For anyone who mildly worries about my dress Julia after reading her story, you have my thanks, and my assurance that all’s well that ends well: the posh drycleaners I took her to managed to restore her to her pristine condition.
This, dear reader, is the narrative of yet another silken item of clothing and its unfortunate encounter with a drycleaner. But more than that, it is a large and incredibly dark episode in my everyday quest for tolerable customer service. I almost cried yesterday. Here’s what happened.
About a month and a bit ago, I took four blouses to the drycleaner nearest to my house. A week later, when I went to pick them up, the guy there said that well, there had been a little problem, and he only had three of my items. Would I care to take them with me and return for the fourth? Sure, I said. After all, I had experienced such delays (for no obvious reasons) before. A few days after, on my return, I was told that my top seemed to have gotten lost. By the cleaning company that the drycleaners outsourced to. And since they serviced loads of drycleaners across Berlin, it was a bit like the proverbial needle and the haystack.
Not to worry though, I was assured. If only I would leave a detailed description of the brand, colour, style, size and fabric of the top, chances are that they would find it. Most likely. So I did all that, and left home a bit sad – it was my only cream sleeveless silk top, and a real bargain from the excellent brand Hobbs. It wasn’t a recent purchase, but I had only worn it a handful of times – but each time with utter delight at its elegance. Since I didn’t live in the UK anymore, Hobbs tops were a bit more difficult, if not impossible, to come by.
A week passed, and then ten days, and the expected phone call to let me know they found it didn’t come. Somewhat worried, I decided to drop by again. No, they haven’t found it. Would I confirm the description? I was getting a bit suspicious that anyone was actually on top of this, but decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. “Oh, and by the way, how much did the top cost?” asked the owner. “I don’t know” I answered truthfully, “it’s a silk top; it wasn’t 10 euro, or 150 euro… I guess 50?” “Do you still have the receipt?” “Well, no” I replied. “Ah, ok, we’ll sort something out.” Hmm… somehow I was not convinced. I went home, looked up the top online and found its exact picture, printed it, took it to the drycleaners. They proclaimed the picture as very helpful and told me that they would keep looking for a month. If the item was not found, they would arrange a refund.
A month and a bit later, nothing had happened. In the meantime, I looked for a similar top, and found an almost identical one – same fabric, colour, and from another brand I adore, Repeat! but even in sales, 99 Euros… I thought ok, I can get it, show it to them, and say I would like it refunded – at least 70 or 80% of it. That is surely the least they can do, since it’s the only replacement I could find.
Ahh, so wrong. On my next visit to the drycleaners, I was told by the smirking guy that the new top and receipt doesn’t help him one bit. That it’s obviously a new top I just got. “But of course” I replied “that’s exactly what I just told you. This is a replacement, an almost identical top.” “Well, it’s no good. Are you sure you don’t have the receipt of the original?” “Quite sure.” “How imprudent.”
By this time I was getting a bit pissed off. “I do have a lot of clothes. I don’t keep all the receipts.” “Ah, but you should” came the owner’s advice “I keep receipts even for 5 Euro T-Shirts”. “But that’s unfeasible for me, I have too many clothes!” “Well, you should keep receipts for everything” comes the uncompromising retort.
Next, I get told that since the sum of almost 100 Euros is rather large, they have to call someone else at the central drycleaning company to check what to do next. So they call, and find out a claim has to be filed to the insurance company. They do not have this form, but if only I could go back in a few days, the central company would have sent it to them. I go back a few days later. Surprise, surprise, the form isn’t there. “Uhm… the manager there is on holiday… hence the delay… we can send it to your address when it comes in, in a few days” comes the explanation. I wait again. No luck. I pay them another visit. “We’ll just fill in the form in your name, if you leave us the details.” Which I do. About five days later, I get a phone call (the first time they contacted me of their own accord) to confirm the details, as the owner had finally got the form and was filling it in. “They’ll transfer the money into your account” he promised. That was more than 2 weeks ago.
Yesterday, I went to see my favourite drycleaners again. I said hello, and said that I was wondering what was going on.
“What?” came the owner’s innocent question.
“Well, nothing’s going on. I haven’t been refunded”, I say, somewhat at the end of my patience.
“Really?” The owner smiles superciliously. “I don’t know anything about it.”
“Well, how long does it usually take?” I ask.
“I wouldn’t know.”
“What? How come?”
“Well, it’s not my business.”
“What do you mean? Wouldn’t it be in your interest to know how long these things take?”
“No, I passed this thing on, and now it’s out of my hands.”
“Listen, Mister. You lost my item of clothing. And you have not kept me informed about anything.”
“I didn’t lose it, it was my colleagues in the central company. I am not to blame. And well I have better things to do than deal with your problem. Like real work. I can’t spend my time on the phone on your account.”
“What do you mean by that? You promised to call me repeatedly and called me only once in one and a half months. I find this barely sufficient. I expect you to call your colleagues and find what’s going on.”
Finally, the guy picked up his phone and called his colleagues. About half a meter away from me, he told them that he had this client who was “raising hell” and “expecting him to magick a solution” even though it wasn’t his fault. In the end, he told me that the manager was on holiday, that his mother processed insurance claims in his absence, and she wasn’t there; the person who was there knew absolutely nothing of my claim, and also couldn’t say how long these things took. So after some procrastination he decided to fax my claim to them – again.
I didn’t really think that I could trust this person or his colleagues; I felt mentally tortured within an inch of my life by their incompetence and lack of caring. Yet the worst was still to come.
I made one last attempt to ask this owner if he didn’t feel responsible for this thing at all. “No, I don’t care” he came out with it. I almost couldn’t believe it. “I passed it on, and now there isn’t anything I can do. And anyway, you are making such a big fuss over your 100 Euros!”
“But it’s my money!” I exclaimed. “Not yours!”
“But it’s just 100 Euros. If it had been more, like 1000, I would have made more effort with my colleagues.”
“WHAT? So 1000€ would have been more interesting for you, but not my 100?!?”
“Yes. And anyway, first you said the top cost 50€ and then you went and bought yourself a 100€ top and expect us to reimburse it. Even if you didn’t have a receipt. Who’s to say it was the same top?”
“Well, I told you it’s almost the same. And I didn’t remember the exact price of my old one – I bought it in the UK a while ago, in sales. But anyway, if you could only produce my old one, I could show you how similar they are. But you can’t, can you? Because you and your colleagues lost it. So don’t tell me it’s not your fault!”
“NO, it’s YOUR fault, for not having a receipt!”
“And” he continued “I would have paid you 50€ myself, but you changed your story, so I had to apply to the insurance company. You should be happy I played along and said ok…”
“I am not happy!” I breathed out “and you are implying that I am a liar and that I am trying to profit from this”.
“That’s it. Give me 50€ now and let’s forget about all this.” I suggest.
“No, I can’t. The claim has gone to the insurance company and you’d get double the money.” comes the smiling reply.
“See, I don’t believe I will get any money, ever.” I retort.
“Oh, yes you will. I just can’t tell you when.”
“Alright.” I sighed, defeated. “Goodbye.”
That’s it, folks. Maybe I was in the wrong. Let me know what you think. But surely there are so many things that are deeply wrong with the owner’s behaviour – not getting in touch; not bothering to have the necessary forms, or tracking them down; not knowing anything about their processes, or bothering to ask his colleagues; shirking all responsibility; saying to my face that he doesn’t care about my problem; and having a full-blown argument with a customer, accusing the customer of this and that when in fact it was the customer who suffered a loss which to this day is not compensated for.
Sometimes I feel very powerless and sad. And all the words in the world don’t seem to mend the hurt caused by one person’s demeaning manner.