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I'd like to share a recent experience I had with an E-retailer, All-Clad Online ( I've purchased fairly extensively online, heck I even bought my car online from Autobytel, and so far all my
experiences have been middling to excellent. Perhaps I've just been lucky.

However, my luck ended the day I purchased a $120 All-Clad non-stick omelette pan from "All-Clad Online by Metropolitan Kitchen." My previous pan had given up the ghost and since I love cooking I decided to splash out and buy the highest quality pan I could. I looked at a few sites including Tavolo and, (both of which I'd had previously had good experiences with), but in the end I settled on purchasing from Metropolitan Kitchen, since they had the widest selection and I felt confident that I could expect good service because they appeared to be affiliated with All-Clad. On November 23rd I made my order. Shortly thereafter I received a confirmation e-mail thanking me for my order and stating:

"We maintain an extensive inventory and most orders are shipped within two days. In the event that anything you ordered is out of stock, we will notify you promptly, and your credit card will not be charged until your order is actually shipped. Approximately two to three days after receiving this e-mail, you can track the progress of your shipment on our website at the following URL:"

So far so good. A couple of days later I checked the web site which told me that my order was backordered and would ship ASAP. Expecting just a short wait, I patiently waited -- and waited. As the days turned into weeks and the web page stubbornly kept on telling me my shipment was back-ordered I started to get impatient. Eventually, one Saturday, December 18th, after I'd checked the web page again had been told my "shipment was backorder, will ship ASAP," I called to cancel my order. I got a recorded message telling me to call back during business hours. Since I needed a non-stick pan for a recipe I was cooking that weekend, I decided I'd call and cancel my order on Monday, and in the meantime purchase a non-stick pan from a local store.

The following Monday at 9am I called Metropolitan Kitchen to cancel my order. "Oh," said Jay-Paul, General Manager of Metropolitan Kitchen, "we shipped your order last week." I informed him that I'd purchased an alternative since their online account information had said that the pan hadn't been shipped -- (I'd even actually checked just before I'd called them and the web site still said it hadn't been shipped). He apologized and said they hadn't been unable to update the web site and told me just to refuse the shipment and UPS would return it to them. I currently rent a townhouse, and sometimes packages are left at the office when the occupant is not at home. "What happens if they leave it at our rental office when I'm out?" I asked. "Don't worry," he said, "we shipped it signature-required."

So the next day UPS left the package at the rental office without getting my signature. I called Metropolitan Kitchen to get them to send me the forms to re-ship the product to them. "You don't need a form," Jay-Paul informed me, "Just ship it back to us." "But I don't want to have to pay for re-shipment," I told him (the pan was heavy, after all).

It was at this point that things started to get unusual. Jay-Paul began to berate me telling me:
a) They'd done what they were supposed to since they'd shipped me the pan and got it to me before Christmas.
b) I was being ungrateful for all the hard work they'd put in to get the pan to me.
c) He hoped that one day I had to work really hard like they had so that I'd finally appreciate all they had done for me.
At this point I began to get a bit annoyed, and quipped back that I didn't really care about how much work they'd put in, I'd just ordered a frying pan from them and they'd taken weeks to send it, they hadn't given me any indication that it would ever be sent, and they'd failed to keep their online account information up to date, and I felt no obligation to pay for the pan's return since it was they who had messed up and it was I who had been inconvenienced. I cautioned him that I would simply dispute the charge on my credit card. "You should have called us before you purchased an alternative," Jay-Paul rebuked. I answered, "I'm meant to realize that your site's messed up and I can't rely on your online account information for the status of my order? I checked it today and it still said it hadn't been shipped."

At this point, any semblance that I was dealing with a professional organization evaporated. Jay-Paul told me that their online account information had been updated for days and told me I was a liar. He continued to berate me for my ingratitude but ended by saying he'd pay for re-shipment, but I should never purchase from him again. "Don't worry; I wouldn't dream of it," I replied.

What an unusal and unpleasant experience, I thought as I hung up. When I looked at the package that evening I observed that it was so badly wrapped that the handle of the pan had torn the side of the box and the pan was poking out. Rather than put it in proper packing materials they had just wrapped brown paper around the store display box.

The next day I received an e-mail from Metropolitan Kitchen telling me they wouldn't, after all, pay for re-shipment and that I needed to re-ship the package to get a refund. I fired off a quick reply to them recounting the facts and telling them about how poorly the package had been packed and my fears that it may have been damaged. I was so annoyed that I then filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, and wrote to All-Clad asking them whether they were in fact affiliated with Metropolitan Kitchen since I'd had such a bad experience with them. All-Clad did reply and told me that yes Metropolitan Kitchen was affiliated, and that they'd investigate the matter and get back to me.

So far I haven't heard anything else from Metropolitan Kitchen, or All-Clad, and am now very curious to see whether All-Clad makes some response. I know that online branches of brick-and-mortar retailers generally have a poor reputation for customer service, but I'm interested to see whether a company like All-Clad that has a reputation for high quality would prove this reputation wrong. If I don't hear back from them in a few days, I'll refer them to this
posting and invite them to reply. As for Metropolitan Kitchen, there is really nothing they can do to salvage my opinion of them. I've never heard of a company berating a customer and accusing them of lying before!

The pan is still in its original packaging. One thing I've thought of doing is taking it back to UPS to get them to return it since they delivered it without the required signature.

Has anyone had a similar experience with this company?

Sean Butcher
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