25 November 2014

Negative Review: Phantom and the Maiden Grief Onepiece

Today, I have a lengthy review of the Grief OP from the indie brand The Phantom and The Maiden. I haven't updated in a while because I don't really dress up any more, but this post was way too long to put up on my Tumblr, so here it is!

This is going to be a long review thanks to my painfully difficult experience dealing with this company. It's very heavy on photos and caps because I don't want you to have to rely just on my opinions when the experience speaks for itself. Caps have been edited only to remove my personal identifying details (e.g. I removed the caps including my PP address and have edited my name out). Photos have been lightly adjusted to compensate for the poor lighting in my apartment.

If you want a quick rundown, though, here's a general summary of my experience. I ordered two custom-sized dresses for myself and a friend. We have drastically different measurements and requested very different sizing.

Timeliness of Order: 10/10
They stated it would take 4-6 weeks to make the dress, and shipping would take an additional two weeks. I received the dress almost exactly eight weeks after I placed my order (ordered 9/26 and received 11/20).

Customer Service: 2/10
They insulted me, refused to fix my numerous issues, and made numerous passive-aggressive posts to their Facebook about my issues. I was very polite in all my messages and tried to keep my requests very simple and reasonable. I only give them two points because they always responded to my messages within 24 hours, and because the designer was kind enough to ultimately offer a resolution.

Item Quality: 4/10 
The materials are low-quality and don't match the stock photos. The inner seams are wonky so the left shoulder of one of the dresses sticks straight up. The measurements are inaccurate.

Overall Score: 3/10 

I love nun lolita. I saw these adorable dresses on Tumblr and I absolutely had to have them! Originally, I was going to get one for myself and one for my friend, Avina, as a gift since we like to twin, but in the end we just wound up ordering together- they needed so many detailed measurements that I didn't really want to risk messing it up!

The Initial Order: 
I placed my order on September 26, 2014 and sent them the measurements a day later. They let me know that they had a lot of orders and that it would take 4-6 weeks to make the dresses plus another 2 weeks for shipping. In total, the cost came to $160 for both dresses, plus another $40 for shipping- meaning I paid $200 all told. This, to me, was a pretty reasonable price, and is more or less in line for what I would pay for a similar dress (simple style, minimal lace and embellishment) from one of the reputable Taobao brands.

Through this time, they posted an update to their FB page that they were overwhelmed with the high quantity of orders and would be temporarily halting new orders to get caught up. This struck me as a good sign, and despite the long wait, reassured me that I would be getting my dresses.

 As promised, they messaged me with a tracking number after about six weeks. They also suggested that I dry-clean my items when they arrived. This entire portion of the process went really smoothly, and I received a package neatly and securely wrapped with brown paper, plastic, and twine about two weeks later.

The Dresses

The first thing I noticed when I pulled the dresses out of the package was that they looked identical. My friend and I have drastically different figures and measurements (I'm 5'6" and gawky, she's 5'2" and petite), and we had clearly relayed this information to them. 

I took out a measuring tape to check- my dress had been made drastically too large in the bust and was an inch too short. Hers was closer to the correct bust measurement, but was a full two inches too short. If you click on the above images, I've laid out the dresses with a measuring tape- one is 30" long, the other is 30.5" long. I asked them to make these dresses 31" long and 33.5" long, respectively. I'm not sure what my friend plans to do, but as for me, I'll probably have to add a small panel under the bust to lengthen my dress. I'm a fan of short lolita dresses, but I can't move around without exposing myself in this one.

Then, I tried the dress on. The entire white bib is made of extremely sheer chiffon and unlined- you can't wear the dress without your bra or undershirt being visible. Above, I've shown the dress with my measuring tape underneath- at the parts that are not underneath pintucks, you can clearly read the numbers underneath (my hand is just in the shot because the measuring tape kept twisting up). It's a ridiculous, yet apparently intentional design flaw that will require me to take apart the dress and add in a lining to the upper part. The design of the dress also makes it ridiculously difficult to squeeze your head into it and get it on! 

The buttons are cute, and seem to be decent quality, but they are not the buttons pictured in the stock photo- and they're really difficult to fit through the holes. This would not have been a huge issue if the dress zipped up the back to allow you to put it on, but since you have to undo all the buttons (on the sleeves as well as on the neck) to get in and out of the dress, it's a pain to deal with.

My dress also has a major flaw in the left shoulder seam- the way it's stitched, the left shoulder sticks STRAIGHT up. The right doesn't. I can't get the right one to stand up, nor can I get the left to lay flat. It's because of this weird row of double stitching on the interior of the sleeve. I will have to take out the sleeve to fix this.

The embroidery is nice and looks just like the sample. There is no puckering or pulling of the fabric. So plus one for them, I guess! The skirt is fully lined in a smooth cotton fabric, making the unlined top half even more baffling. It's not an uncomfortable fabric by any means, but it wasn't the best choice for a lining fabric for a lolita dress. The cotton lining tends to catch on my petticoat and stay there- dangerous for a dress that's already too short!

I then took a look at the materials. The lace is completely different than what was pictured, and on top of that, it's unpleasant to the touch and to me really kind of ruins the look of the dress. Had I seen a sample of this lace on the dress, or at least a sample of the lace stating that it might be used on the dress, I probably would have stayed away. The bib is basically covered in giant daisies- not the look you want for your elegant gothic-styled dress. On top of that, it's pretty scratchy. This will probably require replacement.

On top of that, the chiffon is pretty textured- but not in a pleasant way. It's very scratchy and frankly reminds me of cheap toilet paper.

Overall, the quality of the dress is extremely low. I have seen higher-quality Bodyline items that run half the price (or less!) this dress does. If you would like a comparison, I would liken it to a low-end Dream of Lolita piece.

The Customer Service
So, here's where things really go off the rails. I send them the following initial message. I am just hoping to get a partial refund so I can line the top half of my dress, lengthen it, and get some new lace. I forget to mention the sleeve issue, since my message focuses on both dresses and that issue only affects one. At this point, I haven't handled the dresses much and don't even notice the low-quality materials, so though I do address this point in the initial review I post to Tumblr, I did not raise it to them.

This is the reply I receive:

They admit they made a mistake on the measurements but offer no path to fix it, claim I should have known materials might be different because they're an indie brand, and state the sheer bib is inentional and no one else had a problem with it. They also, bizarrely, make a big deal about their high-quality materials- even though I made no mention of the fact that they were bad, just that it wasn't what I had ordered or expected. This actually prompts me to go back and take a closer look at the fabric, lace, and buttons. If you've read this far down in the review, you'll know that I didn't like what I found.

At this time, they also make the following passive-aggressive post to their Facebook page:

I don't know if it's me, but I always find that kind of thing in extraordinarily bad taste. I also think it would have been more effective to make this comment on the images of their dresses, so future customers know right off the bat that they may have to use different trims as supply dictates. I should also like to note that this post has since been deleted.

At this time, I step away from Facebook- I'm very upset and I want some time to cool down, and I don't want to message them something I'll regret. I send a text message to the friend who had ordered with me, and we discuss how we want to proceed and what kind of resolution I should try to get from this company. We prepare a response, but before I have the opportunity to reply, I come back to the following two messages:

Frankly, I find this baffling. It was sent with no prompting and I have not once questioned the quality of their materials- only stated that the trims used on my dress do not match the stock photos, and the measurements of the dresses don't match those provided. I also don't get why they offered to send me samples. They've even admitted that these mistakes are true. Due to the high cost of shipping from Vietnam, it probably would have been cheaper to just send me the partial refund I had asked for than to randomly offer to send me samples!

At this point, I send them a message back. I'm trying to be nice because I'm out of the PP dispute window, so I'm relying on their goodwill to get a partial refund or exchange. I reiterate my issues, stress that I'm not trying to accuse them of making bad dresses, and let them know I really don't need their samples. I clearly lay out two possible solutions: either I send the dresses back and have them remade to the right specs with the advertised trim, or they give me a partial refund of $30 per dress so I can pursue alterations locally.

This is what I receive back. Frankly, I'm speechless. They've already admitted to messing up my order- and then they turn around and insult me

I would also like to point out that they make no mention of how return shipping ($50) is going to be paid, nor do they make a mention of refunding me the initial $40 I paid for shipping. I message them back:

Once I have calmed down a little bit, I send them a follow-up message. I let them know that, setting aside the lace issue and the sheer yoke of the dress, they admitted that their tailor botched my requested measurements. I again stress that I just want a partial refund so I can get the dresses altered to the correct size.

At this time, I also make a negative review to my Tumblr blog advising people to stay away from this company due to their poor customer services and low-quality items- at this point, my experience with them has been so overwhelmingly negative that there is very little they could offer to erase this from my mind.

The designer then follows this up with a message apologizing for the tailor's mistake and offering me a $30 refund per dress, as requested. I thank her for her assistance, provide her with my PayPal email, and while I'm not super happy with the situation, I'm ready to wash my hands of it and I'm glad that in the end they were willing to help me reach a fair resolution of the situation due to their error.

Not so for whoever handles their Facebook page- I receive the following message from them later:

I'm honestly floored. I still haven't replied to the message and I genuinely do not think I will- I don't even know what to say at this point. They offered a resolution and then decided it would be best to rescind it for reasons I still can't fathom, and to be 100% honest, I don't want to waste my time dealing with them to figure out what sort of refund I'll get in the end- nor do I really trust them to refund me at all once I mail the dresses out.

The Aftermath
After they imply they'll refund me if I eat the $90 shipping bill, I make a post to my Tumblr page with a negative review. Either they follow their tag on Tumblr, or someone brought it to their attention- because it is only after this that the designer offers the refund. On the heels of this review, a friend points out this absurd post on their Facebook page accusing me of lying. They also, hilariously, say they've deleted their messages with me. This post has since been deleted, but a friend of mine was able to take screencaps of the post and their follow-up responses.

This post is probably the most insane part of the entire exchange, because it's pretty much entirely wrong. As I stated on my Tumblr I was actually out of town and just didn't have a chance to take photos, and a full review would be forthcoming, so I don't really know how relevant their claim that I'm unwilling to back up my words with photos is. They also state that I lied and they refunded my money. This is not the case- as soon as they provided me a partial refund, I updated my post to reflect this within minutes. I also informed the owner of the lolita-tips blog of the edit to ensure her many followers weren't reading misinformation. Furthermore, to read the full post, you have to go to my blog- meaning there is no archived version floating around without the complete updated timeline of events. They also state my review isn't honest and is offensive, which is... patently untrue.

They also, oddly, claim they can't show proof of my interactions with them- and then decline to post caps themselves, stating they "deleted" them. Originally I thought the issue was perhaps due to a language barrier issue, but the fact that they decline to show our interactions indicates that they probably had a good idea how people would view them once they saw the caps. The fact that they call positive reviews most honest also has me extremely confused.

I will admit that I did not come to them with all issues- I never confronted them about the wonky left shoulder seam, the crappy fabric, or the crummy lace. This is because I honestly forgot about the first one and didn't notice the second two until after I messaged them- and there was no point where I was not scrambling to get on their good side after their first response to ensure I ultimately received a refund. Since they took so long (which, again, I must stress that they were EXTREMELY upfront about- while the quality of their communication was lacking, they were quick with replies and communicative), I had no recourse through PayPal. I was relying solely on their goodwill to get a refund. I wanted to stick with things I could clearly show in a photo (although, ultimately, they refunded me without requesting photographic proof), and fabric and lace quality can be very subjective. On top of that- they REPEATEDLY insisted to me that their materials were great quality, even after I pointed out twice that I had not brought quality up as an issue, so I don't really have any reason to think they would have refunded me had I chosen to argue that point with them. After they proved themselves to be extremely difficult to deal with, I did not want to hurt my chances of getting a refund, and it was only because I really stressed the incorrect length to them that I wound up getting a refund.

In response, they also post an album of happy customer reactions to combat my  review. I'm blown away by the utter inadequacy of their response, where they state that because no other customers had issues and that I'm being ridiculous. Additionally, I'm shocked they would publicly accuse me of lying for providing a short review and a brief explanation as to why screenshots will be forthcoming- when they claim they have "lost" the screenshots that show them in an unflattering light.

In Conclusion
The Phantom and the Maiden has a lot of cute designs and they seem like a good deal on the face. Their prices are good, they offer custom sizing, and they have a really heavy focus on doing original, interesting items. I genuinely want to be able to support them. Up until they called me ridiculous, I had a half-written positive review, expecting they would apologize for the error and offer some kind of resolution. That did not come until it was way too late to redeem my opinion, and their insulting, passive-aggressive posts to their Facebook page really sealed the deal, in my mind. I could overlook a change in lace or some so-so fabric, but this level of terrible customer service is unforgivable. If it was just the designer (who was a pleasure to deal with in my interaction with her), I would certainly recommend the brand and their willingness to help customers, but as-is.... save your money. Get a nice Bodyline dress instead. Use the money you save to get some custom embroidery done on it.

I would not recommend ordering from this brand. They are just starting out, so I hope they will learn from this incident and improve going forward. They had a really cute jellyfish-themed design that I was planning to order, and I'm honestly really upset- I had actually set aside the cash to order another matching set for Avina and I, since I already had her measurements. Instead, I'm going to have to pass and I advise other lolitas to do the same. Until this brand improves their materials, tailoring, and- most importantly- their customer service, I would avoid them. If you must order from them, be sure not to let your PP dispute window expire. Being able to go through PayPal, instead of relying on the assistance of their customer service representative, would have really eased this process.

Thank you so much for reading! If you have any questions or would like any additional photos or information, please let me know! I'll provide it to the best of my ability.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I was considering ordering from this company, but the way they handled this was just atrocious. I'm so sorry you had such a shitty experience! This has definitely changed my opinion of the company.


Leave your thoughts here <3