Archive for January, 2009

Add Pottery Barn to the list of Greedy Corporations

Posted in Scattershot with tags , on 3 January, 09 by MastrN8

This is a letter I recently wrote to Pottery Barn. In it, I explain the situation in detail so I’ll just let you read it. Note: In this post I replaced my real name with my blogger name. Pottery Barn knows me not as MastrN8.

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is MastrN8. I would like to begin by telling whomever reads this that my wife and I adore your company and the merchandise it sells. Although we are just starting out and cannot afford everything we want right now, we do make a habit of buying what we can from Pottery Barn. We also feel that every time we are in the store that the staff is very courteous, genial and prompt. Even throughout the holidays the store in the Promenade Shops at Briargate in Colorado Springs, CO (#731) was well kept and made for a pleasant shopping experience. That was until today.

Today I went into Pottery Barn #731 in the hopes of exacting an even exchange; however, the situation, which I expected to be quick and easy, turned out to be difficult and frankly, painful. I expected to exchange the frame I had for a comparable one, not only in size, but style; since my wife likes them so much I also expected to buy a few more. For Christmas, my wife asked for Pottery Barn’s red grosgrain frames in various sizes; she received a total of six of them. One of the frames, the 5×7, was engraved with “Christmas 2008”. The person that gave her said frame did not see the small line on the box indicating that this phrase was engraved on the frame. When I went to exchange this frame for an un-engraved frame, I walked into a nightmare.

I walked into the store at 2:25 p.m.; I made a note of the time because I had an appointment to keep at three. The first thing I noticed upon entering the store was the lack of employees. No one was minding the register and I waited a full five minutes before a young woman helped me out. I forget her name but she was very courteous and friendly. She had long brown hair and a green shirt on. She said she would be happy to help and after calling around trying to find a SKU # for the “Christmas” frame, she had the unfortunate responsibility of telling me that since I did not have the receipt, I would have to pay an extra $10.97 to make up the difference in price. This was upsetting to me knowing that I would have to pay for a gift. I decided to pay but to also make my disappointment known to the manager. Keep in mind that I entered the store at 2:25.

At 2:41, the manager, Denise, finally showed up to talk to me. Denise was very polite and apologetic but I believe she failed to grasp the point I was trying to make. She explained to me numerous times that even at the height of the season the “plain” frames were still more expensive that the “Christmas” frames. I understand that perfectly. I was trying to explain to her that I found it disappointing that there was such a long wait to be helped. That it was disappointing that I needed to pay for a gift that was given. That it was disappointing that cookie-cutter, big-box, chain retailers cannot be flexible with customers that wish to spend money in their store.

The point I am trying to make in this long-winded letter is this: I am disappointed in Pottery Barn’s handling of this situation. It seems to me that P.B. would rather keep $10.97 than keep a returning customer. The store is tainted to me now. Where I once saw beauty and elegance in a store’s merchandise, I now merely see greed and a yearning to meet the bottom-line at all costs. I don’t blame you; I have read the reports. Williams-Sonoma’s Q3 earnings were dismal at best. To quote your own CEO Howard Lester, “To put this in perspective, company-wide comparable store sales declined from negative 14.0% in August to negative 20.1% in September to negative 27.6% in October.” The Williams-Sonoma family of companies seems to be bleeding money profusely! No wonder Denise didn’t want to lose the ten dollars and ninety-seven cents

If this were my company though, I would be more worried about returning customers that wish to spend money above and beyond a simple exchange, rather than the difference of said exchange. In other words, wouldn’t you rather bend the rules for a loyal customer that wishes to spend more money on the same visit, than just get the difference of the exchange and never see that customer again?

I hope this letter finds the appropriate eyes. I hope that this letter doesn’t get received only to be pushed aside and be replaced by a stock email that details your return and exchange policy. If you think I am disappointed now, wait until you see my response to an automatically generated email. You won’t get rid of me by just handing me a meaningless email chock full of information that I already know. The point here is this: if you wish to achieve record sales and keep the customers you have, treat them as people. Look up from your number reports and bottom-line, and focus on the patrons in your stores. If making a customer happy means a 5 Million dollar bonus to the CEO rather than a 10 million dollar bonus then so be it! I am confident that the rest of my middle to upper middle class brothers and sisters will tell you the same.

I know there are some circumstances in which you simply cannot budge on policy, however, I implore you to take these situations case by case! You have lost a customer that once wished to furnish his house in your wares. While the staff was kind and genial, they were inattentive to their customer’s needs and steadfast in keeping every cent that they could get, rather than keeping the customer. In the current economic environment I wish you the best of luck and hope that you survive these conditions treating your patrons the way you do.


Now, in this letter I may sound like a bitter consumer, but dammit, we deserve better! Do you honestly think that corps. like Williams-Sonoma actully give a crap about stuff like this? Hell no! Consumers are the ones that should be naming football stadiums! Consumers are the ones that one Nacsars and pay the driver’s salaries! consumers are the ones that put millions and millions of dollars in the pockets of CEOs! To these corporations it is us, the consumer, that keep them in business, not the other way around! CEOs are always stingy with raises, bonuses, and employee deserved perks, yet they are the first to boast that their company has reached some new height as far as profitability. Where does all that excess money go? Into the bank accounts of those CEOs, my friends. But who am I to complain? That is the American way, Go Capitalism!