A Seasonal Tale of a Louis Vuitton Bag and Just a Little Too Much Pernod Perhaps…
- Friday, 19 December 2014
Now I’m in the business of helping organisations build brands. Helping them define what they are all about, what they are best at and then converting that into a promise to take into the marketplace. And as we all know, branding is all about delivering on that promise to the consumer.
Now this has led me in recent years to examine closely, not only some of the brands I’ve personally worked with, but also some of the brands that I chose to buy myself. Over the years I suppose I’ve become a bit cynical when I hear marketing people talk about their customers and how much they really care about them. Now don’t get me wrong, customer focus is obviously a good thing and the logic is that if you talk about it long enough, people will believe you genuinely put customers at the top of the agenda. What I’ve discovered is that for far too many companies it’s pure mouth music. They say it but don’t genuinely mean it. Truth is, I’ve come to discover that most companies are far more interested in themselves than their customers. Shocking but true.
All this came home to me personally in an incident with Louis Vuitton. My dear wife bought me a beautiful, and extremely expensive, LV carry on flight bag as a Christmas gift. Well to cut a long story short a wheel on this elegant piece of luggage literally dropped off on a trip to London less than a year after having bought the bag. I couldn’t believe it. Literally it fell off. I spent the rest of the day dragging and carrying the defective bag around the city. I was sure it must be a freak occurrence and that LV would make amends. The store that my wife had bought the bag from however refused to offer any replacement or even to repair the bag for free. They didn’t seem to care at all. I was shocked. We then tried the local consumer protection agency, but they proved to be worse than useless. After twelve months of frustration and complaining I decided to resort to the only course of action I could. I wrote a letter to the Chairman of Louise Vuitton, M. Bernard Arnault. It took me two hours searching on the internet and a phone call to get his personal office address but I did. A hand written envelope addressed to him, for his eyes only, was then dispatched to Paris. I didn’t feel particularly confident it would have any effect, but writing it got the issue off my chest. My letter is below.
Dear M. Arnault
In December 2007 my dear wife bought me a Louis Vuitton carry-on travel bag as an expensive, but wonderful, Christmas gift. As someone who travels a lot, I was delighted. It looked beautiful, and coming from Louis Vuitton, I imagined spending a lifetime with this particular item of luggage. Growing old gracefully together, aging beautifully with it as my constant travel companion. Maybe I’d even end up looking just a little like Sean Connery in your rather fine advertisements.
Ten months later things had gone very sadly wrong. On a trip to London in October 2008, the wheel fell off my bag. Literally fell off. I spent the rest of the day dragging and carrying the bag around the city. My immediate reaction was that the bag was, to borrow a car analogy, a Friday bag. The artisan French worker who had crafted my $1200 bag must have just had a bad day. Maybe he didn’t feel too well after a heavy night out with his friends and a little too much Pernod perhaps? Anyway, I was sure the Louis Vuitton store where my bag was purchased would immediately replace or repair the defective bag. Ten months old and only used on about eight trips as cabin luggage. Louis Vuitton must have a lifetime guarantee right? At $1200 a shot, I expected it.
The answer when I returned the bag to Louis Vuitton was non! Forget it! LV does not have a lifetime
guarantee, nor does it have even a 12-month guarantee. In fact it has NO GUARANTEE WHAT SO-EVER! None. Zippo. Zilch. After two years of complaining, I’m just totally appalled at the service LV offers its customers. But I haven’t given up hope.
I write to you to find out if the LV store in question and its response reflects the standards of Louis Vuitton. Can you help me?
Now as I said I wrote the letter as a last resort, not expecting much from it, but about a week after the letter had been sent, the most amazingly helpful and concerned manager of the LV store in question contacted me. She wanted to apologise personally for what had happened and have the bag fixed, at no cost of course, as soon as possible. She was genuinely concerned. Amazing what a letter to the chairman can do. Anyway it made me ponder the question again how many companies and brands really do care? I believe that the chairman of LV does genuinely care, but probably didn’t realise that somewhere in the company the brand was falling down on the job.
Many companies today really need to understand that to be better than their competitors takes much, much more than just running advertising saying that you care.
I’ve also discovered that I’m not bad at complaining and it seems to be a lost art.
Seasons greetings and best wishes for 2015.