UPDATE: Tito Costa, Regional Managing Director, ZALORA Southeast Asia, left a comment on this article on Nov 1. He wrote that the company is taking full responsibility, and that the incident should not have happened at all.
Why does a customer have to try so hard to get a refund for a defective garment, especially since the company has a 30-day money back guarantee?
This was what I asked myself when I first heard about Mugunth Kumar’s encounter with Zalora Singapore. He had bought a piece of clothing from the online fashion retailer, and found that the zipper was torn within a few hours of him wearing it. He followed standard procedures and sent the e-commerce company a Zendesk ticket, hoping that he would get his refund soon.
On the official website, Zalora’s FAQs state that once the customer’s return is received and accepted, a refund would be issued in one or two working days. It is now day 69 since the ticket was first replied to by a customer service officer at Zalora.
And Kumar still hasn’t received his refund.
Wait, wait, wait
Kumar was first told that the courier partner will collect the garment any time between 9 AM and 6 PM on 22 August.
At 1.45 PM, the messenger arrived at his residence and then proceeded to call Kumar on the phone. Kumar, who was out for lunch, asked the messenger to come back in an hour’s time. He also questioned why the messenger could not have called earlier. The man told Kumar that he was “busy delivering” and “can’t call everyone before delivering”.
On his Zendesk ticket, Kumar wrote, “Your delivery window was from 9 AM to 6 PM and I think no one is free the whole day to wait for your delivery agents to turn up. If someone is that free, they would be buying the same T-Shirts and clothes in shopping malls instead of going online.”
He finally had the defective garment picked up on August 30. Interestingly, he also notes how the original Zendesk ticket was closed and marked “solved” on August 28.
However, Kumar’s bad experience with Zalora didn’t end there, and it quickly escalated into a horrific waiting game.
Soon? Or just never?
Kumar claims that when he was referred to a Joel Leong from Zalora, who incidentally is the Head of Offline Partnerships for Zalora Singapore, he was once again given the “soon” treatment.
Leong emailed Kumar on September 9, and wrote, “Let me check on this. Will get back soonest.” Sure, he did get back to Kumar. On the very same day, he replied again and said that the payment will be processed “soon”. How soon? When? No one knows.
On October 5, slightly less than a month later, Kumar wrote to Leong again. “It’s almost 45 days and I still haven’t received your refund. What’s going on?”
Once again, no one knows.
It was only on October 18 when this author gave Leong a call to understand the situation that Kumar finally received a call from Zalora. The company apologised profusely that there was some sort of error which implicated the system, missing out on Kumar’s refund status, and said that it would refund Kumar through PayPal in five to seven days.
Yet, on October 28, Kumar still had not received his refund. At this point of time, he was thinking, “What the hell is going on?” He had already received confirmation that the company is making a refund through PayPal.
A contact at Zalora Singapore called me and said that the order had exceeded PayPal’s 60-day deadline for a refund. She also said that they had wanted to follow Kumar’s preferred method of refund.
What I honestly do not understand is why no one seems to know what they’re doing at Zalora. If PayPal has a 60-day refund policy, and Kumar wanted to go with PayPal, why not explain to him that it is not a valid option, and they have to proceed with bank transfer, writing a cheque or even presenting the money to him through a courier or in person? Is it so difficult to show some sincerity in such a situation?
A higher management spokesperson at Zalora also clarified that they always try to refund the customers through channels they used for the payment.
The whole matter reeks of inefficiency. However, they did explain that they are currently looking into the situation to find out why it was overlooked, and how they can avoid such situations in the future.
The same spokesperson from Zalora said that “this was a single case issue” and they “have not had any other complaints regarding the error that affected” Kumar. However, if there was some sort of error which led to the case getting forgotten, how many other customers are affected? The spokesperson claimed, “We are also taking the initiative on our part to double-check our systems and processes to ensure that no one else had been affected by this error.”
While Zalora insists that this is an one-off bad encounter and it is trying its best to resolve it, nothing seems to hint sincerity. The worst was the reply which irked Kumar – “soon”. How soon is soon?
An apology for the man
Kumar told me that he had spent over S$100 on the site. The item itself, which was defective, cost him about S$40. Zalora’s higher management spokesperson said via email that they will re-compensate him, offer an express delivery of his original purchase to him, and personalise an apology from the team.
The team will also be analysing cases, looking through customer feedback on multiple channels and making sure no one has fallen through the cracks. The spokesperson also noted, “In this case, had we known earlier, we would have reacted accordingly and swiftly.”
One question here. If I had not called up Leong on October 18, would Kumar’s refund even get processed? When would it have been processed? Next year?
Zalora’s spokesperson maintained that they do not sweep anything under the carpet. The official also added, “In fact, key members of our management as well as the marketing team, work very closely together to ensure that cases like this aren’t missed out.” Zalora will also follow up with internal teams involved and re-train staff members when required.
The issue with the whole matter isn’t the fact that it’s Zalora Singapore, who is established and well-known. This could happen to any e-retailer with a large user base and a 30-day return policy. The matter is that the company keeps insisting that this is a “one-off” case. Does it make a difference whether this is a minority case, or “single-case issue”?
UPDATE: Zalora Singapore’s spokesperson clarified, “As mentioned, us saying that this was a one-time case, was in response to your query whether this has happened to many others – We wanted to clarify that does not happen often. Also, we do not brush off any complaints and have been actively looking into Mugunth’s case.”
Just appalling, isn’t it?