M&S Brooklands – A trifle paranoid about photo’s

I’ve had a few questions about my recent Tweets relating to my rather strange and disappointing experiences at M&S (Marks and Spencers; MandS) Brooklands branch on Christmas Eve.

Here’s the rundown:

  • I arrived at the store
  • I followed the signs to the Christmas Pre-Order Collection area (towards the back of the store – so you have to view all their stock despite having to carry heavy boxes to the car)
  • A whole section of the store had been setup for these Christmas Pre-Order Collections
  • It was a three stage process: (1) Queueing to have your paperwork checked; (2) Waiting in a holding pen until your order is picked; and (3) checkout
  • I was in the queue to have my paperwork checked and was bored, so I do what I normally do – take out my smartphone and take some photos of the queue and environs (especially helpful for my wife who was stuck at home with our baby – to see what was going on). I took one photo of the queue ahead of me and another showing the holding pen and cashiers.
  • Before I reached the front of the queue (had 4 or 5 people ahead of me) – I was approached by an M&S Manager named (according to her badge) Samantha
  • Samantha was trying to be awfully polite and asked if I had written permission to take photographs in the store. I told her I didn’t. She then asked me to delete the photographs from my iPhone while she waited. I dutifully showed Samantha as I deleted the two photos from my phone. Samantha thanked me. I remarked that she’d been rather foolish – as I was innocently taking 2 photos to show my wife, but now she’d created an incident – and I was sure to make sure I gave it a mention on twitter and elsewhere.
  • I eventually made it to the front of the queue and had my paperwork checked. My surname was written on the page and I was sent on to the holding pen.
  • I was called forward to the counter to pick up my order. I had pre-ordered a box of vegetables, sausage rolls and a sherry trifle. We were having Christmas at my parents’ and the requirements were very specific. My mother had researched the options on the M&S website and she had given me the exact description and price of each item.
  • The young chap presented me with two boxes: a box of vegetables and a cheesecake…
  • I asked where the Sherry Trifle was… he replied “oh sorry, we’ve run out of those”. I expressed my disappointment. I asked what the point of an elaborate “pre-ordering” system involving a specialist [micro]website, taking of deposit payments and rearranging of stores was – if they couldn’t actually provide the items that had been pre-ordered. He was speechless. I asked for Samantha…
  • Samantha trundled over and I repeated the whole story for her. She replied, matter of factly, with some corporate sounding jargon about supply chain, blah, blah, blah. Bottom line – they didn’t have any Sherry Trifle – they had “sold out” (despite them knowing, in advance, how many had been pre-ordered). The Cheesecake was the “standard substitution” for the trifle – suggests I wasn’t the only one going without trifle here. I had no-idea what the cheesecake cost, Samantha went away, came back and told me it was worth more than the trifle. Then I was told the Cheesecake would be provided at no charge.
  • There was still an item missing… I went through my paperwork with the chap and pointed out that I had not received my sausage rolls. He apologised and retrieved them from the fridge.
  • Thinking the difficult parts of this experience were behind me I moved on to the checkout area
  • A nice old chap called David served me. Now the order was originally totalling £37, and I had paid a non-refundable deposit of £20 – so ordinarily there would be £17 left to pay, but the Cheesecake was for free so it should be £7 to pay. Poor David scanned and rang it up 3 times and they were still after £17. David was perplexed, but an observant and helpful young lady named Karlie from the adjacent desk stepped in to help. She reviewed my paperwork and identified that I had been given the wrong type of vegetable box (I had been given the luxury one which costs £10 more). She swiftly removed it and brought back the correct one.
  • I put the goodies in the boot of the car and headed next door to Tesco – and found a Sherry Trifle for £3.
  • I then headed home to break the news, over the phone, to my mother that M&S had scuppered her perfectly planned Christmas.
  • So, to summarise, here’s what M&S should have done differently…
    • Stop being so petty about innocent in-store photography (if that is actually their policy… I’ve not seen anything obvious in-store and could not find anything about it on their website or even in the staff manual [which is publicly published on the web]) – it’s not like I had shown up with a tripod, collapsible flashes and I’d been getting in the way of shoppers and staff. Even if this policy does exist – it should then be enforced consistently or not at all… Twitter, Flickr and Instagram all have photos taken inside M&S stores – so why was I singled out?
    • If you are going to run a pre-order system, and take non-refundable deposits – the least you can do is actually stock the items that have been pre-ordered (or then notify me in advance of issues and give me the opportunity to back out of the whole order)
    • Take care with picking and packing – if they messed up my 3 simple items, I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d ordered 40 items!

As promised I’ve been giving this all a bit of coverage on Twitter since. I tweeted three times on Christmas Eve…

M&S got back to me yesterday (only on item 3) and today and now want me to call them on an 0845 prefix number to discuss things. I suggested in reply that I was not happy with calling a number charged at between 10 and 30p per minute from my mobile to complain to them.

I’m sure there will be more updates to follow!

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