Catastrophic failure by John Lewis

Our old dishwasher died. Fair enough — it’s nine years old and has served us well. So we needed to order a new one. Having figured out what model I wanted, I did the comparison shopping, but chose not to go for the cheapest option: instead, I paid slightly more to order from John Lewis, because of their reputation for competence, professionalism and reliability.


Big mistake.

I placed the order on Saturday 8th November, booking a delivery slot from 2-9pm on Thursday 13th (yesterday). I paid extra to have them plumb the new machine in, and extra again to have them take the old one away.

So I stayed in all day, didn’t listen to music so I could be sure to hear a knock on the door or a phone call. They didn’t come. I stayed in all evening as well, rather than going out to the Mitcheldean Folk Club. They didn’t come. I stayed up till 10:30 in case they’d been delayed. They didn’t come. They also didn’t phone to say they weren’t coming. And they didn’t email. Not a word.

Before going to bed, I filed a complaint on their web-site. Twelve hours later, there’s no response.

This morning I phoned them to ask what was happening. After putting me on hold, the customer-service guy told me that the delivery people had been unable to find our house. Apparently they looked it up on Google Maps and still couldn’t find it.

Our house is not hard to find. If you put our postcode into Google Maps, in fact, it points to a location 40 meters from our front door. Given that they also didn’t phone us to ask for directions (or indeed ask anyone on the street where our house is) I think the most likely explanation is that they simply didn’t bother to turn up.


So far, so disappointing: every company has a bad day. Where a trusted company like John Lewis scores is in its commitment to Make Things Right when they go wrong.



They didn’t offer to get the machine to me today, which would have been the proper response. They didn’t offer to deliver tomorrow, which would have been disappointing but acceptable. No — they offered a date ONE FULL WEEK after the original booked delivery date.

That is simply not how a company committed to “Bringing quality to life through a better way of doing business” goes about things. As everyone knows, when a company that cares about its reputation screws up, it does what it needs to do to make it right. What I expected from John Lewis was that they’d find a way to deliver on their promise — up to and including hiring a private courier, if that was the only way.

Instead, they chose to do what’s expedient right now, burning the reputation accumulated over 150 years of history.



So I am very unhappy. Not just at the lack of a dishwasher, but because a company that I thought was genuinely aiming to provide a quality service has got caught up in the race to the bottom.

So I learned a sad lesson. I cancelled my order with John Lewis — after all, I’ll get the dishwasher faster by starting from scratch with another vendor — and from now on I’ll just be buying from whichever stack-’em-high Internet retailer is cheapest. Because there’s actually no difference now between how the brand leaders and everyone else behaves. When you pay a premium to buy from John Lewis, all you’re buying is a brand name.


3 responses to “Catastrophic failure by John Lewis

  1. On the plus side, it is really cute penguin.

  2. Hmm. I hadn’t seen this, but now I have. Very well executed, I’ll give it that, though perhaps a bit to blatantly Calvin-and-Hobbes at the end. Still, on balance, I’d prefer competence, professionalism, and a genuine commitment to actually deliver what customers pay for.

  3. Pingback: John Lewis: incompetent, unresponsive and dishonest | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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