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I've worked out what ScS stands for: Shoddy customer Service. How could I have been so stupid as to not realize this and actually spend a lot of money on a sofa from them? Silly me.
Seriously, I would like to warn you to be wary of buying from ScS (at least in Stevenage, which is where I draw my experience from). Here's my analysis:
IN-STORE Spacious store on a retail park (Roaring Meg, Stevenage), decked out like many different little living rooms in different colours. Ferocious heating in patches (so you can't really sit on the affected sofas for long) as it's pumped out from the warehouse unit's roof in big pipes. We walked in and it must have been a quiet day (despite being a Saturday) as 3 sales assistants (all men) followed us around as we browsed, each lurking at a distance at different angles from us, as if circling their prey (I now realize they actually were!). We turned down offers of help and said we were still looking, then approached one of them when we had questions. He was informed (told us the fabric of the sofa) but didn't have the swatch book for that particular sofa as it "had been lost a few weeks ago and hadn't turned up". Good job we liked the colour it came in on the shop floor then. He lent us his measuring tape, which was helpful.
ORDER AND PAYMENT We returned to the store at a later date to order the sofa and armchair of our choice. This was in early November. There were signs up everywhere boasting of guaranteed Christmas delivery (not to mention Martin Kemp's enthusiastic reiteration of this on the TV ads). Great, we thought. And the salesman clarified that we would indeed have our sofa for Christmas. We sat down with him on the sofas while he filled in the paperwork and made sure the correct items were ordered. He then, with his captive audience, launched into a sales pitch for a stain resistant spray that we could chose to pay for. It was the classic sales techniques and you could tell from the outset that he was on commission. He even had props (a squirty bottle and some fabric), in case we couldn't quite visualize what he was talking about. He wouldn't take firm "no"s for an answer so I ended up pretending my father is a dry cleaner to get through to him that I really don't worry about stains enough to pay over £100 for protection (which should be included by default on all suites if you ask me). So, we finally got out of the shop, having signed paperwork that committed us to the corner group plus armchair that we ordered, for a total of £1,235, including £35 delivery fee.
CHRISTMAS DELIVERY Well, that title is hopeful. Delivery didn't happen before Christmas. Remember we ordered in early November (06/11/06)? Mid-december we got a call from ScS Stevenage's manager to say that delivery was delayed due to problems at the manufacturers' end and it would now be in mid to late January. He gave me the option to cancel, but we were set on that sofa as it fits in our awkwardly shaped room, so I didn't. I asked what he was going to do for us as compensation, and he said he'd throw in a few bottles of wine (cheap, vinegary plonk no doubt). Not good enough I said, so he waived the delivery fee in addition to the wine. Said his customer services would ring me up tomorrow (it was the end of the day) and take my card details for the £35 refund. OK, said I. Next day: no call from CS. Or the next day. Being a busy person, earning money to pay for the sofa among other things, I finally rang them back a week later asking for my refund. Had to go through the whole rigmarole of them getting the store manager again to confirm, then they did the refund.
GETTING A DELIVERY DATE You must be joking. That phone call from the ScS manager was the last I heard of them on the matter. From that moment on I had to do all the chasing. I popped into the store in early January to get a delivery date and find out why they hadn't contacted me (we'd just moved house and had everything else new and cumbersome delivered with ease, and having been kept informed of any delays and revised dates by the relevant companies). I spoke to a woman at their customer services desk who told me they weren't booking in deliveries until Monday of next week. So I said I'll hear from you by end of Monday then. She said give it till end of Tuesday. I said so I'll ring up and cancel if I don't hear by end of Tuesday then? I didn't hear from them. Again, being busy, I didn't find time to ring up and cancel until one week later, i.e. the Tuesday one week after the date by which I was told I'd have a date for delivery. We're now into mid-January. So I ring up and say I want to cancel. After a long wait the manager comes on the line and asks why I want to cancel. I explain my case, guaranteed Xmas delivery fell through, then I had to do all the chasing, broken promises etc. etc. He says that unfortunately it was a manufacturing problem and they've been giving customers discounts because of this, and if I just hang on a minute he'll check what discount I'm entitled to, my surname is XXXXX right? (more sales techniques, trying to impress me with his astounding knowledge). He pauses and returns (from his charade) to say I'm entitled to a £60 manager's discount. I say make it £100 and deliver tomorrow and I won't cancel. He says that's all he can do as it's a manager's discount and can't be extended, and we have had a £35 discount already too. He says he can deliver tomorrow (funny, that, how they couldn't give a date then when it comes to me threatening to cancel - I was serious - they can suddenly deliver the goods). He says that if I cancel then there's no guarantee I'll get my money back as on the form I signed there's a clause about not being able to cancel once you've committed. He's right - there certainly is. So long as they honour their commitment to you, you can't cancel and get your money back. Their commitment to Xmas delivery was verbal, I notice - no sign of a delivery date on the form, so they haven't broken their commitment. Sigh. I say ok deliver tomorrow and give me a £60 discount. He says I have to ring him up tomorrow after delivery to claim my discount. (What? More chasing from my end!) He also says the delivery guys will ring about 1 hour before they arrive to let me know.
DELIVERY This occurs, finally on January 18 (that's nearly 11 weeks since ordering). I wait in, not very hopeful given past form, and lo and behold get a call around midday from the delivery men to say they'll be there in 45 mins to an hour. Wow. First thing that's gone to plan. Sure enough, they turn up near to 1pm. They install the sofa and armchair (had to take off a door to do so but they put it back on ok). I notice a small tear in the material on the corner settee. They tell me to sign the form (which has a small questionnaire about the standard of service the delivery guys gave - perhaps the stores should employ this tactic as then their service might improve) and to note on the form what the fault is, then ring the store to book an upholsterer to come to fix it. If it can't be fixed they'll give me a whole new replacement settee. I was impressed with the delivery guys - pleasant, prompt, and did their job (as have all other delivery people I've experienced, from several other companies, I have to point out).
AFTER-SALES I ring up ScS Stevenage when the deliverers have gone. I ask for my £60 discount and am told I'll receive my "manager's discount" in the post as a cheque, within 14 days. (What?!) I am left feeling that this is a standard discount that is actually included in the price you pay because they know there will be problems. I also ask them to book in an upholsterer because of the fault on my corner unit settee. I am given an 0191 number to ring (another phone call for me to make! Seems like a heck of a lot of groundwork i'm having to do myself here, for a £1200 sofa). I ring the 0191 number, and get an ansaphone. I leave a message including my customer number. I don't get a call back the next day, so 2 days later I leave another message. The next working day I get a call back from a woman there, who asks who gave me this number, as it's an internal number and shouldn't have been given out. She says she'll take my details anyway and book the upholsterer in for me. She's nice and helpful, and efficient. However, the earliest they can do is end of February, so I agree to a date of February 28.
I am looking forward to having no more dealings with ScS, I can tell you. I really felt that in all communications with ScS Stevenage, they didn't care whatsoever about me as I'd already committed to purchase. I think they must be on commission and that's all they care about. I am pleased with the sofa itself, now that it's finally arrived. I wish though that I'd just cancelled before Christmas when they told me delivery would be delayed and gone elsewhere to save the stress of having to deal with them periodically from that date.