Dear Sur La Table: It Has Been 42 Days Since You Stole $100 From My Bank Account

Rachel used a $100 gift card to pay for her Christmas gifts, but Sur La Table decided to take the funds directly from her debit card. Sur La Table apologized for the error, but instead of overnighting Rachel a refund check as promised, they inexplicably charged her an additional $31.89. Now Rachel is angry and wants an explanation.

Dear Sur La Table Customer Service Management,

Hello, my name is Rachel. I am a student in my mid twenties from Cleveland, Ohio, and I would very much like to give feedback on my Sur La Table online shopping experience.

First of all, I want to say that I am not a regular shopper at your store. Quite frankly, as a lower-class college student who works part time as an accountant and office manager at a non-profit and lives on a very low-budget- nearly fixed income, it would be rare for me to be able to afford the gorgeous items that your store offers. I usually walk into your store and spend nearly an hour gazing at (and drooling over) the luscious array of cookware and bake ware, consciously taking note of items I can ask my parents for on the occasion that I receive Christmas or birthday gifts.

Keeping this in mind, you can imagine how excited I was to receive a $100 Sur La Table gift certificate for Christmas. In fact, I came home Christmas night and spent at least two hours picking out exactly what I wanted, and even allowing myself to spend almost all of the money I received for Christmas on the remainder of my order. I felt guilty for doing so, but was entranced by the variety of fabulous options I had. I was sooo excited to receive my order.

I was extra excited when one of the ten items I had ordered arrived just two days later! I figured since your company boasts to have such immaculate customer service, that you may have sent items as soon as they became available so your customers would receive them faster. Excellent! However, the next day (12/29), I go to buy groceries with my bank card, only to find that I would be overdrawn if I did so. How could this be? The math just didn’t add up.

Lo and behold, your company with immaculate customer service charged $165.15 to my bank account. Funny, as I had placed my order using a $100 gift certificate, and knew that I should only be charged around $65 for my order. I called your call center the next day, and was told that it was an error on your behalf, and a check would be issued to me shortly. I asked why the money couldn’t just be placed back onto my credit card. I was told that the accounting for gift cards was different, so this was not a possibility. As an accountant myself, I understood and sympathized with your situation, said that I’d hope the check would be sent out within a few days. I was assured it would be. I was also told that my order had been sent days ago, and should arrive the next day, if it didn’t come later that same day.

A week later, when zero out of my nine other items arrived, as well as no refund check in sight, I started to worry. I sent a query electronically through your website, and two days later, there was still no reply. I decided I would call your phone center, yet again. This time, I was told that it was, in deed, an accident on your behalf once again, and somehow, only one of my items got shipped. I was told that you were indeed, very, very sorry, and that my items would be sent expeditiously. I suggested that overnight shipping would be a good idea, and the customer service rep said that she would “rush” my order. I again inquired about the refund check and was told that it was “in processing” and would get to me in a few days.

Well guess what I did get a few days later (1/15/08)? My check? NO. My 9 MIA items? NO. I got another charge to my bank account for $31.89. What the hell was this charge for? I still hadn’t received my items, nor did I order any more items, so basically I knew I was paying for a third customer service blunder. Now I was in the hole to the tune of $200 for an order that was supposed to cost me $65.

Now maybe this kind of shit isn’t a big deal to your regulars- people who have disposable income to blow on $800 espresso machines and tea that costs $25 per box, but it’s a big deal to me, a woman who can’t even afford a daily coffee from Starbucks and keeps a box of Celestial Seasonings bags in her desk that she purchased from Dollar General. $135 is three weeks worth of groceries for me, or my electric, heat, and car insurance bill. You get my drift.

So, of course, I call your customer service line again. This time, I spoke with a manager named Judy, and was told that the $31.89 charge on my account was a mistake that occurred when my order was reprocessed, and would promptly be returned (which it was: a not-so-prompt FIVE days later) and PROMISED that my check, that was still “in processing,” would be written out that SAME WEEK and OVERNIGHTED to me, just as my nine-item replacement order that I still hadn’t received supposedly was. I said I was okay with this, but really upset that the situation wasn’t handled more expeditiously. I felt lucky when the rest of my nine items from my original order placed on Christmas finally arrived the next day- an unacceptable 21 days after I had initially ordered them.

That brings us to the present. Today is February 4th, and it is has been 42 days since your company STOLE $100 out of my bank account. I thought that emailing the details of the situation to you would be a better idea than having to yet again, drone on and on to a customer service representative about this situation one more time, only to receive useless and untrue information in return. I am absolutely DEMANDING my money back immediately, or will be more than happy to proceed to contact my bank, credit card company that represents my bank account, Washington state’s Better Business Bureau, as well as BBBonline about this situation.

I look forward to your prompt response as well as an appropriate resolution for this completely ludicrous situation. I also look forward to taking my future petty business, which your company obviously does not value, to my local Williams and Sonoma.

Dismayed, disappointed, and shaking my pointer finger at you,


We would think refund checks take six to eight weeks for, um, processing, if only Sur La Table’s customer service representatives weren’t so insistent that a check could be issued within one week. Since customer service hasn’t retrieved your money, follow our guide to executive customer service and take your complaint to CEO Kathy Tierney at (206) 613-6000. For added protection when making future purchases, pass over the debit card and instead use a credit card, which gives you the power to file a chargeback.

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