I wrote last week about Lands’ End’s poor handling of a return under their “Guaranteed. Period.” policy.
Here’s their response, which I received a few days ago:
Dear Mr. Kamens,
I wanted to reach out to you after learning about your recent experience with Lands’ End. I understand that your merchandise return was not handled appropriately and I wanted to contact you personally to apologize. Your account of how the return was processed was completely accurate and, as you pointed out, not in compliance with the Lands’ End Guaranteed.Period.® return policy. As you know, once it was brought to light, we were committed to correcting the situation quickly. I hope you will please accept my sincerest apology on behalf of Lands’ End.
We continue to stand behind our unconditional guarantee and are always committed to exceptional customer service. While I can assure you that this situation is not the norm, it should not have happened at all. If there is anything we can do to assist you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.
With sincerest apologies,
Lands’ End Customer Service
Here’s the follow-up I just sent back to them:
Dear Ms. [elided],
Thank you for your email. I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my letter, and I also appreciate your acknowledgment of and apology for the fact that my exchange was not handled correctly.
However, I do not feel that the situation has been entirely resolved, either specifically or in general.
Although it has been nine days since I called Lands’ End and was told that a replacement Squall Parka was being sent to me, it has not yet arrived, at least not as of this morning when I left for work. Furthermore, I have been given no tracking number, so I don’t know whether it has shipped at all or if/when it will arrive. Your assistance in confirming that my parka was shipped and getting the tracking number to me so that I can track it would be appreciated.
One would think that after delaying my exchange for days by sending a refund when I’d asked for an exchange, Lands’ End would have made up for the error by using overnight shipping for the replacement parka.
As I see it, there were two issues with how my exchange was handled.
- I asked for an exchange but received a refund instead.
- The refund I received was for far less than what I paid, and your policy for handling such refunds (as explained to me by two different Lands’ End employees) ensures that most people who do returns more than 2.5 years after buying a product get less than they paid for.
It appears to me that your apology applies only to the first issue. That is, you have acknowledged that I asked for an exchange, and that the Lands’ End employee who processed my return should have sent me a Squall Parka instead of a gift card. Great, I appreciate that, but it’s not enough.
When Lands’ End discontinues a product, if they have any left in stock, they put it on clearance at a sharply reduced price. Presumably, the number of units of the product bought at that reduced price is an extremely small percentage of the total number of units sold. Nevertheless, according to two different Lands’ End employees I spoke with, when someone asks for a refund on a product purchased more than 2.5 years ago, such that you don’t have a record of how much they paid for it, you refund that clearance price, even though it is almost certainly far less than what they paid for it. This is unfair and clearly “stacks the deck” in Lands’ End’s failure, to the detriment of your customers.
At the very least, your Web site should make the details of how you calculate refund amounts clear and explicit. It should say that customers making a return are encouraged to enclose a copy of the original receipt, or at the very least to indicate approximately when the product was purchased (since presumably Lands’ End has records of the price charged for the product over time), and that you have no way of determining the purchase price, you will have to use the last price the item was sold at, which may be less than the customer played. Furthermore, if someone sends a return without a receipt, you should make an effort to find out from them how much they paid for it, rather than just assuming the last (i.e., lowest) price.
As I said, this is the very least you should do to make the way you handle returns more reasonable. A far better solution, would be to use not the last price the item sold at, but the last non-sale price, since (a) the odds are very high that’s what the customer actually paid, and (b) if the customer has to replace the product either from Lands’ End or another merchant, they’re not going to be able to do it with a closeout-price refund.
I would like to know (a) is your policy is in fact as it was explained to me by your two employees; (b) if so, do you really consider this policy as it currently stands fair to your customers; and (c) what Lands’ End is going to do to adjust the policy to make it fairer and more honest to your customers.
UPDATE: Here is the entirety of the response I received from Lands’ End to my email above: “Thank you for your feedback regarding our return details. Our return policy remains Guaranteed.Period.® and we remain committed to our unconditional guarantee.”
In other words, “Yes, we know that the way we handle refunds of discontinued items causes us to refund less money to many people than they actually paid, and no, we’re not going to do anything to go out of our way to fix that or let people know what they need to do to avoid it. But thanks for asking!”