My favorite retail marketing phrase is the customer is always right. While this may be the case in Europe and America where the phrase was coined, here in the Gulf retailers can and often do put in place policies that would not seem to be consumer-friendly.
One of the largest retailers in the Gulf is Kuwait-based M.H. AlShaya. According to media reports AlShaya manages over 55 brands across the Middle East and operates 2,000 outlets in 15 countries. AlShaya is a monster retailer, and its brands including Debenhams, H&M, The Body Shop, Starbucks, Boots and Mothercare.
At the end of September Alshaya announced a new policy whereby it was scrapping its previous returns policy. No longer would shoppers at AlShaya stores be able to return faulty and unwanted goods for a cash or credit card refund. Instead, they would be given store credit.
To put it mildly this policy hasn’t gone down well online. Today twitterers used the hashtag #noshaya to blast the retailer for its returns policy. Prominent Saudi twitter activist @maialshareef and Dhahran-based @hindkz came up with the hashtag to vent their frustration at the change in policy returns. Those in the GCC in particular have been criticizing the policy, especially in Saudi Arabia where most retail shops do not have changing rooms. If the clothes you purchase do not fit when you try them on at home, you will not get a cash or credit card refund.
Twitterers have called for boycotts of M.H. AlShaya’s stores until the policy is changed. Some have also been contacting M.H. AlShaya’s retail partners such as H&M asking for them to force a change on M.H. AlShaya. One twitterer with the handle of @b_e_s_t wrote to @HM
Could you please review H&M store policy in Saudi Arabia. Your agent in the region refuse to pay refunds even with the receipt #noshaya
Some people online have defended M.H. AlShaya. One with the username neenoism noted that people should be angry at the Saudi authorities for refusing to install changing rooms.
Ill be buyin smthin from some ALSHAYA store eventually. Put the money on the damn card. Boycott Saudi for banning changing rooms. #noshaya
While it’s been a few months since the initial announcement re the returns policy, the only assumption for the timing of the backlash is that M.H. AlShaya has only implemented the policy recently. One of the region’s most prolific bloggers @khaled has summed up why people are upset. When compared to the brands they represent (most of whom seem to give consumers a refund even if the product or purchase is not faulty) M.H. AlShaya’s returns policy is anything but consumer friendly.
Recent social media campaigns against the likes of Qtel and AlMarai have resulted in major concessions either being promised to or made for the public’s benefit. This seems to be the start of what either may be a very short but focused campaign against M.H. AlShaya’s consumer policies or a long-term hashtag which sums up the dissatisfaction of its customers.