I’m sure you’ve seen those two words side by side many, many times. It’s a trending act, and one that helps small business owners in your community grow their ventures. If I have the opportunity to get a similar product for a similar price from someone local – why not, right?
That’s exactly what Amanda* (named changed for security) wanted to do when she ordered a swimsuit from 437 Swimwear. With prices starting at $55USD per piece, it’s quite the commitment for an online bathing suit purchase, especially with websites like Zaful and Boohoo selling their bathers at $20 for the full set. Obviously if it doesn’t fit, you’d want a refund.
437’s refund policy is pretty reasonable – get a store credit if you reach out and ship your suit back within 7 days of receiving it. But what if you don’t like any of the other options, and the fit just isn’t right?
Lots of retailers have rules around their refund/exchange policies, but from my experiences as both a Sales Associate and a shopper (both sides of the counter!), rules are made to be bent and broken. That’s what retail is – customer service.
Not only did 437 Swimwear decide that their policy is set in stone (customer service faux-pas #1), but the co-founder must have hit “Reply All” instead of “Forward” when deciding to tell her team that a. Amanda’s Instagram following (920 followers) wasn’t going to impact their brand, and b. her “donation” to the company will be funding their “boujee drinks” in Mexico.
Naïve. Naïve is what the co-founder is, thinking a social media underdog can’t affect her brand.
So what has happened in the approximately 38 hours since the e-mail was sent?
Amanda posted everything that happened in her Instagram stories. Her friend reposted it. My friend reposted it from that girl. I reposted it from my friend… and I’m sure many other people reposted it onto their own profiles as well. Rumour has it, the story was shared in a Facebook group with about 30,000 girls around the world too.
I decided to keep an eye on both the co-founder’s and the brand’s Instagram accounts to see how they would react to “no impact being made on the brand”.
- The co-founder set her profile to private.
- Soon after, her profile disappeared (deleted).
- The brand profile went to private mode.
- Eventually, the brand disappeared too.
So how does a fairly small, local brand escape out of this PR disaster? What are their next steps?
From my small experience of working together with PR teams, I’m not really sure if they’ll be able to save it at this point.
I suspect the two aforementioned Instagram accounts will slowly reappear, in hopes that the angry surge of friends and friends of friends of friends of friends will forget this whole thing ever happened.
The right, ethical thing to do? A full refund (and maybe some other compensation?) to Amanda, and a full-fledged public apology would probably be appropriate.
There are many lessons to be learned here. First and foremost, regardless of how many followers someone has, they still have the power to make an impact on your brand. Warren Buffet said it best, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” It’s really hard to build a positive reputation, but one small mistake can cost you your entire business. Never underestimate the power of one angry customer.
Whether 437 Swimwear survives through this or not, they could definitely take a lesson out of Nordstrom’s book of refund policies. If the customer insists, let them have it. Your reputation is a lot more expensive.
What’s your take on 437 Swimwear’s fate at this point? Comment below!