Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sewing Machine Repair: An Un-endorsement

I am not a precious person, and nor do I post negative reviews or posts, but I feel compelled to write this as a constructive warning. I recently took my sister's sewing machine to Chatswood Sewing Centre in Sydney for repair: the stitching was off-kilter and I thought it could do with a professional looking at it instead of me.

But let me tell you a story about rude service and a pretty sneaky racket. For my small repair - I suspected the machine needed a new bobbin case - I was quoted "between $100 to $140" for repair, which I thought was staggeringly high. Needless to say, I am pretty time-poor at the moment, and need the machine to finish a birthday present, so I accepted that quote. Importantly, I was told clearly that if the quote were to change, they would call me first in order to discuss. In fact, that quote and promise was written on the receipt that I got to keep.

So far, this had not been a tale of sneaky intrigue or suspicion.

Two weeks later, and still not having received a phone call from them, I called the centre to enquire about the status of my machine. I was told that the machine had been ready for "ages". Ok... But upon handing over my receipt yesterday, I was told that the repair would cost $157.95. Very gently, I told that woman that I hadn't authorised any extra payment, and that the receipt she was holding clearly stated "up to $140". The woman scrunched up the receipt in her hand without looking at it, looked me straight in the eyes and told me that it was $157.95: afterall, they had installed a new bobbin case and a new bulb.

To cut a long story short, I was very calm, but stuck to my point: I went to law school long enough to know that the receipt constitutes a contract, and that they had changed the terms of that contract without informing me. I was also pretty sure that they were in breach of something in the Trade Practices Act (it's been a while...) And I didn't ask for a new bulb to be installed, so I didn't think it was right to be charged for one. The two gruff saleswomen looked at each other, then back at me and said, "Well, we could take the bulb out?" I said that would be fine, (I think that's known as 'calling their bluff') and was met with an uncomfortable, "Well, there's no one here who can do that today, so you'll have to come back next week." Hang on, come back in a week's time for something that I didn't authorise?

Dear readers, you can see that this story seems to be going in a different direction than I had hoped.

In short, they acquiesced to my firm but gentle insistence that I was going to take my machine home and that I was only going to pay $140. The saleswoman said, "Well, we don't call you if it's only a small amount over the quoted price", but I felt that on principle, they should have called me. (And what if it had been $40 more? Or $100?).

As I walked away (silence had greeted my "thank you - and goodbye"), I wondered this: how many women get bullied by these two saleswomen into paying more than they were quoted? The fact that my receipt was scrunched up with such gusto seemed to indicate that they knew they were in the wrong - or at least that they knew they had exceeded their quote.

So, dear readers, do you have an alternative sewing machine repair centre in Sydney to endorse? While I wish them no harm, and have no ill-feeling, it's pretty clear that I won't be hurrying back to the Chatswood Sewing Centre.


  1. That's a beautifully told story (but raised my ire so high, so fast!!).

    I have a similar, recent story re Macquarie Bank's ridiculous DEFT payment business, but no need to share more pain around.

  2. Thank you! Such a nasty experience. And DEFT = DAFT!!

  3. Argh, argh argh! How frustrating! I'm glad you stood your ground and am a little happy that I will probably never need a new bulb for my very flash needle and thread system!

  4. Oh you poor thing! I hate those situations! Not living in Sydney, it's unlikely I would have gone there but I hope others know to avoid it now. I've found I've become more assertive with age but still I probably would have caved under that pressure. Good on you for standing up to them! K

  5. You know I was actually thinking of getting my machine serviced at the same place, but after reading your story I have changed my mind.

    I have to say that there are so many businesses in Sydney that don't take customer service seriously and it really irritates me.

    I have come across blissful service in countries like Japan and Singapore, where staff take pride in their job and care about the experience of the customer not just the sale. Even in larger stores here it isn't seen as a priority.

    Though I do think there is such thing as customer service going over board - it's a fine line between letting your customer have space and time to consider, and hounding them into running from the store!

    You can see I have quite a lot to say on the topic!!


  6. Thanks everyone. My intention was just to give a public service-type announcement about the place: I don't think rude and unacceptable trade practice is something that should be under-reported!

    But it is really nice to hear your thoughts - and to be reassured that I did the right thing.

  7. Hear hear! Congrats on standing your ground, Kate. I'm too often timid in those situations, but more recently I've found that the more pig-headed/aggressive people like that become, the calmer I am. It's like, "Hello, crazy. Now watch me stay rational and level headed as you blow your gasket." Silly bullies.

  8. First, let me say how delighted/bemused I am to see a link to Austlii in your post.

    Second, I have had so many of these encounters that I have now become a pro and, like Alice, have discovered it's all about keeping your cool while they turn a little psycho. My newly-discovered weapon (so boring and yet remarkably effective) is to keep saying, "No, I'm sorry, that won't do." I have had bank fees waived, hundreds of dollars of credit added to my phone, and out-of-warranty items repaired using this trick. (And as you suggested, quoting sections of the TPA usually works, too.)

    Letting them think you have got all day to stand at their counter waiting for them to fix the situation is another super effective strategy. I think I inherited that one from my Sitou. Faced with some "family friends" who refused to pay rent for six months and wouldn't leave a flat my dad owned, she took a bowl of beans that needed to be peeled, plonked herself on a stool in the living room of the flat and proclaimed, "I'm not go from HERE!" They moved out that day. :)

    Viva Kate!

  9. What ever happened to good, old fashioned customer service? You would think that they would be interested in retaining customers in times like these.

    Too bad people are more interested in making a buck instead of providing a service to HELP PEOPLE.

  10. It's a business, their object is to make sure you leave your money with them. Unfortunately it sounds like they did little to earn it. I have never taken a machine to be repaired and doubt I ever will. Cleaning, oiling, and greasing I will do myself. No way I would part with even 40 of my hard earned money.

  11. Experience is the best teacher ...if you learn it. Invite you follow and comment here . Thanks !


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