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In which I gush about American Apparel*

Last summer, while in Canada, I fell hook, line and sinker for the clothes at American Apparel. By which I mean I wandered into a store and didn’t wander out for another two hours. And when I did I was loaded down with stuff and my VISA card was sizzling.

At last I’d found clothes that were perfect for me. Working from home, I want ‘home clothes’ that don’t make me feel like I’m still in my pyjamas, and that are super-comfortable [i.e. I need to be able to sit lotus-style because that’s how I normally sit when I’m working. Scout’s honour.] Clothes in which I can stand up and stretch comfortably – and when I mean ‘stretch’ I mean as in ‘yoga’.

These clothes have it. They’re effortlessly chic, look great on, come in loads of colours, are fun, sexy and cool.

Trouble is, they’re not available in Iceland. So imagine my delight when I discovered they have a great online presence and indeed, have regional online stores that are super-easy to order from. Or so I thought.

About three weeks after returning home from holiday last summer, AAH decided she wanted to order a couple of dresses and since she was ordering a couple of dresses, I decided I might as well [oh twist my arm!] order another dress for myself, plus a pair of leggings.

So I fire off an order to my regional online store, which happens to be based in Germany. I get a confirmation of my order soon enough, but the next day or thereabouts I receive an email from the store telling me that the two dresses are not available in the requested colours [i.e. black and beige, very rare] and would I please let them know if I’d like to change the colours.

After a couple of back-and-forth missives in which I tried to determine whether I could possibly order from another region [A: No] I asked the woman to please cancel the entire order. In fact I asked her twice.

Which is why I was somewhat surprised to see that my credit card had been debited a short while later. I immediately got in touch via email and asked why this was so, when I had expressly asked for the entire order to be cancelled. The response came back and was quintessentially German [i.e. ‘we have the worst customer service on the planet ever and we want you to know it’]:

your credit card has been charged, because we made a mistake in sending out the items you wanted to cancel. The package has already been sent out by post. Please do not take the delivery so it will be sent back to us. We will charge back the [amount] to your credit card then.”


First, not a word of apology. Second, I’m supposed to wait until the post sends the package back [normally around a month later, plus the time in transit] and then they’re going to refund me the money to my credit card. Money that they mistakenly charged to the card, despite my insistence that they should not do so. So, not only would I have to wait for up to six weeks, but I could conceivably wind up losing money since the exchange rate would most definitely fluctuate. Third, the order had been sent out by post and not by courier, which as per their website was supposed to have been done and which they charged for accordingly.

So, I got on the blower and called the place in Germany. I was put through to a woman – a boss of some sort – who flatly refused to credit back the money to my card. “You must understand our position,” she told me, as though she were talking to a child, “we could refund you the money and you would get the package and just keep the clothes.” [Oh, yes! I understand now!] In other words, not only was she refusing to refund me my money, she was suggesting that if she did I would probably wind up stealing from her company.

By this time I was utterly incensed and told her that what she was proposing was completely unacceptable and demanded that she credit my card immediately. After some intense wrangling she finally relented, but reiterated “I will do this for you now but you must not take the clothes.” Oooh. At this I replied that I had no interest in her damn clothes or of doing business with her at any time in the future, to which she replied, “That’s fine with me.” Lovely.

Obviously I was still furious – but worse, I was bummed at the prospect of not being order my must-have apparel. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that surely a company like that wouldn’t condone those sorts of business practices. So I got on the blower once more. To their head office in California.

Long story short, I got the royal treatment. The rep I was put in contact with apologized profusely for the German office, said he would pass my email on to his superior, quite understood that I did not feel comfortable ordering from them again, offered to help me order directly from the US in the future, and asked whether he could send me a replacement order for the one that got messed up, free of charge.

Oh, delightful American customer service! Oh, to feel the force of the ‘valued customer’ cliché once again! Oh, to recall that the Germans are shite in all things service oriented and to remember never to order anything from them again!

Of course I gushed back a whole bunch of superlatives along the lines of ‘excellent service’ and ‘fabulous products’ and said I would be more than happy to accept their apology in the form of free clothes. And like magic, my order appeared just a few days later via courier – all except for the leggings, which I was informed were out of stock but would be sent as they were available. Sure enough, a week or so later another package arrived via courier, completely unprompted, containing the remainder of the order.

I am currently awaiting my first [non-complementary] order from the California office, which as promised has gone through without a hitch. Lucky for me, I noticed the absence of the dress-slash-top just in time to add it to the list. [I really hate to say it, but those insipid cowards that stole the clothes off our clothes lines a few days ago certainly did have good taste in clothes.] And I must say, thanks to the stellar performance of the California office’s customer service, American Apparel currently tops the list of my favourite companies. That awful German office notwithstanding.

UPDATE: It’s been two days since I received confirmation of my order, and my stuff just arrived via Fed Ex. Stellar service indeed. Whoo-hoo!

I’ve gushed so much there’s hardly room for the weather, but let’s just say that it’s winter outside. Flurries, cold, and this morning when I drove AAH to school it became clear that the winter tires with the road-destroying studs need to come out. Currently freezing at 0°C and sunrise was at 09.33, sunset is due for 16.49.

* And it’s not even product placement.



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  • alda August 29, 2008, 11:02 pm

    The original comment thread is here

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