In a country that doesn’t have consumer protection laws, Saudi’s are not complaining, they have found their way with the help of new media. We have heard many stories of violating the Saudi customer rights. Today the story involves a big name.
AL Shaya is a Giant retailer, actually the biggest in the GCC. Owning the franchise of more than 55 brands across the Middle East, this holding group is dominating a huge percentage of the Fashion market. including brands like H&M, Mothercare, Debenhams, Top Shop and many more.
Recently, AL Shaya group issued a new rule that stopped cash refunds for any purchases. Customers can only exchange their purchases. And that was applied only in Saudi Arabia; UAE & Qatar consumer right laws prevented such a greedy policy. Bearing in mind the restrictions on women in Saudi. They can’t drive; the outlets in malls don’t offer any fitting rooms, and now: No cash back! Anger spread.
Tweets started increasing, Comments on Facebook amplified, blogs intensified with posts, and BBMs fired. Normally, the end of such high connectivity resulted in a big online tribe that consists mostly of women who gathered online, united their voice under one hashtag: #noshaya
There were more than 2600 tweets in less than a week and counting. The result: BOYCOTT. Hundreds are calling to boycott the giant retailer.
Many women activists jumped in, one of them has launched a poll to take customers opinion, with more than 6,000 people from Saudi only condemning the new policy. And one of the activists mentioned that this poll will be sent to the mother companies of these brands! another mentioned that they can easily order online from the mother companies. Wow! Really, the online world has given people the tools to govern their issues with help of no one.
Like any other poor business who cares about money only, and nothing else (including finding better ways to communicate with his customers) AL Shaya predictably had no active online presence to answer all these concerns, mingle with these frustrated consumers, converse with them, explain to them the new “greedy” policy.
AL Shaya has an abandoned Facebook page, which didn’t escape customer’s complaints
Now, a company this huge, making such a policy without managing expectations, at least on social platforms; is doomed to fail. Communicating to people before hand, even replying to these concerns after the policy issue would have opened a channel and sucked off some anger. I promise them, no backlash would happen, only ordinary conversations.
I have seen official replies on the incident from AL Shaya spokesperson to traditional media (magazines, and a newspaper!) And not one tweet to handle the thousands of lost customers! Are you still stuck there? Your lost audience is here, ONLINE!
The trend is catching up. And as usual, and as many big brands before him (remember Marai) lost the new online battles with customers, al Shaya will lose this one. The Saudi customer is an intelligent, connected, and well-aware of his rights, he/she doesn’t need any consumer rights agency; Social Media is offering the needed tools. Welcome to the new world, where customers own your brand. not you.
Eventually, AL Shaya group will lose & bend down to the thousand of potential lost customers, and remove the policy.
However, please don’t disturb AL Shaya brand online deep sleep.