When you think of “boutique tea,” you probably don’t associate it with obnoxious upsells and sneaky add-ons. If you do, perhaps you’ve visited the same Teavana outlet as one of our readers. Michael was so annoyed with his recent visit to the Willow Grove, Penn. store that when he realized what had happened, he had to share it with Consumerist over a nice cup of white needle tea.
I am not sure how widespread [Teavana] is, but it was my first experience with them (and my last). I do feel that my story should be taken with a grain of salt, as I have no idea whether this is a common business practice throughout the chain.
Walking in the mall today, I was delighted to discover the existence of the stores, as I am an avid tea drinker, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to see a wide selection of loose teas and accessories in person, rather than working off of descriptions from online tea sellers. The store seemed to be perfect; they had a wonderful selection of teas, and they had all manner of brewing and serving equipment, much of which I had not seen before. My problem comes from the really unconscionable upselling that the salesperson carried out. It is not that there was undue pressure to buy extra items. I don’t believe myself to be easily coerced into unwelcome purchases, and were that the case, I would not be as bothered as I am. Rather, I am utterly dismayed at the way in which the salesperson added more than the quantity requested of some items, and much more egregiously, added items to my bill without ever informing me about the extra charge that would be incurred, or even intimating that they were, in fact, considered to be purchases.
The first inkling came when I ordered loose tea. The tea is sold by two-ounce units. I requested two-ounces, the salesperson ended up putting 4 ounces in (This doesn’t seem like much, until you consider that we are talking about tea that is $9/2oz). Although I admit that I should have said something, I was sure that I would get a use out of the tea, so I did not think to object. The true problem comes from the tin that the salesperson automatically filled with the tea. This tin, which he introduced with, “And you can keep coming back and using this tin for this tea in the future,” cost an extra $7. Which, is absolutely an outrageous price, and something I would never voluntarily pay for a tea tin. However, the absolute worst was still to come. I ordered two-ounces of their “special Silver Needle tea.” Without any prompting, the salesperson went into the back and came back with the tea in a small (two-ounce) blue tea tin with bamboo painted on it. As he made no comment on the container, I did not even consider the slightest possibility that there would be an extra charge (Ask yourself, if you just bought a tea that was 20/2oz, do you think you would be expected to pay for the tin it came in?).
Obviously, had I been aware of any of this when I was checking out, I would have objected without thinking twice. Very conveniently, however, the cash register did not have a display showing the charges as they were being rung up. It was only after leaving the store and realizing that I had just paid nearly $90 for tea (Admittedly, my purchases included more than the aforementioned items) that I began to look over the receipt to see where the charges came from. It was at this point that I discovered that the small little blue bamboo tin, the tin which I had expressed no desire to purchase, cost $13.99. I’m enclosing a picture of both the tin and the receipt.
I really cannot understand why a company would choose to employ such unscrupulous upselling strategies. Had they even provided a mediocre experience, they would have had a very long-lasting customer, as they provide a service that it fairly unique, and at least to me, valuable. However, I absolutely have no wish to patronize any store that I feel that I have to keep a constant vigil against being ripped off. As such, they’ve absolutely lost a customer, and I would never set foot in there again.
Check the store’s return policy, then return the unwanted tins if permitted, explaining precisely why. Have any other readers experienced similar sneaky sakes tactics at other Teavanas, or other retailers?