No wonder Debenhams is closing stores if this is their new policy
Liz Nice had a heck of a job trying to exchange some clothes in Debenhams for the same items in a different size. Surely that's not the way to treat a customer, is it?
Christmas went off reasonably well this year.
All the parcels I ordered arrived in time, an improvement on last year when I never received a refund on a parcel bought online from the computer game shop, Game, which I had to return.
Despite a chain of emails that continued into the spring, I never got my money back so was £60 down for nothing.
In the end, I stopped arguing, and shopping with them too.
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This year, however, the problem came when I wanted to exchange a couple of items bought at Debenhams for a loved one which were the wrong size.
Somewhere in the mess of Christmas, the receipts got mislaid but I only wanted to swap the items for different sizes and as I had bought them on my Debenhams store card, I thought all would be fine.
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I've never had a problem exchanging goods there - or indeed anywhere - before, receipt or not.
However, things have changed.
Debenhams, who are closing 22 stores in the new year, putting 1,200 jobs at risk, have changed their policy, the young woman behind the counter told me.
Unless I had proof of purchase - which apparently wasn't the goods I showed her with Debenhams price tags on them in a Debenhams bag, then there was 'nothing she could do'.
'But I only want to swap this item for the exact same item in a different size,' I said plaintively.
She was unmoved.
She couldn't access my Debenhams card purchase 'on their system' but might be able to help when I got my Debenhams store card invoice through the post, although she wasn't sure.
I tried to get my Debenhams account on my phone but there was no signal in the store.
'You might have to go upstairs to get a signal," she said, unsmilingly.
My companion by this point had lost heart and said we might as well forget it but I wasn't prepared to give up yet.
I went upstairs, out of the store and on my phone set up an online Debenhams account for my Debenhams card. I was able to find evidence of my purchase that way, after considerable time had been spent creating passwords and the like but it wasn't an itemised purchase, just the overall amount I had spent at Debenhams that day, so I was still dubious as to whether I would be able to exchange my goods even then.
I went back down to the counter.
Fortunately, the unsmiling young woman was with another customer and I got a pleasant young man.
I explained what had happened and he was willing to help, although I'm not entirely sure if he was 'following procedure' to the letter.
I think he was doing that rather rare thing these days - putting the customer first and thinking for himself.
I thank him. After years as a loyal Debenhams customer, he might have kept my business. Just. The goods were exchanged and he advised me to get an email receipt this time so that it wouldn't happen again. Much as I hate giving stores my email, I advise everyone else to do the same!
After this gruelling experience, I thought how different my experience of Debenhams was compared to the shops I usually buy my own clothes in - Lady B in Norwich and Pocketwatch and Petticoats in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich.
These small, local stores put the customer first, treat you like a queen and never, ever quibble if you need to swap something for a different size. I shop there often - far more than I should! - because I like being treated well and made to feel good.
It's not rocket science, is it, Debenhams?
But maybe, at some point, you forgot that.
VAR is ruining our game
As an Ipswich fan, I have to say I was furious by what happened to Teemu Pukki on Saturday.
Having watched football for 40 years, I innately know when something is offside.
You just get a sixth sense, don't you? An alarm bell that goes off and stops fans celebrating until they've checked what the officials are doing.
When I saw Pukki's goal, I got none of that.
It was a goal. No question.
It never occurred to anyone to look at the referee to check.
But then VAR ruled the goal out - a goal I have now watched at least 12 times, which still looks perfectly fine to me.
Stuff the blooming red line and talk of millimetres. It was a goal.
But fans are going to be afraid to celebrate anything any more and the game is going to be ruined if this nonsense doesn't stop now.
A goal you daren't celebrate isn't worth having.
Fans live to cheer. Without that joy, our game is dead.
Do you agree with Liz? Let her know at firstname.lastname@example.org