Roger would like the readers of Consumerist to know that clothing retailer Hollister, part of Abercrombie & Fitch, doesn’t stand behind its products at all. He writes that he ordered a pair of shorts online, which shrank significantly after the first time they went through the laundry. (Yes, he followed the care instructions.) The company refused to remedy the problem or issue Roger a refund, because the shorts weren’t returned in their original, untouched, tags-on condition. Wait, isn’t that the point?
My case is a simple one — I ordered several clothing items from Hollister. Everything was fine with the clothing, except after their first washing. Two pairs of men’s shorts shrunk at least a full size. Wow! I was surprised because neither the item descriptions or the care tags gave any warning about potential shrinkage. So, like every other merchant that I order clothes from online (such as L.L. Bean, Land’s End, Eddie Bauer), I assumed Hollister had a “solid” customer service policy of standing behind their products. I was wrong — very wrong. Even though I promptly returned these two defective items (with my web invoice and a letter clearing explaining my request for an exchange or return) via USPS Priority Mail — my return was not accepted and the items were mailed back to me.
Hollister hides behind an ingenious (or insidious, depending on your perspective) policy that states, “We exchange or refund any original condition merchandise with a copy of your original invoice,” and the encouragement to, “give us a ring at 1-866-681-3114 and we’ll be happy to help.” There’s only two small problems with this policy and this phone number– if you wash the items and they shrink — they are no longer “original condition.” But, how can a customer return an item that has been washed, per the manufacturer’s specifications, in its “original condition”? Hollister clearly stated in their letter back to me that they would not accept my exchange or return because washing had–**magically transformed**–the products were no longer in their original condition. And that phone number –1-866-681-3114? It is a phone that the merchant does not answer and instead their pleasant automaton voicemail tells the customer to email them instead and then hangs up on the customer. So, that line about “give us a ring” might be charming and folksy, but it is entirely disingenuous. What a lousy way to treat customers. Especially repeat customers like myself.
So, I did what any determined party might do — I enlisted the help of my credit card company and disputed the charge. Guess what? After providing documentation, my credit card company promptly called Hollister to make an inquiry on my behalf. And Hollister’s answer was–no. No, the customer cannot return washed clothing even if they followed instructions. No, no credit would be issued. No, no tiny discount on a future purchase would be offered. No, no, no.
What I find most shocking is that I am a pretty determined individual that is well-educated (three letters after my name) and I am not exactly wet-behind-the ears (I’m over 35 years old). I did everything I could to “encourage” the merchant to honor very standard business practices and Hollister just said — “No.” I think they are accustomed to taking advantage of young teenagers that don’t have a lot of experience with “good” and “bad” customer service policies. Hollister is used to doing as they please. Well, not this time. They may have denied my legitimate request and used 4+ hours of my good time that I could have used to work on my book, but I do have the satisfaction of knowing that other consumers will now know about Hollister’s scandalous business practices.
If Roger wants to invest any more time in this mess, he could try tracking down the executives at Abercrombie and Fitch and launch an executive e-mail carpet bomb. Shouldn’t clothing retailers stand behind the quality of the clothing they sell? Or does that not apply when the clothing is marketed to teens?
Otherwise, the lesson here is clear: if you want return policies like L.L. Bean’s, shop at L.L. Bean.