Open Letter to Fashion and You

Subject: Open Letter to Fashion and You
From: Sarabjeet
Date: 7 May 2015

Dear Fashion and You,

It was a bright sunny day on Aug 12, 2011 when I decided to use your “popular Ecommerce portal”. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. Full of attractive pictures and “seemingly deep discounts”, let me accept that I was impressed. Excited by your flash sales running that week, I got convinced about buying Rakshabandhan gifts for my sisters. Yay, this would be a great surprise for my sisters!

After purchasing 5 kurtas, I shared the news with my sisters and was as happy as they were. It seemed like a great decision. Yet it reminded me of what my aunt tells me every time I visit her – ‘Kapda dekhe bina kaise kharid sakte ho! Ye online ka chakkar to bekar hai!’, though that’s a separate conversation altogether.

Fast forward to 4 weeks later. Only 3 of the 5 kurtas, that I had ordered, get delivered. I get a call from my sister and even though she was happy about receiving her gifts, she was complaining about the length, width, etc. of the dresses. She certainly had to go to the tailors for alteration and stuff. That made me think – ‘Even though I knew her size and chose the correct one, she still has to make a visit to an offline store or boutique. This is probably because the product specifications were not clear enough when I was purchasing online. Is online retail really making things more convenient for us!’. One thing is clear though – content on Ecommerce sites needs more detail and clarity.

A few days later, I get a surprise. It’s an email. The subject line says, ‘We are sorry we are unable to fulfill your order’. It’s so easy to say sorry and get away with things, right?. The email goes on to say that FnY regrets to inform me that they are “forced” to cancel my order since their brand partner or supplier cannot fulfill the order. The email ends saying that FnY hopes to see me soon. Ya, right!

Let’s take a step back and analyze this entire case. I ordered gifts through an online retailer for a special occasion for my close ones and a month later, I am told that they cannot be delivered! Well, if you cannot fulfill an order, why don’t you say that upfront to the buyer (‘Products subject to availability’). If your supplier does not deliver your orders, why are you still working with him! This is how you handle a first time customer, and you say that you hope to see him soon!

This is not just FnY’s story. I have heard this time and again from friends and acquaintances about their painful experiences with both offline and online retailers and their customer service centers. Most of them seem to get away with things, since customers generally do not have the time or energy to respond or fight back. I don’t think Condolence emails and Gift vouchers help in this situation. That’s another part of this case by the way, which I have shared below.

After this bad news communicated to me by FnY via email (they did not even think of calling me and explaining), I was hoping that the refund would come in within a few days. I waited patiently. Hours turned into days and days into weeks. Each time I would call the FnY Customer Care, the person on the other side would keep repeating the same sentence, ‘Sir, we know that blah blah.. has happened and we are blah blah… about it.’But I need to know when will my refund come in? I cannot see that in my bank statement. I begged! Can you at least tell me the transaction reference numbers so that I could check with my bank? And their representative responds, ’Sir, we have requested the finance department to share the transaction numbers with us and we are waiting to hear from them.’ That’s awesome.

At the end of one of these calls, I was offered an INR 250 voucher. That was one of the defining moments of this entire case. So, what can I buy for 250 bucks on FnY. Wait a second – that cannot get me anything. Moreover, would I want to go back and purchase again. I just do not understand the logic of gift vouchers being offered to customers who have had bad experiences. These guys (except a few highly optimistic people) would never want to go through a similar experience again.

After all of this drama, I got angry and started looking for review sites where I could share my experience. I got on to and shared my experience. I also noticed there were several other reviews about FnY, which you must read here. Its clear that these reviews do not seem to have any impact on the brands. Everyone seems happy with the way things are. Angry customers complain about brands on Mouthshut, Facebook, Twitter etc. and the brand representatives invariably have a standard response to that. Pretty much the call center story.

Two days ago, I reached out to, a startup that helps customers represent themselves better and stand up to brands and agencies, who have dealt unfairly with them. I had noticed Akosha on Twitter a couple of months ago and thought of trying them this time. You contact them, they understand your case, and represent you. After that you can try their free service or pay a minor amount to avail all their services.

The reason I am writing this article is to not just share my agony, but to start a discussion around the broader problem here. The fact is that even though online retail is growing in India and we are seeing insane investments in the sector, Ecommerce companies need to grow up. Customer satisfaction is far away from being a reality. And, our call centers across the board (be it of FnY or Airtel) are messed up. It seems like ‘Customer is king’ is something we learn and hear in business conferences and classrooms, and forget very soon. Well, it’s a matter of time that the voice of consumer will gain enough strength to throw apart poor services and brands. We have seen that with Anna’s Movement.

One thing is clear. I am certainly not buying several products (particularly clothes) on Ecommerce sites for a long time.

Thanking you,

Your customer and will never be,