To my fellow collectors,
I am writing to tell you about a negative experience I had ordering from Illogicall Music, a collector oriented music store in Paris. I ordered from their website, but note that they also sell on eBay under the username illogicall-musicboutique.
The events I described happened several months ago, and I didn't post at the time because I was very busy. Despite the time that has passed, I still believe my fellow collectors would be concerned with what transpired during my dealings with this store. Although I have strong opinions about the events that transpired, I have tried to present the facts as fairly, completely and accurately as possible. Therefore please forgive me in advance for the length of this post - I feel it is necessary to be as detailed as possible in the name of both thoroughness and fairness.
(Moderators, I know there are previous threads dealing with seller warnings, but they appear to be centred on bootleg sales, not inaccurate item descriptions and dissatisfaction with the resulting customer service).
On July 23rd 2011, I placed an order for 3 items: the "Je Lui Dirai" promo CD (57.47 EUR), the "Celine Parle D'elles" promo DVD (35.92 EUR) and the "Et S'il N'en Restait Qu'une" promo CD still sealed in the purple bag (57.47 EUR). The shipping costs were 34.48 EUR. This seemed high, but I assumed that this probably meant that the items would be sent by EMS, courier or a similar method (like FNAC, which has very expensive shipping costs to Australia but ships items via courier) and ultimately, the total cost (185.34 EUR) was still reasonable given what had been ordered.
Within the next hour after placing this order, I was glancing at their website again and saw another item of interesting - a sealed copy of the rare 6 track "Enchanting" promo (not the much more common 5 track version which I already had) for 50.29 EUR - somehow I had overlooked it when placing the first order. It didn't seem like an unreasonable price for a pretty rare item so I ordered it. (We don't get these perfume promo CDs in store in Australia, so I have to get them on the collector's market). Unfortunately, there was no way to merge this order with the first order via their shopping cart system, so I ended up paying another 17.24 EUR for shipping for this second order for a total of 67.53 EUR.
I received the package a few weeks later on August 10th. They shipped both orders in the same package. The 3 items from the first order were great. However, I was disappointed to find that they had sent me the common 5 track "Enchanting" promo rather than the much rarer 6 track version that I had ordered. While rare record values are highly subjective, in my opinion, the 5 track version is worth at most 30 EUR, but maybe some of you would disagree - valuing rare records is as much an art as a science. Here is a link to the description of the CD that I ordered. Note the title ("ENCHANTING CD 6 TITRES RADIO") specifies that the CD has 6 tracks and the tracklisting includes 6 tracks (including "Make You Happy", which is not present on the 5 track version). Clicking on the thumbnail will open a new window with a scan of the item's cover. It includes the text "Nu met bonustrack" which is not present on the 5 track version. (Note that the price shown on this page is 70 EUR - I didn't have to pay tax so only paid 50.29 EUR).
The shipping cost printed on the envelope was only 10.90 EUR. It appeared to have been shipped via registered mail with insurance. The packaging was a standard bubble-padded envelope (it might have had a bit of cardboard inside, I don't remember). Unless packaging materials are much more expensive in France than in Australia (or maybe the padding contained gold, which I didn't noticed in all the commotion), I don't think it would have cost more than 3 EUR. Using this figure as an upper bound, they paid no more than 13.90 EUR for shipping, despite having charged me 51.72 EUR for shipping across the 2 orders. Therefore, they made a 272% profit on shipping costs for the two orders. If we consider only the shipping cost of the first order (34.48 EUR), they made a 148% profit on shipping costs for the first order alone. Note that the shipping cost (34.48 EUR) for the first order completely covered all the shipping costs that they paid (at most 13.90 EUR) with a large amount left over. The 17.24 EUR that they collected for shipping for the second order was therefore entirely profit for them.
I immediately emailed them asking that they help resolve the issue surrounding the incorrectly sent item. I received an email the following day saying that they were currently on holiday but would look at the issue upon their return on August 18th. On August 19th, I emailed them to ask if they had an update on the situation. They said that they had looked at the situation and I could return the item and they'd refund me. I asked them if they still had the 6 track version available, and if so, would it be possible for them to send me that and I would send the 5 track version back to them. They then replied with the return address and said that the 6 track version doesn't exist.
This is simply incorrect. At the time, I knew several others on this forum had the 6 track version, but to erase any doubt, here are pictures of the 5 track version (which they sent me) and the 6 track version (which I've since obtained from another source) side by side.
Uploaded with ImageShack.us
In addition to being incorrect, it also seemed like an unusual thing to say, because it raises the question of how a "non-existent" item got listed for sale on their website. Nevertheless, I proceeded to try and resolve the situation. I requested that given that the return would be as a result of their error, in addition to the purchase price of the incorrectly sent item, that they also refund me the full shipping cost for the second order, as they hadn't spent any of it on shipping and they only had this money because there was an incorrect description on their website. I can't think of any seller I've dealt with that is not willing to refund original shipping costs (even if they actually spent them on shipping) in the event of an incorrect item being shipped, so this hardly seemed like a controversial request. I also requested to be reimbursed for the return shipping costs (offering to provide appropriate receipts) as the return would be the result of their error. Note that the excess shipping costs for the first order would more than cover this. I don't think there was anything unreasonable about this request either - after all, what's controversial about using shipping cost to pay for shipping related expenses? It seemed to me that this would be a win-win situation - the situation could be resolved with neither of us making a loss - I would pay no more money than I would have had I only placed the first order (which I think is completely reasonable as this is all I would have paid if the item had not been inaccurately described on their website) and they would still completely recover their costs. Given that the return shipping would definitely have been no more than the equivalent of 15 EUR, they would still have made a profit of at least 5.58 EUR on shipping costs for the two orders. I would have thought we could both walk away happy. Maybe I asked for too much too quickly, but I don't think any of this was unreasonable and thought it would be best to address what I wanted directly.
I received the following brief reply: "THE REFUND NOT INCLUDED THE SHIPPING COST ONLY THE PRODUCT ; ITS THE RULE
FOR EVERY RETURN".
I think such a rule is completely fair if the return results from a buyer simply changing their mind. But in my opinion it is not fair in cases like this where the return results from an incorrectly described product, especially given the differences between what they charged me for shipping and the actual shipping costs.
I hope it is obvious why I was unsatisfied with their response. Had the item been correctly described on their website, I never would have purchased it. By only refunding me 50.29 EUR for the product, they would get to keep the 17.24 EUR "shipping" cost from the second order. As this was purely profit for them, this would mean that they would make a 17.24 EUR profit (with a corresponding loss to me) as a result of getting my order wrong! They would have been 17.24 EUR worse off had they checked my order more carefully and corrected this error before shipping it out! By asking them to refund some of the excess shipping costs for the first order for return shipping, they would be worse off than they would have been had they not made an error (although they still would not have made a loss). I recognise that this is a slightly more marginal issue than the request to refund the 17.24 EUR "shipping" cost from the second order, but given that the problem was their fault, I don't believe it was unreasonable to actually use the "shipping" costs I had paid them for shipping. I believe that shipping costs are for paying for shipping items - they shouldn't be a source of profit for a seller. If everything had gone fine with the order, I wouldn't have objected to them keeping the excess (after all, I'd still have gotten a good deal). But I wasn't happy for them to make a huge profit on shipping costs while requiring me to cover the additional return shipping costs that resulted from their error.
(Several times I have claimed that they would not have made a loss as a result of refunding me as I had requested. I am sure that they would reply that since doing so would mean that they would end up with less money than they would have if they just refunded me 50.29 EUR for the CD alone, then it is a matter of perspective as to whether or not they would make a loss as a result of refunding me like I requested, not a fact. It is therefore necessary to clarify what "making a loss" means from their perspective. If they define "making a loss" as meaning "not making quite as large a profit on shipping costs" then it is accurate to say that they would have made a loss as a result of refunding me as I requested. But I think very few people would claim that they are entitled to make arbitrary profits on shipping costs. However, if "making a loss" means that "their expenses (the CDs I keep, the original shipping costs they paid to send them out and the cost of reimbursing me) exceed their income (the money they received from me minus the money that they refunded me)" then they would not make a loss from refunding me as I requested. I therefore stand by my claim that they would not make a loss by refunding me as I requested. When discussing myself, I define myself as having made a loss if I pay any costs relating to this issue beyond the 185.34 EUR for the first order. I think this is a reasonable standard to use, as had they not had an inaccurate description on their website, I would have paid only 185.34 EUR for this transaction. The notion of a loss for me thus corresponds to enumerating the additional funds that I have to pay as a result of their error.)
I then sent them an email with a more assertive (yet still civil) tone, stressing that I expected them to take responsibility for this issue given that the need for a return was the result of their error, that the 6 track promo does exist, that as a store targeting music collectors they should be aware that the 5 track versus 6 track question would be significant for a collector in making a purchasing decision, that they should refund me the 17.24 EUR because they didn't spend it on shipping and only have this money as a result of their error and that I should be reimbursed for return shipping as this could easily be funded from the money I had already paid them for shipping. If anyone thinks any of this is unreasonable, please tell me and help me understand why? (Maybe adopting a more assertive tone was counterproductive, but I didn't think I was getting anywhere being passive).
I'll let their response speak for itself:
FOR EACH SITE WE WORK RETURN IS ACCEPTED UNTIL 7 DAYS AFTER RECEIVED THE
PRODUCT BUT SHIPPING REFUND OF SHIPPING COST ARE FOR YOU ;
YOU HAVE THE SHIPPING ADRESS
TAHT S THE RULES OF SALES OF YOUR SHOP SORRY
The first thing to note is that English is obviously not their first language. My interpretation of this email (and the previous one) was that they only intended to refund me the 50.29 EUR for the CD alone. This seems like the most obvious interpretation of what they are saying. They clearly don't intended to reimburse me for return shipping. But in trying to formulate interpretations of their words and actions that are most favourable to them, maybe they were trying to say that they'd refund me the original 17.24 EUR "shipping" cost for the second order but just not reimburse me for return shipping? This would have been a slightly more satisfying outcome for me. Please tell me if anyone thinks that this is what they really meant? But I think this interpretation requires much more interpretive latitude than the one that says they won't refund either original shipping expenses or reimburse me for return shipping.
Needless to say, I was not happy with this response. I don't believe rigid applications of rules should preclude consideration of the actual facts of this particular situation, especially given that the problem was their fault. At this point, I was not hopeful about achieving a satisfactory resolution but endeavored to continue trying. I sent them a very short email (2 lines or so) trying to summarise what I was saying as succinctly as possible, in case my previous longer emails were too much for them given the limited English skills they'd demonstrated. Where I'd previously been receiving quick responses to emails, I received no response to this one.
After several hours, figuring that maybe the language barrier was undermining our attempts to communicate, I sent them an email in French using the most conciliatory tone I could given the circumstances, describing in detail the differences between the CD I'd received and the one described on their website, in case they were genuinely convinced that they'd actually correctly delivered the item described on their website (and therefore this return was not the result of their error). I also stressed that I understood why I'd have to pay for the original and return shipping if I had simply decided that I didn't want the CD anymore, but I hadn't received what I'd ordered and that I'd paid them enough for them to refund me as requested without loss. I asked them to help me understand.
I received no response that evening and by the following evening, had received no response to either email. I concluded that they were likely ignoring my emails, although I could not (and cannot) say this with certainty. This conclusion was based on the following facts:
-Upon returning from their holiday, they'd previously responded very quickly to emails, suggesting that they checked regularly and were able to reply quickly. In fact, most of the exchange above happened within a few hours. Based on the opening hours given on their website for their store (Tuesday-Saturday, 12pm-7pm) and the time difference between my location and Paris, they would have been in the store (presumably able to check email, given that they had previously responded when the shop was open) for about 3.5 hours after I sent the second last email and 1.5 hours after I sent the last email. By the time that I concluded that they were ignoring my emails, their store had been open for nearly 2 hours the following day. While I don't want to suggest that checking emails is the only thing that they have to do when their store is open, I would think that they could find some opportunity in that time to reply to an irate customer's email if they had an intention to do so. (Maybe they weren't in the store at this time because their opening hours on these days were different because they'd just come back from holidays and there was information on their website about this that I missed, but I did look and don't recall seeing anything to this effect. If this is true, I might have written them off too quickly, although I think my frustration at this point was not unjustified.)
-To me, the statement "YOU HAVE THE SHIPPING ADRESS" in their last email had an air of finality to it suggesting that they believed that they'd given me all the information they needed to in this situation.
Maybe I jumped the gun in reaching this conclusion - it's very possible that they had a legitimate reason for not responding more quickly and I didn't give them long enough to reply. (While acknowledging this, I equally don't think it's unreasonable to expect, as a buyer, that a vendor would treat addressing the concerns of an unhappy customer, especially those resulting from the vendor's error, with some urgency).
There didn't seem to be much that I could do at this point. I would have been willing to accept some sort of compromise (perhaps being refunded the 17.24 EUR "shipping" cost for the second order but paying the return postage myself), but if they weren't responding to my emails, it wouldn't be possible to negotiate a compromise. I could have returned the item, but after having forfeited the original 17.24 EUR "shipping" cost and paying for return shipping (probably at least 10 EUR including registration and insurance), I'd be looking at a loss of at least 27.24 EUR. If I kept the item (in my opinion, valued at 30 EUR), I'd be looking at a loss of 37.53 EUR (the difference between the 67.53 EUR I paid and what I believe the item is worth). I'd therefore be only about 10 EUR or so better off as a result of returning it. I decided that it was not worthwhile returning it under these terms.
I sent them an email telling them that I would not be returning the item, suggesting that they make their "RULES OF SALE" regarding returns clearer and expressing in unambiguous (but not profane) terms what I thought of their service. Again, maybe I was jumping the gun here - had I given them more time to respond to my last 2 emails they might have come back with a more accommodating response but then chose not to do so because of this final send off email from me. I never received any further emails from them.
(I have to note that at this point I was sufficiently disgusted with them to want nothing more to do with them. I thus attempted to block their email addresses. I blocked their Gmail address, which they had used to send me automated messages, such as order confirmations. Hotmail did not let me block their second address, a free.fr address, saying it was invalid - I'm not sure why - which is the address they used to send me customer service related correspondence. I must therefore clarify the level of certainty in my assertion that they never sent me any further messages. Had, for some reason, they sent me another message - whether conciliatory or not - using their Gmail account, I would not have received it. However, their main address used to send customer service correspondence, the free.fr address, was never blocked and thus had they sent me a reply using this address, I should have received it. I therefore can't state with certainty that they never sent me any further message using their Gmail account, but can say with certainty that I never received any further messages from their free.fr address which they had used for all non-automated messages.)
Note that in none of the messages I received from them did they ever apologise for sending me the wrong item. I don't think that this would have been much to ask for. (Observant readers will note the presence of a "SORRY" at the end of their last email. There is no contradiction here - that "apology" was for refusing to refund or reimburse shipping charges, not for actually getting the order wrong.)
This completes my recount of these events - I would hope that the facts speak for themselves.
It is worth noting that to the best of my knowledge, I was never informed of these "RULES OF SALE" prior to making these purchases. However, after the event, it is impossible to state with certainty whether or not this information was available on their website or presented to me prior to making this purchase. I do try to check for and look over sales conditions before making purchases and don't recall being informed of this prior to making this order, although it's impossible to say with certainty at this point that it was or wasn't there. At the time of writing, their "Terms & Conditions" page still does not have any information on these particular "RULES OF SALES". I also recently moved through their shopping cart system, doing everything short of entering payment information and placing an order and found no information on them there either. Again, this does not prove that they are not written SOMEWHERE on their website, however they could certainly make them more obvious and accessible.
I also find it necessary to acknowledge that these "RULES OF SALE" were almost certainly formulated with the best of intentions. It's very unlikely that they deliberately overcharge on shipping. Probably, whatever mechanism used to calculate shipping costs on their website is designed to ensure that the costs calculated will actually cover the cost of shipping - this is a completely legitimate goal. The "RULES OF SALE" regarding returns were likely formulated anticipating returns resulting from buyers simply changing their minds and are completely fair in that situation. It's highly unlikely that they had a situation like this in mind when formulating these rules and had they anticipated it, I think they would have written their rules differently.
However, I don't think customer service should be about rigidly following rules regardless of how they manifest themselves. The fact that their "RULES OF SALE" were followed in this situation doesn't make it any more fair for me. The fundamental problem with rigidly following rules is that no set of rules, no matter how carefully formulated, can anticipate all situations that will arise. In my opinion, good customer service is about delivering a fair outcome for both parties based on the individual facts of a situation, considering the relative culpability of the two parties, empathy with the customer and thinking about how you would like to be treated if the roles were reversed. I don't think it should be just about rules - in fact, to me, customer service is as much (if not more) about recognising when to make exceptions to the rules as it is about following them. Maybe you'll disagree with me - at the very least, you can know what to expect if you choose to shop here.
As noted above, I can't state with certainty that they never responded to my final emails, although if this is true, I believe it is abysmal. In terms of both good customer service and basic courtesy, a customer should be entitled to a response to their emails, especially after having spent 252.87 EUR at a store.
I'm not going to pretend that this is an example of how they normally do business - I have no doubt that most of their transactions proceed without any difficulties or errors. However, as a buyer, I believe it is important to consider how a store acts when an order goes wrong, as much, if not more, than how they act when everything goes fine. It's a shame to have to write this, because if it weren't for this issue, I'd have a lot of good things to say about this store. However, I will not be shopping here again, as I'm not willing to lose any more money over someone else's mistake, especially if they're going to make a profit from that mistake.
Edited by Davey84, 05 August 2013 - 04:06 AM.