Friday 27 May 2011

End of a Beautiful Relationship or How John Lewis Is No Longer My Favourite Store

A couple of days ago I bought some kitchen stuff from the John Lewis web site. The next day I received an email saying, 'Your order has now been cancelled. You do not need to take any further action.' I was puzzled; I wanted the goods. There was a number to call.

John Lewis card was the first ever store card I applied for a few months after I moved to the UK. I remember it well. It was after my second interview at the BBC Monitoring Service in Caversham when I was offered the job and had signed the contract. The salary seemed astronomical to me, so on that same afternoon I skipped and hopped into Heelas in the centre of Reading and opened an account with them.

John Lewis has other significant memories for me too; it was the favourite store of a dear friend who tragically died of cervical cancer. She was only 35 when she finally succumbed after three years of suffering. She left three small boys behind. We'd got to know each other through the Navy and often lived in different parts of the country. But whenever we met up, a trip to the nearest John Lewis was always on the agenda. The men would look after the children and we'd spend a day talking and shopping. She was such an avid John Lewis customer, her husband joked that she kept a small private warehouse for them at home, because there were always bags of stuff ready to go back to the store.

The reason I'm telling you all this is that when I phoned the number it turned out to be John Lewis Financial Services. They told me the reason my order was cancelled was because my account had been closed. 'You owe us money,' a tired-sounding woman told me.
I gasped, 'What?'
The woman at the other end sighed loudly. I got the feeling she'd heard it all before. I tried to explain that I had no idea I owed them money and thought I'd paid the account in full each month. She looked at her records. The statements hadn't reached me since January.
'January! And you didn't try to contact me?'
'The letters were returned from your address so we don't resend them after a while.'
But after she checked, the address they had was correct. What's more, they had my email and my telephone number.
I repeated, 'You didn't try to contact me?'

I admit that not paying the account for items that I'd bought for the new flat was my fault. However, I pay things on statement, so if I don't get one I forget. I tried to say all this to the woman but she wasn't interested. In the end I paid the amount owing and asked if I now could use my card again.
'No, your account is closed.'
'You have to wait a few months and then reapply for a new card.'

It may sound silly, but I'm really upset about this. First of all the woman's attitude; it was obvious she thought I was lying all through the conversation. I worked out that I've had a John Lewis account for 27 years. I'd never before had a problem with the account, something the Financial Services must have on record.

But I don't want to reapply for a card - I really don't even want to buy anything from John Lewis ever again. Yet, I feel a real connection to the store - not only because of all the time I've been their customer, but also because of my dear friend. I know I'm being too emotional about this, but I thought I had a relationship with John Lewis. I felt I was that woman in the red dress in their advert, having the store as part of every stage of my life. Now I feel I've received a 'decree absolute'.  It's as if they've told me they never loved me in the first place.


Telefinn said...

Oh no! That's really annoying. You should check whether that has affected your credit rating though...

Unknown said...

Apparently not, but all the same it's highly annoying.

Alison Cross said...

That's ridiculously poor Customer Service! Are you on Facebook, because THEY are. I was very tempted to post a link to your blog to see whether they had anything to say for themselves for treating you so shoddily.

But that might have annoyed you, which isn't my intention.

I'm absolutely INCENSED at how they've treated you, Helena!!!! >:-( <-I don't know how to do a really angry face. Instead, I've done a sad face with a Mohawk, but you get the drift.

Ali x

Unknown said...

Alison, I wouldn't be annoyed if you did! It'd be interesting to see if they react...I somehow doubt it. xx

Jaana said...

I just emailed John Lewis customer services with a link to your blog :-)
Let's see if they react...

Anonymous said...

What an awfully sad and frustrating thing to happen. It really frustrates me when then people who work in the front line of customer service (And I DO count the accounts department as this, after all they are receiving calls from the customers, are they not?)fail to understand what a crucial role they play in retaining loyal and valued customers for the brand.
In some ways this is understandable, given the fact they generally work long hours for low wages, but this is usually not the case with JL (aren't staff shareholders?) , not to mention the fact that if a job is worth doing, it's worth doing well.
The same message from this lady, delivered with a dose of sympathy and without the laboured sighs, would have been different, I'm guessing? Still frustrating, but not as devastating?
I worked in customer service for over a decade. I'm sure I wasn't always sweetness and light but I did always remember the old adage- if people receive good service, they MIGHT tell someone about it. If they receive bad service, they'll tell the world.
JL have certainly gone down in my estimation after reading your account. Sorry this happened to you, Helena.

xxx Maddie

Alison Cross said...

I posted to their Facebook page - there's nothing quite like a bit of public bad press to enthuse companies to sort out problems.

Here's the link Helena :-)

We shall watch with interest.


Alison Cross said...

Any developments yet? They said on Facebook that they were getting in touch wit you?

Ali x

Metropolitan Mum said...

Did they get in touch? I am eagerly awaiting an update.

Metropolitan Mum said...

Did they get in touch? I am eagerly awaiting an update.

Unknown said...

M Mum, they re-instated my card! I wrote a post about it here

Helena xx