Jimmy Stuart: weird smell, poor quality, and terrible customer service

A few months ago, I received a fancy shirt from Jimmy Stuart for my birthday. I had confirmed with the gifter that it was the pattern I wanted, but we were both quite disappointed with what we found, and smelled, in the box.

We decided to request a return for a full refund but the company refused. Not even the intervention of an NSW Fair Trading mediator helped, and we find ourselves having paid ~$115 in total (with return postage) for a ~$80 shirt (due to second postage), that we probably would not have paid more than $30. Also, the smell is still there.

Lesson learned: don’t buy clothes online without making sure you can get a refund if dissatisfied, as Fair Trading mediators bear little weight against bad-faith vendors.

On my birthday, upon opening the box that the shirt came in, we first noticed a mouldy smell, which was rather off-putting. Furthermore after inspecting the shirt, we found it to be made of very thin fabric (arguably, the page for that shirt indicates that the fabric is “Cotton voile”, but it’s not a term that we ever encountered before). The pattern was also far less clear as compared to the images on the website.

As you can imagine, we have in business for 38 years, and we are not in the business of making people unhappy

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As those three aspects would have stopped us from buying the shirt had we seen it in a shop, we concluded that this was a major problem, as per the ACCC guidelines, and initiated the return process. We were annoyed when the response we received from the customer support discussed offering a replacement or store credits.

We argued that given, the problems, we should be given a full refund. We didn’t want to try to just get a replacement, as we feared that those were not defects of that particular shirt, but of the series. We simply preferred to recoup our losses on a poor quality item, and not take another risk, which we indicated in our communication with them. We returned the original shirt, at our cost, hoping that they would agree to leave it at that.

They didn’t. They insisted that the shirt had no defect, and did not even address the issue of the smell. They did helpfully offer a link to the NSW Fair Trading complaint page “if [we were] that dissatisfied with [the] service, [and] feel [they were] being unfair”. This would have been our next port of call anyway, but it was helpful… I guess?

The interaction with NSW Fair Trading was pleasant enough, but ultimately ineffective. We came to the realisation that they didn’t have a lot of enforcement power and, unless there is a real chance of then being taken to tribunal (which is unlikely to happen over $100), they cannot do a lot. The mediator thought that the mouldy smell was indeed a problem, which she discussed with Jimmy Stuart. They discarded the issue, and refused to change their position.

Interestingly something counter-intuitive came to pass. The fact that a particular item has a defect (say, a seam come undone), is sufficient ground to obtain a refund. However, if a particular item is just out of, say a poor quality production, and has no defect of its own, only replacements can be expected. This is counter-intuitive as replacing on item from a poor quality line with another from the same line seems rather unlikely to address the initial concern.

At this stage, we had thrown $115 out the window, and had nothing to show for it. The only loss-cutting option was to just smile, say thank you, and order a replacement shirt. Of course, that replacement could not be the same value as the original, because what we initially paid needed to cover the cost of shipping the second shirt to us. We found another pattern that I liked, made sure the fabric was Cotton. We even got assurances from customer service that the fabric was “super-soft 100% cotton poplin – a little silkier and more durable than a cotton voile”.

What is a Halal-free shirt? Jimmy Stuart knows.

The shirt finally arrived, with a familiar sense of disappointment. The same mouldy smell is present and although the fabric of the new shirt is indeed a bit thicker than the first, it is still not what we would expect for an $80 shirt.

As a final note in Jimmy Stuart defence, they make a point of being Australian Made, which might explain a somewhat higher price point. There was however a confusing sticker in the parcel we received that stated the shirt was “Halal free”. We’re not sure what to make of this.

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