Gasp! Of Dead Flamingo Dresses, Retail Superstars and PR Brand Fails
GASP clothing has defended its position by releasing yet another jaw-dropping response.
The statement came after a spat between the retailer and a customer, who was told that their clothes were too exclusive for her, turned into a viral email sensation. Distressed by the treatment she got, O’Neil then sent a letter to the customer service centre at GASP, which was answered by GASP area manager Matthew Chidgey. Mr Chidgey confirmed today that the email was legitimate.
Later GASP, whose website advertises dressed priced from $100, released a statement in its defence.
“We respect that not all consumers strive for a glamorous appearance; some prefer to simply blend in,” the statement said.
“We respect and welcome all customers whom wish to visit our store, even though the intention to buy may not exist. But we ask that their opinions be expressed through blogs, social media or around a warm latte, but certainly not inside our stores.”
It sounds like the statement was another made by the self-same Matthew Chidgey – that bastardisation of the otherwise rather nice word “whom” is the give away. Chidgey has been taking a lot of flack on his personal Facebook page since it was revealed that he was the author of the original response. So much so that he has subsequently marked his profile as Private. But not before an intrepid browser snapped a screenshot of one of his posts:
The Australian Herald Sun covers the latest response from GASP, together with a picture of the originally offended bride-to-be, here: http://bit.ly/nLI52s
Australian consumers, online Twitterati, and the general Melbourne community are on a amusing high after news (and confirmation of the validity) of a disastrous response to a customer complaint went viral this morning.
Undesirable Customer: “That dress looks like a dead flamingo”.
GASP Customer Service: “Good, that’s the look we were going for”.
As the story goes, bride-to-be Keara O’Neil emailed GASP Jeans Online Customer Care on Monday after an encounter with a sales assistant at the brand’s Chapel Street, Melbourne store. Here’s her email:
From: Keara O’Neil
Sent: Monday, 26 September 2011 3:14 PM
Subject: customer complaint-Chapel St store
I had the privilege of shopping at your brand new Chapel St store on Saturday 24th September with my three bridesmaids in tow. On the hunt for bridesmaids dresses and a hens dress for myself we walked into the store and were automatically pounced on by a male staff member, I understand that this is protocol for many retail outlets and ours is no different.
The staff member was initially funny and extremely helpful with sizes etc. I chose a bright pink dress to try on but was unable to do the zip up so asked for the size up, when I eventually got the correct size and came out of the change room I was unable to discuss the likes or dislikes of the dress with my bridesmaids as the sales assistant kept saying “you should just get it”, when I told him I would think about it, he pulled me aside and whispered “Is it the price your worried about”.
By now I was extremely frustrated, and again told him I’d think about it, I walked back into the change room and closed the door behind me, only to have it pushed open with the sales assistant half standing in my change room, again whispering “I think you should just get it”, when I gave him attitude and said rudely, “I already told you I would think about it”, he then replied, “With your figure I really think you should buy it”. I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that, but considering the attitude used to deliver such a statement I can only imagine that it was an immature dig in relation to my healthy size 12 frame.
I got changed in a hurry and walked right out of the change rooms and out of the store, I could hear the sales assistant yelling out to me, but I just ignored him and continued to leave, assuming my bridesmaids would follow. After waiting down the road for my bridesmaids to come out of the store I was told by one of them that the sales assistant yelled out “Have fun finding something at Supre”, when one of them approached him in regards to his comments, he replied “I knew you girls were a joke the minute you walked in”. When my bridesmaids walked out of the store another two customers walked out with them, they too could not believe the immaturity of the sales assistant.
I have worked in retail for 12 years and have come across an array of customer complaints over the years, none of which come even close to what I encountered on Saturday at your store, I wish I was exaggerating but unfortunately for your company this person actually exists and is working in one of your stores. I am pretty laid back and was quite happy just leaving your store, it was my bridesmaids who felt the need to say something to him………I dread to think how many customers he has not only offended but how many customers have left your store due to the pressure placed on getting the sale, and then to be harassed when that sale hasn’t taken place.
Ring me, don’t ring, not fussed………I’m just one retailer notifying another of an extremely inappropriate sales assistant.
It took an (unnamed and unsigned) GASP “Online Customer Care” representative a couple of days to put together the response below, marked as “high” importance. Read it as an example of how not to create a positive consumer image for your brand.
Can you spell #BrandFail? GASP! (Emphasis added to the response are mine…)
From: GASP Online Enquiries
Sent: Wednesday, 28 September 2011 11:58 AM
To: Keara O’Neil
Subject: customer complaint-Chapel St store
Dear Keara O’Neil,
Having now had the privilege of having both version of events, I am now in a position to respond to your complaint.
From the very outset, one thing that you should be mindful of is; Our product offerings are very, very carefully selected, so to ensure that we do not appeal to a broad customer base. This is something which is always at the forefront of our minds when undertaking buying duties. The reason for this is to ensure that we only carry products which appeal to a very fashion forward consumer.
This by default means that the customer whom is acclimatised to buying from “clothing for the masses” type retailers, is almost frightened by our range, sometimes we have found that this type of customer, almost finds our dresses funny, and on occasion noted comments such as ‘it looks like a dead flamingo’. When we receive comments like this, we like to give ourselves and our buyers, a big pat on the back, because we know we are doing our job right, and modus operandi is being upheld.
Our range is worn by A list celebrities to the likes of Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez and Katy Perry to name only a few. Now, as one might appreciate, the style counsel for these types of celebrities are not ones to pick “run of the mill” type clothing, and they do so on the basis to ensure that the styles are cutting edge, and only worn by a select few. Similarly these items are priced such that they remain inaccessible to the undesirable.
Insofar as our employee goes; Similar to our product offerings, our employees are selected with a similar approach. Chris whom served you is a qualified stylist whom has a sixth sense for fashion, and Chris’s only problem is that he is too good at what he does, and as I am sure you are aware, people whom are talented, generally do not tolerate having their time wasted, which is the reason you were provoked to leave the store.
Whilst I concede that you work for chain retailer, unfortunately that does not make us like for like. It is probably fair to assume, a lot of what I have said in this email, either doesn’t make sense to you, or you totally disagree with it all, which is what I would expect (unless of course I have you totally wrong –which I doubt). Let me guess, you would never, ever hire Chris in the course of your duty, would you? This is the very reason, why your comment “from one retailer to another” is so disproportionate, it’s almost as though we are in a totally different industries. Chris is a retail superstar, who possess unparalleled ability, and I am sorry you feel upset by him, but he knew you were not going to buy anything before you even left your house.
So if you would like to do us any favours, please do not waste our retail staff’s time, because as you have already seen, they will not tolerate it. I am sure there are plenty of shops that appease your taste, so I respectfully ask that you side step our store during future window shopping expeditions.
Thank you for your enquiry.
GASP Online Customer Care
P: (03) 9421 6812 | F: (03) 9421 1720 | W: www.gaspjeans.com.au
Can you Adam and Eve that?! Gasp indeed, all round.
Now I don’t know the brand, the clothing or the store involved. What I do know is the Twitter continues to glow hot with the #Gasp and #GaspFail hashtags all over the place, and reports that initially the GASP PR gurus were deleting the flood of negative comments from their Facebook page which has since been taken down entirely.
The story has also made mainstream news in Australia, with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Melbourne Weekly covering the story. (The latter article contains links to the scans of the original emails as well: Click here to see the letter and Click here to see the response letter.
Thoughts? And are their dresses really “fashion forward” or more “dead flamingo”?