When independent goes wrong

Amira Wear
December 2009, I saw a stall outside Norwich’s Chapelfield Shopping Centre, selling dresses. They were pretty and reasonably priced, at £35 for a handmade tea dress. I picked up a dress to purchase, but the girl on the stall told me they were there for display, and my dress would be sent out within five days. This was on December 7th.
To be honest, after the order I realised I’d been a bit daft, giving out my credit card number to be charged later. I e-mailed ‘Amira’ to confirm the order. She sent me an e-mail back on the same day, assuring me that she would confirm the order and contact me ‘directly’.
She never did, so on the 24th of December, I sent her an e-mail asking for my order to be cancelled.
Please cancel my order.
I was told when I ordered that it would be with me within five days, and now it’s been more than two weeks.
I had originally wanted the dress for a weekend away on the 12th, but it didn’t arrive. I then decided I’d have it for Christmas instead but it did not arrive.
Please confirm the cancellation and, in future don’t promise your customers something you cannot or will not fulfil.

Harsh? Probably. Fair? Definitely.
To my surprise, I got this back, along with an answer machine message in the same vein:
Hi Suze,
My sincere apologies for any delay, I’ve been working away from home for a whole month traveling the country and I actually couldn’t get back to my office until 1 day ago. Unfortunately for the last 5 days I’ve been hit with a very bad flu and need the couple of days over Christmas and Boxing Day to recover before I can visit the girl who ran the stand at Norwich. The girl you spoke to at Norwich was unable to work at the stand after 2 days as she fell seriously ill and was in and out of hospital so I couldn’t visit her yesterday as planned as it would be totally irresponsible of me to be in close contact to her when I have such a bad flu because she needs every opportunity to get better and I wouldn’t feel happy about passing on this horrible flu to her when she is already in such a delicate state. Both our well-being has to come first I’m afraid as I run a small independent fair-trade fashion label which comes from my heart, so yet again I’m so sorry for not being physically able to deliver your order to you at this time but hopefully you will understand the circumstances, I’ve only just starting touring the country after a year out from the business when I was caring for my mum who had terminal cancer and passed away recently, the last few months have been a very difficult time for me and I’m only just picking up the pieces and rebuilding my life and business. As I didn’t personally guarantee your order I felt it only right to explain what has happened in the meantime, and I have no problem at all with canceling it.
I’m not even aware at this stage what item you ordered, can you please let me know as I still don’t have any of the details of your order to hand? It would be very kind if you could confirm the details so that I know which order to cancel, as I don’t guarantee any order until I know that it is still available, and there may be a chance that I have the item with me and can dispatch it Special Delivery as soon as the post office opens after Boxing Day as long as you can supply the payment details again.
Please let me know the details of your order, and thank you for your kind understanding.
Best wishes,

Wow. Talk about a guilt trip…
I didn’t reply to this, mainly because if I did I would probably have written something regrettable about how plenty of people have parents who die, or manage to send e-mails with the ‘flu, especially as a struggling business.
On February 3rd, I checked my credit card statement, and the money had been taken out! FEBRUARY 3RD! That’s nearly eight weeks after I ordered the dress in the first place, and six weeks after I’d forgotten all about it.
An e-mail conversation:
I was very disappointed to check my card statement this morning to find that a charge of £35 has been made to my account. As you can see, and as you know, I cancelled that order at Christmas time.
Please refund me as soon as possible, and confirm when this refund has been processed from your end.
Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi Suzanne, I did ask you to confirm what the order was for otherwise I wouldn’t know what order to cancel, and I met the girl who ran that stand at Norwich last week and she explained that she had phoned everyone 2 weeks ago and that everyone still wanted their order. I’m so sorry for any confusion but I have just sent all the orders out yesterday. I suggest that the best way to resolve this is that when you receive this dress please return it to me, and as soon as I receive it back I’ll issue you a refund, as this is standard procedure. It’s a really lovely dress and obviously I’m unable to refund until I have the item back in stock. Looking forward to resolving this matter. Kindest regards, Amira

Hi Amira,

My apologies, I thought you would have been able to find my order by my name.
I will return it to you as soon as I receive it – I wouldn’t want to wear it as frankly, my dealings with you have been difficult, to say the least.
The girl who ran the stall did not call me, so perhaps you should take that up with her.
I expect my postage to be added to my refund because it’s your fault that you can’t keep your records straight.
It’s a shame – the dress is lovely. You ruined it for yourself from the outset.
I look forward to receiving the full refund.

Hi Suzanne, yes thank you, the dress arrived yesterday and I have already issued you a refund through WorldPay, please be aware that it will take 7-10 working days to show in your bank account. Again, my sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused, it has been a really difficult time in the last few months since the death of my mum and I know that she will be glad that I have continued with my business as she knows it comes from the heart. I experimented with work experience girls doing concession stands and have realised from this experience that it does not necessarily work out well, this is my business which I’ve been working very hard on and can not be held responsible for anything that voluntary helpers may have said. In future, I shall not be doing any concession stands to avoid circumstances like this. I never personally guarantee any orders as I’m aware of the responsiblity that comes with running a business, and all I can do is apologise for any misunderstanding that may have occured. The postage came to £1.45 so I’ll have to send you a postal order for this amount in the post shortly. Thank you for your kind understanding, and I wish you all the best for the future. Kind regards, Amira

Really? So, only does she blame the fact that she cannot keep up with the orders, fails to communicate and steals money from people on her dying mother, she also blames the people that are helping her out, including the girl who was at death’s door six weeks ago. Nice.
I also like the fact that she wheeled out the phrase “standard procedure”. Nothing about this was “standard procedure”.
If she had admitted responsibility for her business, carrying her name, I would’ve cut her some slack. But she never did, blaming the weather, illness, cancer, work experience girls and everything else she could think of.
I’m avoiding her like the plague, and I’ll definitely be more wary about online orders taken through stalls in the future.
NB I’m not putting a link to her website on here, as I don’t want her getting more hits than deserved. You can search for it if you want though, it’s pretty easy to find.

2 thoughts on “When independent goes wrong

  1. SMR

    As an update to this, I saw a concessionary stand for Amira in Norwich a mere four weeks ago – another lie from her about never doing concessionary stalls again…

  2. Anonymous

    Hi Suze, that was not a concessionary stand you saw in Norwich 'a mere 4 weeks ago' as I was there in person running it. It was genuinely unfortunate that I was seriously ill for 6 weeks during that time when the payment was taken in error, which I clearly apologised many times for, issued you a refund, and covered the cost of returning the item, and I also explained the full circumstances in the first place as it felt like the right thing to do so you could understand what had truly happened. I did clearly state that I was aware of the responsibility that comes with running a business, and all I could do is apologise for any misunderstanding that may have occured. I'm sincerely very sorry about this, and for any inconvenience that was caused, and wish you all the best for the future.

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