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Customer Experience Unplugged: Short-Sighted Shoe Company Falls Flat

Posted by TrendSource on 5/20/14 10:54 AM

The Company

Actually, it’s a bit unfair if you really think about it – women and shoes. A champion seller of shoes will have customers coming back time and time again. No need for trickery. It’s women’s shoes, people! One popular online shoe retailer is forcing a size 9 into a size 7 sling-back stiletto, which we all know is not only unsightly, but also a recipe for disaster. Let’s break it down!

The Situation

This month we focus on a budget- conscious, young woman’s struggle to reconcile that she was duped and her fight to make right what went so terribly wrong – no easy task when her nemesis’s corporate mantra is put it in the finest print and take no prisoners.

Like many busy women, she headed online to find an adorable pair of boots at a reasonable price. She found a great pair for $27. Thrilled about the prize of her hunt, she quickly made the purchase and received the boots just a few days later. She was happy as a clam and completely oblivious to what was to come.

It is not uncommon to be put on a company’s email list after making a purchase on their website. It’s annoying that there is no quick and easy way to eliminate this from happening, but we generally accept it and simply unsubscribe as the emails start to come. After a couple of months had passed, she opened an email to unsubscribe only to find that she had unknowingly subscribed to the shoe website, which charged $39.95 per month! The subscription fee can be put toward another pair of shoes, however:

  1. The shopper’s card is charged without any prior approval
  2. If shoes are not purchased that month, the money is subject to forfeit
  3. $479.40 is a lot of cash to dish out per year in exchange for the honor of buying a $27 pair of boots, whether that money goes towards more shoes or not

Now two months in, she has been charged $79.90, almost 3 times the amount she paid for the shoes in the first place – so, that’s where they make their margin. In complete disbelief, she calls customer service only to learn that the subscription was in the fine print in the Terms and Conditions. Really?? If you aren't ashamed of who you are, why hide it in the fine print? Call it out! Don’t prey on those who find out too late to get a full refund of the subscription fees. That’s exactly what happened. They only refunded one month’s subscription fee and told her to use the other $39.95 towards a pair of shoes.

Begrudgingly, she went back to the site and found a pair that she could live with, but even after purchasing them for a whopping $49.95, the company still owed her a refund to make up the difference. Horrible customer service followed, leaving her with merely, “We will take your request under advisement and make a decision within 5 business days.” Wow. The refund was ultimately processed, but what an ordeal! This company had a rap sheet 86 complaints long on the BBB website and we’re sure more have piled on since this incident.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Still Gets Shot

Sometimes all you can do is shake your head and laugh. Does this company think that they are going to take any real market share from the crown jewel of online shoe retailers with this business model? They’re shooting marshmallows at titanium fortress walls. Here’s what should have happened:


Tear it Down and Rebuild!

Below are five necessary changes that this company would need to do immediately to hope for any real longevity:

  1. Re-brand and turn the business model into a customer-centric approach
  2. Break down all barriers of entry to shop:
    • No sign-in necessary
    • No subscription fees
    • The whole site should be visible and shop-able all the time, not just what is preselected for each customer based on designated preferences
  3. Complete transparency across the board
  4. Amazing customer service
  5. Outstanding delivery of an amazing brand promise during every customer interaction

Stay tuned for the next installment in our Customer Experience series where we break it down and dish out our thoughts on how to improve your own Customer Experience.

The Customer Experience Unplugged Series is a collection of real life customer service experiences in the retail, restaurant, grocery, food service and healthcare industries. These blogs are intended to highlight both good and poor customer experiences in a way that allows our readers to learn from them by seeing it through the eyes of the customer. These are experiences that TrendSource employees have had and the blogs are co-authored to communicate the tone, message and lessons to be learned in a meaningful way for our audience.

Topics: Market Research, Featured, Customer Experience Unplugged, Retail

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