I know. I know. I know. It's been forever since I've written a "real" post, and instead of writing one today, I'm posting another letter of complaint.
To be honest, life's been a bit hellish lately--lots of things out of my control. But what I CAN control is my response to the little injustices.
Just think of these letters as free therapy.
Oh, and did you know that TOMS doesn't actually give a free pair of shoes to a child in need when you buy a pair? You can read about it in the letter.
Dear TOMS Customer Service Supervisor,
This summer, I purchased our family's first pair of TOMS, a pair of children's size 11, red Glitters, for my 4 year-old daughter. The day she started wearing the shoes, the glitter and red color started coming off the toe. Within a few hours, the shoes had two frayed white toes and looked completely tattered and worn. After being told by the retailer that they could not refund my money for the defective shoes, I contacted your company directly hoping TOMS would replace the pair since the problem was clearly with the product.
When I inquired with your customer service, though, I was told that TOMS would not replace the faulty shoes because I did not buy them at an "authorized" TOMS retailer. I find this response to be problematic for several reasons. First, unless I know to go to your website and record the list of authorized dealers BEFORE making my purchase, it would be impossible for me to know whether or not the retailer selling your shoes is authorized. Isn't it funny how retailers don't post signs saying they aren't "authorized" to sell something? It's also "funny" how customers assume the retailer is authorized to sell something since they are selling it.
Second, TOMS unwillingness to provide exchanges for faulty shoes indicates that TOMS is not willing or able to stand by its products. Regardless of where I purchased our shoes (or ‘how long they were in the warehouse’--the reason given for why you couldn't provide an exchange pair for our shoes), your company should be able to back its shoes and replace faulty products for customers. In fact, you should WANT to replace bad product so you don't have a bunch of customers walking around wearing tattered TOMS.
Third, it indicates you don't have a very effective (or customer-friendly) business structure. If you can’t guarantee, or aren't willing to replace, shoes purchased at the myriad non-authorized dealers where they are sold, perhaps you should stop allowing them to be sold there.
Finally--and this is the part that really irks me--in the e-mail I received from your customer service representative, I was told that our shoes, since they were not purchased directly from TOMS or an authorized retailer, did not qualify for your One-for-One program. Everything I've seen from TOMS proudly announces: “With every pair you purchase TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need.” There is no asterisk next to this statement. I checked. Nowhere on your website or in any other TOMS promotional material I've encountered, including the voice-mail greeting I heard when I called customer service today, does it say that the shoes have to be purchased at an authorized dealer. To be fair, I did find mention of this stipulation buried in the returns section of the TOMS website--not an obvious place, you'll agree. The problem is that TOMS promotes its shoes by telling customers that EVERY pair sold means a pair of new shoes for someone in need, and this is blatantly false advertising. Your advertising and public relations messaging should be changed to reflect reality.
As a customer, I feel doubly betrayed. Not only was I not supported in my effort to replace our faulty pair of TOMS, but I also learned that the shoes I purchased were not part of the One-to-One program. It’s heartbreaking to learn that TOMS' discussion of social conscience is more public relations ploy than social activism. As I’m sure you know, many pairs of TOMS shoes are purchased by people like me, hoping to help those in need, and it's shocking to learn that our purchases are actually only helping the company's bottom line.
I work at a university particularly committed to social justice and community service. Many of my students and colleagues, not to mention my kids' friends and classmates, wear TOMS because they believe that your company has a socially-conscious business platform and that you care about providing quality product. I admit it, that’s why I bought our pair of TOMS despite the fact they were much more expensive than what I usually spend on kids shoes. I hope that none of my friends, colleagues, students or blog readers makes the same mistake I did, so I will freely share the details of my experience with them.
As a fairly important side note, I'd like to also point out that my experience interacting with your customer service was also less than pleasant. After the first e-mail inquiry I sent through the TOMS website, I got numerous e-mails telling me I would eventually receive a response, but the actual response was slow to come and generally unhelpful. Then, today, weeks after I received an e-mail telling me that my shoes would not be replaced, I received FOUR unsolicited, automatically-generated e-mails from TOMS thanking me for my message and telling me I would receive a response shortly. This is perhaps the height of poor customer service--to refuse to help someone and then send unwarranted e-mails reminding the person just how unhelpful you are. For the record, I also tried online chatting with one of your representatives, but she left the chat mid-conversation and no one else picked up my chat, despite the fact I waited for quite some time. And when I called your customer service line to ask where to send this letter, it took your representative at least five minutes to track down that information.
I do hope that you will work to improve your customer service and make infrastructural changes that will enable you to stand by your product no matter where it is sold. More importantly, I hope you will edit your One-for-One campaign so that it reflects the reality of your business practices. Finally, I’d really love it if you would replace my daughter’s size 11 red Glitters.
Mom on the Edge
UPDATE: As of December 16, 2012, still no word from TOMS.
You can see the outcome of an earlier complaint here.