Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bed Bath N' Table And The Morgan & Finch Connection

I just came across a post about Bed Bath N' Table, which implies that Morgan & Finch is Bed Bath N' Table's home brand. The post says:

Bed Bath N Table is a dynamic and successful family owned business. Established in 1960, it has grown progressively under the visionary talents of Jonathan Dempsey, who took over as managing director in 1996. With innovative directives like the introduction of the home brand Morgan & Finch, in house design and exclusive product development, the company has maintained a point of difference to all competitors. The implication of uniform visual merchandising and store design has ensured recognizable continuity across all stores. There are now 50 stores Australia wide and 2 in New Zealand. Their Home brands are constantly up dated, with new styles added seasonally to incorporate current trends.

While I can't verify the truth of this - I don't know who wrote the post - if it's true, it makes our bad customer service experience even more unpalatable.

The Carindale store manager of Bed Bath N' Table was passing the buck to Morgan & Finch, saying that only Morgan & Finch could decide if the product is faulty - however it seems that they are all owned by the same people!

I understand that they are probably separate entities, but the fact that Bed Bath N' Table seem to own Morgan & Finch makes them even more responsible for the quality of the product.

I left this out of the original post, but I actually put it to the store manager that Bed Bath N' Table were responsible for the quality of the products they sold - she denied this and said they weren't responsible for the quality of the products they sell. That just doesn't hold up if the product is made by their sister company!

I'll have to check the packaging carefully, but I can't remember seeing the relationship between the two companies mentioned anywhere before. There seems to be a lack of disclosure going on.

So, at the end of the day, we received either a faulty product, or a poor quality one, from the sister company of the product's manufacturer, and were then told that they weren't responsible.

Good on you Bed Bath N' Table! I think it's highly unlikely that I'll ever shop there again or that I'll buy Morgan & Finch products in future (although as the two go hand in hand, that's probably a given).

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bed Bath N' Table Customer Service

Several days ago, we had a bad customer service experience at the Bed Bath N' Table store at the Westfield Shopping Centre at Carindale.

At one point I was so angry I literally couldn't speak. I'm still angry - that's why I felt compelled to create a blog about our experience at Bed Bath N' Table - writing about it is therapy for me. I should mention that I'm a person who almost never gets angry.

Before I get into the matter, I better state that part of the problem was our responsibility and that Bed Bath N' Table were within their rights to take the stance they did - but it was the way it unfolded that caused the problem.

Anyway, here's what happened...

The Original Purchase From Bed Bath N' Table

About 8 weeks ago, we bought a quilt from the Bed Bath N' Table store at Carindale Shopping Centre. It was a 100% Microfibre Quilt made by Morgan & Finch, with a cotton japara cover. It looked okay and there was a 15% discount on the quilt due to a promotional sale - but we weren't sure whether it would be the right weight for our young daughter.

We discussed the situation with the sales assistant. We wanted to show it to our daughter and see what she thought of the quilt. We asked about the returns policy, in case she didn't like it, and we were told that we had 2 weeks to return the item.

Problem: Our daughter was with her grandparents, visiting family in another city and would not be back for more than 2 weeks. We decided that we'd better leave the quilt. However, on hearing the problem, the sales assistant told us that as long as it was returned in less that 4 weeks Bed Bath N' Table would honour the returns policy.

After hearing this, we forked out the $144.46 to buy the quilt.

The Problem With The Quilt

As it happens, we didn't actually use the quilt until about 6 weeks after we purchased it.

When we took the quilt out of its packet, we noticed that the microfibre wasn't spread evenly. There were square pockets in the quilt to "prevent movement" (as it says on the quilt case), but within each of these squares there was a lot of unevenness. Over the quilt as a whole, the coverage was patchy. There were some pretty big gaps - so much so, that it would allow the cold through.

We did all the obvious things, such as shaking the quilt vigorously, patting the squares, etc. None of this helped.

We therefore weren't happy with the quilt. We decided that our daughter deserved better and decided to take the quilt back. However at that point, we didn't have an alternative quilt for our daughter to use. We had no choice but to use it.

Returning The Quilt To Bed Bath N' Table

It took another 2 weeks until we had the chance to go to Carindale Shopping Centre again, but when we did, we took the quilt and the receipt back to Bed Bath N' Table to see if we could return the item.

We did this knowing full well that Bed Bath N' Table might not allow the return because: a) we'd used the product; and b) it was past the 4 week period agreed by the sales assistant who sold the quilt to us.

However, we felt that the quilt was either faulty, or of poor quality, and that really we were entitled to more for our money. It wasn't just a 'change of mind' return. Under such circumstances, we thought that maybe Bed Bath N' Table might accept the return - but we were fully prepared to be told no.

Yes The Product Is Faulty And You Can Exchange It

Upon arriving at the Bed Bath N' Table store, we explained the situation, including the fact that we'd used the quilt and that we were beyond the agreed return timeframe, and showed the quilt to the Bed Bath N' Table staff. The sales assistant we were dealing with:

· agreed the product looked faulty and shouldn't be like that

· told us we could exchange the product

· invited us to look for an alternative quilt to exchange with it

We'd decided that we didn't want to buy another Morgan & Finch quilt, although we did look at some. Bed Bath N' Table did carry some other brands, but nothing that really grabbed our attention. We got to the point where we asked whether a refund would be possible (in which case we could go to Myer or David Jones which have a wider selection).

At that point, we were told by the Sales Assistant that she was only authorized to do exchanges, not refunds and she'd have to check with the manager who was out the back. That sounded fine to us, but what we didn't realize was that this was the turning point.

No The Product Is Not Faulty And You Can't Exchange It

When the manager came, she tried telling us there was nothing wrong with the quilt, just that the microfibre was bunched together and that we just had to pull it apart and rub the squares together to spread it around. She showed us how to do this, and to be fair it did improve results, but it still didn't look quite right to me - and there were some squares that seemed to have less microfibre than others, there were still some gaps etc. (Note: I later spent more than 30 minutes doing this and although it was somewhat improved it was still patchy and not as good another new quilt we saw at the store - see below).

The possibility of a return was now out of the question, as was the possibility of an exchange, which we'd already been told we could have (just 10 minutes before)!

Now had we been told this from the start, we would have had no option but to accept it.

However, when you're told that there is a problem with the product and that you can exchange it and have even started selecting the replacement, it's upsetting to all of a sudden be told that there is no problem.

What Can We Do About A Faulty Or Low Quality Product

Even if the technique had resolved the problem, we couldn't quite believe we had to spend a minute or so on each of the 60 odd squares on the quilt before it was right. You just don't expect you need to do something like that when you spend that much money on a quilt! Additionally:

  • We weren't told we'd need to do this by the Bed Bath N' Table staff before we originally purchased the quilt.
  • There were no instructions from Morgan and Finch to say we needed to do this.
  • The manager let us look at another brand new quilt (out of the box) and it had much better coverage than ours.

Obviously I'm no expert, but to my eye, it was quite clear that there was a problem with the quilt. However, the manager saw it differently and steadfastly stuck to her guns.

She couldn't accept it as a 'change of mind' return because the item had been used (fair enough). She couldn't accept it as a faulty product return at the store level, because she didn't think it was faulty (not so fair), and the quilt would have to go to Morgan & Finch QA in Melbourne for assessment.

At one point she did tell us she had the authority to accept returns of faulty product, but later clarified that this was only for obvious tears, etc. Although this wasn't an obvious fault such as a tear, it still seemed obvious to me (and the sales assistant who originally served us) that the product was faulty.

Throughout more than 30 minutes of discussion, she held to this position and refused move. The manager didn't seem interested in the concept of Bed Bath N' Table being responsible for the quality of the products they sell. We were basically given two options:

  1. Take the quilt home and write to the Bed Bath N' Table head office about the problem and they could consider the issue.
  2. Let her send the quilt to Morgan & Finch, which would take up to 10 working days.

The second option was not feasible, because we'd be left without a quilt for our daughter in the middle of winter. We had to resolve the problem on the day. So really, our only option was the first one - and we will go ahead and write to the Bed Bath N' Table head office (when I've calmed down a little).

The one concession the store manager did make was to ring the Bed Bath N' Table area manager and discuss the situation with her. However, this made no difference. In hindsight, I should have asked to speak to the area manager myself. These conversations happened out in the back room so we couldn't hear what was discussed or how it was portrayed (indeed even whether the conversations actually happened, although I have no reason to doubt that they did).

In the end we had to give up. It was obvious that the quality of the products sold by Bed Bath N' Table and customer satisfaction weren't important enough to them to be able to make any headway.

Don't Ask My Surname

As we left, already upset, there was one more twist that left a bitter taste in our mouths.

Because we were planning to take the situation further by writing to the Bed Bath N' Table head office, we decided to ask the store manager her name. It's always useful to know exactly who you've been dealing with, so you can pass this on to people you talk to later.

However, although the manager gave us her first name (which I won't reveal here), she wouldn't give her surname.

She said that her first name and the store name would be enough to identify her in any future correspondence. Whilst that may be true, I've always found it a fact of human nature that most people like to know the full name of who they are dealing with.

I've managed various public facing teams and companies, including time in Customer Complaints, and I've never hesitated to provide my name when asked. My view is that if you're representing the company in an important role, you should be able to provide unhappy customers with a name so they can feel like they know who they're dealing with. In fact, just providing a name can help make a connection with the customer and make the situation a little easier.

I now know that denying the customer your full name has the opposite effect - it actually makes the situation worse, one more insult on top of whatever the problem was in the first place.

In a way, it was quite insulting, as it implied that the manager felt threatened by us. Although we were angry, the conversation was conducted cordially, with no shouting and even with the occasional break to talk about how cute our daughter was.

Anyway, regardless, it's the first time I've ever been denied a name in such circumstances and it left a bad taste in our mouths. An unsatisfactory end to a very disappointing experience with Bed Bath N' Table.

Final Thoughts

Based on our experience, I would have to recommend not shopping at Bed Bath N' Table or buying Morgan and Finch products.

Although Bed Bath N' Table were within their rights to take the stance they did, it was very disappointing that they don't value customer satisfaction more highly. And at the end of the day, the thing that made us angry, wasn't that they said no - just that they said yes first, then said no later.