Luxury fail

Australian jeweller Sarina Suriano and her stonemason husband Noel Keating recently returned from a two and half year stint in London. In early December they also welcomed their first child, Stella. On December 17th, Keating went to Double Bay luxury shoe emporium Cosmopolitan Shoes to purchase a special Christmas gift for his wife: a beige pearlised patent leather YSL wallet from the Y-Mail collection. Keating reports that he was initially disappointed that the wallet was not packaged in a YSL box, as seen elsewhere (although it’s unclear if this was from YSL-owned stores). Instead, the $1,100 wallet was wrapped in what he describes as a “scruffy” YSL dust bag. On Christmas Eve, Suriano opened her gift. After her initial elation, she was disappointed to turn the wallet over and discover a small split in the leather on its back – something that Keating evidently had not spotted. After phoning Cosmopolitan Shoes to ask for a replacement, the duo returned the wallet to the store on December 30th and a replacement wallet was duly handed over. They accepted it and left the store. According to the Suriano-Keatings, the wallet remained untouched in its dust bag in their bedroom over the following three days. If only it had stayed there.

On January 3rd, over the course of a day’s shopping trip with a friend, Suriano says that she noticed the fabric banding around the zip of the wallet starting to fray. She opened the wallet to take a closer look and reports she spotted one jagged corner of the credit card holster immediately adjacent to the frayed banding, which, she surmised, had contributed to the fraying.

Exacerbating the problem: the credit card holster was, says Suriano, quite tight, making it difficult to remove cards, with cards becoming hooked in the banding as Suriano removed them. Later that day, Suriano reports that she also noticed a dark mark had appeared on the back of the wallet, which, she insists, had remained in her handbag all day. Attempts to clean the mark proved unsuccessful as it appeared to be ingrained in the leather.

All of these alleged faults have been documented in this series of photographs above and below, supplied by Suriano and Keating.

On January 7th, Suriano and Keating contacted the store again to ask for a full refund. They were told that someone would call them back. They report that noone did call them back. So on January 9th, they turned up at the store to ask for a full refund.

There was a dramatic contrast in the reception they received this time around. On this occasion, reports the duo, they were accused of scuffing and overfilling the wallet and then bringing it back for a refund.

The situation deteriorated. Over the course of the exchange, says Suriano, it was suggested that the matter might be referred to YSL parent Gucci Group, with Suriano noting that she believed Gucci Group would definitely want to know if something was not right with their product.

Suriano and Keating claim that at this point, Cosmopolitan Shoes director Rose Ghosn screamed at them in front of other customers and various staff members, calling them “pedantic, insecure, paranoid customers that pick a tiny fault in everything”, adding to Keating, “Obviously you couldn’t afford the wallet and now you want a refund.”

Undeterred, Suriano and Keating contacted YSL Paris, a representative from which instructed them (in correspondence sighted by frockwriter) that Cosmopolitan Shoes should have followed the company’s “Quality process”, with a view to initiating a “Quality examination procedure”. The rep told Suriano and Keating that he would contact Cosmopolitan Shoes.

According to YSL correspondence, the company contacted Cosmopolitan Shoes on January 18th instructing the company to provide a full refund. Over the course of the following week, YSL states that it sent “daily reminders”.

According to Suriano and Keating, Cosmopolitan Shoes failed to contact them to inform them that a refund was due. Their numerous efforts to reach Cosmopolitan Shoes director Rose Ghosn by phone were unfruitful, with messages left unanswered and on several occasions, they claim, staff hanging up on them.

On February 4th, Suriano reports, she finally did manage get through. Suriano says that there was a heated exchange with Ghosn, during the course of which - by all accounts - various unpleasanteries were exchanged on both sides. Still no offer to refund the wallet however, say Suriano and Keating, with Suriano adding that she was told the store “never gives refunds”.

On February 7th, frockwriter spoke with Rose Ghosn to get her side of the story. Ghosn said that she gave Suriano and Keating the benefit of the doubt on the first occasion and was happy to exchange the wallet.

However she declined to exchange the second wallet because, she believes, Suriano damaged the wallet herself. Ghosn suggested the most likely scenario for the scuff mark is that Suriano accidentally ran her pram over it.

“She ripped two wallets, absolutely, due to change of mind” said Ghosn. “Because she knew there was no other way to get a refund in this country. But a damaged item does”.

At one point Ghosn passed the phone to a colleague by the name of Dawn, who referred to the Suriano-Keatings as “problem customers”.

According to Ghosn the entire January 7th incident was captured on her security cameras - with the February 4th phone conversation also recorded (Suriano confirms that this was disclosed to her during the phone conversation). Ghosn added that she and her staff have been "harrassed" by Suriano and Keating.

The question that begs to be asked: why not simply give them the refund? These were, after all, YSL's instructions. The phone call was cut short by Ghosn so sadly, we did not get that far. The problems, say Suriano and Keating, initially came down to a YSL quality issue, not a reflection on Cosmopolitan Shoes.

As for the manufacturing origin of the wallet, Suriano says that there is an illegible stamp directly underneath a “YSL” stamp on one part of the wallet. Frockwriter checked a similar wallet from the same YSL collection at David Jones and found the similarly illegible small stamp under a “YSL” stamp in one part, with a “made in france” stamped in lower case letters in another (rather difficult to locate) area. Suriano reports she has so far been unable to locate the latter in her wallet.

A well-placed luxury industry source tells frockwriter that quality issues can arise within the manufacturing process at major luxury brands. The source added that a “bad batch” could be to blame.

Suriano and Keating insist that they did not damage the wallets and that Cosmopolitan Shoes has still made no offer to reimburse the wallet,

Suriano and Keating hope to have the matter resolved at the NSW Consumer Trader & Tenancy Tribunal.

Ghosn, meanwhile, told frockwriter that she is considering releasing her CCTV footage on Facebook.

All photos: supplied by Sarina Suriano and Noel Keating.