when the store you love does something you hate: MiN New York

In ALL, PREENING by Stephanie Klein42 Comments

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It was Sunday, a day of rest, but not for my family, no. No, they would be awoken early and dragged past a toll and through a tunnel onto the island of Manhattan, so mama could score some juice. Well, exchange some juice—a perfume I’d purchased only days prior, one I’d opened and sprayed and subsequently despised. First we had to juice up the car with gasoline and deice the windows, preparation for the 100% chance of snow. We’d make a day of it, I lured, promising chocolates and hotcakes from Max Brenner’s café in lieu of the children’s museum.

Customer Service Nightmare at MiN New York
We ate, paid for parking, and then I was on my way, off to see the wizard. My wizard was Judy, an employee at MiN NewYork (a favorite store I’ve introduced to readers of this blog and extolled to close friends) with whom I’d spoken a day earlier. I’d phoned to see if there was anything the store could do about this very recent regrettable purchase. “I’ve opened it and sprayed it, and I can’t stand it. The dry down smells like my grandmother’s dresser, to the point where I have to look away. I still have the box and the receipt, and I’ve only sprayed it once; is there anything you can do?” She asked if I lived in the area, which I took to be a good sign. “Sort of,” I said. “About an hour away, but I love your store, so—“

She told me that they’d hate for me to leave with a bad experience, and asked if I could come in the next day, so we could exchange it for something I love. Sweet Judy Blue Eyes, I love you. They’d be open until 7pm. Done.

I stomped snow off my boots before pushing open the door, greeted with a warm gust of sweet perfumed air. Judy wasn’t there, so I reiterated what she’d said, and the employee told me that Judy shouldn’t have said that, that she’s still in training, that they never accept returns of opened fragrances, that they can’t resell them, it’s useless to them, but…Okay, they’d make an exception, this one time. Then he offered to help me find something I’d love. So, we sprayed samples, etc., and I narrowed it down and was ready to purchase a different scent, one that cost $70 more ($230 plus tax), so I’d need to pay the difference. As I fished for my wallet, another employee came to the counter and insisted that they couldn’t make the exchange. Jesus! Who’s in charge? Apparently Mindy was in charge. The employee had to text her for an official approval. Despite what Judy had said, despite his promise of a one-time exception, I was told they were sorry, but there was nothing they could do because Mindy said so. Mindy is Mindy Yang, VP and Curator of the store.

Wait. What?! I don’t understand, how was this now happening at my favorite store? There’s no way a brand that prides itself on great service would treat a customer this way. The best they claimed they could do was to offer me 15% off my next purchase, for your inconvenience, but they couldn’t take the merchandise back or exchange it or do anything. I had wanted so much to do business with them, but they were making it so hard. Something had to be wrong.

I took to twitter, hoping @minnewyork might take a second chance at making things right. It got to the point where I wanted to write to customer service, typing only with my middle finger.

There were more tweets, so feel free to dig them up. These were the choice interactions I saw. And, look, I’m not in the habit of returning fragrance, (though I’ve heard that Sephora, Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom, and SAKS will gladly take returns on opened and used fragrances, no questions asked), and I wasn’t looking to be refunded. I was even willing to spend more, and I would’ve left, as the employees had said, happy and anticipating my next purchase with them. Instead, I am deeply disappointed that they chose not to honor the word of their employee, despite what their return policy says on the receipt and site (a policy their employee clearly didn’t know either).

My friend David (and Julia Roberts) just put it best: “Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.”


  1. Wow, thanks for sharing. Not only is that terrible customer service, but those tweets were incredibly condescending. Glad I won’t be spending a dime with this store…

  2. I once bought some kind of scented lotion from Bloomingdales after having dinner and drinks with a friend. I smelled it the next day and knew there was no way I would ever wear it. Took it back the next day with the excuse “I must have been drunk when I bought this.” They took it back with a smile – no problem even though I had opened it.

  3. Just when it seems possible to warm up to this beyond-entitled, self-assuming privileged a-hole, she knocks you right back into I-hate-Stephanie-land. Who gives a fcuk what ur fave employee says? Suck it up bitch and deal! Oh, so you offered to spend more money on the next bottle of perfume. Um yeah no. They would have been out the entire cost of the old perfume and with your cheap miserly offer to “spend more” on the new purchase would have been of little consequence to the store owners. So I found a sweater on the sale rack, unmarked but nevertheless on the 60%-off rack. I ask the salesperson, why cant I have this item at 60% off? It’s on the rack so it must be on sale right? Sure. Like maybe the kid of some beyond-entitled, self-assuming privileged a-hole hung it up on the wrong rack. So do I insist on getting the misplaced item at the 60%-off price? Not sure this chick will get the analogy however paltry it may be. You come off like the same insecure kid from Fat Camp. “Everyone’s against me….why why why….please like me …..please please pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”.
    Oy vay, Steph. Just when you were becoming likable.

    1. People return all types of purchased items and receive either an exchange or refund. Working in a “client service” industry if you want repeat business give your client the service they want and deserve. After reading your tirade above I would venture to guess you have returned all types of items.

    2. Don’t you have anything better to do Stephanie is a douche? Seriously? You even devote your name to hatred? Get a life! LOL!!

    3. She CALLED the store and was told that she could do exactly what she went there to do! For christsake, even CVS lets you return used makeup if you find it’s the wrong shade. Guess what? Stores take back items they cannot resell all the time, and they are allowed to WRITE OFF the cost of those items. Your response was incredibly rude, why do you even read her blog if you have such animosity (jealously?) towards her? I’m pretty sure that the Douche in this scenario is you.

    4. I think the point of this (unless I am misreading here) is that the employee assured her they could refund it and said employee knew it was an hour trip to get there. It’s immaterial that ‘Judy’ was supposedly still in training and making promises she was not authorized to make. In any business you make room to cut your losses – especially if it means retaining a customer. Most successful business owners know that people who feel accomodated will go the extra mile to remain loyal cusomters. If SK did this more than once then yeah, it might look shady. But I don’t see anything wrong with asking for some help in this case. That is the point of small boutique like places anyway; going the extra mile and making the experience special on a personal level. If the perfume was what, $200 something then the business owners can assume a happy customer is worth that one indulgence. They will likely return and pass along this unsually good cuastomer service experience to friends, other potential customers.

      Many people take to twitter now to make a bid to appeal to management for customer service issues. It’s become the norm.

      I find the store rep twitter responses a little condescending. hashtag #life sounds like some gum snapping bitchy counter person at a fast food window. Next time #lulz #dealwithit will be their ‘go to’. OY.

    5. Ew, what an awful response. Tons of other stores take returns on used/opened perfumes – so it isn’t out of line for her to ask and when told they could do so, be upset when they decide they in fact cannot.

    6. Staphaniesadouche (yeah you’re so brave cos that’s your real name) in Australia there is only one word for people like you – wankers! Honestly get a life!

  4. Color me gauche, because I absolutely have returned an open bottle of wine.

    It was recommended to accompany a particular dish, but when poured I could barely swallow it. The waiter noticed I wasn’t drinking it and asked if it was to my liking, so I said, “Actually, I am so sorry, but it is not,” expecting nothing more than a “So sorry to hear it.”

    Instead he apologized profusely, and took the bottle away immediately. As he did so the house manager arrived and asked if we would please let him send us a bottle that was a particular favorite of his. I said, “Oh, no need, I promise,” yet seconds later, there was our waiter back, opening a new bottle of what was exactly what I hoped — a heavenly Rioja.

    When the bill came, neither wine was on it, a wholly unexpected gesture. We are by no means important people (this happened in DC, where we then lived), but this gesture went a long way to turning us into faithful clientele.

    We held our engagement dinner there a year later.

    1. I have sent back wine at a restaurant that I tasted and didn’t like, and they never bat an eye.

      But more to the point, her analogy is terrible. A half-opened bottle of Coke gets saliva and bodily fluids in it. Of course you can’t return it; it’s tainted, and she’s right. But one spritz of perfume doesn’t taint the rest of the contents of the bottle. This store is full of it. Absolutely full of it.

      1. a half bottle of coke also doesn’t carry near the same monetary value – most people just wouldn’t bat an eye at trashing a drink that cost $1 – to me that’s the big difference here.

  5. It’s bad enough that they didn’t stand by their word, but those bitchy, bitchy tweets are the absolute worst!

  6. That old saying, “the customer is always right” means nothing nowadays. I return the favor by shopping elsewhere as well.

  7. Sorry, but I think you are wrong on this one. You knew their policy. They are a boutique and can’t afford to absorb the cost of opened perfume the way Saks can. It is unfortunate that an employee told you incorrect information, but I completely understand the policy. I bought a bottle of perfume from Hermes recently and hated it once I got it home. I knew I couldn’t return it so I found a perfume swap site and sold it for half the price. And I am glad they did not give in to any social media pressure. The customer is not always right. That is such an outdated notion. But perfume shopping is still fun and there are other great stores in NY. Have you tried Twisted Lily in Brooklyn? A great store for some cult fragrances.

    1. You think Hermes cannot ‘absorb the cost’ of a one spritz use perfume the way Saks can? In what Universe do you exist?

  8. Good wine stores WILL take back a bottle of wine if it is off for some reason.

    It’s okay that this store has a specific policy, but the wine analogy doesn’t help defend it well.

  9. I expect better customer service the higher up the ladder I go. Inexcusable, and would never ever shop there again. They could’ve used the open bottle of perfume as a floor sample and had a very happy customer!

    1. Author

      It’s funny in a non ha-ha way that the employee with the least training had the most appropriate response (we want your repeat business and for you to leave a happy customer), and as the ladder ascended the the service worsened from honorable to dishonorable.

      1. You have a good point here. And the whole thing sounds super annoying. Sorry that happened to you. I like that you’re taking it to the Twittersphere. DON’T FORGET TO YELP IT, TOO!!!! Let us know if they come to their senses. Oh, and while you’re waiting…how about posting a “how to” video about how to get those chunky, separated ringlet curls. Thanks.

        1. Author

          I hadn’t even thought of YELP! Okay, the video is long overdue. Oddly, they called my book agent saying that I’ve made false statements about them on social media that they want me to retract! I’ve shared my personal experience honestly, so I have nothing to retract! One thing this did do, though, is get me motivated to work on the next book (I have two ideas!). And I think this whole story should make its way onto the pages of the next book!

  10. What a ridiculous boutique. SOHOrrible. Not only are their employees not trained in their non-customer-friendly policies, but the owner is not intelligent enough to know that happy customers are repeat customers. There are far too many other shops where you can purchase lovely fragrances to deal with such snarky, rude store owner/employees. Gift the smelly stuff to someone who likes it and move on.

  11. I own a business where people custom order lampshades and lighting. Sometimes we spend hours with one customer only for them to not pull the trigger, order and not be 100% in love, or whatever. We have a policy of no returns because the fabric is already cut and used and the time and labor has been applied. But we exchange until the customer is happy.

    In these days of social media it is foolish to treat customers in any way that will come to bite you in the behind. They could’ve sold that fragrance at a discount and a least made their cost back. They still could have retained you as a customer and your promotion of them is invaluable. Word of mouth is huge, especially when that mouth is attached to a wildly popular blogger/author. I hate to say it but who the customer is matters too. Maybe you’re not Jennifer Aniston but you have a strong voice in NY where the store is located.

    Just seems penny wise dollar foolish to me. To eat it on one bottle to keep a loyal customer shouldn’t be a big deal. We’ve done things for customers no other store would consider entertaining and we have awesome word of mouth because of that. Bad business on their end in my book.

  12. It must be lovely to be so well off in your business that you can afford to completely alienate your clients.What a twit.

  13. I hope you never shop there again. And if I find myself in the area on my next trip to NY, I would avoid the store on principle. Owner sounds like a truly horrible person. I own a small business, and would always try to do what we can to make the customer happy, even if it costs us in the short run. Owning a business should involve integrity and keeping the word of those who work for you (even if they got the policy wrong!)

  14. Well.

    I think it’s a bit cheeky to try to return opened perfume, HOWEVER, you did call and you were told something wrong and in my opinion they should have honored that for good customer service sake’s.

    I have had instances myself where I didn’t think I could return something and then some employee was kind enough to bend the rules…so, shame on that place for not honoring and shame on them for not training their employees better.

  15. I can’t stop thinking about this story. It’s so insane. I just got off the phone with a 96 year old lady that wants to cancel her order just because she thinks she spent too much money. I want to retain her and have her happy so I’m GOING TO HER HOUSE (so she doesn’t have to come out in the cold) with the shade she picked and some other cheaper ones in case she might like one of those instead. Even though it’s our “policy” that once you place the order, we’re exchanges only. I’m going to give her the money back if I can’t satisfy her because she’s NINETY-SIX. I’m not arguing with a lady that made it to 96.

    Yes, we’re a “boutique” and yes we have policies we usually adhere to. But if Mindy was so set on keeping to her policy, she should’ve come out herself to tell you- not sent some minion to do it for her. Her employee was obviously not properly trained and that should be on her. You made the trip out there because of the information you were given. Otherwise, you weren’t going to come to the city. Then those bitchy tweets would’ve put me over the edge too. She sells perfume. It isn’t a necessity. It’s a luxury. And in these economic times, if you’re selling a luxury people can do without, she should be MORE accommodating to customers.

    I’m curious also- was it a popular scent? Because if it wasn’t and she had to use it as a tester, maybe she’d move more of them having it out. You could’ve been doing her a favor by opening it. I just don’t like how she handled it at all. There are PLENTY of times I want to be a bitch and can’t because it would affect my business negatively. She has balls. And not in a good way.

    1. Tara–You sound like a fabulous person and smart business owner. I wish I knew the name of your company. I have no doubt that you offer an excellent product and your customers must love you. I wish you all the success in the world.

  16. Stores need to be held responsible for whatever promise any of their employees makes, period. As soon as store management deems an employee ready to interact with a customer, it needs to own up to what they say. If they don’t want this kind of customer frustration to happen, they better train their employees well, i.e. make sure that on their very first day, they learn and understand the returns/exchanges policy. Big huge fail. Thankfully you have a forum to make this crap public.

  17. Thanks Skylar and Stephanie! We try, we really do. I didn’t respond here to promote, so thanks Stephanie for the shout out. And for voting. We appreciate it. And if you’re ever in the Paramus area again, come on in!

  18. FYI- I tweeted them yesterday with a criticism and they said to email
    them for their side of the story. I did, they never replied.

    1. I also emailed for ‘their side of the story’ yesterday, as they requested. No response–which only makes them seem sketchier. Even if they believe they were right, a true professional would never engage in rude tweets if they hope to retain or attract customers. Terrible PR move on MiN’s part.

  19. I completely understand why this is upsetting, but i can’t help but wonder if Judy has now been fired as a result. I hope not.

  20. What horrible customer service! Those tweets are horrible! Who would want to shop there? I have worked in customer service and I can’t imagine treating someone that way. Can you imagine the positive PR they would have received if they had just treated you the way they should have?

  21. What is most remarkable is how you all hope for the demise of a store….even if they do make a bad judgment call. Get over it!

    1. Haha, Lady. You’re a little late to the party, aren’t you? Besides, I didn’t read a single post stating that they hoped for ‘the demise of store’. Just because I wouldn’t shop there even if you paid me doesn’t mean you can’t. Sounds like perhaps YOU need to get over it ;)

    2. @ladyluly

      Like,like,like. SK got the pile on that she knew she would get. I will still shop at MiN

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