This is the first bad word I’ve had to say about any luxury brand ever, and I hope its the last. I don’t like being negative about anything or anyone, but if I can protect some of my readers from having the same experience as me, I feel it’s best to do that.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll remember my 30th birthday trip to Bicester Village. Before my visit, I knew I wanted some all white trainers. I initially had my eye on some Nike Air Max 90s, but was open to more luxury options and I thought I could maybe score a good deal at Bicester.
I’ve never owned luxury footwear before so, although a little hesitant, I decided to bite the bullet and go for a beautiful pair I spotted in Valentino. Simple, classic, all white trainers named the ‘Garavani Flycrew’. They have little silver rockstuds around the back of the heel, a really subtle nod to what makes the brand recognisable.
I’d owned the trainers for a couple of months but had barely worn them. I can count on one hand the number of times I had taken them out of the box. One day in September 2019, I went to put them on. To my horror, I noticed TWO of the rockstuds were missing from the back of the right heel. How!? I hadn’t worn them very much at all and I don’t recall a time when this could have happened. Please also bear in mind that I purchased the trainers just two months beforehand, in July 2019.
What could I do? I live in the North East. The nearest Valentino is 300 miles away and I wasn’t planning on being down South any time soon. I assumed their customer service would be just as good as every other luxury brand, so I sent their customer care team an email using the online form on their website.
I received an automated reply, followed by an actual email a day or so later. It said:
We apologize for any inconvenience you are experiencing.
Regarding your enquiry, you are kindly invited to bring your Valentino Garavani Flycrew to the Boutique where they were purchased or to the nearest Valentino Boutique should it be more convenient. You can contact directly one of our Valentino Boutiques in London:
174, SLOANE STREET
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
39 OLD BOND STREET
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
The Boutique will review your sneakers in order to duly evaluate which kind of assistance they may require and will determine the related time and charge, if any.
I replied straight away, telling them where I lived and how inconvenient it was for me to come all the way down to London. I’d need time off work, money for travel, money for accommodation etc. I also attached photos of my receipt and the trainers.
9 days passed and I had no reply. I thought perhaps it was because I replied directly to the email from firstname.lastname@example.org, and maybe I needed to go through the online form again? So that’s what I did. I received an automatic reply again, and then another email followed, telling me exactly the same thing as before…
“We kindly confirm that the after sales service could be granted only through the Boutique of purchase or through the nearest Valentino Boutique should it be more convenient. Therefore, we kindly invite you to contact directly via phone or email our Valentino Boutiques in London“.
I felt like I wasn’t getting through via email, so I picked up the phone to the Boutique on Old Bond Street. The person I spoke to asked me to send photos of my trainers and the receipt (even though I had already done that on the online form). He said they needed to investigate the problem further before advising what needs to happen, it could just be the rockstud itself that has fallen off or the whole needle inside too. If it was the latter, the trainers would need to be sent to Italy.
The assistant on the phone gave me a specific email for the Boutique (email@example.com) and said someone will get back to me straight away. A week passed, no reply. 3 weeks, passed, still nothing. I decided to try and call the store again. I spoke to a different person and explained the whole situation again. She said the person who deals with customer care has been “on holiday” which is why I wasn’t getting a response on email. She said she will escalate this with the right person and get back to me.
You guessed it, nobody got back to me. By this point, email wasn’t an option. I called the Old Bond Street store so many times but now just wasn’t getting through. It would ring and ring and there wasn’t even a voicemail option. I thought calling on a weekend might not be the best idea as maybe they were too busy. But I tried on weekdays, evenings, and still nothing. Had they blocked my number!?
I gave up with the Old Bond Street store and decided to try the Sloane Street boutique. I forwarded them all of the previous email chains and waited for a response. Nothing. I tried calling them too, nothing. It was now December so I expected they were too busy with Christmas shoppers to get back to me.
After Christmas I decided enough was enough and planned a trip to London, just to speak to someone in person. So in January we drove the 300 miles down South and headed into the Sloane Street Boutique. I had printed out all of my emails I had sent and took them in with me. Luckily, there were no others customers in the store so we had their full attention. I explained the entire situation, showed them my emails and tried to convey how upset I had been with their service, or lack of.
It was clear that the Sales Assistant had no authority to make any decisions. The manager of the Boutique “wasn’t in” yet. They told me that I “did not have to travel all this way” and I could have posted the trainers. The only response I ever received from the customer care form was told that only the Boutiques themselves could deal with after sales.
I had my receipt but I was not entitled to a refund, because the item was purchased at an outlet. The only option they gave me was to send the trainers to Italy, wait 13 weeks for an answer, and there is no guarantee of repair. If they can not be repaired, they would give me store credit. I explained that because of this whole situation and the bad taste it has left in my mouth, I don’t want to own any other item from Valentino, if this is what happens.
I told them I was scared this would happen again, with the repaired trainers or with another item. I even explained that under Consumer Law, if I have a receipt for a faulty item, I should be entitled to a refund, especially from a luxury brand. The SA basically said the item is not fauly, it is “delicate”, and this does sometimes happen. He said it is not an item you should wear everyday and you should be very careful with them. I didn’t wear them everyday, I wore them a maximum of 5 times and wasn’t reckless, as you can see from their condition. He agreed with me.
He apologised for the lack of contact from customer care, but said he can only apologise on someone else’s behalf because he was not the person I was dealing with. But sorry just doesn’t cut it. My only option was to have them sent to Italy, so I left the trainers with the Boutique, but I was very upset and angry at the situation. I didn’t feel there was a resolution and I am going to be waiting a long time before I even know if they can be repaired. Even if they are, I don’t feel like wearing them again.
All in all, I’ve had a very bad experience. Straight after we came out of Valentino we walked into Louis Vuitton. They allowed me to exchange an item (that was out of the 30 day return window) with absolutely no problems at all. They were warm and inviting, allowing us to try on items, spend time in the Boutique and just basically looked after us in the way you’d expect a luxury brand to. It was a stark contrast to Valentino.
I will update the post when I have an answer from Italy. But like I said, whatever the result, I don’t want to own anything from this brand. I will have to try and sell the trainers or exchange for something else that I can sell, and hope I don’t lose out on any money.
Watch the video version of my story below: