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Anna Papachristos | August 21, 2013

Through the (Not So Transparent) Looking Glass

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BeachSafety-03-sun.jpgOften times, when you can no longer find what you're looking for in the store, the item you desire still exists online. One simple search can yield numerous results. However, when I began my journey to find another pair of my favorite sunglasses, I never expected to get caught in such an unpleasant "web" of confusion. Not long ago, I purchased a new pair of Vogue sunglasses from Sunglass Hut. But, by the time I decided to purchase a backup pair, this clearance item had been cleared out entirely. In mild desperation, I took to the Internet to search for another pair, which inevitably led me to SmartBuyGlasses.

Having heard of the company before, I thought I had hit the jackpot. Not only did I find my sunglasses, but the site was giving away lens-cleaning kits at no extra charge, as well. Tack on the $10 off promo code, and you've got yourself a deal! (Or at least that's what I thought, anyway.) I paid via PayPal, received my confirmation email, and proceeded to wait for the shipment notification that never came. Days later, I noticed that the payment had already been deducted from my bank account, yet I still had no idea when my package would arrive. Every other company I've done business with online will not withdraw the payment until the item has successfully shipped. Impatient and angry, I emailed the SmartBuyGlasses customer service account to inquire about my sunglasses one week after placing the order. By the next day, I received a terribly automated response telling me my desired style had recently been discontinued and was no longer in stock. Yes, that's right. Had I not emailed them personally, they wouldn't have offered up an explanation voluntarily. (Well, perhaps eventually, but certainly not in a timely fashion.) The message was as follows:

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Not only did they take my money without telling me I would not be receiving the item, but they also thought a mere five percent discount would somehow quell my anger. I emailed back immediately to request my full refund only to receive the very same email again, but this time from "Mark" of the customer support team. (Note: Putting someone's name at the end of your automated email messages does not make the interaction more personal.)

While I awaited an actual response, I took to Twitter to express my discontent. As Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee says, we've been taught to yell on social media to get the ball rolling, so I decided to experiment. (Plus, through word of mouth, consumers have the opportunity to share their experiences and shield followers from making the same mistake.) Coincidentally, I ended up connecting with another SmartBuyGlasses customer via Twitter who was experiencing the same issue--her money had been withdrawn, but she had no way to track her purchase. We interacted numerous times over the course of the week, updating one another on our issue's status daily and mentioning @SmartBuyGlasses in every single tweet, yet not once did someone from the company reach out to either of us to inquire about the problem. Instead, we "held hands" down this unknown path until we got our answers AND our refunds.

Ultimately, if this experience has proven one thing, it's that SmartBuyGlasses' does not live up to it's Twitter description--"Simply put: We're taking over the world of designer eyewear one follower at a time!" From the looks of it, they're out to take over everyone's bank account one customer at a time, instead. Luckily, I was able to secure my refund and guide my newfound friend toward resolution as well. Now, if only the brand's behaviors could be as transparent as the lenses they sell...

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