In the last few days, I have seen #Gasp constantly popping up on my Twitter feed. It was only this afternoon that I actually looked into what this whole fiasco was all about. And boy oh boy, do I have something to say about this.
For those who are not familiar with the brand, GASP describes themselves as Australia’s leading fashion boutique of dresses, jeans and accessories. However, they are best known for their cocktail and evening dresses.
Long story short – on September 24th, a girl named Keara (above) and her three bridesmaids went into the new GASP store on Chapel Street in search of bridesmaids dresses and a dress for her hens night. In the process of trying on a dress, not only did the sales assistant Chris barge into her change room saying “I think you should just get it”, upon her leaving the store empty-handed, he yelled “Have fun finding something at Supre” and “I knew you girls were a joke the minute you walked in”.
After feeling extremely offended from the encounter (as any normal person would), Keara sent a well-worded complaint e-mail to the customer service centre at GASP, only to be further insulted by the area manager Matthew in the responding e-mail.
First of all, the response is riddled with long-winded sentences, grammatical errors and misused words – it really must be seen to be believed.
Secondly, not only did it defend and condone the behaviour of the sales assistant, it also contained many personal attacks on Keara. Unlucky for GASP, Keara put these e-mails online and let the power of social media work its magic.
Below are some of the highlights of the e-mail from Matthew (the comments in the brackets are added by me).
“Our product offerings are very, very carefully selected, so to ensure that we do not appeal to a broad customer base.”
“…the customer whom is acclimatised to buying from “clothing for the masses” type retailers, is almost frightened by our range…”
“Our range is worn by A list celebrities to the likes of Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez and Katy Perry to name only a few.” (BAHAHAHAHAHA!!!)
“…these items are priced such that they remain inaccessible to the undesirable.” (Undesirable – reminds me of Harry Potter lol)
“Chris whom served you is a qualified stylist whom has a sixth sense for fashion, and Chris’s only problem is that he is too good at what he does…” (Then why is Chris working as a retail assistant and not a stylist? I’m awfully confused!)
“It is probably fair to assume, a lot of what I have said in this email, either doesn’t make sense to you, or you totally disagree with it all…”
“Chris is a retail superstar, who possess unparalleled ability…he knew you were not going to buy anything before you even left your house.” (Oh WOW, Chris is a qualified stylist, retail superstar AND a mind-reader – impressive!)
“I am sure there are plenty of shops that appease your taste, so I respectfully ask that you side step our store during future window shopping expeditions.” (Awwww not even allowed to window shop? POO!!)
You can read the full story here (including the two e-mails in full). I highly recommend it as it’s extremely hilarious!
I know there are two sides to a story, Keara might be exaggerating etc etc, but I believe it 100% only because it so strongly reminded me of a similar experience I had at GASP about 6 years ago. I was shopping at Chadstone for a dress to wear to my high-school graduation, with a budget of about $150. After browsing in a few clothing stores and trying on several dresses, I had my heart set on a black and gold dress from ‘Seduce’. However, not wanting to rush into my purchase, I decided to also check out GASP.
As soon as I walked into the store, the female shop assistant pounced on me with the ‘newest arrival’ – what appeared to be a dress made out of scrap material retailing for over $200. I knew the minute I set eyes on it that I did not like it, but I felt pressured to try it on. Once I stepped out of the change room, I was told that it looked SO good on me (the exact phrase I have heard every-time I’ve tried something on at GASP) and that they can work out a better price if the price is a problem (oh em gee, thank you so much!).
Before I could even voice my opinion about the dress, the shop assistant has draped a black jacket over me, telling me that it looks great with the dress and that I should buy the two together (which would have worked out to be about $400). By that point, I felt extremely uncomfortable and just wanted to get the heck out of the store. So I politely said that “I will think about it” as I also found a dress I liked at Seduce (no I lied, what I meant to say was, “the dress you forced on me was hella ugly and I would never buy it, EVER”).
The shop assistant rudely responds, “if you wanna look nice, you’d buy this dress. If not, then get the one from Seduce.”
Gosh, that just sealed the deal! I bought the dress from Seduce.
And then there’s the GASP sales. Every few months, GASP would have a trestle table outside their store covered with their last season’s dresses, all reduced to $20. However, they’d all still have their tags with their original prices of $200+, making it obvious to everyone that the dresses are only worth about $10, if not less.
Customers are not allowed to try on any of the sale items in their store and upon purchase, customers MUST leave the store with one of their ridiculously large cardboard bags, and hence, turning into a silly walking billboard. Several times I have asked for ‘no bag’ and was told that all purchases must be put in a bag because there are security cameras (oh right, that makes sense!). And when I say large, I mean large enough to fit a small human being (see above). Note: The bag says Emmanuella, which is one of the ‘designer labels’ GASP distributes.
However, I noticed that in the last year or so, GASP has undergone a re-branding process. They stopped having their $20 ‘end of season’ sales, refurbished their stores, hired security guards (are you kidding me?!?) and jacked up their prices even more in a desperate attempt to convince consumers that they are a true ‘high-end’ brand. They even established a store on Collins Street, only to stick out like a sore thumb amongst real designer brands like Chanel, LV and Gucci.
However it is interesting to note there exists an Australian eBay store called ‘GASP Clearance’, which sells discount GASP garments starting from $20. Sound familiar? That’s right, it appears that GASP has simply moved their sales online, despite attempting to establish themselves as a luxury brand that is ‘never on sale’.
If their styles are so “cutting-edge” and “only worn by a select few”, then why are they mass producing to the point that they need to sell excess stock online for a fraction of the original price? Walk the walk or don’t talk the talk!
But to be honest, I have nothing against their designs. Sure some of their dresses are rather tacky, but some are actually very nice (in my opinion). In the photos above, all the dresses I’m wearing are GASP dresses, but none of them are over $50. I either bought them at one of their sales or on their eBay clearance store.
I’m not claiming that my dresses are nice, as you may very well think otherwise, but they appealed to my taste at the time (note: some of the photos are very old). What doesn’t appeal to me however, is their pretentiously ludicrous retail prices and their unprofessional, obnoxious and rude retail assistants, which are the reasons I refuse to patronise their store.
With the uprising of online shopping, I’m sure most people are aware of the recent struggle brick and mortar retailers have to attract customers into the store. The apparent solution? By providing good ole quality customer service. Hence, many retailers are placing a great importance on customer service strategy within their overall business strategy.
On the other hand, GASP’s business strategy train seem to have derailed and gone in the complete opposite direction. Coupled with this very public humiliation, they could very well be heading towards a collision with ‘total brand failure’.
– Miss Pixie Lulu