The Customer's Rarely Right: The Frustrations Of Selling Clothing Online

Running an online vintage clothes business has introduced me to the plethora of idiotic customers, many of whom seem to fundamentally misunderstand the rules of engagement when buying vintage items.
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Running an online vintage clothes business has introduced me to the plethora of idiotic customers, many of whom seem to fundamentally misunderstand the rules of engagement when buying vintage items.

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Running an online vintage clothes business has introduced me to the plethora of idiotic customers, many of whom seem to fundamentally misunderstand the rules of engagement when buying vintage items.

Thought anyone could run a vintage clothing business on that new-fangled internet just by rummaging around in their Granddad’s tank top collection? Well.... yeah actually, but sourcing clothing isn't half of the problem. Once you're up and running you'll inevitably have to deal with a minority (yet far too common) of online customers who are incompetent, illiterate or just plain ill in the brain-space.

In our case every single item we stock is a one-off and therefore we photograph every single item multiple times and include handwritten notes to point out any flaws or interesting quirks with the piece. This makes it incredibly labour intensive but people come to us because heaven knows our dandy punters don't ever want to succumb to the same fate of, oh I don't know, a clone town like Middlesborough. Sadly some people, who I assume couldn't find their way out of a Primark paper bag, don't really understand that part of the charm of escaping mass industrialisation and the exact same factors that would make a Superdry fan gag, are the exhibited signs of wear such as fading, bobbling fabric, cracked print and missing tags. Quite simple, mangled, potentially passed-it clothing is fucking ‘cool’. Sure a near mint item from the 70s is much more ideal but your ability to get a one off unicorn patterned disco shirt (with just a tiny pinhole under the collar) for your local indie shindig is better than anything the highstreet afri-geo-clash-arse season ever managed. Yet, for far too many of our lovely clientèle this seems to fail to register.

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Firstly, I've never stormed into H&M demanding that they give me a new item and I'll, like totally, bring the one I've had in my possession for the past 28 days back in the exact new condition

Anyway here are four of the best of the worst customer complaints. I'd publish actual emails but I find the casually insane have a way of google alerting themselves like some kind of tedious internet Spider sense.

The damaged item: 

'Hello I have just received this item and I appalled [sic] to find there is a seam tear under the armpit'

Now. When making an online purchase of something I am intending to wear in public, you know as an external representation to hide my oh-so-tortured-self to the cruel outside world, I generally, and stop me if this seems unreasonable, have a quick read of the description before purchasing. Now in the case of any item we include the damage 1) In the title of the main page  2) Include the aforementioned handwritten note. 3) PHYSICALLY POINT AT THE DAMAGE WITH OUR OWN HANDS AND FINGERS IN A PHOTOGRAPH. As much as I would like to apply the latter to the illiterate’s neck (though the photo may be incriminating) I find myself, a lifelong Labour supporter, wanting to vote UKIP and demand they somehow bring about a National Service in Chernobyl for the willfully unobservant.

The ill-fitting item:

'Hi m8. this shit doent fit me. send another in medium then ill send this bak'

Firstly, I've never stormed into H&M demanding that they give me a new item and I'll, like totally, bring the one I've had in my possession for the past 28 days back in the exact new condition it was in after that heavy night running my face into the menu at that Glaswegian kebab shop, but absolutely before I had that cripplingly fever from getting that meat sweats hangover. Honest. Usually an item not fitting is fine. The customer returns it and we refund it. You know, like a physical shop. That pesky money-in-exchange-for-goods kind of thing. Sometimes I suspect that maybe some people aren't as skinny as they thought they were, at least, when they didn't just sit at their computer purchasing their weekly shop from Asda and meeting their equally plump one night sexy-partners on Blendr. But I widely meander into the imagination. EVERYTHING WE STOCK IS A ONE-OFF. That’s why we say this numerous times on the site...

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The hysteric:

'If you don't refund me now I will inform eBay, Trading Standards and the Police'

There's nothing you can do with this type. The quibble can be as small as 1) They didn't pay for a fast enough postal service to get it to them on time, 2) It wasn't EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR AT A MICROSCOPIC AND / OR MICROBIOTIC LEVEL or 3) That they truly believe the reality that we have generally reached a charmingly vague but pleasant enough consensus on, doesn't really apply to them. These types are the 'Bingo' of the Hare Psychopathy check-list and are the bane of an online sellers existence. One can run round in circles semantically, logistically, and linguistically with this type of buyer but their belief in the anonymous nature of the Internet drives them around new roundabouts of difficulty.  Obviously we can request our customers phone numbers on the eBay store (and we do to be fair, know where they live) and it's amazing how few actually answer a number unknown to them from their three tormented acquaintances in the spiritualist separatist club.

The scammer:

'I haven't received the item I purchased'

Easy one this. Yes. Yes you did. I can see the date and time you signed for it you cretin.

 I wouldn't, in most circumstances, send a series of bizarre and threatening emails to the chief director [of M&S]

In conclusion: As you can't and absolutely shouldn't buy everything vintage, if I'm feeling flash on an autumn day I get my underpants from M&S. They're so well made I assume they are what all the catalogue models are transfixed on in the middle distance, staring through squinted eyes for just the hope of a glimpse of a well-made gusset. But, if suddenly I threw a Paxman and believed the pant elastic seemed somewhat laissez-faire or the sparkly transparent quality was definitely not of their once great standard, I'd return them in a polite and reasonable manner. I wouldn't, in most circumstances, send a series of bizarre and threatening emails to the chief director, nor would I paint giant red brush-strokes of my blasphemous, profane and inaccurate negative feedback over that particular year’s themed Christmas window display. Although in hindsight they probably don't accept returns on crusty y-Fronts anyway.

Lucian Tanner is the owner of Thrifty Beatnik,

And in the interest of balance here are my three favourite vintage stores of the moment; check them out and check them out good:

British Designer Clothing http://stores.ebay.co.uk/British-Designer-Clothing

Princes Vintage www.princesvintage.co.uk

Hey Baby Chief Panda http://www.heybabychiefpanda.com

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