Consumer Alert

Retailer says it’s crucial to learn from blunders

By Mitch Lipka
Globe Correspondent / September 6, 2009

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Q. I went to the Lane Bryant website to buy a gift card for my daughter-in-law’s birthday. It would not accept my greeting message for the card, but then the transaction seemed to go through. A few days later, I got another message saying the order was canceled because of credit card refusal.

I called Visa and was told that they had approved the transaction.

After a few more calls, all seemed to be cleared up, but by now it was too late to get the gift card mailed, so I agreed to accept an e-mail gift certificate.

Then, Lane Bryant’s “new system’’ kept wiping out my information, a worker said. The next day, I got an e-mail saying the transaction was canceled because the address was wrong.

A supervisor apologized, but didn’t call back until my daughter-in-law’s birthday and said she would add $50 to the value of the gift, and would send an e-mail right out. I then got a call indicating the transaction did not go through because my credit card number was copied down wrong. They took the information again. The next day, I got an e-mail saying the transaction was canceled due to a “design error.’’

Is there anything you can do?

Kristin Kiesel

A. Wow. That is one of the longest strings of blunders I have ever seen.

I asked Bill Bass, president of Charming Direct, the online wing of Lane Bryant’s parent company, to explain. He was no less astounded at the series of mistakes.

“It’s a one in a million thing,’’ he said. “At the end of the day, there are no excuses. It shouldn’t have happened.’’

Bass had a $200 gift certificate sent overnight not quite in time for the birthday, but as quick as he could get it there. “It’s hard to make up for something like that,’’ he said.

It’s important, Bass said, to let the customer know they are valued and to try to both remedy a bad situation and learn from it. No excuse for the incredible series of blunders , but kudos to this retailer for doing the right thing.

One more thing: A reader whose battle with GE over a microwave was featured here forwarded a copy of her warranty showing 10 years of coverage on the problem part. A GE spokeswoman had said the warranty was five years.

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