Customer Service: Uniqlo, D-

I was really excited when Uniqlo finally opened their online store and arrived fully in the 21st century with eCommerce.  I’m not a chronic shopper of theirs, but since they opened in October of 2012, I’ve placed four orders, two of which were around $60 and two of which were around $120.  I mention this only to drive home the fact that I’ve done about $350 worth of business with them, making purchases regularly every few months.

In these orders, I’ve gotten some pretty good stuff.  Their clothes aren’t of the highest quality, but their designs, fits, and sizes are exactly what I like.  It is very hard for me to find 1) clothes that fit 2) that aren’t ugly for 3) a reasonable price.  It’s usually a “pick 2 of the 3” situation.  For this, I am thankful.

However, I’ve also had a couple of negative experiences before my previous order.  The product descriptions and pictures on their site are very lacking.  I’m not sure how they’re taking pictures, but I’ve never received an item from them that matched the color on their site.  (Note that I have looked at their site on many displays, tablets, and phones.  Their colors are off; it is not my computer).  Luckily most of the time, it’s close enough that I don’t care.  But in one order, I really wanted this nice pastel yellow Henley.

Henley

The color was labeled merely as “yellow,” and it looked perfect in the picture.  Yet when I got the item in, the color was actually neon.  How annoying is that?  They could’ve at least labeled the color appropriately.  Does that look neon yellow to you?

In another order, I got two pair of “blue” color jeans.  Why do I put “blue” in quotes?  Hopefully this will explain it:

Uniqlo colors

 

 

How can both of those be called blue?  Hovering over the color palette clearly showed both of these as being “blue.”  Well, I decided to test it out because those particular jeans were on sale for $9.90.  Can’t really hurt at that price.  The first pair is much greener in person than they look on the site.  They’re a dark turquoise or teal – certainly not blue.  The second pair is essentially gray.  It’s not gray, but to anyone walking by, they’re gray.  If you look really closely under the right light, you can see how they’re a very light – almost white – shade of blue.  But to call them blue is simply deceptive.  I’d have accepted “washed out blue” or “stormy sky blue” or a plethora of other bullshit color names that are more accurate, but “blue” alone is not one of them.

 

But I didn’t make a big deal about these color issues.  Uniqlo’s return policy is kind of crappy ($7 return shipping fee, or choose your own parcel service and pay the fee yourself), even though exchanges are supposedly free (I’ve yet to make an exchange).  I didn’t bother with trying to exchange any of those items because I knew I was gambling on the pants in the first place, and the Henley was on sale and at the time, I didn’t feel like dealing with it and decided to wear it to sleep in, since who the hell wants a neon yellow Henley?

But my last order with Uniqlo was for another pair of slim color jeans in their “wine” color.  I knew exactly what to expect in this order, because I already have straight fit color jeans, and I already have some of their wine chinos.  There was certainly no way they could surprise me on this order.  The color jeans are sort of lightweight, but they look enough like denim and feel enough like to denim.  Their wine color looks more purple online, and more red in real life.  But this is fine, that’s what I wanted, and also what I was expecting.

So what did I get?  Chinos with casual pockets and a casual fly.  I couldn’t believe it.  The material is literally identical to the many pairs of Uniqlo chinos I have.  There’s nothing rugged about them.  They’re not even close to looking like denim.  In fact, if my chinos hadn’t been washed a few times, I guarantee you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them in this side by side picture of the fabric:

Uniqlo "jeans"

I was immediately annoyed at the misrepresentation of these pants on their site, because – yet again – I’ve wasted money on a product from Uniqlo that their site poorly describes and poorly pictures.  There was not enough detail on the product page to be able to tell in either the description or the picture that these are not really jeans.

This time, I emailed Uniqlo for a refund, and I skipped past the bullcrap.  I told them straight up that this product is not advertised properly on their site and asked for my money back and the return shipping fee to be waived.  I emailed with three different reps, two of which talked to their supervisors, and I was denied getting the return shipping fee waived each time.  The responses grew more and more annoying.  The reps constantly apologized for the inconvenience, repeated themselves, and sounded more and more robotic.  I offered up the picture above comparing their chinos to the “jeans,” and still got robotic answers.  The entire dialogue from their customer service department sounded very insincere, as if they were told “be disgustingly nice, but don’t ever try to make a situation right.”

Knowing that phone calls usually get more done, I called them.  I shouldn’t have been surprised; really, I shouldn’t have been, but I got the same exact bullshit on the phone.  I asked to speak to a supervisor, and holy shit, he was even worse.  This is a situation that had a clear resolution: waive the return shipping fee, give me my money back, and in the long term, improve your website so that customers know what they’re buying.

rarely, if ever, go off on people over the phone, especially not over $7.  I’ve worked at help desks, I’ve done and do customer service, I know exactly what it feels like so I try not to give customer service people a hard time.  But holy shit.  This supervisor was the biggest robot of them all.  He argued with me that the pants are actually jeans.  He passive-aggressively “apologized” that the pants didn’t live up to my expectations (excuse me for ordering jeans and expecting to receive – I dunno – a pair of jeans?).  Is it really that hard to say, “We’re sorry about the misunderstanding.  We’ll waive the return fee to make this right.”?  I was nice-neutral in tone throughout the entire conservation, though I grew slowly agitated until the end, when I threw his crappy passive-aggressive tone back at him and said, “Thanks for the poor customer service,” and hung up.

Let me put this situation into perspective.  You walk into a restaurant and look at the menu.  You want a steak, so you turn to the steaks section.  “Sirloin steak, 100% beef.”  Perfect, that’s what you want.  There’s a small picture there, and you think “perfect!”  So you order the sirloin steak.  In this restaurant, you pay for your food before you get it, so you pay.  The waiter comes out 10 minutes later with a hamburger patty.  You look confused and say, “this isn’t what I ordered.  I ordered the sirloin steak.”  The waiter says, “Sir, this is a sirloin steak.  It’s just been ground up.  This is 100% ground sirloin.”  You point at the picture on the menu and say, “The picture looks like a steak,” and the waiter apologizes very insincerely, points to the low-resolution, undetailed picture and says, “That’s ground sirloin formed into the shape of a steak.”  You get annoyed and ask that you be brought a real, unground sirloin steak.  The waiter says they don’t have any of those, but he’d be happy to exchange your current sirloin burger patty for another one.  You say no, and demand a refund.  The waiter says, “Sorry sir, it costs $7 to send food back to the kitchen.  This policy is clearly labeled on the menu.”

This is a very long-winded post about a very annoying customer service situation that should’ve never happened.  Uniqlo’s customer service is extremely poor, and whereas a good company would try to make such a situation right for a tried and true customer, they decided to give me the middle finger, but with a nice little smiley face drawn on it.  I won’t refuse to buy products from Uniqlo in the future, but I will only buy them if I can see the actual product first.  Otherwise, I don’t want to be lied to and then stuck with the return shipping bill.

I filed a dispute with my credit card company over this on the grounds of a “misrepresented product or service.”  I doubt I’ll win the dispute, but at this point, I’m more annoyed with their shitty service than I am with the product I got or the small financial impact.