A couple of weeks ago, I ordered three pieces from LOFT, the store that used to be my favorite shopping destination. Admittedly, when I’m looking for tops or sweaters, I’m better off going to the store, because sometimes their tops look amazing on me and sometimes they pull at the bust, and I’m never really sure what size I should get. But after being lured by a 30% off coupon, I decided to take a chance, secure in the knowledge that if the pieces didn’t work, I could return them to the store.

The clothes ended up being a total disappointment. The blue sweater had shoulder seams that inexplicably went an inch past my shoulders. The beet sweater had exposed seams that weren’t mentioned in the description; my honest-to-God first impression was that the sweater was inside out, and when that theory went bust, my next thought was that it must be defective. (Turns out it wasn’t. It just looks like it.) And the long-sleeve tee fit in the body, but strangely enough, not in the sleeves, which were so tight from the elbows down that they rippled.

In short, none of it looked right.

So Wednesday night, I took a detour to the LOFT on my way to choir rehearsal — easy enough to do since the store is in an exterior strip on the outskirts of Lakeside Mall. And that’s when things got worse.

The store clerk began checking the tags on each sweater and typing numbers into the computer — something that puzzled me since normally they scan the tickets and consult the receipt. “We can’t take this back,” she finally said, referring to the navy sweater. “It’s an online exclusive. You have to mail it back.”

I was shocked. I’ve shopped at LOFT, both in-store and online, for years. I’d always been able to do returns in-store. She said that it was a new policy and she was sorry. She processed the other two items and I left the store, still in possession of the blue sweater and feeling betrayed by a brand I trusted.

It gets worse.

When I got home Wednesday night, I immediately went to my computer to review my order confirmation, wondering how I’d missed this new policy and kicking myself for not reading the fine print. The order confirmation had no specifics about policy, just a link to the Returns page on the website.

The website had no information about this new policy. None. At all.

Feeling vindicated, I typed out an email to Customer Service and explained the situation. How could they expect me to pay return shipping based on a policy that wasn’t disclosed before my purchase?

Friday afternoon, I got a response: the exact verbiage from the website, pasted into an email. The same information I had specifically told them I’d already consulted. The same information that completely failed to address “online exclusive” merchandise.

I was furious. Clearly, they hadn’t even read my question — just looked at the subject and pasted in the standard response. I immediately shot back a simple, blunt reply: “You have NOT addressed the issue I raised. Did you even READ my question?”

Then I printed out both emails, the return policy, and a request for a legitimate answer, and faxed the whole thing to LOFT customer service.

Within twenty minutes I had a new email stating that the policy hadn’t changed and I should take the item back to the store — an answer which agrees with the website but not the store associate or the printed receipt that was delivered with the clothes. I sent yet another email, asking for further confirmation and quoting the receipt. I had two contradictory statements in writing, I told them; which is right?

I’m still waiting to hear back. I don’t know what they’ll say, or if I’ll like the answer. But I do know that LOFT has bungled this transaction to an incredible degree, not only inconveniencing me but making me feel like they just don’t care about me as a customer. They don’t care if I’m happy; they just want to close out this transaction using the least amount of energy possible. I have more clothes by LOFT than any other brand; ironically, I’m wearing LOFT from head to toe as I write this post. I’m a walking, talking advertisement for their store; I’m their target demographic and their ideal customer. They had me at Hello.

And they still just don’t care.

UPDATE, Saturday 12/4: Customer service says again that store associate was confused and should have made the return. I’m going to try again tomorrow and see what happens. (Thanks to Heather H. in Customer Service for making me feel like they do actually care, at least a little bit.)

UPDATE, Sunday 12/5: Went back to the store, armed with my emails. When I said I had a return, they started to give me the same spiel and I told them I’d spoken to Customer Service, who confirmed that the stores take back everything but swimwear & maternity. They immediately changed their tune and did the return with no fuss. It sounds like the store manager is trying to set her own policy, which I consider VERY bad business — and an excellent reason not to visit that location (Lakeside Mall, Metairie, LA) in future.


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