Disappointment in big brands-they do happen

You can love a brand dearly but one day the magic gets broken and all that is left behind is sadness and disappointment…..

I loved Jo Malone‘s perfumes for many years  and I was very excited when Jo came back with her new idea and brand, Jo Loves (see my post about Jo’s mentoring lecture for CEW). A couple of weeks ago I received a Jo Loves e-mail, telling me that her perfumes, in smaller, 30 mls size, will be available for pre-order. What? Really? Smaller size, that I was told by her sales girls in Selfridges, she wouldn’t be doing? I have spent a lot of money of a big sized bottle based on the information that I was provided with and now this? I guess I should have thought twice when on the same occasion  I was told that Jo Loves limited edition candles could be purchased but you had to go on the waiting list….

Being a straightforward person, I e-mailed Jo Loves customer services, telling them that I was disappointed in the misinformation. Do you think I received a reply? No. Is this what you call customer service when you come back on the beauty scene? Pride in business? Honestly, I was so disappointed I actually made a vow to never buy Jo Loves products ever again. For me, good customer service makes or breaks a business, I stick to that principle even more lately because to me it’s indicative of the brand and the team that works on it. 

Another example, in fashion this time. You buy a pair of knickers and you want a matching bra, which is our of stock. You ask the owner of the brand, who happens to be working on the store’s floor, to order one for you, which she does. You get a call a few days later, saying they have it in store. You rush out, only to learn that a wrong size was ordered. You explain the situation again, you give your details. Weeks go by, still no bra from Bodas. There was no call to say that the item is out of stock still and I don’t want to chase it any more. Am I wrong to feel let down by a brand to which I have been loyal for years now?

As an exact opposite, I had the most attentive online experience with J. Crew., a well-known American fashion brand. I placed an order for some children’s items a few months ago but when the order arrived, I saw that one of the hoodies that I ordered looked different in colour and quality that I saw on the site. I e-mailed customer services, explaining my predicament. Returning the item to the US (as there is no J. Crew store in London currently) would have been expensive but you know what? Customer services e-mailed me within 24hrs attaching the labels for free postage (i.e agreeing to cover it) but also offering me an alternative-to keep an item, while they offered to issue a refund for it. That type of customer service, speedy & attentive, to me is priceless. J. Crew is very popular, with both customers and the press, so in theory, they don’t have to prove anything to anyone, yet they strive to make sure their customers are happy with their purchases. That’s long-term perspective and vision!   

Another recent example, this time on the restaurant scene, courtesy of Arkady Novikov, a very successful and well-known restaurateur in Russia, who has over 50 restaurants in Moscow, covering a variety of cuisines.

I have been to his first restaurant in Moscow, called Sirena (Сирена) where he also worked as a chef, with my parents on many occasions. I really like Vogue cafe in Moscow (when I took my baby son a couple of years ago, to have lunch with my mum there, staff looked at me like I was mad, they had no high chairs for babies and told me that it’s not common practise to take children for lunch there-maybe because too many fashion, business and art personalities go there) and Elki-Palki (Ёлки-Палки), so I was anticipating him opening a Novikov resturant and bar in London’s Mayfair since spring.

A couple of weeks ago, after an appointment at the hairdressers, I passed the restaurant and looked in. I have to say that the decor and attention to detail in design was impeccable and some restaurateurs in London can learn a thing or two from Mr. Novikov, but I was floored to see that apart from the bar, there were two restaurants/menus on offer-no, no trace of  Russian but Chinese and Italian….Ok, no disrespect, but should a Russian be showcasing those two cuisines, not relating to his nationality in any way (to be fair, an interesting idea in principle, to combine two different cusines within one large space) -we already have plenty of wonderful Chinese and Italian restaurants, Locanda Locatelli and China Tang spring to mind as immediate examples, while we have no great Russian one in London. I am sure Mr Novikov will make a lot of money mainly due to well-off Russians living in London, who will be flogging to the familiar stomping ground, but I am quite disappointed by such an approach from a well-known Russian restaurateur…..One almost gets a sense that there is no Russian pride left, instead business ventures are driven by greed and arrogance.

You have examples of Russian funded restaurants in London already, Sumosan (Japanese), Goodman (steak house) and the latest venture from the same team called Burger & Lobster as examples, which are all well run and offering  nice menus that have no trace of Russian origin, so my hope rests on the imminent opening of Mari Vanna.I think Russians need to start taking pride in anything that they do well, we have rich traditions and a culture that not many other countries can match, and we should start putting some genuine effort into eroding the many misconceptions about Russians. Our cuisine is varied, yes, quite rich at times, but I would love to see a restaurant in London that showcases the best of it, maybe fuses it with another one, thus creating something traditional and mouthwatering.

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