Saturday, August 2, 2008

Birdwell Beach Britches: The Suit Nazis?

Remember that episode of Seinfeld called 'Soup Nazi,' in which the patrons of a really good soup stand in New York City were abused and turned away if they didn't order their soup EXACTLY as instructed? Well in case you thought things like that only happened on television, I had similar experience recently when I tried to order a new swimsuit from Birdwell Beach Britches, a family owned company and the makers of a classic suit that I've been a fan of and wearing for nearly 20 years.

I needed a new pair of Birdwells and decided to try ordering on their website. Unfortunately, as you'll see if you take a look at the site, it is very confusing if you're trying to order anything but a plain colored suit. I wanted one of their Hawaiian print suits so I called the number listed on the site and spoke to a very pleasant woman whom I later learned was Vivian Birdwell. She sent me some fabric swatches in the mail and told me to pick a couple and then to submit my order in writing. I did that and also included an old pair of Birdwell Britches with my order, asking if they could make me another, similar pair -- a mistake I would soon be made to regret. In total I ordered two suits and FEDEXED that order to the Birdwell store on July 7th.

After a couple of weeks I called and emailed to make sure that my order had been received. The gentleman I spoke to on the phone, Sam, would not confirm that for me, but I later received an email from Evelyn Birdwell (Vivian's daughter) informing me that the order had been received. She asked me a few questions about the order and I made a size and color change in what was a very pleasant email exchange with her. Then after a few days I sent another email asking how long it would take my order to be completed. Here’s that email, plus the inexplicable string of emails that followed:

Thu, 31 Jul 2008 11:54 am
Hi Evelyn, I hope that you are feeling better. Quick question: do you think that my order will be completed and shipped to me to arrive next week so that I may have them for my vacation? Thanks for letting me know!


Thu, 31 Jul 2008 3:11 pm
It is taking us 10 to 15 days to build Britches so no, it won't be finished.
Besides, we do not have an actual order!
We have pieces of an order, which never works out.
Without an actual order we cannot process.

Thu, 31 Jul 2008 5:54 pm
Please tell me what is missing from my order and I will provide that information.


Thu, 31 Jul 2008 6:50 pm
It needs to be on one page: name address phone credit card and what you want.
It might be a good idea to give us some alternate colors so we don't have to build them.
Still and all, it has been taking 10 days to get packages shipped so I don't see how we can get anything to you by next week.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I had previously submitted everything she requests here, but apparently I mistakenly submitted on two pages!

Fri, 1 Aug 2008 12:03 am
Eveyln ... here is my order one more time all on one page as requested:


Please let me know if there's anything more you need from me. By the way, the reason I sent my original order via FEDEX instead of using your online order form, was because I was instructed over the phone by Vivian to pick one of the swatches she mailed to me and return it with my order in writing. Apparently that was not the correct way to submit my order since now it's almost 4 weeks later and we're starting from scratch.


Fri, 1 Aug 2008 9:13 am
I thought I already told you there would not be time to get it to you.
We are not processing the order.
We do not accept orders in alternate formats ... which is what you seem to insist upon.
I have been telling you this, nicely -- Evelyn

EDITOR’S NOTE: It's not clear to me at this point what she means by 'alternate formats.' I have essentially submitted my order twice, once by mail as initially instructed, and then again via email.

Fri, 1 Aug 2008 9:43 am
Evelyn ... my order is not contingent upon receiving it by a certain date. I was merely asking if you thought it would be ready by next week. If it's not going to be ready that is fine, I just needed to know. I would still like the order to be filled. I am trying to follow your instructions and submit if the correct way, but I remained confused as to how exactly I should do that. I submitted it via mail per Vivian's instructions. I just spoke to Sam and he confirmed that you accept orders via mail. Do I need to resubmit my order again in another format? I understand that you are still ill, but would it be helpful if we spoke on the phone so that we can clear up the confusion once and for all? Please know that I've been a fan of Birdwells for over 20 years. I am one of your most vocal fans -- telling my friends how great your britches are. I've never had a problem ordering before, but for some reason this time there seems to be some kind of miscommunication. I'm available to speak by phone all day if that's convenient for you. If you can provide me a number I will give you a call. Thanks and I hope we can work this out.


Fri, 1 Aug 2008 3:53 pm
I do not accept an order so spread out as this one is. I informed you of the rule, and you simply sent the same email. I realize that in your business you want the merchandise entered first, then the name, then the cc info -- and this is over non-secure avenues. It works for you. We do not do it that way.

Please do not tempt fate by sending your vital information to non-secure email! We have heard of no problems, but our customers are usually careful, being afraid of identity theft. We do not accept those orders except in a return/exchange situation, and we already have their vital data.

There is no way we can get an order to you by next week: and you have requested next week since I received the 'order'.

There is another problem: In the busy season, you kept Sam on the phone for over 20 minutes without ever giving him an order; and then talked to Vivian for 45 minutes: no order, but she said 'send your old suit'? She is the one who made the rule to not send old suits!

But the main problem is that when an order is spread out like this one, we don't accept the order. We realize that whatever is wrong is totally our fault. And if it costs us, it's exactly what we deserve ...

I will not accept the order.


EDITOR’S NOTE: I'm not sure what she means by 'your business.' I've never told her what business I'm in. I keep wondering if she has me confused with someone else. I can tell you however, that the business I'm in doesn't allow me the luxury of spending over an hour on the phone trying to order a bathing suit....and during the 10-15 minutes I did spend on the phone with the people at Birdwell's, at no time did anyone ever ask me to place my order over the phone!

Fri, 1 Aug 2008 5:08 pm
Evelyn, needless to say I'm disappointed ... and confused by your response since I have been nothing but courteous and full of praise for your product. I had a very pleasant conversation with Vivian who seemed like a lovely woman. Obviously I was confused by the ordering instructions, but it was an honest mistake. Please let me know if you have a change-of-heart and if so I will call my order in over the phone.

God bless.


EDITOR’S NOTE: I've given up at this point but think 'life's too short, better to end on a positive note.'
Sat, 2 Aug 2008 12:31 pm
Mom is nice.
Very nice.
And then we get a two color order without having sent a tryon, and she isn't so nice; I say, he wants it in a week and she says, Why is he more important than the other people?
I should be as nice as she is and do what she tells me to do:
Do not take an order that begins with a lot of conversations, quotes, and custom.
Do not accept used Britches for any reason.
Do not accept orders that are not in the correct format.

Wow! I just figured it out! That is what I'm doing!
I do not understand why it is so hard to pick up the phone and put in an order! You have already talked to Sam and Mom for over an hour.
You want to write it: Mom said she would send swatches, but she didn't say to send it with an old Britch. She knows those packages go to receiving and that receiving is totally backed up. she would have told you to please not send it.
And about 50 people a day all summer go to the website to order. scroll down to the graphic CLICK TO ORDER which will link you to our secure ordering form. Each dialogue box will hold about 80 words, except for the last one which is 500 words.

We do not accept orders that have been talked to death first: if anything is wrong, it's always our fault because the customer can always find an email that I missed. This is the exact thing you have done. It doesn't matter how polite a person is, a business doesn't break a rule they know is a necessary one.
In your business, do you break rules -- even when you know it's going to cost you money? and the customer isn't going to be happier: they just spread the word that the rule has been broken. (I know. You always break your own rules -- I've asked that question before.


So there you have it. It looks like I won’t be receiving my Birdwells. My wife thinks I’m crazy for even wanting them at this point, but these people make a good product. That being said, I have never been so poorly treated by a business in my life. I’m posting this here for two reasons. One to solicit comments from anyone who has had similar experiences with the Birdwells and two as a cautionary tale for anyone thinking about making a Birdwell purchase. So the moral of this story is ....

BIRDWELL BUYERS BEWARE: Make sure you read their website carefully and follow all the rules as best you can because if you don’t -- even it it’s an honest mistake -- not only will they refuse your order, you might also find yourself on the receiving end of one of these rants.