Snapshot: Of Wellness Village Spa’s Sudden Closure

If you haven’t read the report, Wellness Village Spa, which used to operate out of the Pan Pacific Singapore Hotel, suddenly closed shop in the course of a day. Its phones were disconnected, its director, Lia Meyrina, vanished into thin air, and all that’s left are its former customers’ credit card debts. Around 500 of its clients owe credit card companies between S$550 to S$6,000 for payment of services that they’ll never be able to use.

The issue I’d like to highlight here is the credit card companies’ response to the entire episode. This is what HSBC had to say about their customers’ plight:

“Cardholders are liable for instalment payments on their credit cards as the full amount has been paid to the merchant.”

So far, the only bank that has offered to waive outstanding payments is Citibank. I know which bank I’m getting my next credit card from. Apparently this has led other banks to soften their stance. A little too late for them, I’d say. In the face of Citibank’s response, it’s a matter of course that the other banks will eventually have to waive their charges as well (unless they absolutely love negative word-of-mouth). It’s just that their reluctance shows where they stand on the customer service spectrum. In the end, these banks lose money without gaining any positive publicity.

What customers are looking for during such incidents is a swift and appropriate response from brands – proof of the value that their chosen brands place in them. For all their marketingspeak, most brands fail to identify such moments that would actually serve as a testament to their promises. And such moments don’t come often. Almost every crisis, every problem, can be turned around but it all depends on the mindset that the company has. Citibank recognized this, so well done, you. Other banks apparently prefer to waste millions of dollars in ads trying to blow smoke in customers’ faces.

One of my fellow agents faced a similar incident a while back. In this particular case, she was representing both the tenant and the landlord. A few weeks after closing the deal, the tenant called her up, almost in tears, and complained of his landlord’s unreasonable behaviour (it was, take my word for it).

Most agents feel that their duty ends when the contract’s been signed and everyone goes where they’re supposed to go. From a legal standpoint, that’s true. But the better agents always try to help their clients even after collecting their commission (but within reason, I can hear them say, haha). So, my colleague spent the next week mediating an agreement where the tenant managed to get his security deposit back while being able to cancel the contract, which, believe me, isn’t easy. She also managed to find him a new place within the week. He’s much happier now, and goes around telling all his friends about her. A little something for everyone.

And what about the landlord? She never worked with him again. While we all enjoy helping other people out, you’ll invariably experience personality clashes at times and it just doesn’t make sense to force the issue. You don’t have to feel bad for the landlord. There are many, many agents who’d work with him in a heartbeat.

Of course, a post about customer service won’t be complete without this Nordstrom anecdote:

A guy walked into a Nordstrom boutique with a tyre. He said he wasn’t happy with it and he’d like to return it. The Nordstrom salesman happily took the tyre and gave a refund. What’s so special? Nordstrom has never sold tyres.

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3 thoughts on “Snapshot: Of Wellness Village Spa’s Sudden Closure

  1. UOB has decided to assist their customers by suspending the future instalments payable on the card until the issue is resolved. You have to complete some form which they send you, and send all the receipts from the signing of the package with the wretched company as well. I am trying to get in touch with DBS now, and hope that their stand will be similar, seeing that Citibank and UOB have taken this very positive stand. I am so angry that words can’t describe it.

    • Sorry to hear about that, Tash. If UOB has followed Citibank’s lead,I don’t think it’ll be long before DBS waives their outstanding payments as well, and hopefully you won’t have to needlessly waste your money.

      What I don’t get is why they’re taking so long to do it. It seems to me that most banks would rather sit idly while these incidents occur and, instead of showing good faith by helping their customers out, they waste millions of dollars in ad spend telling us how wonderfully nice and caring and sweet-smelling they are. A few hundred thou out of their massive marketing budget to help their customers won’t hurt them too much, would it? And the publicity it’ll generate would be worth much more than those inane tv ads they like to spend their money on anyway. And that’s why, in this instance at least, I think we should praise Citibank for the way it handled the entire episode.

      Hold on… can almost hear the other banks replying – oh, the perennial cop-out, ‘Now we do, like that later everyone who cannot pay also want, then how?’

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