.

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  11. I placed an order with chanel.com on 2/27/12. Today I decided to see if I could track my package. Turns out my order was cancelled, and I never received any notification about it. Beware!

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    1. Very frustrating! And actually quite rude. Did you call to find out why they cancelled it? Not that I am suggesting you try to get any satisfaction from apathetic customer service, but still ... I don't get it. The customer service at Chanel counters is excellent. Why treat the same customers so shabbily for online orders? I guess we will never know, but I can only assume they just don't care.

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  12. Actually not only their online customer service are bad!! Their store are too!! I m so sad that my birthday gift from my husband, a trifold wallet, The cc logo is slanting to one side!! That's is their trademark!! Even fake will not do this mistake!! So I went to their store immediately next day early morning I think less than 24 hours from my husband purchased, to exchange, and u know what, that's last pieces or I take the display!! Of coz I don't want and they gave me store credit term only 6 month limit!! What if there is no exact same thing arrive?? They ask me choose others!! If I want others i and my husband won't have the hassle get it from Malaysia store and it's more expensive!! I call them again yesterday they insist no refund and say will call back I waited till now there is no reply ..
    I felt like I being scam!! They gave me a defected product, when I wanted an exchange they say it's last piece, then I want refund they gave me a 6 month credit term !! They ask me choose others!! Am I supposed pay for their mistake???!!!!!! I being loyal to them 13 years.. 90 % my bags are from them!!!! I felt so frustrated...if this thing doesn't goes well I m going sell all out!! No more chanel!!!

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    1. I'm really sorry that happened to you. That's pretty outrageous and, considering the product was defective, they should have given you a full refund, but I guess it depends on store policy. How disappointing for both you and your husband, who was trying to give you a lovely gift.

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  13. Thanks for listening,U don't know how this experience upset Me and my husband, I call them again today morning and they are very rude to me. They don't call me by ms or mrs instead by my full name like I back in school when I did something wrong my teacher will do that! The SA make sure make me feel I m annoying her and not single apologize. All I ask if couldn't refund at least order for me the piece I want. She say just wait for her call. Again. I tried be nice even I really hurt because I don't want her delay my request..what is happening to chanel...? Staff attitude are bad and selling badly defective item to people..
    if there is just slight scratches I don't mind but this is the logo CC in odd angle..worse than fake? What happen to their quality??their policy I think only apply to to certain people..if u close with the SA or manager I bet sure refund is on the way... I just want this episode over. This is worse nightmare on my birthday..a happy occasion turns sour..really no more chanel after this ( if I ever get replacement) it will be my last piece..

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    1. You might consider speaking going over the SA's head and speaking with a store manager. If that goes nowhere, you might also contact Chanel. Otherwise, it looks like it might turn into a sad and expensive lesson learned, and you can give your hard-earned money to another brand in the future. Like Hermes! :^)

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  14. I really hope more people will aware about this incident as lesson to them when purchasing chanel or any brand. Do the QC yourself..inspect throughly the things u want buy. Make sure they wrap in front of you. Nowadays, if chanel can do that, any brands too...
    They no longer care about quality or customer needs unlike older times.. I rather spend on new designers who appreciate our loyalty and needs..

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    1. Icecyl, Excellent point about watching what goes into your bag. This has never happened to me with leather goods or jewelry or apparel, but several times I have brought makeup home, only to realize the SA either put the wrong color in my bag or the box was labeled as one color and the item inside the box was an entirely different color. This has happened to me at self-service places, like Sephora, where I now ALWAYS inspect the item I am buying to make sure someone did not use it as a tester!

      I do think consumers are getting smarter and more demanding; we're paying more than ever before and we expect good quality and good service. Perhaps that is why SAs are becoming so impatient and apathetic. When I shopped 20 years ago, the customer was always right. Now, it seems that manners and civility are circling the drain, and so many people in services industries act like they're doing you a big favor ... when they are really just doing what they are paid to do.

      I may feel a little amused/bemused when SAs are rude or neglectful or act superior, but I don't get angry. I remain polite and if they don't simmer down I walk away and they lose a sale. Period.

      I hope this issue gets resolved for you in a peaceful and satisfying way.

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  15. Hi Zuzu,

    Too bad about your experience with Chanel's online customer service. My mom had a poor experience with them as well when she ordered for me from their Christmas collection. After complying with their email instructions to call within 48 hours, she confirmed the order. She waited for about two weeks but nothing came. When she called them up to find out what happened, she was told that she did not call within 48 hours and so her order was cancelled! She had to reorder the items. We waited for about two weeks again and still nothing came.

    When she called them up again, the SA who answered was the same one she spoke with the first time. Apparently, the SA had already made the order the first time and said she was surprised as to why it was cancelled. My mom had to make the order for the THIRD time. The items finally arrived after a few days. But we've never ordered from Chanel since.

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  16. I think you should suggest a free bottle of No 5 in exchange for your grief!

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  17. Hi i was wondering if anyone could give me chanels corporate email address or any address i could send a complaint to?

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  18. Hi everyone, the same thing happened to me, I just ordered a chanel bag and they sent me the wrong one and they overcharged me $100 extra. I don't like the bag they sent me. in their website, there is no phone #, only email address. I sent them many emails but no one had replied. I don't know what to do. there is only 7 days for return. what if I sent the bag and they don't send me the money. does anyone know their phone #.
    it is chanel canad inc
    please I need a reply asp,,
    thanks

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  19. Same here! I have been looking around and can't seem to find it. I guess chanel doesn't care much about dissatisfied customers unless u r a big buyer

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