Can we give you guys some advice? If you order something from a merchant and nine months of frustrated calls to customer service and the run-around result, just cancel the fucking order. We admire your adamantium patience, we really do… but you just wasted a percentage point of your life waiting on a couch slipcover.
We’re jumping the gun a bit. A reader who prefers to remain more anonymous than a first name and a last initial (we think because he chivalrously wants to protect the job of the only customer service representative who actually tried to help him during the debacle) ordered a slipcover for his couch from Black Sea Gallery. Since we spent our money shot in the first paragraph, this won’t surprise you: it took nine months for him to receive the slip cover.
The full story is rife with so much incompetence — specifically from a clueless Black Sea Gallery simpleton named Keith — that we can’t really help but laugh. It’s after the jump.
Like most consumers, I’ve had bad experiences with vendors over the years. However, this one probably takes the cake. Consumerist wasn’t around during the period when the “incident” — a protracted struggle from October 2004 to August 2005 — occurred, but the company is still on my “list” (and based on
things I’ve heard from other people, still deserves to be). The story is long, but then again, so was our nightmare. As you read this, pay close attention to the dates; they provide some perspective on just how bad this experience was.
In late October 2004, we ordered a slipcover from Black Sea Gallery (http://www.blackseagallery.com/) — a San Francisco Bay Area furniture chain — for a couch we had purchased from the company a few years earlier. The cost of the slipcover was $699; with tax, $760.16. We were told we would receive the order in 6 to 8 weeks.
Two or three weeks later, we received a flyer in the mail offering 30% off “all custom catalog orders”; we called Black Sea Gallery and asked if our order had shipped. It hadn’t, so we asked if they would honor the discount. They initially refused, but when we explained that we would like to cancel the order — within the terms of sale, since it hadn’t shipped yet — and re-order the slipcover with the discount, they (reluctantly) agreed.
So far, so good… or so we thought. Evidently this request for a discount doomed us to months and months of customer service hell.
“6 to 8 weeks” should have been late December. We were busy with the holidays, so we didn’t stress about the fact that it hadn’t arrived by January. Finally, in early February 2005, we called to inquire. We were told that Black Sea Gallery hadn’t received the slipcover from the manufacturer, but they should be receiving it by the end of the week; we should receive it by the middle of the next week.
It never arrived.
We called Black Sea Gallery four times between March 2 and 12, leaving messages for the manager, Keith (who appears to be in the office only once or twice each week). We finally got a callback on March 14 which resulted in the same promise: We should receive it by the *next* week. (At this time, we also asked for a discount due to the delay; we were told they would look into it.)
The next week arrived. The slipcover didn’t.
We again waited patiently. Finally, in mid-April (Wed., 4/13), we spoke to one of the store’s female employees. (I won’t name her, because, as I note later, she could possible get in trouble for actually trying to help us.) She said she’d check with the “buying office” — which coordinates slipcover orders — and get back to us. At this time, we also asked how to contact the company’s headquarters to write a letter of complaint, considering it had now been 5 and a half months since we’d placed the order. She gave us an email address that was supposedly the address of the corporate offices: email@example.com; when I pointed out that this was the same email address listed on the company’s Web site, she seemed puzzled, but said that was the only address the store had, as well.
Our emails to that address bounced.
Later on 4/13, the female employee called us back; the buying office told her that the slipcover had been received. She said that Keith would send it to us that Friday when he was in.
Next week, no slipcover.
We called on 4/21. Keith wasn’t in — big surprise. We asked for the phone number of the corporate offices; the female employee said she’d try to get back to us. (She never did.)
On 4/22, we reached Keith, who said that the slipcover was now in the store and would be sent the next day via FedEx or UPS; we should receive it in a few days. He also told us that he had received approval to give us a discount; he would find our invoice and then call us back the next day with the details.
May 6, six and a half weeks later: No phone call, no discount, and, worst of all, no slipcover. We called; Keith said he’d check on things and call back. He didn’t.
May 13 (Fri.): We again called Keith, who said he was going to have the buying office call the manufacturer the following Monday (5/16) to verify that the correct slipcover had been ordered; if so, he said he’d ask them to overnight it to us. He promised to call us Monday afternoon with an update. In the first good news of this debacle, he told us that management had agreed to an additional discount off of what we paid; unfortunately, the credit wouldn’t be issued until we received the slipcover — and who knew when that would be.
Keith surprised us by actually calling us back on Monday (5/16). He said we would receive the Slipcover by Thursday. He said he’d get the tracking number and call us Tuesday. Unfortunately, after raising our hopes yet again, we received no call on Tuesday, nor a slipcover by Thursday. Keith wasn’t in on Thursday, and the female employee had no idea what was going on. She called the buying office, who said that the manufacturer told them it wouldn’t be shipped until the next week. We asked her to contact buying office and find out *exactly* what the problem was. She agreed. We (foolishly) thought we’d hear back from her.
We got tired of waiting, so on 6/15 — nearly a month later, and nearly *8* months after we placed our order and had our credit card charged — we called back. The female employee said she called the buying office and didn’t get an answer. She then asked Keith to take care of it, but he didn’t. She said she really didn’t know what to tell us. I told her that when we had asked for contact information for someone higher than Keith, she had given us an email address that bounced, and that she’d never provided us with a phone number. She gave us the number 510-291-6425, saying that a woman should answer. I asked her who that woman would be, and she said she didn’t want to tell me because she wasn’t supposed to give out that number. (I should point out that we felt bad for this female employee, who was clearly stuck in the middle of a situation management should have taken care of months ago.)
You can probably guess what happened when we called that number. No answer. No machine. Nothing. How does this company have 12 locations in the Bay Area?
Two days later, we finally reached Keith, who seemed surprised that 8 months after placing our order, we hadn’t received the product. (You don’t say.) According to Keith, when he left for vacation, the buying office told him it would be shipped, so he assumed we had received it. He said he was going to figure out what was going on and call us back on Monday (6/20).
Did we actually received a call on Monday? I’ll give you one guess.
After several more attempts to reach Keith — who was apparently on vacation yet again, even though he was the only one empowered to help customers — we finally reached him on July 5. Once again, he said he had no idea why the slipcover hadn’t yet arrived. He said he’d call the buying office and call us back. To his credit, he did call us back that day. But now the story takes another bad turn. According to Keith, the buying office told him that Black Sea Gallery and the manufacturer were no longer doing regular business, so the manufacturer “hasn’t been cooperating.” But — bless their souls — they got the manufacturer to commit to getting us the slipcover. Keith said it would be shipped on Friday, July 8, and delivered the next Monday or Tuesday. Keith said he’d call us on Friday with tracking #.
Miracle of miracles, Keith called us on Friday with a tracking number. He also said that we’d see the “customer service” discount credited back to our credit card by the end of the next week (7/15).
The good news is that we finally did receive the slipcover that week…nearly 9 MONTHS after we were charged for it. It fit well and was pretty good quality. Not “worth a 9-month wait” quality, but we were just happy to finally receive it and get this ordeal out of the way.
(If you’re wondering why we didn’t cancel the order and get our money back months earlier, it’s because Black Sea Gallery was the only store that could get a slipcover for our couch, and we preferred a new cover to spending $2000 on a new, comparable couch. And because each time they told us we would receive the slipcover the next week, we foolishly believed them. To be fair, we ended up getting the product for a decent discount, but we would have gladly paid more to get it, oh, 6-8 weeks after we ordered it instead of 9 months.)
Unfortunately, Black Sea Gallery wasn’t quite ready to let us out of their torturous grip. By the first week of August, we still hadn’t received the promised credit. After four more attempts to reach Keith over the course of two weeks, we finally reached him on August 15.
On August 16, nearly 10 MONTHS after the original purchase, we were finally free from ever having to deal with Black Sea Gallery again.
Or so we thought. Despite three explicit requests for them to stop, the company is still sending us promotional flyers, under the mistaken assumption that we might ever walk into one of their stores again. Our advice? Stay away. Stay far, far away.
Thanks for letting us vent.
No problem! Anyway, the lesson here? Don’t buy from Black Sea Gallery. Also, perhaps learn to make your own slipcovers.