How I Confronted an Awkward, Stressful Customer Service Situation

And lived to tell about it.

Note: This story was originally published on Feb 10 on Medium. I'm updating and transferring it over from there. It is a useful little tale!

When I first started thinking about selling a first-ever, limited-edition t-shirt sale to raise money for a nonprofit I believed in, I was filled with trepidation. I’d be asking people to buy something, and I didn’t control the production. What if the shirts were scratchy?

The day the shirts arrived at my house, I was filled with nervous energy. My husband texted me at work with the first photo saying, “Looks good. It’s a little…small.”

When I saw my own shirt later that night, my heart sank. It was at least 2 sizes too small even though I’d bought a larger size than usual.

“The shirt is slightly tight,” I captioned, nervously.

“The shirt is slightly tight,” I captioned, nervously.

There was no avoiding this problem, though I desperately wanted to.

I started to get nice messages from shirt-buyers in their kind and bright voices.

“I love the shirt but might have to give it to a smaller friend.”

UGHHHHHHHHH.  No amount of denial was going to allow me to escape the fact that the sizing was off. This could not stand. I wrote Cotton Bureau, makers of the shirt. They replied:

customer service stress

I was confounded and getting angrier by the minute. Why would they send junior-sized shirts? Why would they ask my people to pay for shipping to return those same shirts for a refund, not an exchange?

It was fast decision time.

Was I going lay bare the shirt debacle to everyone, possibly escalating it along the way? Or should I just let it go? After all, a bunch of people told me they liked the shirt and were happy, right?

My stomach told me I didn’t have a choice. I posted the Cotton Bureau “We-thought-we’d-send-you-junior-sizes-and-no-one-would-be-the-wiser” update on Facebook and emailed as many of the 68 people who bought the original shirt as I could.

Then a crazy thing happened.

I started to hear back from everyone who thought something was wrong with them. Many friends mentioned weight gain. My mom and mother-in-law both assumed they were too old to look good in the shirt. Actually, anyone over the age 35 imagined they just weren’t cool enough to look good in “what the kids were wearing.”

Taken in the rev up to the customer service fight.

Taken in the rev up to the customer service fight.

When I heard that the sizing caused my people--my BVs!--to question themselves, I started to get a lot more aggressive in my communication. How dare a company make my people question themselves with their mistake!

I pushed harder. I got Cotton Bureau to take responsibility and exchange everyone’s shirts at no cost. They offered to do another 2 week run of the shirt immediately to make sure everyone can get exactly what they want, fully armed with information about the sizing. It just started a couple of hours ago.

A happy ending.

Receiving and sharing pictures of everyone’s beautiful voyages buoys me up much more than the tediousness can push me under the waves. I've begun to manage shirt production directly, and now sell the shirt on a Shopify site to help raise money to support the running of this site.

Adorable happy people in shirts that fit.

Adorable happy people in shirts that fit.

The 3 Morals of The Story

  1. Don’t Blame Yourself if Something is Messed Up. (You’re great.) 

  2. Keep Fighting

  3. Enjoy Wins As They Come.