Louis Vuitton faces odor uproar over foul-smelling $2,000 bag
A $2,000 Louis Vuitton bag smelling like crushed ginko nuts had owners in Korea rushing to stores in June, only to find the high-end stores already in mayhem as other incensed customers swarmed to demand an exchange instead.
Louis Vuitton, reportedly well aware of the issue, blamed the smell on poor storage and only explained the problem to fend off angry customers.
Crushed ginko nuts smell similar to rotten butter or animal waste.
“Each staff member had to attend to at least 25 customers per day for bad smell complaints between late June and mid-July,” an anonymous current employee at a Louis Vuitton store told the JoongAng Ilbo.
The store he works in has 15 employees looking after customers’ needs. If his claims were true, the store would have received around 10,000 customers requesting after-sales service for smelly purses in a single month.
“People flooding the store had us flustered because there wasn’t guidelines for such complaints.”
Confusion among customers and employees built up as each store implemented different exchange policies.
The source said people from other parts of the country traveled to the store where he worked because the store became popular online for easily accepting exchange requests.
Customer reviews said the employees exchanged products after checking the authentication date codes imprinted on the bags. A usual exchange involves a screening by the company headquarters in France which could last around a month.
Some customers claimed their exchange request was turned down for “poor storage by the customer.”
Bombarded by smell complaints, Louis Vuitton’s office in Korea called all employees to an online meeting in mid-July to share staff guidelines.
According to the training materials provided by the source, Louis Vuitton was aware of the fact that a quality-enhancing substance applied to soft canvas emitted stench when it was exposed to heat and humidity.
Items impacted by the odor problem were manufactured between January 2017 and March 2021, including the Marignan, Pochette Metis, Pochette Felicie and Petit Sac Plat Monogram products.
Employees were told not to inform customers of this feature and only share the information internally.
The following training slides said the smell may come at different times based on the storage condition.
“The canvas smell issue is from the material itself and not repairable. Offer exchange for confirmed items,” the employee manual read, directing manager-level employees to attend to smell complaints.
The number of exchange requests decreased going into August, the source said.
“Exchange requests in August dropped to 20 percent of July levels but there were around 2,800 exchanges made across the country. It was utter chaos in July and employees barely managed to maintain the exchange record history.”
Louis Vuitton stores in Korea are now oriented enough to share their daily data, but the odor uproar encouraged customers to actively file other complaints related to product quality, such as removed dye color and loose threads.
“The smell has seeped into the store after all the fuss. We can’t help but laugh because air fresheners won’t cut it.”
BY KIM JI-HYE [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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