My latest experience with Cartier: customer service vs profit

I, like most people, enjoy the allure and beauty of jewellery that is created by luxury companies & expert craftsmen, but my latest experience with Cartier made me question the motives and the way that the company runs its business in relation to its customers.

Many years ago a dear friend of mine, knowing my love for hand-written notes, gave me a beautiful Cartier ink pen for my birthday. Truth be told, while I treasured the gift, I didn’t use it too often, preferring my roller-ball pen instead, A few weeks ago, doing the clear-out that often goes hand-in-hand with new year resolutions, I got Cartier’s beautiful red box containing the Louis fountain pen and quickly realised that the pen wasn’t writing any more. I changed the ink cartridge – same result. Well, clearly a trip to Cartier was in order.

I made the pilgrimage to Cartier’s gleaming boutique in Sloan Square, where the doorman was more welcoming that my female sales assistant. Morosely she examined the pen, produced a set of notes on it and told me that it will be sent to Cartier repair centre in London for examination. Once they had a chance to examine my pen, I will be called with a cost estimate and its copy will be posted to me as well.

Several days later I was called by a female assistant who told me that the service technician recommended ‘replacement of the writing block’, in addition to ‘nib service’. My fountain Louis Pen would need to be ‘dismantled, inner pen cleaned, writing block and cartridge be replaced, pen be re-assembled, function test passed and outer body of the pen be cleaned, before being returned to me. The letter also stated that diagnostics showed that ‘the writing block is bent and requires replacement to return your pen to full working order’. The cost? An eye-watering….£250. I tried to contain a giggle and said that I won’t proceed with the work right this moment and would collect the pen from the boutique at my earliest convenience. However, when I came to Cartier two days later, the pen wasn’t there. The manager wasn’t available, so I drove back home, frustrated at the waste of my time.

Back at home, I found Cartier’s embossed envelope with an estimate that listed the work, which would cost…£220. I was also somewhat puzzled to read the following note, part of the estimate that I needed to sign, in case I chose to proceed with the work: ‘In order to guarantee a service of excellence, and because any intervention on the creation’s components could lead to their deterioration and/or destruction, the price shown includes the removal by us of any components that need to be replaced, if applicable. The removed components shall become our property from the time of their replacement. By accepting the quotation, you irrevocably waive any right to receive any of the removed components after the repair’. So how would I know that something was actually broken in the first place? All I needed now is to figure out how to fix the pen without incurring the ridiculous cost.

Later that day an assistant-manager of Cartier called. I explained my discontent with the service and questioned the estimate of repair, as I could buy a new Cartier pen for that amount of money. She proceeded to tell me that my pen is now somewhat rare, as they no longer produce them, adding that when it was back at the boutique, she will be happy to send it to me via courier. Interestingly, the pen was back on my table two days later….enclosed in a signature Cartier pouch, as was the ink cartridge that I brought to the boutique alongside my pen.

As I got ‘reunited’ with my Louis pen on a saturday morning, I proceeded to tell my husband the story of my discontent. He had a look at my pen and said that all it really needed, in his opinion, is a ‘clean’ and that to his naked, non-expert eye, there was nothing wrong with the mechanism. He simply washed the top part of the pen with hot water and blew through it. After carefully drying it up with a soft cloth, he connected the mechanism to the ink cartridge, assembled the pen & voila, my pen was in perfect working order. You can see from the image below what my eldest thought of his father, mentally seconded by yours truly .)

As I was writing this post today, the assistant-manager of Cartier called me again, enquiring whether I have received the pen back yet. I confirmed receipt, as well as my bewilderment, considering the cost of the estimate & the result of my husband’s simple actions. While I appreciated her courtesy at calling me again, here is a question that I am now contemplating: what does this story tell me about Cartier’s customer service?

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