Help Squad: Local retailer comes to the rescue of an online shopper

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Help Squad,

I bought my daughter a bunch of clothing from sugarlips.com — two large orders of merchandise (totaling nearly $400) in just a few weeks time.

The website advertises free shipping and returns so when I contacted them about a skirt that was clearly defective — the hem unraveled after just a few hours of wear — I didn’t expect a problem. The skirt was on sale for less than $20.

I was surprised when I emailed Sugarlips’ customer service to learn that the representative with whom I was communicating had no authority to exchange the skirt without approval from the owner. I was further shocked when I was told the owner refused to do anything about the defective skirt. I was sure there must have been a misunderstanding, so I called the customer service number and spoke with another representative who could not have been ruder. He said he was aware of this situation and the owner had rejected the return due to the fact the merchandise had been worn. I asked if I could please speak with the owner and he said absolutely not. I was speechless! What kind of company is this? I asked him to please ask the owner to reconsider, which he said he would. I received another email from this representative saying the company would not allow a return.

I’m shocked that Sugarlips doesn’t stand behind its merchandise. I’ve never before been treated so poorly by a retailer. This is customer service at its worst!

Sincerely,

Linda, Lincolnshire

Enter Help Squad

Upon reviewing the email chain between Linda and Sugarlips’ customer service department and calling Linda directly, Help Squad learned the skirt in question was originally a $16 item on sale for just $12. All Linda was asking for was an even exchange for the exact same skirt.

This seemed a fairly straight-forward request, so Help Squad made a call to one of the customer service representatives with whom Linda had been in contact. He was familiar with the situation. When Help Squad explained to him our column was serving as a consumer advocate on Linda’s behalf, the result of which would appear online and in 32 Chicago-area newspapers, the representative’s response was, “There’s nothing we can do about it. If the customer wears something and damages it, we can’t take it back. That’s her fault.” Help Squad pointed out to the rep that this assertion made two major assumptions: One, Sugarlips could never, even inadvertently, sell a defective product; and two, Linda — or any other customer requesting an exchange citing faulty workmanship — must be lying. Neither seems a very customer-centric approach to business.

Help Squad asked to speak to the owner, a request that was denied. Help Squad then asked the customer service rep to inform the owner of our intent to publish a column regarding this situation and to please have the owner call or email us. We received a phone call a few hours later from this same representative saying the owner would not speak with us and was sticking to the company’s policy of no returns or exchanges on worn clothing.

At this point, Help Squad decided to contact a small, Deerfield clothing store called Just Between Friends that carries the Sugarlips brand. We explained Linda’s dilemma to store’s manager Megan Katen who said, without hesitation, Just Between Friends would be happy to take back the skirt and provide Linda with either a store credit or an exchange. When asked what her store must do when a customer brings in defective Sugarlips merchandise that has been worn, Megan said Just Between Friends often has to absorb the cost. “But we need to have happy customers.

“When consumers shop online, they are often left on their own if something goes wrong. That’s why shopping locally is so important. We’re here to ensure our customers are treated right.”

Linda,

Though Help Squad is as disappointed as you that sugarlips.com would not take back your defective skirt, and in the process treated you as though you were dishonest, we are glad we could put you in touch with the very customer-focused local retailer, Just Between Friends, at 740 N. Waukegan Road, Deerfield, which, by the way, is opening another store on Aug. 9: Just 4 Friends, at 600 Central St. in Highland Park.

Sincerely,

Help Squad

Need help?

Did a utilities company overcharge you? Did a boutique deny your request for a return? Are you the victim of fraudulent business practices? Is someone just exhibiting bad business behavior? Let Help Squad make the call for you. Send your letters, your complaints, your injustices and your story ideas to HelpSquad@pioneerlocal.com and we will be happy to help you.

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