The Ongoing Trauma of Returning Defective Products: Sunscreen and Coffee Capsules

You would think that one of the largest domestic merchandising outlets in Switzerland (Migros) would be smooth and cool about taking back and refunding small faulty items.

Actual exchanges (always for a larger size, for some reason) usually work efficiently; and when presented with stinking, dripping perishable goods there is also swift action.

However, if you have no ticket, no bag, and something that doesn’t offend the senses of the lady at the customer services desk, you are dealing with a bigger issue. They have been trained, possibly with refresher courses, how to avoid parting with cash.

This summer, it began with a small tube of #50 sunscreen. Guaranteed no wrinkles. Guaranteed youthful progress into the past. Guaranteed beauty and protection.

The problem was mechanical. The lid didn’t click closed properly and so the precious liquid would escape inside bags and purses. After a week or two battling soggy innards and my futile attempt to secure the lid with black electrical tape, I girded up my loins and went to see the lady at the desk.

She smirked and called her colleagues over.  The three of them squirted my precious rejuvenating liquid over their hands and asked (did I detect sarcasm?) if I really thought such a product worked? What did I want them to do?

The small tube was soon empty and I was dumbfounded and humiliated.  They told me to go buy another tube and they would check the lid for me on the way out.  Guffaws were heard as I walked away.

So, when the faulty coffee capsule episode arose this week, I knew the highest level of preparation was necessary.

The box stated clearly that these capsules were compatible with the internationally famous coffee capsule brand, “Nespresso”. I put an M-capsule into my N-machine. A bit of water reluctantly spit out, there was a grinding sound and all the lights started blinking. Upon extraction and close forensic examination, the capsule showed it had been pierced at the front, but not at the back.

I closed the newly-opened box and placed the bad capsule and a used Nespresso capsule in an evidence bag. The prosecution was armed.

The lady at the desk the next morning was good. Flying in the face of black and white evidence, she tried to throw the case out on a technicality. She said that on their product, “Nespresso” was spelled with only one “s”. Over-ruled.

She then said that no one had ever complained before and so my complaint was invalid. She went to find a man who was a coffee capsule expert. He denied specific expertise in this case, as he always used another variant. Did I have a receipt? Why not take the box home, and try all the rest of the capsules? Maybe it was just a rogue individual?

I held firm.

A quarter of an hour of recalcitrance, and finally my palm was crossed with silver: A breathtaking hard-won victory of seven francs.

Joy Kundig

Joy Kündig-Manning est née en Angleterre et a vécu au Canada. Spécialisée dans la littérature anglaise du XVIIIe siècle, elle a travaillé comme traductrice, enseignante, et écrivaine. Mariée à un Suisse, elle est venue à Genève en 1977. Elle est très contente de tenir le premier blog du Temps en anglais!