West Elm Needs to Hire Studlier Boys

The real shocker of this story is that the furniture store West Elm is just a division of Williams-Sonoma. Horror! It was one thing to be chased out of our old neighborhood by a hip, independent New York furniture boutique, but now we’re unsure how we feel about West Elm. Does it make us cooler or more lame to have been chased out of a neighborhood by a big chain or a small, burgeoning store? These are heady questions for a Monday morning.

Either way, we won’t be shopping at the Brooklyn West Elm any time soon. Their prices were already out-of-hand for cheapo stuff—but this service just ain’t gonna cut it. Have a gander after the jump for the whole, sordid affair, by reader MTU.

This is the letter I sent to Williams-Sonoma’s customer service (west elm is a subsidiary and there was no customer service contact info listed on the West Elm website, I had to figure out that they are part of Williams Sonoma):

25 November 2005

I regret to inform you that West Elm has provided me with the single-worst consumer experience of my entire life.

On November 22, 2005, at about 3pm, I walked into the Brooklyn branch of West Elm to purchase the Parsons rectangular table. I went directly to the cashier, told him I wanted to buy the table, and browsed while I waited for them to bring the table up. After thirty minutes of browsing, I walked up to the counter again. The first salesperson was no longer there and had done nothing to process my request, so I told the new salesperson that I wanted to buy the table. I waited on a nearby couch for the table to be brought up.

After twenty more minutes of waiting, I went up to the salesperson to see if I could pay for the table while waiting. She responded that the table was waiting for me around the corner at the customer pick-up site and offered no apology for having kept me waiting. I paid for the table and went outside into the freezing cold to retrieve it.

When I arrived at the
customer pick-up site,
it was shuttered closed with a steel gate.
Please ring bell
was scrawled in permanent marker on the side of the gate. I rang the bell for fifteen minutes until my fingers were numb from the cold. I sent my friend back to the store to see what was going on. He returned a few minutes later and said that the salesperson said someone would be with us.

Fifteen minutes later, the gate finally opened and an employee emerged and said,
They haven
t come to get you yet?
He then rummaged around the area for a few minutes looking for my table, decided upon a box, and started to move the box out. After I asked him to double check that it was the right box, he realized that it was not and had to go back into the warehouse to find the correct product.

Another twenty minutes later of waiting around in the freezing cold, the gate opened and the same employee emerged with what looked like the correct product. As he attempted to move the over-sized, 100-pound box by himself, parts from the table (the package of screws, the smaller box of legs) fell out of the badly damaged box. He then lost his grip and dropped the box, and it slammed onto the ground. My friend had to retrieve the parts from underneath the platform, and the West Elm employee attempted to re-tape the box.

After I returned home and assembled the table, I found that the tabletop was split open on both sides. I called the Brooklyn West Elm store, was put on hold for five minutes, and then told that a
customer service representative
would get back to me. After 45 minutes of waiting for a
customer service representative
to call me back (no one with that title ever did), I called the store again. I spoke with a new salesperson who was surprisingly helpful, and told me that a new table would be delivered (and the damaged one taken away) the next day between 10am and 2pm. He said they would call me 30 minutes before they came. I requested that they check the new table to make sure that it was not damaged and he assured me that it would be.

The next morning (which was the day before Thanksgiving) my doorbell rang at 9:30am, thirty minutes before the window in which it was supposed to arrive. There was only one delivery person, and he had to haul the over-sized, 100-pound box up one flight of stairs to my apartment. When the box was in my apartment, I told him that the second table was ready to go back with him. He had no idea what I was talking about, said something about not having room in his truck, and called his company. Meanwhile, I wanted to make sure the new table was in good condition.

Lo and behold, this second table was damaged much worse than the first table. The entire side of the table was split. I called the Brooklyn West Elm store again, was put on hold again, and then was told that another table would be delivered later that afternoon between the hours of 2pm and 6pm. This is the day before Thanksgiving, during which I had planned to accomplish a number of things in preparation for my holiday dinner. It was more than just an inconvenience that I had to stay in my apartment for an entire day waiting for table to be delivered, and I was more than just a little unhappy. On top of this, the delivery person told me that the defective tables would have to remain in my apartment until the last delivery, since he had no room in his truck.

Finally, at around 5:30pm the day before Thanksgiving, the third table arrived at my house. Once again, it was one delivery person trying to haul an over-sized 100-pound box up one flight of stairs, banging into the walls in the process. It
s no wonder that the two previous tables were damaged so badly.

In a stunning turn of events, the third table was packaged well and undamaged. I was relieved that the two damaged tables would finally be removed from my apartment. When I communicated this to the delivery person, he said he had no idea what I was talking about, that this was his last delivery of the day, that there was no room in the truck. Then he said he would be right back, and when I jokingly said,
You
re not going to take off, are you?
He replied,
Oh, I
m not going anywhere.

Ten minutes later he was nowhere to be found, the truck was nowhere to be found, and I have THREE tables sitting in my already cramped apartment. This irresponsibility and lack of professionalism is appalling.

Once again, I call the Brooklyn West Elm store. Once again, the person I was talking to had left for the day so I have to explain the situation yet again to a new person. Once again, I
m put on hold. Once again, I
m made to feel like this is no one
s fault and no one
s responsibility, and the fact that someone is attempting to help me is above and beyond the call of a West Elm employee
s duty. It
s the night before Thanksgiving, my apartment is a mess with boxes of broken tables littering it, and quite frankly I
m profoundly irritated.

After the salesperson insists that it is too late to have the tables picked up again, that it will just have to wait tomorrow, that there
s nothing that can be done, I tell him that if he does not have the tables picked up tonight I will deposit them on the sidewalk and he can retrieve them whenever he likes. He responds that I shouldn
t do that because I would get in trouble. I have no idea to what he is referring since it is clear that these tables were carelessly abandoned in my apartment and they are not my responsibility. Finally, after being put on hold yet again, the salesperson tells me that someone will pick up the tables between 10 and 10:30pm.

At 8:30pm, two hours before the scheduled time, a delivery person comes to pick up the two tables. He struggles with the weight and size of the box, just as the two other delivery people have, and practically throws it down the stairs.

The employees of West Elm seem to think that nothing is their responsibility and that any assistance they provide is a favor to the customer. Even as I type this letter, I wonder if you will respond to my complaint and try to rectify the situation, or if it will remain someone else
s problem.

I intend to relate my experience with West Elm to my network of friends and family with the hope that they might avoid such a disastrous consumer experience.

With deep regret and frustration,

MTU
A former West Elm customer

THEIR RESPONSE TO THE EMAIL VERSION OF THE ABOVE LETTER:

MTU,

Thank you for your feedback. I sincerely apologize for your recent experience at the Brooklyn Retail Store location. Please know that this is not the quality service that west elm is known for. Your email will be forwarded to our Store Relations Department for appropriate follow-up. Should the opportunity arise, you will be contacted.
If we may be of any further assistance, please contact us.

Regards,

Amanda S. Lee
Williams-Sonoma
Customer Service

After the form letter email response, someone from West Elm called today to apologize. Six hours later the store manager called to apologize. The token gift certificate is good for about half a chair.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. DeeJayQueue says:

    Someone very close to me works for West Elm. They are a small company (11 stores) and relatively new. The customer service in this story was doubtlessly appalling, however after going through the hiring process, training process and opening process for one of these places (second hand, but still) I can say that this is not by any means a typical experience.
    Further, from the other stories posted here regarding various shady camera stores and even other big-box retailers in the Brooklyn area, i would posit that it’s more geographically related than company-specific.

    Moral?
    Don’t ever buy anything in Brooklyn. Ever.

  2. dukerayburn says:

    Brooklyn-specific or not, that is far and away the worst customer service I have ever heard of. You have my deepest sympathies.

  3. Juancho says:

    West Elm may not have many stores, but they are NOT a small company. As mentioned, they are owned by Williams-Sonoma and have done tons of catalog business. I’ve gotten their catalog for about a year and a half (never bought any of the overpriced stuff).