Monday, July 14, 2014

Victoria's Secret Sold Me Used Underwear & Didn't Really Care

Are you ready for a gross story? I originally wasn't going to share this on my blog, but considering what has happened with it today, I felt I needed to. For years, I've ignored the rumors that Victoria's Secret resells used -- including visibly used and stained -- merchandise. I thought, well, that will never happen. Surely, a big company like Victoria's Secret knows better? Well, they don't. 

On June 22, the day before Danny and I's anniversary, we went shopping. I decided to treat myself to a few new pairs of underwear. I usually shop at Aerie, but Victoria's Secret sells a type of high-waisted boy short that I really, really love. We popped into Victoria's Secret, I picked out a few pairs, we purchased them, and we went on our merry way. 

Fast forward to the next day. I wanted to wash my new underwear, so I started taking them out of the bag and cutting off the tags. As I took out a pair of leopard print underwear, I cut off the tag and shook them out as I put them in the laundry basket. 

It was then that I noticed it. 

A stain. 

In the underwear.

I immediately froze, absolutely terrified. I checked again. 

Yep, it was a stain. In a brand new, apparently, pair of panties. I grabbed the receipt, threw on something appropriate, and got in my car. I drove to the mall and marched into Victoria's Secret. 

I walked up to the first sales associate I saw and said, "I'm going to need a manager. I bought a pair of underwear yesterday that I found a stain in." I was visibly disgusted, I'm sure. I felt shaky and sick. Imagine if I hadn't noticed? If I'd put them on? I was so mad, but I was the freaked out kind of mad. 

I stood in line for a cashier and finally, shoved the panties across the counter. "These have feces in them," I said. "Can you explain to me how that happened?" 

Well, they didn't know. 

The sales associate apologized, but didn't seem shocked. She cut up the panties, grabbed a different pair, and offered to exchange. 

I stared at her. "Sorry, what?" 

"Do you want to exchange them? Or return them?" 

"Um, I don't know. I... don't really know what I want to do." 

"Well, I can exchange them for a new pair." 

She did not seem phased that a customer had just handed her panties with a poop stain in them. No apology. No nothing. Just a blank stare back at me. Do you want to exchange these or---? I didn't know. I didn't want to say, "No, I want free stuff and you to grovel at my feet for my business because you sold me panties with feces in them!?" I really expected to be offered a gift card or some kind of apology. I got nothing. 

The line behind me was long so finally, I said, "Ok, just exchange them, I guess?" 

She did. As she did so, she asked, "So, anything exciting over the weekend?" 

I stared at her over the counter. She didn't seem to understand that I was disgusted and a bit shocked at her blase attitude. She handed me the new underwear wrapped up in tissue paper and smiled. She stapled a new receipt to my old one and handed it to me as well. I stared at her. I live in a city that doesn't allow businesses to give away bags with purchases (do not even ask), so they usually charge 5 cents for them -- but you'd think in this situation, she'd wrap it up nice and put it in a little bag. Nope! I stared at her as she wished me a good day and invited the next customer forward. I shoved my new underwear into my purse and walked out, feeling even more shocked and confused. 

Later, I posted about it on Facebook and Twitter. I have a friend that works in fashion merchandising and she said I needed to call their customer service and demand something. That's unacceptable; their response was unacceptable; it was all unacceptable. She even sent me Victoria's Secret's direct customer service line.

I called it. What did I have to lose?

I spoke to a Customer Service Representative who was incredibly rude. I told her that I wasn't sure what I wanted in response -- I really didn't want to come off like I was asking for free stuff -- but I wasn't happy with the response I had received in store.

"Do you want a gift card or something then?"

I paused. How dismissive!

"I don't really know what I want,"I said. "I just... I felt like everyone would be more shocked when I came in and said, I bought these underwear with poop in them. So far, no one seems shocked and I'm pretty disgusted!"

"Well, it is kind of shocking," she said, sounding pretty bored.

In the end, I gave up. She emailed me a $10 gift card and I felt very uncomfortable. I mean, really, what does $10 even buy in Victoria's Secret? Half a water bottle? A pair of underwear that I would never wear (because oh my god really)?

I hunt up the phone and went to Twitter. I just wanted to express my shock, once again, at how nonchalant Victoria's Secret employees seemed to be in regards to a customer buying stained underwear from them. I received a reply from them a few hours after, asking me to DM them. So I did.

The DMs went something like this: I told the story of the purchase, finding the stain, going into Victoria's Secret, being shocked at the response, calling Customer Service, and, again, feeling shocked at the response.

Victoria's Secret took ages to reply, but eventually confirmed the details. They thanked me for letting them know and say they would look into it. Then, this is what they said:

Ok, another offer for a gift card. Fine. I guess that buys back my being a customer. But still, there was no, "Seriously, we get it, that's disgusting, we are so sorry." I resigned myself to that response and sent along my name, address, and phone number. Now that I look at it, it does feel weird to me that they asked my billing address.

This was on the 25th of June. I got caught up in work and suddenly, realized I'd never heard back from them, nor had I received a gift card in the mail or email. Um, ok?

I checked my DMs. Nothing.

I sent them a few messages over a few days to no response. I resent my original address message and the one above. These are their responses. Basically: We aren't sending you anything else; we appreciate your feedback. I wasn't providing feedback. I wanted a sincere apology. I wanted some kind of sincere reaction. It's just so formulaic and honestly? It's pretty gross.

It's pretty gross to me that a customer of 10+ years says, "I bought used underwear from you, what do you have to say?" And their response is another formula. Another canned response. That's gross. That's really off-putting.

I wasn't originally going to post this.

I don't like being the person who becomes a target for these kinds of things. But after this response, I felt like I had to say something. I work in marketing and social media; if I worked for any kind of company, if I got any kind of customer complaint like this, I would do whatever it took to make it right for them.

They aren't interested in making it right. They are interested in me getting tired. And unfortunately for them, I do not get tired that easily. I'm not the kind of person who drops things. I pick at them until I figure it out, make it work, or get some kind of response.

Selling used, damaged, and/or dirty clothing is a human health hazard. That is a big duh. Selling me a pair of underwear with human feces in it was disgusting and wrong, and I never received a proper, sincere apology for it. I received a lot of canned talk, a lot of excuses, but no sincere apology. What if I hadn't noticed? What if I'd gotten a communicable disease from those underwear? What if that person was sick? There are a million what ifs in this situation, all more disgusting and damaging to the next. And Victoria's Secret really does not seem to care. They don't want to make it right.

And you want to know the scariest part, to me? They don't even seem shocked. 

In 2011, there were quite a few stories about Victoria's Secret reselling damaged and/or returned merchandise. The following year, Victoria's Secret was one of the companies called out for destroying returned merchandise.

I don't know what happened between 2011, 2012, and now. But somewhere along the way, there was a break down. How did someone buy a pair of underwear, take them home, wear them, stain them, and then return them? How were those underwear then retagged, folded up, and put back in the store without someone noticing? Something happened. There was a break down -- either by an employee or through policy.

This is all I know: I was sold used underwear; I wanted some kind of genuine, sincere response; instead, I was dismissed and treated like someone scrounging for free stuff. Trust me, free stuff would be nice. An apology, and an articulated response to why this happened, and some kind of shock about the incident, would be better. I just wanted one individual from Victoria's Secret to sound sincere in their response when hearing about my incident. An "Oh my god, are you serious?!" or an "I am so sorry -- I would absolutely be disgusted too, that is not okay." I got nothing.

I realize they are a big company. I realize they have hundreds of people like me DMing them, Tweeting them, calling them, trying to get free stuff, trying to milk it out. That does not mean that they should be desensitized to any customer complaint. No one is too big to care about customer service, plain and simple.

I have shopped at Victoria's Secret since I was 15. That's over 10 years of purchases. I have probably spent thousands of dollars at Victoria's Secret. This one incident and their response to it is enough to make me say, I will never shop there again. I know I'm just one person and to them, I'm just a drop in a bucket. From their view: who cares?

This isn't something I ever planned on talking about, but now that it's played out the way it has, I'm thankful I have a platform to talk about something like this. I didn't want to come off sounding like a whiner and I hope I've conveyed my point through all of this: I just wanted a response, a reason, a genuine shock at what had happened. I still feel confused about what has happened and how a big company can be so blase about this kind of incident.

I don't have an answer. But I know where I won't be shopping for underwear anymore.

Update: Tuesday, July 15

Today, I received this email: 

It is a step in the right direction, certainly. They've acknowledged that their customer service suffered because of the choices of a few employees (I still think, however, that this is an issue with policy: clearly customer service agents act in a way that fits with the policies that help them keep their jobs; I refuse to believe a few employees went rogue in this situation) and that what happened wasn't acceptable. They contacted me personally and offered me a second gift. I'll accept it. I appreciate that they reached out to me personally in this way and I'm glad this post was able to get something resolved. 

That being said, I still won't ever buy Victoria's Secret underwear again. (Seriously.)


  1. Replies
    1. I know, right? Astounding! They didn't even seem particularly bothered.

  2. What a horrible experience! You think they would care more about the way they treat their customers!

    Emma x

    1. You would think! If a customer came to me with something like that, my first thought would be to commiserate and apologize. Not ONE Victoria's Secret employee did that -- agree that it was disgusting OR apologize!

  3. Wow I had no idea that they apparantly do this and sell used underwear! I would be absolutely mortified if this happened to me, you really would think they would be more ashamed of it don't you. Thankfully my purchases from VS have been absolutely fine but I'll watch out for stains in the future!

    Salt and Chic // UK Fashion Blog

    1. I had heard rumors, as I said, but I never believed it, especially because I worked there for a short time! I'm still flabbergasted & will probably never shop there again because of their customer service.

      Thank you for the comment!

  4. I had sort of similar experience myself recently with a large UK company. A glass lid from a steamer exploded whilst I was using it, luckily I'd just left the kitchen so it didn't injure me, however if I had been next to it I would have had bad injuries.
    I contacted the company who were very underwhelmed. They basically said the glass shattering can happen after multiple uses, and offered me a new lid and £15, hardly anything! They also disappeared during the email conversation for weeks, it was only after I chased them up they finally actually reappeared. If I'd forgotten about it I doubt they would have bothered!
    It seems large companies really don't care about individual cases like - it's like they feel they can take the 'hit' and not bother. All very distressing though for us as the customers :-(

    1. That's awful! I'm just so surprised at how BORED they sounded at my complaint -- like you said, I realize it's just an individual case, but you think at least one person would sound concerned about what happened (in both of our cases)! I know the money I spent there adds up to a drop for them, but it's a drop they're missing -- and if more people read this and think, "Do I want to support THAT company?" I know it will affect them and maybe they will change!

      Thank you for your comment!

      xo Michelle


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