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.
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.