Nespresso: The Cup is Half Empty

A simple return of a defective product became a long and fruitless discussion and demonstration

When a customer of 11 years walks in a store to return a defective tube of coffee worth a few euros, do you:

  1. Act obsequious and apologize profusely
  2. Tell the customer to come with you so you can prove to him he is somehow in the wrong
  3. Replace the product without comment

On this Saturday morning, my expectation would have been #3, but for some reason, the Nespresso counter person wanted to play this as #2.

Nespresso keeps an account with all purchases so you shouldn’t need a receipt to get a product exchanged. The counter person looked up the sale, saw it was within 14 days, but said he’d have to consult his manager. Fair enough, but the manager in question was arrogant and obnoxious and insisted on starting by saying the tube was opened. Yes, it was, we tried to use one capsule, which produced water. All of the capsules, upon examination, were damaged or malformed. How would we know the product needed to be exchanged if we didn’t open the tube? Then came the demonstration: he put one of the bent capsules into their machine and it worked. What exactly does that prove? That the machine purchased at the same store is alrerady broken? Yet, this same machine worked fine before the defective capsules and has continued to work flawlessly on all the other capsules tried since then.

Sometimes, making a point doesn’t mix well with wanting to be the ultimlate luxury brand of coffee. Nespresso has established a very cleverly branded club, symbolized by George Clooney, and most of time served up by a well-trained and well-heeled staff.

Is this the beginning of the end of the Nespresso era? I think it may be a harbinger of bad things for them. The economy is down, treating your hard won customers in anything other than a trusting manner is not good business. What do you think? Will they survice or will the cup go from hal-full to empty?


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