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Crate and Barrel Complaint - Crate and Barrel the way of Sears !!! - Cabinet and Customer Service
Crate and Barrel Complaint

Crate and Barrel Complaint


Crate and Barrel the way of Sears !!! - Cabinet and Customer Service

Will Crate and Barrel be going the way of the Sears department store chain in terms of poor, poor, poor customer service ? Time will tell.

20 - 30 years ago Sears was a chain store that was admired by all in terms of their customer service and ,in particular, their quality line of appliances. However, today Sears is at the bottom of the barrel in terms of customer service and sales...and this is clearly reflected in the dramatic decline in the price of their company stock. Following a very bad experience that I had in buying appliances from Sears two years ago I can see why current sales are suffering and Wall Street is marking the value of Sears stock down, way down...

Aside from not investing in upgrading their stores, Sears also has not invested in the quality of the staff that they hire. This applies to their floor sales people (many of whom can't even calculate in their head a 10% discount off of a list price without using a calculator) to their store managers. I will not go into the details of my HORRENDOUS experience with Sears appliances and customer service, other then to say I have shared my nightmare experience with friends and co-workers and they have taken note in where NOT to shop for appliances and good service !!!

Now... Crate and Barrel. I have been a customer at Crate and Barrel for a number of years. I have been drawn to the store not only because of their great style of merchandise, wide selection and attractive prices but also because of the service I received in the past. Granted the bulk of my employee interaction with Crate and Barrel has only been with people who processed my credit card purchases. That being said, all it takes is one bad experience... a really bad experience.... and all that customer loyalty is thrown out the window.

The problem I encountered also occurred at the Paramus , NJ store where another contributor to this web site also lodged a complaint. Not many customers would take the time to write a compliment or complaint on a site like this...unless they felt very strongly, good or bad, about a service or product. The fact that there are two complaints about the personnel at the Paramus store makes me think that this is more than just a coincidence.

I had purchased a cabinet valued at a few hundred dollars from the Crate and Barrel store in Paramus. The cabinet that was purchased was a discontinued item and the last one in stock which should have made me a bit concerned . The cabinet came in a box since it had to be assembled and could not be inspected at the time of purchase.

Upon getting the box home and opening it, it was clear that the pieces of the cabinet in the box had been removed and repackaged. Some pieces were not properly wrapped and others just fell out of the box upon opening it.

The cabinet required two people to assemble it and a handyman was paid to help. During the assembly nicks in the cabinet's finish were noticed. But most concerning was when the cabinet was fully assembled (after an hour of work) it was discovered that the drawer did not roll in and out properly. Clearly, with the nicks in the finish and the defective drawer rollers this was not a new cabinet. Given that the cabinet was not properly wrapped in the box, the reasonable conclusion is that this item had been purchased by another customer, returned for whatever reason and resold to me.

The one positive experience regarding this incident was that when Crate and Barrel was initially contacted the sales person said that given the defects there would be no problem in returning the cabinet for a full refund. When asked if someone could pick the cabinet up (since it would require another hour of more of disassembly time to get it back into the car) , they said yes...but the pick up charge would be $70-80. That was about 25% of the value of the cabinet !

Instead, the cabinet was disassembled, wrapped in a blanket and returned to Crate and Barrel. It was returned to the shipping/receiving area in the garage area of the store and was accepted but not inspected at that time.

After entering the sales area of the store to collect the refund, an assistant store manager who handled the request said there was additional damage to the cabinet , in the form of a scratch, and that a full refund could not be given.

Clearly the additional damage that was identified was either there already when the cabinet was originally purchased and not identified at the time of assembly or was done after the cabinet was returned to the store's pick up area in the garage.

When the Asst. Mgr was told that this scratch had to be present when the cabinet was originally purchased, but just not noticed, the comment the Asst. Mgr. made was that Crate and Barrel doesn't sell defective merchandise. Now think through this comment.... on one hand this Asst. Mgr. is saying that Crate and Barrel doesn't sell defective merchandise and yet another manager, at the same store, said that a full refund would be given due to the nicks and defective drawer. If Crate and Barrel doesn't sometimes ,unknowingly, sell defective merchandise then why were they initially willing to provide a full refund based on the defective drawer rollers and nicks in the finish of the cabinet ? It was clear that this Asst Store Manager never took a course in logic or she doesn't communicate well with her store colleagues.

Despite bringing to this Asst. Manager's attention previous loyalty to Crate and Barrel in making store purchases of almost $10,000 in 2 years..... the response given by this Asst. Store Manager was that she in fact had purchased twice as much from Crate and Barrel ....basically saying I don't care how good a customer you are ...YIKES !!! Sometimes you don't know if you want to scream or cry at the stupidity of some people's comment. I can't say if this Asst. Mgr. was having a bad day given she had to work Labor Day weekend, but regardless the comment was totally out of line.

As fair balance.... this matter has not as yet been fully addressed with the senior store manager (who wasn't available) nor with the regional manager of the NJ store.

This web site was brought to my attention today and so before I missed an opportunity to provide comment, I decided to first write down the experiences to date with Crate and Barrel. Hopefully within the next week I can return to this site and comment on how Crate and Barrel resolved this issue to the satisfaction of a loyal customer.

Oh by the way..... Crate and Barrel did take back the cabinet but kept about $50 to offset the cost of the scratch. Think about it..... is it the $50 or so that is important to me....or is it the principle that customer loyalty must be honored and customer service must be preserved if a great chain like Crate and Barrel is not to go the way of Sears.

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focusonservice says: (9 years ago)
Favorably impressed with Crate & Barrel .... but why did it have to reach this level ?

I am happy to report that the issue I discussed in a previous posting ,regarding a defective cart, has been addressed to everyone's satisfaction...well almost everyone (will explain later).

Following this incident I was able to contact another individual in senior management who represented this Crate & Barrel store. In a very calm voice, I explained what had happened and how disappointed both I and my friends were in the service that we received from (C&B).

In my conversation with this individual, what first impressed me was that before I could even get 1/4 of the way into my explanation, she interrupted me by stating that the sales person was wrong in not providing a full refund. All she had to hear was that the cart was being brought back because it was defective. She went on to explain that since the cart was being returned because of damage, any additional damage found on the cart should not impact the customer getting their full credit.

True... relatively speaking, at close to $300 this was not an expensive piece of furniture. But when you add to this cost the hidden cost and inconvenience of paying someone to help assemble the cart (my friend had an injury to his arm and thus needed help) , paying a second party to disassemble the cart and carry it to his car and then the time required to deliver it back to C&B (note : this store was about 20 miles from where this individual lived) and you can see how the hidden costs mount up. Again, all of this was addressed by this C&B representative to our satisfaction.

But enough about the negatives I want to focus on the POSITIVES of what transpired. Again, this senior representative from C&B (someone NOT from corporate) wanted to personally reach out to my friend for whom all this havoc was created. She called him a few times before reaching him, to apologize and correct a very bad consumer experience. From my point of view she went to the MAX !!!

What was also reassuring was that she thought this would be a great case study from which employees at this store could learn from. I do understand an earlier comment made to this posting regarding the low base pay of C&B employees. I just don't feel that is an excuse.... unless of course established bonuses / commissions were recently cut and employees were asked to give this all up with nothing in return. Then for sure I can see how it would impact moral and service. Just think about what happened to Circuit City when they got rid of their most experienced sales people, because Corporate thought that they were being paid too much and needed to cut costs. Corporate brought in very junior and inexperienced people to sell in the store..... and not surprisingly they went bankrupt , I think, within a year !!!

I will assume C&B's pay structure is competitive with the other retail stores that they are positioning themselves against. Consequently, I cannot fall back on low wages as an excuse. I could understand if an individual was having a bad day because they were not well or had personal issues. However, the fact that nobody in the store at the time, including the store manager, addressed this issue to the customer's satisfaction suggests to me that this is an endemic problem and reflects poor store management.

Given how professional and courteous the C&B senior field person was in addressing this issue, I am confident that she will truly turn this into a positive learning experience for that store.

Equally important she has brought back into the fold 2 of the 3 loyal C&B consumers whose shopping experience was a disaster. Following my interaction with this C&B employee, I for one will continue to support C&B as I know my friend who bought the cart will. My friend's mother, who was in the store at the time of the return and broke into tears because of how her son was being treated, is still not convinced she wants to continue shopping at C&B. My friend feels that he can bring his mother around in time.

I am investing time to post this on the Internet because I strongly feel that BOTH the bad and the good need to be shared with all. Far too often only the negative surfaces. After I return from an upcoming trip I also will e-mail manager of the C&B employee who so wonderfully handled this issue letting them know how satisfied we were with her work.

Thanks to this individual this situation turned into a WIN : WIN for Crate & Barrel and the consumer !!!

macuseroz says: (9 years ago)
Btw, sorry for not proof-reading my previous comment. I just realised my errors.

macuseroz says: (9 years ago)
I worked for C&B for five years in a variety of positions, including management and in the stock room. Your's is not an atypical experience. What you bought is considered the "cheap stuff" even though it is quite expensive when compaired to similar products sold at other flat-box stores. Granted, the quality is supposed to be better, but bear in mind that C&B buyers shop with Target buyers.

The problem is that because the merch. is in a box, not even the stock room staff know what is in there until it is opened at home. Often times, boxes are opened to replace missing pieces for other customers, the replacements are ordered for the opened box, and well, it just goes on from there. If the store is not located in an area with a large furniture store...that is a store that is more like Ethan Allen...stockroom space is chaotic. Items stacked upon each other, and since some of the stuff is very heavy, bottom boxes are used for leverage, things are forced, etc. There is no possiblity of things not fitting...as a member of the stock crew you have to make it fit. Damage also happens here because often only one stock crew person works at a time in order to save money. This causes much damage to products (and to the crew--I have strained my back and broken a toe)because there is no one to help.

As for the rudeness ofthe Asst. Manager. Depending on the location s/he is only making about $30K/yr. And now that Gordon has saw fit to end not only commissions (which were communal and based on store sales, not personal sales), as well as to stop all the other perks that made working for C&B decent, there is less incentive to actually care.

I remember that C&B used to be praised for the way it treated its employees. From what I hear from friends that still work there, it has become just another typical, uncaring business hell-bent on expanding (just look at how many stores opened in 2003-5)rather than on nuturing positive relations.

There is little incentive to correct bad behaviour among management and staff because the company tries not to over-saturate one market. This results in the following mentality: "As long as the store is making money, who care." Of couse, you call and complain to corporate, they will kiss your butt, give you a refund, and call the store manager who may or may not take action. But in many of these places the problems are a result of poor management--keeping hold of people who set bad examples and are not strong leaders. For example, my store manager sat in her office most of the day on the phone with her mother and her boyfriend, and every one knew this. She never made an appearance on the floor except to deal with an angry customer (pacify and give them what they want, and then go on with business as usual is the tactic preferred), or when the area and regional managers were in town--once every 3 months. The store designer never worked a full week and store Marimekko fabric, again which everyone knew.

Yes, Crate and Barrel is going to way of Sears as it seeks to grow into a national chain the likes of Pottery Barn. Don't expect the same quality of service you used to get 10 years ago, let alone 20 years ago when it was still small and privately owned.

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