Readers in the UK will probably be familiar with Minerva Crafts and Fabrics, an online stockist of crafts materials and fabric (surprise!) based in Lancashire. They have a main website, linked above, and a directly corresponding eBay shop.
This is a blog post that I had been going to write anyway, but I have decided to do so sooner rather than later upon the announcment of the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network, which as far as I can see is an equivalent concept to the Mood Sewing Network in the US.
Remember the order of fabric that I placed a little while ago? Well that was from Minerva’s.
Four of the pieces arrived without incident. The mid-blue double jersey isn’t fantastic quality but that’s the risk you take ordering online without a sample. Everything arrived promptly and well packaged. So far, so good.
The problem came with the fifth piece of fabric. See above where I’ve ordered two different colourways of the Morgan crepe jersey fabric? The website description is as follows:“The most fabulous quality Morgan Crepe Jersey. A blend of Polyester, Viscose and Lycra, this medium-heavy weight jersey is perfect for skirts, dresses, jackets and more! Clearance price only whilst limited stocks last! RRP Over £14.00!”
And indeed the tan fabric that I received lived up to this description. It is be-autiful. Soft, smooth, drapy, with a great weight and handle. I want to make sweet sweet love to this fabric and have its babies. It is divine.
The camel fabric felt like it came from the 50p/m table at the Rag Market.
Now I didn’t take a picture of the two next to each other. In hindsight maybe I should have done. I did send it straight back with a note that I had been sent the incorrect fabric, in a subsequent email pointing out that the two colourways had been two fabrics were completely different “in not only colour but texture, weave, and composition”.
Minerva’s insisted that I had been sent the right fabric. To start with they tried the line of “Fabrics can differ from colour to colour and may not be the same composition, each batch and colour do vary.” Er, not that much they don’t. A couple of phone calls later they insisted that it had to be the right fabric because the returns department had checked and it had come from the right shelf (anyone else spot the logical flaw here?)
Eventually I gave up and asked for a refund, which to their credit they did process promptly. I didn’t get a refund on my incurred postage costs, however, due to their continued insistance that they had sent me the right fabric.
I had been considering ordering some more of the said jersey in different colourways. Now I am very hesitant to do so in case the same thing happens again.
Seeing as Minerva’s are clearly making a real attempt to engage with the blogging community (and hence there is half a chance that they might read this!), I thought I’d offer my thoughts on how they could improve their customer experience. Anecdotal evidence suggests that I am not the only one who has had issues in the past with a company focus on quantity of orders rather than quality per se, but constructive criticism is always better than just plain criticism, right?
So, Minerva’s, here are my suggestions:
- Employ staff who know about the product. At the very least, employ a specialist for each area. Anybody cutting my two jerseys with any experience of fabric in the case above should have recognised that they were completely different (and not just in colour). Somebody from the returns department should have been able to see that the fabric I received did not even remotely match up to the description of that which I ordered. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and blaming the error on ignorance rather than deliberate malpractice, but even ignorance is not that much of an excuse when you’re running a large retail business.
- Make it clear on your next-day delivery adverts that this is next day delivery Monday – Friday. Yes, it’s down there in the fine print if you search for it, but a false assumption on my part led to another bad experience some months ago.
- Have your phone lines open for at least half a day on a Saturday. Again, this is something that most people expect of a large retailer nowadays and it’s very frustrating for the proportion of your customers who work a standard 9-5 pattern to never be able to get in touch without cramming everything into a lunch break.
- Allow people to order lengths of fabric in increments of less than one metre. Maybe restrict it to half metre increments if you’ve got your eye on cutting down waste? It would also be nice to have some direct acknowledgement of the restriction. I’m thinking of the equivalent statement on Gorgeous Fabrics where Ann explicitely states her reasoning behind the policy, at which point it feels a lot less like an underhand sales technique.
Oh, and please don’t patronise your customers when we get in touch with you. It’s really not appreciated, and has left quite a bitter taste in the mouth over here.