As one could conclude from previous reading here, I am a fearless proponent of online shopping. Specifically online clothing and luxury goods shopping. Check out my “favorite retail” links on the lower right of the homepage.
In embracing progressive online shopping policies, I’ve had very few painful experiences to speak of. Few scars from being burnt.
Most retailers in 2014, with smart people at their helms, offer free shipping, free returns, or are sales-tax-free. Or all three. At the least, limited-time offers for free shipping can be found on almost every site. The worst offense is usually delayed gratification due to relaxed shipping speeds.
In the case of Farfetch, $20 for 3-day global DHL service is worth the expense, because it is a modern, expedited method, with added functionality not available on other carriers.
Occasionally, I come across a less modern company. One that feels more like shopping on eBay circa 2001, with vague follow-up, zero confirmation, and arcane return policies.
Therein lies Topman. It is the brother company of Topshop.
The UK-based brand has been popularized domestically over the past few years with a handful of flagship boutiques, but also through distribution at Nordstrom stores. That includes the Tampa location.
About two months ago, on a whim, sitting at my work computer, I purchased two pairs of shorts, a button-down shirt, and a pair of shoes, for a total of ~$330. Summer was on its way, after all.
Here goes the timeline since then:
- ~2 weeks later, I receive items (packaged in a single large plastic bag, no stuffing, so items were floating around the bag all through shipment)
- within a week of that, I packaged shorts and shirt for return in a box received from a different online order from Uniqlo
- Topman provided no pre-printed return label, only instructions for initiating a return on their website, which rendered a “return number”
- at the UPS store, there was no label to affix, but the clerk helped me search online, and on the Topshop website, we entered my Topman return number to get a UPS shipping label
- 2 weeks after shipping the return, I receive an e-mail stating I was due credit for the returned shorts, but no shirt ($40 discrepancy)
- I e-mailed Topman support, but was asked to provide proof of postage (UPS receipt, which I had long since disposed of—my fault)
- Even though all the items were packaged in a single box and mailed together, Topman maintains that only two of the three items were processed at their return facility
- As of today, online support is investigating the claim, but cannot guarantee any outcome, because there was no proof of postage from my end
Now, I get that there are all sorts of scams and risks that could potentially befall an online store like Topman. They are right to perform due diligence.
However, in comparison to other retailers’ customer service standards, Topman is an outlier.
For example: when my brother’s $100 bike pump was stolen off the front porch of our house, Amazon sent him a new one, no questions asked. Within a day.
And when the would-be robber returned it anonymously, because who wants a bike pump (?!), and my brother alerted Amazon to the situation, they said: “keep it!”
To be fair, he is a Prime membership holder.
To a lesser extent, all of the other, more expensive purchases I have made online, and had to return for various reasons, have gone just as smoothly, if not quite as generously. MR PORTER sends status e-mails at each stage of a return. Nordstrom allows online shoppers to skip the post office or UPS store, and simply return in person at the store. Even global returns with Farfetch are easy, because DHL will pick up the item from any location you choose.
What I find so irritating, on principle more than the $40, is that everything has proceeded at a glacial pace with Topman. Slow to receive, slow to return to their warehouse, slow to communicate with support. In the age of instant communications, it’s like working on a computer that is chuggggging along: infuriating.
And to the point of the money—it’s forty freakin’ bucks! Give me a break. I sneeze inside Whole Foods and have knocked $80 worth of organic crap into my cart.
So to you, dear reader, I say: beware of the Topman online store. Since I tout online shopping so much, I felt it necessary to tell my story, since usually, I have such pleasant ones to relay.
I hope my rare experience here doesn’t deter you from buying online. It can be an exciting, low-stress experience, one devoid of parking lots. It will be interesting to see how the market evolves, to address to one remaining issue with the experience: speed of gratification.