Sydney startup backed on Shark Tank faces claims of poor customer service and not providing refunds

A fashion business that appeared on the second season of Shark Tank is under fire, after television program A Current Affair broadcast allegations that customers have been experiencing shipping delays and were overcharged.

Her Fashion Box is a subscription-based service that sends customers fashion and beauty items every month for a fee of $39.95. In the second episode of the last Shark Tank season, entrepreneurs Janine Allis and Andrew Banks backed Her Fashion Box’s founder Kath Purkis with a $200,000 investment for 16% joint equity in the business.

However, nine months down the line the business has been forced to defend itself on national television, after A Current Affair interviewed a number of Her Fashion Box customers about their experiences with the service.

Customer Amanda Smith told A Current Affair she signed up for Her Fashion Box after seeing the segment on Shark Tank after being impressed with the quality of items handed to the judges. But she said after waiting for almost two months without receiving her box, she began to worry.

“I began to think at that stage, ‘has the company gone into receivership?’” said Smith.

“After there had been no communication and no box, I thought ‘I’m a idiot, I’ve done my dough.’”

Smith’s box eventually did arrive, but she says she was disappointed with what she received and decided to unsubscribe from the service.

She claims this did not stop the subscription payments from being taken out of her bank account, telling ACA that she has been charged two more times since she ended her subscription with the service.

A similar story comes from customer Kellie-Jo Gustowski, who used Her Fashion Box’s ecommerce store to buy a cardigan. After two months of back and forth correspondence, she had still not received the item.

“They couldn’t find my order, it was in the backend of a database,” Gustowski says.

“Eventually they found my order, and they said they’d be shipping it with some extra goodies in there.” Gustowski had still not received her order at the time of interview, however, Smith and Gustowski have both since been refunded.

Other customers have taken to Facebook to highlight their issues with Her Fashion Box, with one disgruntled customer even setting up a page called “Her Fashion Fail”.

The author of the page claims that Her Fashion Box has been deleting negative comments and posts on the business’s Facebook page, though many unhappy reports still remain.

“I made a purchase on the 25/05 & then received an email from Sam on 9/06 saying that I would get my order the following day. Still, I have NOT received anything + I’m now getting no response to any of my emails! Please tell me what is going on!!” wrote one customer.

Purkis responded to the claims on the program, telling A Current Affair she “wanted to be transparent and set the record straight.”

“We would always refund people straight away if there was any dispute or if they didn’t want a box,” Purkis said.

“We’re not sure how she could have been charged twice.”

How brands should respond to negative publicity

Nicole Reaney, crisis communications expert at InsideOut PR, told SmartCompany Purkis’ decision to talk to A Current Affair was a good decision.

“Whenever a company faces controversy, it has a choice to appear or comment in media,” said Reaney.

“In this case, it was a good decision for Purkis to front the media and explain her perspective.”

However, Reaney says providing evidence of the actions the company is taking to rectify the situation would further improve the situation.

“To rectify public issues, Purkis should have shown empathy, admitted mistakes and demonstrated what they are doing to resolve the concerns,” said Reaney.

To keep consumer confidence levels up, Reaney says that Her Fashion Box should now “reach out to all customers via multiple communication channels and ensure they move fast”.

SmartCompany contacted Purkis but did not receive a response prior to publication.

This article was first published on SmartCompany.

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