Sunday, April 26, 2009

All silver tarnishes even at Tiffany

Last Saturday, I was at Yorkdale. The visit wouldn’t have been complete without a peek inside the long-awaited Tiffany store. (Anyone know why it was at least six months in the making and not open for the holiday season?)

I have two pieces of Tiffany silver jewelry - an Elsa Peretti “e” necklace and a link bracelet. I’d always been told Tiffany would clean them for life for me for free.

A couple months ago, I broke the delicate chain on the necklace. At the time, the Bloor St. location wasn’t as convenient as Yorkdale. So, I decided to wait and have an excuse to visit the new store.

As for my necklace, I did a dumb thing and didn’t put it back in it’s tarnish-resistant case while I was waiting to take it for repairs. I’ll know better for next time. In the meantime, I understand it will come back to me looking as good as new. (Note: for silver jewelry more than a year old, there is a repair charge.)

Since I was there, it only made sense to have my bracelet cleaned at the same time, right?

I was quite surprised when I saw a price list for silver cleaning at the customer service desk. The lovely and apologetic woman at the desk explained that they had to follow the policies at Tiffany New York and the policy changed last December. She went on to say how they now use a muti-step process which is more costly. For one-time only, I agreed to have my bracelet cleaned - partly because I had already handed it over.

When I returned a few hours later to pick up my bracelet, the woman in front of me was there to have her silver jewelry cleaned as well. She was shocked to learn about newly-implemented charges and went on to explain how she travels all over the world and never paid to have her jewelry cleaned at any of the Tiffany stores along the way. Glad to know I wasn’t the only customer who recalled the free cleaning service.

Times are tough, retailers are clamping down and I’m far from the typical Tiffany customer. However, this new policy made me think a lot about the Tiffany brand as a leader in customer service and how it’s being compromised during the recession. Aren’t there other ways retailers can trim expenses without having to hurt their long-established traditions of excellent customer service?

Unlike the Bloor St. store, Tiffany Yorkdale, is quite stripped down, although extremely busy and Tiffany blue bags can be seen throughout the mall. I wouldn’t have thought any less of them if the customer service desk wasn’t made of thick marble. Wonder how many cleaning charges it will take to pay for that?

As for me, next time I’ll save the $10 and polish it myself. ($10 goes along way when it comes to jewelry cleaning products that last forever, even Tiffany offers a wide-range of home cleaning solutions starting at $5 and up.)
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  1. Terri9:28 pm

    I cant believe this and it this kind of angers me! Years ago, any money i made as a bartender i spent at Tiffany's - they even knew me by name there! I have taken some time off of shopping lately and hadnt realized this new policy was implemented. Every piece of Tiffany jewelry i own has tarnished and i was going to bring it all in at once. Good thing for this post, i probably wouldnt have been charged A LOT of money and out of pure laziness i would have still let them clean it. I wonder if i should boycot Tiffany's as this is terrible customer service espcially during these hard times.

  2. Terri, thanks for your comment.

    Part of the reason customers pay a premium for the benefit of owning a piece of Tiffany jewelry, is for the excellent service which used to include free cleaning. The free cleaning service still exists but only for the high-end pieces.

    Unfortunately, I'm not sure this will detract customers from their stores. Nor would I go as far as to say it’s "terrible customer service" but it sure isn’t what many of us have expected.

    The cachet of owning an item from Tiffany probably won’t change just because they’ve decided to charge customers for cleaning silver and some other items.

    I’m curious what type of market research they did prior to the decision to make this change and I’m saddened to see customer service eroding in a company where it’s synonymous with the Tiffany brand.

  3. I was at the store last weekend; it was quite busy. I wanted to ask for a price of a little silver charm, which I thought would make a nice present for my sister-in-law. I approached a sales lady at a counter in the silver area, who just finished with a customer; nobody was there but me. She told in a rather annnoyed tone that she is busy, and that I should "take a number with the girl". I did; "the girl" told me that there is 15 min. wait, and that I can "go and browse in the mean time". I browsed; hang around; browsed some more. After 10 minutes there was no progress whatsoever; I decided to leave. I came back later, to find that now the wait is 30 minutes; decided to leave. I had my hands full of shopping bags, in addition to Mac laptop I just bought. The guy standing at the dooor - a greeter? watched me struggle with the door, did not move his little finger to help, and wished me "a nice evening". Honestly, Tiffany - hire more staff, put the prices on the items in the open, print a catalogue, don't make me wait for who-knows-how-long to ask for a price! Also, tell the guy at the door that opening a door for a customer wouldn't hurt. I expected a better shopping experience, and at this point I'll spend my "jewelry money" somewhere else.

  4. Maya, thanks for your comments.

    Sorry you had such a horrible experience. My experience has been entirely different. The doormen have always opened the door and greeted me appropriately. Sales staff and customer service people have always been respectful and pleasant. I've never made any purchases other than a $5 cleaning cloth.

    However, I did have a similar experience last year when I had to make an exchange. I was told I'd have to wait and they logged my name etc. The line ups at the customer service counter are a bit silly too - you'd think a store like Tiffany wouldn't make their customers line up for service.

    Your suggestion about hiring more staff is a good one, especially during peak hours. Personally, I'd draw the line about making all price tags visible. It would make a lot of the pieces, especially the higher-end ones look tacky. If I recall correctly, they do have visible prices for the non-jewelry items.

  5. I'm not suggesting that they should put price tags on high-end items, however, there were trays with small silver items (charms, link bracelets)in the open. The prices (or at least price ranges) could be indicated in some way.
    My experience from Bloor store was always better, although I was never happy with "take a number" approach.

  6. Maya, I like that idea.

    Funny, it was the Bloor St. store where I had to take a number and wait close to a 1/2 hour to make an exchange. I couldn't even get near the showcases in the silver section because they were croweded, particularly by teenage girls.

    The overall ambiance at Yorkdale seems to make Tiffany more accessible and less pretentious. At the same time, all customers deserve the same high-level of service and respect.

  7. Anonymous8:50 pm

    bargainista, do you work for tiffany

  8. No, I don't work for Tiffany nor is Tiffany a client of mine (or my employer to the best of my knowledge.)

    I am transparent about any relationships I have with businesses or brands when I blog about them.


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