Argos customer service leaves Hayling Island plasterer hanging on for refund for four unwanted phones

Melvyn Blythe was left speechless after an Argos technology glitch twice duplicated his online order for a phone and left him in limbo for weeks on end when he insisted on a refund.

Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 10:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 10:11 pm

The semi-retired Hayling Island plasterer resorted to placing an online order last May after all the stores were closed following the coronavirus lock down.

A previously loyal satisfied customer, he was confident the high street retailer’s technology would efficiently process and deliver his order.

But within hours Melvyn, 65, was driven up the wall when he discovered he was locked in a frustrating battle with the firm trying to return four unwanted phones and recover a £719.80 hit in the bank balance.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Melvyn Blythe was left speechless after an Argos technology glitch twice duplicated his online order for a phone

‘Up until then I’d had no problems with them at all,’ he said. ‘We’ve bought a sandwich toaster and several other items online and everything went through perfectly, but on this occasion it was the website that turned out to be the problem.

‘As I went to the payment page it just crashed, so I went through the whole process again with the same result.

‘Normally you get an email order confirmation but on this occasion it didn’t happen so in the meantime I bought a phone from another online retailer. Four hours later I got four texts from Argos telling me I’d bought four £179.95 phones.

‘From that point on I found I couldn’t contact anybody. I tried to access my Argos account to cancel the orders, but the feature wasn’t operating leaving me with no option but to wait until the phones arrived to return them.

‘In the meantime they’d debited my credit card account twice for two phones.’

Read More

Read More
Nearly 700,000 jobs lost in first five months of pandemic

When the phones were delivered confusion turned to chaos.

Melvyn first tried to return them via the Argos store in Sainsbury’s Farlington. They scanned the paperwork but were unable to identify the order numbers. Without them they couldn’t generate labels to complete the returns process that would identify him as the buyer.

After drawing a blank, he returned home only to find trying to call Argos was like trying to strike up a conversation with a brick wall.

Hours down the line he finally got through to a webchat advisor who arranged a home collection of all four phones and confirmed their receipt five days later.

Finally flushed with modest success, he was cautiously optimistic when the firm credited his card account with £359.90 for two of the phones the following day.

However his optimism quickly turned to fury after repeatedly trying to get back onto Argos customer services for weeks chasing a promised credit for the remaining two phones.

‘I had to wait for ages on phone lines just trying to talk to people,’ an angry Melvyn recalled.

‘Even the web chat you had to log in then wait twenty or twenty five minutes for them to become available to talk to you. It meant you had to hang around because sod’s law if you went away they’d be there so you just had to sit around and watch the time tick away.

‘The final straw came when I finally got through to a member of their customer care team and was cut off because they couldn’t be bothered to try to resolve the problem.

‘Six weeks on I got so frustrated I sent them a recorded letter again spelling out all the details, but nothing came of that either. Nobody was prepared to do anything to help me.

‘They were quick enough to take my money but when I needed help I just couldn’t get hold of anyone to get it sorted. All the normal customer contact information had been deleted from their website. It was such terrible customer service that finally prompted me to call in Streetwise.’

But Melvyn hadn’t been the only one to get in touch.

The column has been contacted by a significant number of readers with similar surreal stories of absurd and shoddy customer care treatment from major high street and online stores.

The pandemic exposed their threadbare investment in customer services at a time when they were crucial to maintaining good customer relations.

In Melvyn’s case, over-reliance on technology had created the problem, but other readers told us they’d been driven to distraction trying to get answers about urgent repairs to their cookers and washing machines, or refunds for returned faulty goods without success.

What they found most galling was when they tried to email firms after spending hours trying to get through on the phone, they didn’t even get an acknowledgement, let alone a reply until Streetwise intervened.

When we got onto Argos and asked them to investigate Melvyn’s complaint, it soon became obvious what had completely flummoxed their customer services team.

On reading a transcript of one of the webchat calls it became crystal clear the firm had got its corporate underwear in a knot. Not only had the website taken the initial two payments but another two payments had been taken manually after it became apparent it had gone on the blink.

Following our involvement, Argos wasted no further time swinging into action and promptly refunded Melvyn’s second payment of £359.

He couldn’t believe he had finally captured the attention of the firm when he received a phone call to say the long standoff had finally ended and the issue sorted.

A spokesperson told Streetwise: ‘We have apologised to Mr Blythe for this experience and confirm the refund has now been processed.’

We took the view that although Argos had apologised, the way they’d treated their customer was inexcusable. We had expectations they would look into why communication with him was so impenetrable, and at least dish up a generous portion of humble pie.

A grateful Melvyn was of the same frame of mind and remained unimpressed by what he felt was their lacklustre response.

‘I rather suspect all their webchat people were working from home so they couldn’t get it sorted by just seeing their boss – leaving me up in the air wondering how on earth it was ever going to be resolved. There was just no way out.

‘I didn’t see how it ever would have been sorted without help from Streetwise and I can’t thank you enough.’