Letter of Complaint - Woolworths

Dear Sir/Madam

I’m writing to convey my disappointment at the way a problem was handled at your Stellenbosch branch on the 12th of March 2008.

I went to your store to pick up a few items for lunch & supper. When I got to the till I presented my Woolworths card as I normally do, but was told that the transaction would not go through. Upon my enquiry as to the reason for this, the lady behind the till could not give me an answer, merely insisting that the transaction would not go through and implying there was something wrong with my card. I told her that I’ve never had a problem with the card before, but she just shrugged. She proceeded to swipe the card again, but encountered the same problem. She then enquired whether the card had been blocked or whether it was a new card, to which I answered in the negative.

The cashier had run out of ideas by now and called another store clerk to come assist her. He tried the same procedure of swiping the card, but again without success. I was asked the same questions and replied in the same way. At this point he asked me whether I had another card that I could pay with!! I was incredulous that he would offer this temporary solution to an obviously bigger problem. Whether or not I could pay with another card was irrelevant; the problem was that my card was not working for some reason and I needed this problem solved. I asked him what was wrong with my card and I was then referred to someone else to help me. He would have to look up my details on the computer.

When he had typed in my card number my details appeared on the screen, showing two surnames (my maiden name and my married name). Then I was asked if the two names were both me! As if I had somehow gotten hold of a card in a fake name! After I assured him that it was in fact me, he informed me that the card in my possession had been blocked as it was still in my maiden name. This infuriated me as I had not been sent a new card yet, so how could my old card be blocked? I voiced my opinion in no uncertain terms to the man attending to my query to which his reply was that the card was probably still in the mail. When I pointed out to him that the card had obviously either never been mailed or gotten lost in the mail (given that the change in my surname was effected on 15 January 2008 and it was now almost 2 months later), he merely shrugged and said that an independent contractor was responsible for printing & mailing the cards to their customers. As if this should’ve somehow appeased me! Surely it is Woolworths’ responsibility to check that the independent contractor does their work? And especially before they block a customer’s old card?! His only comment was that I should’ve applied for a temporary card. Now I ask you – how should I have known that if no-one had informed me of this when I originally came in to change my details? After all, I hardly expected my old card to be blocked before I received a new card. The man had no answer for me and just said that I could apply for a temporary card now, provided I had my ID with me.

Luckily I did (I do not make a habit of carrying my ID around since it was once stolen from my bag) and I could receive a temporary card with which to fund my purchases. When asked how long it would take for my new card to arrive, the answer was ‘one month’. I fail to see why it would take so long, since, theoretically, my card has already been printed (in the 2 months since 15 January 2008) and hence only needs to be mailed to me. Which should take a maximum of 4 days to reach me, assuming it gets sent from Johannesburg/Pretoria.

In the meantime I have to carry my ID around with me whenever I want to use my temporary card (until I receive my new card). The effect of this will be that I will opt not to purchase goods at Woolworths until I receive my new card, since I do not make a habit of carrying my ID around with me as mentioned previously.

What really annoys me about the whole situation is that no apology was offered to me during this whole saga. Instead blame was shifted onto the mysterious “independent contractor” who was responsible for sending the new card to me. This is completely unacceptable.

Another thing - surely I am not the first customer who’s surname has changed because of getting married? Why did it take so long to figure out what the problem was? And do all newly-married women have to go through this ordeal or was I just very unlucky?

I hope that this matter will be attended to swiftly and expect at least the following to come from this:

a) A written letter of apology from both head-office & Stellenbosch branch
b) Proper training of your cashiers to not immediately insinuate that the customer did something wrong when a card does not work
c) A card to be issued in my married name within the next week and couriered to me at no extra charge


I trust this matter will get the attention it deserves.

Kind regards
Mrs M Hendricks (néé Combrinck)

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