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Vent and advice needed re poor service in fashion shop

By Bad Seed - 15 January 2011 12

I would like to vent about what I think was poor behaviour by a fashion store I frequent and ask if what they did was illegal and if I should take it any further or if they were within their rights even if it was poor business practice. I hope someone can advise me. I frequent a nice little boutique in Manuka that I won’t identify although it has a sister shop elsewhere in Canberra. I have been going to the more established shop for many years, always found the clothes nice, stuff you don’t find elsewhere and the service friendly and helpful (maybe I have never been served by the owner before, more about that in a minute). Anyway, they recently opened a shop in Manuka and were having a post Christmas sale. During the week, I received an email that said that if I bought 2 items I would receive a further 40% discount and 3 items a further 50% discount and that these discounts applied to sale stock only.

This gave me an impetus to go to the shop so last Wednesday I called in. The lady who served me (not the owner), was just lovely. I picked out a few items from the sale racks and chose three. They all had sale tags on them- an original tag that said for example $120 then a sale tag over the top that said $80. I took this to mean that because I had three items that this would now mean a 50% reduction from the sale price of $80 to $40. 

Now, the first trouble was when the sales assistant began scanning the items and removed all the sale tags and the manager/owner (I found out this was her a couple of days later) got her to scan the original prices. I wasn’t playing close attention because it was pouring with rain and my kids were waiting outside and a bit restless so I was watching them. She then told me that one item wasn’t included in the special offer even though it came from a sale rack because it had a different coloured sale tag. I was a bit bemused by this but let it go because I figured it wasn’t worth complaining about.

When I was paying the bill I though it was a bit high but said nothing as the kids were heading towards feral and we needed to go. At home I checked the tags and saw that the 40% had come off the original prices and not the sale prices and to make matters worse, the sale price tags had been removed so I couldn’t even work out what the actually discount should have been because I couldn’t remember exactly what the sale price was. I rang up straight away and the very helpful sales assistant said she had just done what the boss had told her to do and I should come in again when the boss was there and talk to the boss.

So a couple of days later I come in again and talked to the boss. The boss is very patronising and condescending and refuses to say that the discount should come off the sale price. I point out to her that the big sign outside her shop and on my email says, “40% off when you purchase 2 items, 50% off when you purchase 3 items, offer applies to sale stock only” means that it should apply to the price the items are displayed at, namely the sale price and to charge the original price and then take the discount off is illegal at the least, and certainly immoral.  

She refuses and then shows me a small A4 sign in the shop that says in font size 6 at the bottom “Discount applies to original price” I am sure this is illegal.

Am I right or is she right?

All the bold and large advertising and the advertising on the clothes themselves implies the discount comes off the sale price.  And I can’t guarantee it but I think this small sign wasn’t there when I first went in. I wonder if it appeared after I first rang up. The boss also lied when she said no-one else complained when I know for a fact that at least one other person did.

Then I ask for my goods to be refunded as I feel she has sold them to me under false pretences. She then tells me there is no refund on Sale stock and to, “…toddle off.”  Now I am really annoyed. I have spoken politely and civilly and not raised my voice and just tried to express my concern and she has just fobbed me off at every point. Even if she disagrees with me, surely good business practice would say that refunding is the least she could do just to keep me as a customer. Speaking to me like a child is just plain rude when I have spoken civilly to her. I know storming off and saying I will never shop here again is something that shop owners couldn’t care less about (I didn’t do this btw) but her condescending attitude, while other customers were in the shop was really poor.

So, epic, am I wrong? Is she allowed to do this? Or can I take this further? And if so how?

And either way, the sad thing is, I really like the clothes, and have spent a fair bit here over the years, and recommended the shop to others, sadly no more!

What’s Your opinion?


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12 Responses to
Vent and advice needed re poor service in fashion shop
Bad Seed 12:21 pm 17 Jan 11

Thanks everyone for the advice. I spoke to someone from Fair Trading ACT this morning and they seem to think that the boutique probably have a case to answer so I have sent them all the details, copies of receipts etc and they will get back to me. Will keep you updated!

Gerry-Built 11:41 am 16 Jan 11

Personally, based on the above info from the hivemind – I would go back to the retailer, verbally request a refund (again), but this time ensure they are aware you have researched your statutory rights. If no success, issue them with a pre-written request for a refund summarising what you intend to discuss. If no success with that also – go to Fair Trading with your grievance, making sure you have written it all up; a call to the retailer from Fair Trading should wrap it up… At this point, there is no need to involve legal action, as your consumer rights have clearly been disregarded by the retailer. Leave it with Fair Trading once you have been to them, and follow their advice.

I’ve had a couple of issues I got help from Fair Trading with, and they were all successful from my point of view…

Cordelia 10:41 am 16 Jan 11

Felix the Cat, the ACCC recently instructed all retailers to start complying and get rid of their “no refund on sale items” policy.

Bad Seed, Take this shop to the small claims court – you will win.

The large sign out the front over-rides any small signage that you didn’t notice inside the shop.

trevar 8:43 am 16 Jan 11

You may or may not have a legal case, but even if you don’t, this is definitely the kind of activity by the retailer that is worthy of naming and shaming. The owner’s attitude is clearly that of a retailer who wants to lose her business.

Auntyem 6:46 am 16 Jan 11

The fact that the email stated you would receive a further 40% or 50% discount would lead any reasonable person to believe that this is off the sale price.

The key word is “further”.

+1 for Dept of Fair Trading.

Good luck – and let us know how you go 🙂

beejay76 7:40 pm 15 Jan 11

Poor poor poor. I agree: fair trading. I’ve had great success with them on a couple of occasions. Granted, it was NSW, but I’m sure it would be just as good here.

Include the original email if you still have it. “Further discount” is v.v. different to “discount”.

Golden-Alpine 6:43 pm 15 Jan 11

Go to Fair Trading and give them a copy of the email as well. If that didn’t say the discount is off the original price then you are correct and you have enough to prove that. Under dual pricing laws the lower price is the actual price anyway.

spooner 5:47 pm 15 Jan 11

It is now 2011 and a new law has come into effect called the Australian Consumer Law: http://www.consumerlaw.gov.au/content/Content.aspx?doc=fact_sheets/shops.htm
It clearly says “You are entitled to pay the lowest price if more than one price is displayed.” Depending on how post-christmas this was, you might be covered there (it’s not only about more-than-one price but general deception about pricing). Otherwise the old law applies (TPA etc.) which still frowns upon deceptive pricing: http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/815334

A lot of return policies should get cleaned up soon; from the ACCC training material about the 2011 law for shopkeepers (http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/957884)
” ‘Sorry – the sign says no refunds or exchanges after 14 days.’
Can businesses rely on signs like this? No. If a consumer guarantee hasn’t been complied with then the consumer is entitled to a remedy. Signs like this are also likely to breach the Australian Consumer Law as they mislead consumers about their rights.”

Gerry-Built 5:36 pm 15 Jan 11

JohnBoy – I love the addition of “You will appear smarter…” to the posting suggestions below the comment dialogue box 😉

Gerry-Built 5:34 pm 15 Jan 11

You are going to need to put your complaint in writing to the store owner and await a written response from them before approaching Fair Trading… From experience, they are going to ask if you’ve followed the procedure outlined here.

Sounds like a little misleading, though not illegal, trading – though OFT would be a better judge of that. I’d be really miffed about the different coloured labeling and the lack of clarity in the sale email/signage, and I don’t think the store can refuse a refund on the grounds outlined above. New laws apparently came into effect Jan 1, this year, so you should probably go and read through the guide available here first (tl;dr)…

Felix the Cat 4:34 pm 15 Jan 11

If the sign says discount price applies to original price, even if the font size is size 6, then I would think what the shopkeeper has done is lawful. Misleading maybe, but not illegal. It’s very hard to prove the sign wasn’t there when you purchased the clothes, probably impossible unless the sales assistant will back you up, but unlikely she will because the boss lady sounds like she’d sack her given half a chance.

Go to Fair Trading and see what they say, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Hosinator 4:04 pm 15 Jan 11

Go to the ACT Department of Fair Trading with a modified copy of what you wrote here and lodge a complaint.
By modified I mean so that the letter doesn’t look like you wrote it to post on a website.
Simply state the facts and the department will get in touch with the store owner to work out a resolution.

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