Marks and Spencer’s is the ubiquitous UK High Street chain, commonly known as M & S, which has been struggling of late but trades heavily on being an ethical business which consumers can trust and identify with, as it says itself it represents; “Quality, Value, Service, Innovation and Trust which have stood the business in good stead for 125 years.” Indeed its corporate tag-line is “YOUR M &S.”
So just how trustworthy is this trusted retailer? Well lately it has changed the terms of trade with its customers. It used to allow you return products within 90 days, with no great fanfare it has changed this to 35 days and returns must now be in a “saleable condition.” This is now interpreted differently than before so if for instance you wear a suit which you decide is too big / small, they won’t let you return it despite many stores not having fitting rooms (they close them during sale periods) or indeed or indeed enough staff to help you due to cutbacks. They have also stopped in-store ordering and this can now only be done over the internet, neatly excluding their loyalest older customers.
But they also trumpet M & S Money and their competitive commission free exchange rates on foreign currency. However there is one category of customer they don’t want to be competitive with, UK customers who receive Euro gift cards from abroad. So I (gratefully) receive a 50 Euro gift card at Xmas and I think “Great, the Euro is almost 1-to-1 on the exchange rate and M & S have the conversion plugged into their UK tills so no problem!”
Imagine then my astonishment in trying to use my 50 Euro card on 28th December 2009 and finding out they were giving a conversion rate of 1.33 making it worth paltry £37.59 sterling. If they gave you the same rate of 1.0939 their Bureau de Change’s were offering on the same day it would be worth £45.71 or an amazing 22% more. Consider the double-whammy of arrogance on this one as somebody has paid them that 50 Euro some time in advance so they have had that money interest free – hence this “trusted retailer” feels free to rip off Euro gift card holders by offering them a totally uncompetitive exchange rate that M & S Money would never offer as they would have no business.
I wish I could tell you what this trusted retailer thinks in its 125th anniversary year but their “Customer Services” on 0845 609 0200 has not kept its promise to get back to me. I suspect this con on mugging Euro gift card customers along with Sir. Stuart Rose and Marks & Spencer’s are after 125 years a bit past their sell-by-date!