A Customer Care Disaster, or ill-advised PR stunt?

Posted September 30th, 2011

Whilst perusing the internet today, I came across what seems a very bizarre response to a customer complaint that has apparently gone viral on the internet. The company in question is Australian based clothing retailer, ‘GASP’. The original story comes from an article that appears in, ‘The Herald Sun’ and you can take a full look at the complete story including the original complaint on their website.

I was left scratching my head with this one, as I can’t be sure if it is a really poor response to a customer complaint or an even worse attempt at publicity. Now, if it is publicity they want, then I am stoking the flames here (as well as many other sites), but surely this is not good publicity? Take a look at the response to the complaint below. To set the scene, the complaint was regarding a customer that went into one of their stores to purchase a dress only to be harassed by the member of staff who was rude about the ladies dress size, amongst other things, when she showed reluctance to purchase. Here is their ‘customer service’ response…

Dear Keara O’Neil,

Having now had the privilege of having both version of events, I am now in a position to respond to your complaint.

From the very outset, one thing that you should be mindful of is; Our product offerings are very, very carefully selected, so to ensure that we do not appeal to a broad customer base. This is something which is always at the forefront of our minds when undertaking buying duties.

The reason for this is to ensure that we only carry products which appeal to a very fashion forward consumer. This by default means that the customer whom is acclimatised to buying from “clothing for the masses” type retailers, is almost frightened by our range, sometimes we have found that this type of customer, almost finds our dresses funny, and on occasion noted comments such as ‘it looks like a dead flamingo’. When we receive comments like this, we like to give ourselves and our buyers, a big pat on the back, because we know we are doing our job right, and modus operandi is being upheld.

Our range is worn by A list celebrities to the likes of Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez and Katy Perry to name only a few. Now, as one might appreciate, the style counsel for these types of celebrities are not ones to pick “run of the mill” type clothing, and they do so on the basis to ensure that the styles are cutting edge, and only worn by a select few. Similarly these items are priced such that they remain inaccessible to the undesirable.

Insofar as our employee goes; Similar to our product offerings, our employees are selected with a similar approach. Chris whom served you is a qualified stylist whom has a sixth sense for fashion, and Chris’s only problem is that he is too good at what he does, and as I am sure you are aware, people whom are talented, generally do not tolerate having their time wasted, which is the reason you were provoked to leave the store.

Whilst I concede that you work for chain retailer, unfortunately that does not make us like for like. It is probably fair to assume, a lot of what I have said in this email, either doesn’t make sense to you, or you totally disagree with it all, which is what I would expect (unless of course I have you totally wrong – which I doubt).

Let me guess, you would never, ever hire Chris in the course of your duty, would you? This is the very reason, why your comment “from one retailer to another” is so disproportionate, it’s almost as though we are in a totally different industries. Chris is a retail superstar, who possess unparalleled ability, and I am sorry you feel upset by him, but he knew you were not going to buy anything before you even left your house.

So if you would like to do us any favours, please do not waste our retail staff’s time, because as you have already seen, they will not tolerate it. I am sure there are plenty of shops that appease your taste, so I respectfully ask that you side step our store during future window shopping expeditions.

Thank you for your enquiry.

But it doesn’t end there. GASP replied to the criticism of their response with this:

We respect that not all consumers strive for a glamorous appearance; some prefer to simply blend in. […] We respect and welcome all customers whom wish to visit our store, even though the intention to buy may not exist. But we ask that their opinions be expressed through blogs, social media or around a warm latte, but certainly not inside our stores.

So, having taken a look at this really badly worded response, what do you think? Publicity stunt, or poor customer service? Whatever it is, if I was the boss, I’d be having a rethink about the people working for me and an even harder consideration about what customer service training or even complaint handling training my staff need.


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