Wednesday, 17 August 2011

"Argos t'shops, and y'know wot 'appens?"

The original Argos shop experience
Twice in June I went into my local Argos. Both times the item I wanted (in any colour, and even variant models) were out of stock. I assumed that those checks were monitored and that therefore new stock would come in for the in-demand items. Any sensible company would do that.

I made my way to Argos a third time two weeks later, assuming one of the two options would be in by then. I got to Argos around 3pm. They were still out of stock. Not wanting a wasted journey I looked at other options and found something I would accept as a close match to what I needed. I paid for it and was told to wait three minutes. I was number 648.

My number was called so I went to the desk but had to wait while others were served. It went past my number. Eventually I was told they couldn't find my item and were all looking, and someone should have told me sooner. The assistant asked if I could go and do something else and pop back later, but I had only gone into town for this one item and needed to go to an appointment. I was told other staff were looking. Awful music blared out of the speakers. The kind that makes you want to give up on life. Yes, the muzak was that much of an irritation.

I had wanted to be out by 3.30, but was still there. At 3.33 another member of staff looked at my receipt, apologised, and said they were still looking. The ticketing system reached number 667, 3.40 pm, and still nothing. An assistant said, "You're not in a hurry are you?" I replied that yes, I was. At 3.46 pm the manager said they still couldn't find it. They suspected they had given the item out by mistake at some point. I asked for a refund. I was asked for personal details such as a mobile number, postcode and house address: details that I refused to give. This was wasting even more time. I was told that I would not get my refund for 48 hours. I asked for some kind of credit note as an apology for Argos' mistake and my wasted time, and was told I couldn't have one. So not only had I wasted about an hour and a half if I included travel time, but Argos would be getting the interest on the false sale and I had extra paperwork in recording details and checking the bank account. It was almost 4pm when I left.

I was annoyed that Argos didn't get more stock in when a product was in demand; that I had such a long wait and my time was wasted; that the money was out of my account for two days when I didn't even receive anything. They turned a customer who was keen to buy into one who was irritated at the shop.

The complaint
When I got the chance I contacted Argos Customer Services to complain about Argos' stock mistakes and my wasted time. Unfortunately things got worse.

Firstly their 'email' option does not provide an email address - instead it makes you navigate a menu of options that often don't fit with what you want. This is one of the Bad Practices many companies adopt. Example - what if you want to ask about the availability of spare parts for the product, or how long the HDMI cable on a TV is, or how many Db a projector is rated at? Obviously you would select:

Question about a product I would like to buy

However the only options then are:

Stock for home delivery
Stock available in a store
Leather or fabric swatch request
Confirm the price of a product?

i.e. none of them are relevant.

Eventually I got to a form and typed in the details of my complaint, selected my local store, and clicked 'send email'. However I just got a screen saying:

"Sorry we couldn't find a match for your search. This may be due to our data, or because your search contained special characters not recognised by our search tool (such as " - the symbol for inch)."
The email was lost - clicking 'back' on the browser just went to a blank form again. Argh! It was as if Argos was trying to make things as difficult and irritating as possible for customers. Why not check store details BEFORE letting people type a message if it is going to be lost by their system?

I had to retype everything a second time. This time I entered the store code instead.

That data was lost too. The form clearly said: "Store Name or Number", and the details of the store in both cases were copied from their own site. What had started as irritation had now grown into feeling completely pissed off. Why put stupid checks that don't work on an enquiry form?

In the end I had to start a third time and not choose the option that it was about a store. That lost the details too. Luckily I had copied the data into a word processor this time, so I could paste some of it from there. After trying twice more, using different options and email forms on the site and getting the same results both times, it was obvious that their 'Email us' button was broken. I rang up their Customer Services to ask for a NORMAL EMAIL ADDRESS to send to, not a broken form, and after some time - and lots of questions - was given one.

Finally, I could email them.

The result
On 21st June they replied, with standard platitudes copied and pasted from their guide book - sorry for the inconvenience... we value our customers... etc They offered a £10 voucher as compensation. Fair enough. It was strange that it could take "up to 28 days" to arrive - surely they only had to print and post it, a week at the most?

On the 8th July I contacted them again, just to ask when it would arrive and why it was taking so long. I wanted to buy the item but use the voucher for it.

The same day I received a reply with the usual empty statements, and it ended with: "Your voucher will be with you within 28 days."

Uh? Had they reset the time?

July 26th I wrote back again:
It is now 34 days since I was told "The gift voucher should reach you within 28 days". Why does it take so long to post a single piece of paper?
On that day I was told: "Please allow 21 days to recieve this".

The voucher arrived at the end of July.

The kicker is that I bought the item I originally wanted, got it home, washed it, and the water seeped into cracks in the glaze and revealing what a poor quality product it was. The cracks didn't show up on a quick glance at the item in the shop. I can't face returning it for an exchange, it is too much... That is the last time I buy a bread bin!

So 1 crap for not checking stock properly; 1 crap for not having an email option or simple system; 1 crap for wasting time with broken online forms; and 1 crap for taking so long to send out a voucher.

Argos' current score:

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