An Open Letter to Gap

Dear Gap,

I hoped to be writing this message to you after my situation had been resolved, but as it appears that may never happen, I feel a sense of urgency to share my experience with you now.

I am preparing to move across the country, which as you can imagine, is pretty stressful. Add to that the two month road trip my boyfriend and I decided to tack on to this adventure, and yeah, I'm a little bit on edge. To mitigate some of my packing-related stress, I decided I'd go straight Zuckerberg for this road trip, and order a few basic shirts from gap.com using the rewards I'd earned on my Banana Republic Visa. I've shopped for clothes almost exclusively at the Gap family of brands for the last five years, so I'm familiar with what sizes I wear for just about everything you carry. Then you guys introduced your Modern line.

My three t-shirts and two tank tops arrived on Friday, the 16th, and I removed the tags and put them in my drawer, excited about my super basic wardrobe. Again, having always worn a small in every single one of your other t-shirts I purchased, I was confident I was all set. Fast forward to Saturday when I attempted to put on one of the tank tops. While briefly stuck in the head hole, arms flailing, I wondered whether I'd mistakenly bought my shirts at Baby Gap. I've always thought of Gap as a pretty body positive brand, so to say I was disappointed that I couldn't even fit my head in one of your shirts would be an understatement. "Oh well" I said to myself, "I will just go to a Gap store and exchange for a larger size. After all, I'm the only one who will see the size tag anyway".

So, amidst all the packing and other preparations, I traveled 25 minutes North, first, to the Gap Outlet, where I was informed I would need to visit an actual Gap to make the exchange (fair enough, and at least I was made aware of this upon entering the store, versus after waiting in a very long line). So, off I went to a regular Gap store, where everyone was incredibly helpful (seriously, big ups to Wayne and all the other peeps at your Austin, TX Arboretum store, they're aces!). Unfortunately, after spending an hour picking out a handful of items to exchange, I found out your company was suffering a system wide outage, meaning the in store staff would be unable to obtain my invoice information by swiping the credit card I used to make the purchase. Feeling defeated, I left the store, tiny shirts in hand, hoping to at least make up for the fact that I had just wasted two hours of my day that I didn't have.

This afternoon (Monday, 10/19), I called the store to find out whether the system is back online. The person I spoke with said she had no idea, and that they wouldn't know until someone came in and tried to process an online return. I was left with two options: come in and try my luck, or call back every hour to check in. I then attempted to call the customer service line at Gap.com, thinking surely someone there would have some insight. Nope. Not only is there no way to check the status of a system outage, but there is also no way to obtain a duplicate copy of my receipt. However, the woman on the phone was very nice and informed me that she could easily process the return over the phone, which would be great, if I wasn't about to be without an address for the next two months.

I'd like to reiterate that all of the personnel I have interacted with have been wonderful- as helpful as they can be. This issue is clearly not a people problem, but a process problem. I know what you're thinking. Obviously, this whole disaster could have been avoided if I'd just kept my invoice. But you can't say that, because I'm a customer. Also, you've evolved your return policy in such a way that I shouldn't have to have my invoice in order to process a return, for which I'm grateful. I worked in IT in a former life. I understand that outages happen, and I'm sure your IT team "is hard at work to determine the root cause of this outage, and hopes to have this issue resolved as soon as possible". Yeah, I get it.

What I don't understand is how, as an organization that's been around for 40+ years, with over 10,000 employees, and five major brands, you don't appear to have any sort of business continuity measures in place in the event of such an outage. I find it incredible that there's no way to make your systems work together in concert so that information regarding an online order can be accessed easily in store. At a minimum, as a customer, I expect to be able to call a store and find out from an associate whether something that was broken yesterday is back up and running today (do you even email, bro?).

I'm sure I'm not the only customer who's had an experience like this one, and I tried incredibly hard to maintain my composure during each of my interactions with your staff. Hopefully, I came across that way, because I know none of this is their fault. But really, if not only for the benefit of your customers, look into this for the sake of your associates' sanity. I can't imagine how frustrating it must feel, as an employee, to get complained at on a daily basis, unable to actually do anything of value to resolve the issue. It can't feel good.

I implore you, please improve your processes. Empower your associates so they can provide meaningful results. Hell, if you aren't doing so already, seek a wider audience among your staff, many of them probably have amazing suggestions for how to improve things.

Please, just do something, because as a customer, it's really been a huge letdown being met with a whole lot of nothing.

Best Regards,

Leah Rainis