You won’t find any links or product descriptions in this piece, as they are completely unnecessary within the context of my story. A few of you may already know that I tend to cover the openings of stores, mainly in my neck of the woods (North Toronto), but of course not limited to it.
I recently came across the newly opened Saje store at Markville Mall, when I decided to pop in on my way back from picking up my daughter from school. This was for two reasons (popping into the store that is); to check out their much lauded Peppermint Halo product and take a few pics for this very blog post. All in the spirit of giving them a bit of a shout out – because I always love when there is an addition to the landscape of any area. And I did just that – I popped into the store.
The moment I did, an intense looking staff member immediately approached me (yes, I said intense), and I let her know what I was doing and she was pleasant about it. She also offered to show me to any product I would like to highlight in my little piece. The first was the Peppermint Halo mentioned above and the second was something called Fairy Mist, which is supposed to be sprayed over your child’s head. The child will then automatically breathe it in and become…relaxed. I didn’t try it on on my toddler at that point and just took the staff members word for it.
But this article is NOT about this or any other product offered at Saje, as the events that followed changed the shape of…well…everything.
The first incident
After I finished checking out the store, I noticed that my three year old was becoming a bit rowdy so I thought I would go ahead and try the Fairy Mist on her. It was all natural, so why not? Just as I proceeded to spray it over her head – an even more intense staff member made a beeline for me and basically asked what I needed. I informed her very lightheartedly that I decided to try out the tester after all. With a smile. She didn’t react OR respond in any way, shape or form.
And since she ran over to me, I thought I would ask her if they had anything for a canker, because I had a nasty one on my tongue and was in a lot of pain and discomfort. She then enthusiastically pointed me toward ANOTHER product called Immune and informed that it was used primarily for cold sores but could easily be applied to cankers inside the mouth. Sorry if any of this is grossing you out.
She then applied some to a q-tip and I lodged that sucker into my mouth and just let it dissolve into my tongue. And merrily went on my way, promising to provide them with a sweet little piece on their newly opened (and welcomed) locale.
The second incident
The next day was pure hell for me as my canker had not gotten any better, but worse, and I was advised by a friend to grab a remedy from Shoppers Drug Mart. I did and it worked OK but didn’t do much more than numb the area. So, I decided I wanted to check out the Immune remedy from Saje again, to compare it to the drug store product.
Fair enough, right?
So, I popped into Saje and walked up to a staff member asking what the product was that they use for cold sores? She didn’t have an answer for me, so another staff member (who seemed like a Supervisor) cut into our conversation and asked if I was referring to Immune. I said I was and explained to her that I had this horrible canker which I was using a drug store remedy and wanted to compare the Immune to it. She just looked at me, so I asked if she could show me where it is. She said that would be no problem but could not recommend that I use it on my tongue, as that goes against Health Canada Standards.Embed from Getty Images
I then told her that is was ok, and that she WAS NOT recommending anything to me and that I had tried the product with another staff member the day prior who told me it could be used as a canker remedy. She then said, “that’s fine” but that she wouldn’t be able to recommend I use it on the inside of my mouth.
I asked her if I could try the product and she said “yes”. She then suggested that it would be better if I PURCHASE the product and began to boast about their amazingly generous return policy. I then went back to my original question, asking if I could try the product? She again, said “yes” but I would be better off purchasing it and then just returning it if I didn’t like it.
So, in a moment of weakness, I asked her how much it was and she informed me that it was about $30 or less with tax.
I asked her to show it to me, and she hurriedly walked past me to the display only to grab the tester off the shelf and grip it tightly in her hand. I still was not 100 PER CENT sure what was going on, and since she always replied with “yes” when I asked to try the damn product, I thought now was the best time to ask again and get my sample…so I did. I asked, “can I try the tester please? You can just dab it on my finger OR on a q-tip”. She then suggested AGAIN that it would be much better if I just purchased the item, tried it out at home, and then returned it if I didn’t like it.
I was then 100 PER CENT sure what was going on and just said “forget it” and began to exit the store when she chirped over her shoulder to me that it was Health Canada standards and out of her hands.
WHAT THE F—?
I was totally flabbergasted and felt…well…humiliated. So, I called up their customer service line to relay the experience to them and say that I expected better, as a new customer. I also mentioned that I was in the process of composing a small piece about their new store for my blog. But that was not the focus of the conversation, I just like to be really transparent.Embed from Getty Images
The customer service rep on the other end of the phone apologised profusely for my experience and proceeded to tell me that their stores are all about an experience and not just making the sale. She also pretty much laughed off the Health Canada comment made by the staffer (or Supervisor) saying that shouldn’t prevent a shopper from trying a natural product. She then offered to send me a trial size of Immune and took my email address and phone number, promising to look into the incident and call me back the next day.
This was on Tuesday. It is now Saturday and I haven’t heard anything.
I don’t make it my business to criticise anyone or their business on my blog (unless you’re a Real Housewife 😉 ) but I hold Customer Service to the highest standard with any organisation. When it is lacking to the point where I or anyone else feels completely disrespected and humiliated, I feel it is important to speak up. Especially in this day and age when everyone is a publisher and we always look for reviews online of any product or service.
I found the staff at the new Saje store to be very tightly wound up with a one track mind – to sell sell sell. The latter is not necessarily a bad thing, but for God’s sake let me orient myself with your product and values first! You are new after all – to this area anyway.Embed from Getty Images
As for bringing Health Canada into it…aren’t these products supposed to be all natural? If so, Health Canada should have little or nothing to do with them. Anytime I ask about a natural product at a Pharmacy, I am always told that there is no feedback on it because it is all natural. There was no element of toxicity at play, and COMPLETELY safe for me to try the product inside, as opposed to outside, my mouth. The only toxicity I observed came from the very staff member who prevented me from trying a TESTER while aggressively pushing a sale on me at the same time.
The visual of her gripping the tester in her hand (so that I wouldn’t try it) is pretty much the only funny thing I have taken from this experience.
I also reached out the their PR firm the same day, but also received no reply. And hey, at least I included a couple of images of their product, which is quite frankly more than they deserve.
In essence, just because a store offers product and remedies aimed at healing and soothing your ailments, does not guarantee you will have an equally pleasant experience dealing with their staff. It’s kinda like a children’s store, where the staff put up with screaming babies and toddlers all day so don’t have any smiles for you or yours when you walk in.
That doesn’t make it any more acceptable, though…