Back in April of this year my daughter began the dress hunt for her wedding. After checking out several dresses she fell in love with an Alfred Angelo dress that she found at a local bridal boutique called “Katharina’s Bridal Boutique” (http://www.facebook.com/katharinasbridal) http://www.katharinasbridalboutique.com/
The dress that was on the rack was a couple of sizes too large and we were told that we would have to order in another because altering the one on the rack just wouldn’t be possible. This doubled the cost of the dress (off the rack was roughly $500, the ordered in version was around $1000) but my daughter loved the dress so we asked for it to be ordered in. We were told the arrival date would be around July 17th.
July 17th came and went and we heard nothing from Katharina’s, figuring things might be busy we held off from reaching out until July 22nd. We began to send emails and left a few voicemails however none of the messages were returned. Getting worried we went into the shop on the 28th and got a less than warm welcome. Katharina (owner of the shop) seemed annoyed that we were pressing her for info on this dress and with a rolling of the eyes explained that she is at the mercy of the supplier and that she has since put a rush order on and that the dress will arrive on Aug 5th. Why this couldn’t have been communicated in a reply to the voicemails and emails we sent was never explained.
August 9th we head in for a fitting as the dress has arrived. Looking forward to seeing her dream dress the bride was quickly in the corner in tears as not only did the dress arrive in the wrong size, it was the complete wrong dress model. The wedding is now three weeks away and there is no dress. Katharina’s response was less than empathetic instead choosing to blame the mistake on Alfred Angelo and saying there was little she could do about it. In fact she was shocked that it was the wrong model. I called my husband to come in and talk as I was furious and my daughter was in tears. After an angry talk from my husband Katharina has agreed to the following:
1. Full refund
2. The model she has on the rack would be given free of charge.
As I mentioned earlier this dress was a couple of sizes too big and would require significant work to make it fit and look like it’s supposed to. At this point we had obviously lost faith in the shop and it’s owner due to the lack of communication prior and the mess-ups. We agree to her deal of the refund and her attempting to correct the dress but since the wedding date is fast approaching we begin the search for a replacement dress.
We called several boutiques in the maritimes and ontario trying to find anyone who had that model of dress in her size. The shop owners we were speaking to on the phone were incredibly helpful and we heard back from several of them in minutes and anyone we left voice mails for or emailed called back within hours – showing how customer service in the wedding industry should be.
Eventually we got in contact with the supplier that Katharina uses for her dresses and after speaking with them they revealed that the error was definitely on Katharina’s end – the model that was faxed to them is what was shipped. They also knew of the mess-up as earlier that day (prior to our arriving at the shop) Katharina’s had been in contact with them. This was frustrating as Katharina acted very “shocked” that the wrong dress had arrived as she obviously had known about it before we had even arrived.
The supplier contacted every shop in N. America looking for this dress however finding that model in that size seemed to be a losing battle. We gave up hope on the dream dress and started looking for a plan B.
We found one at Casleys (http://www.caseleys.com/). While looking for a replacement dress we spoke with other bridal shops and mentioned what had happened. one explained how complicated the process to modify the dress would be and said she had a seamstress with lots of experience and offered to do it for us for a very reasonable price.
We contacted Katharina’s and asked if she would release the dress to us unmodified and we would take it to our own seamstress. We were told no – Katharina said she had seen this seamstresses work and wouldn’t release her dress to her. Katharina’s seamstress was much better and she would release to no one else.
We agreed however at this point wanted no more to do with Katharina and asked that we only have to deal with the seamstress and we would deal directly with her – we didn’t want to speak with Katharina or enter her shop again. This was agreed on.
So now we have a dress we’ve purchased and another one off at Katharina’s seamstress that we honestly don’t have much hope in.
However a week later we get a call from Elizabeth Miner (Katharina’s seamstress) and it looks fantastic. She some how had pulled it off, the only thing left was some beading and we could pick it up in a couple of days.
In this couple of day lapse we start hearing from other people who have had bad experiences with Katharina on facebook, one of the threads sent to me had a very detailed story and several replies to it. I replied to the thread stating that we also had some issues at this same boutique but didn’t really get into any details.
Once the beading is completed we get a phone call from Elizabeth saying the dress is done but she can’t release it to us, instead we now have to go back to Katharina’s – Elizabeth isn’t sure why but said she had heard something about facebook.
So we are three days away from the wedding and we go into Katharina’s for one last visit. I bring my son with me to do most of the talking as my frustration level is at an all time high and I’m not sure if I can be all that civil with the lady.
We ask for the dress and told that we will need to pay for alterations. The reasoning was that Elizabeth wasn’t her employee and that if we were willing to have a our seamstress do it that we could pay for Elizabeth to do it. After explaining that this was never communicated and a bit of arguing we got passed this point.
Then we got to the heart of the real issue. Katharina had been informed about the facebook posts and had taken them very personally. This lady, it seemed, had no ability to see the difference between a personal attack on her and a criticism of her business. She was very angry and started spouting off on how it was all slander and that she had contacted her lawyer and the RCMP. My son explained she really needed to lookup what slander was and that he welcomed a letter from her lawyer.
She seemed most upset that in my particular comment I hadn’t told the ENTIRE story – by ENTIRE story what she meant was the part about the refund and free dress.
Still refusing to release the dress without payment on the Alterations she finally relented after my son pointed out to her that the wedding industry was 90% word of mouth and that if she thought facebook reached a-lot of islanders to think of what would happen when the story reached the journal or the guardian.
We walked out with the dress and a very sour taste over all dealings with this boutique and it’s owner. We also left with a guilty feeling that the seamstress isn’t going to get paid for the excellent work she had done. Katharina if you are reading this please reply and let us know that she did get paid for her work.
Morals of this story:
1. If a mistake is made, regardless of whose fault it actually is – own the mistake. Show empathy and instill confidence that you will make it all correct. Weddings can be stressful enough we don’t need your issues piled on top.
2. Stay in contact with your customers, a lot of these issues were magnified by the fact that we were in the dark during most of the time.
3. When you make a deal to fix the issue – honor it without conditions.
4. If you are criticized either give your side or take it on the chin. You are in the service industry and people are going to talk. If you take everything as a personal attack you are going to burn out very quickly.
5. Be careful what you wish for – you wanted the whole story and here it all is. an experience
So if after reading this if you are wondering what my recommendations are:
1. Do not go to Katharina’s shop. I would recommend ordering from sears before her – sears rarely gets my orders wrong and are very polite when I talk to them.
2. I highly recommend Elizabeth Miner as a seamstress – she did an amazing job on a very difficult project in a compressed timeline.