Teavana -- If you don't want to buy something, too bad.

566 Replies

I’ve always had a bad experience in Teavana… either they come right up and are pushy or they watch you constantly, when not directly helping another customer, to the point where it’s nerve-wracking. I can’t shop like that. I’ve often wanted to spend time looking at their cups and pots as I’m interested in putting together a set, but the way the clerks at makes me too uncomfortable to stay in long. The only time I enter there now is if a friend takes me because they want to pick up a tea.

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Kashyap said

think the difficulty is that 90% of the people who walk into a tea shop …and lets face it 98% of the people who go to a mall and find teavana…know next to nothing about tea…and for good reason. Culturally we diverged at the Boston tea party and we have not near the locality to where its actually grown to have much exposure outside of the tea bag. Its only been the last 20 years that tea has blown up in stores and public markets, and really only about 10 years that tea culture in the US has gotten big enough to support tea shops – and most of that is due to a lot of ‘health’ articles bombarding tea, coffee, and other ‘anti-oxidant’ sources. Iced tea is still 80% of what most Americans consume of tea and loose leaf is still hard to find at good prices and qualities in the average specialty store, restaurant, or grocery. So from a retail perspective you have to educate in order to sell. This means being aware of your customers and trying to help them with products or information and being sensitive to what they are looking for or at without being overbearing, insulting, or eclipsing the individuals experience or traditions.
Teavana is just taking that to overboard levels and taking what is a sound retail practice of customer service and turning it into a ego-laden hammer. While I agree with your observation and even would say, yes please do that test…don’t forget to place some of the ‘customer service’ in perspective…We are their target audience…people who love tea enough to be online sharing it…they could be so lucky…but then again…they don’t know that :)

xhado123 said
Actually, the full tea-america separation wasn’t until WWII, when we went to war with Japan, and we lost control of the pacific. Up until then, Tea was still found in the homes of 90% of Americans. At the time, the tea bag was becoming popular, sharing about 70% of the market. The tea party is quite an interesting event, and even though the truth was never actively hidden, it seems to have been forgotten with time. Smuggled dutch tea (i.e. Not from the British trade companies) was being imported by an american businessman, and the British ship had landed two days earlier than his ship was set to arrive. Since it would take a few days to unload the British tea, let the crew unwind, etc, the risk of having the dutch ship found out was too great. The civil unrest was used masterfully as a scapegoat, but little effort was made to hide the true motivations behind the tea party. Americans then were happy to buy the tea from the dutch, who did not impose as much ‘tax’ (it was more of a S&H fee… trade in this era is… interesting) as the British trade companies. As you can see, it’s only taken us sixty years as a culture to completely forget about tea. Two hundred years does wonders against the details of history, but so long as there are people like us, who want to share this information and reduce the general ignorance of the modern populace, we can keep rich the culture of our society. The renaissance of tea is upon us, and Teavana is helping people at least grow aware of it. I speak to about thirty people a day, about twenty five of them need to learn how to brew tea first. ‘Heat water, tea in strainer, strainer in pot, water in pot, tea out of pot when the tea needs to come out’ is something new to a majority of the people I speak to, and I know that everyone who doesn’t buy from me walks out having a good experience. I refer many of them to other tea shops and invite them to look around, find stuff they are interested in. I give them a few websites, JAS E teas and adagio are the two most common ones I give out.

My local Teavana is quite nice and staff not pushy. But I know it’s a big turn-off when someone tries to infuse craps into your mind and you know it clearly. There are two types of education. One is assuming your audience is very dumb, and one is assuming your audience is very intelligent. I don’t think it’s Teavana’s own evil, but making people dumb is indeed the goal of some industries. Let’s hope tea industry is the other type.

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Tamara Fox said

I think it’s store policy to ‘accidentally’ put more tea leaves in the bag than you actually asked for. It’s happened so many times at my local Teavana that I am tempted to ask them to take the ‘extra’ out, simply to make a point. I really enjoy some of their teas, but I object very much to their ‘marketing.’ I’m a tea lover; you don’t have to shove it down my throat. Just present me with options and I’ll spend a lot more money than I planned to when I walked in…unless you irritate me, then I’ll go elsewhere. I’m lucky in that the area I live in has several excellent tea shops.

I want very much to like Teavana, but they make it difficult.

Cofftea said

That is exactly what you should do! I realize getting something like tea leaves exact is really difficult (I weigh my own leaves to the point of being OCD myself), but if it does not come up to exactly the amount the specify, they should make that amount clearly visible to you then ask you if that is ok.

Kristin said

I went in and asked them what the smallest amount i could buy of a tea. They told me 2 oz and I said, “sigh, well ok… i like to buy smaller amounts when I am trying something new”. The guy then put six ounces in my bag and said, “is that good?”. You can bet I made him take it out; down to 2 oz on the nose. And I was really annoyed.

Kristin, that’s the point I would have walked out. If I’d made it clear I was only interested in the minimum and they tried to give me three times that? Yeah, no, my money is better spent elsewhere. I’m with Tamara Fox. Treat me with respect and I can almost guarantee I’ll get myself into trouble with tea purchasing. I never make it out of DavidsTea without buying more than I planned to going in. But stories like this are why I have no interest in trying to find a Teavana while in the States.

Cofftea said

Ok… I’m writing this about 3 min after reading your post Kristin because it took me that long to cool down. I could see not getting it exact (who buys things like fruit exactly to the pound? No one), but 3 TIMES as much?! I would have made a huge scene, asked to see the manager, made another huge scene and then stormed out empty handed.

I’m honestly curious, what would you hope to accomplish by causing two huge scenes, other than being brushed off as that crazy lady?

Cofftea said

Crazy, no, ticked off yes. It’s becoming quite clear that the company as a whole pulls a lot of crap with their customers and maybe that will teach them that it needs to stop NOW.

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Doug F said

I have never been to a Teavana and do almost all my tea shopping online, but I must congratulate xhado123 on the class she has displayed in responding to overwhelmingly negative comments about her employer. Also, I in no way find her comments here pushy or reflective of the aggressive sales tactics many of you have experienced at the store. She has shown forbearance and not a little bit of wisdom about the world of tea. not once did she succumb to personal attacks, unlike some of my fellow steepsters.

xhado123 said

Thank you

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teawade said

The experiences at the Teavana shop that I visit have been quite pleasant. I didn’t find the workers to be too pushy or overwhelming. It may be just a coincidence that certain employees are just more enthusiastic than others? I agree that the class shown by xhado123 is great for tea. Even though tea companies obviously want your business, sometimes it just isn’t a right fit. I think the encouragement of consuming tea, no matter where a customer gets it, positively reflects on the company and really shows their respect and appreciation for tea and it’s consumers.

I don’t think one can call the behavior of Teavana’s employees a coincidence. I’ve read online in more than one place that Teavana employees are trained to upsell and to sell in a very specific way, and I’ve heard they have specific sales quotas to meet as well, and that it’s a high pressure job, especially for the managers. The way those sales techniques are manifested differs based on the personalities and comfort levels of the individual salespeople, which is why you sometimes get a Teavana salesperson who is off-puttingly aggressive and sometimes get one who merely comes across as friendly and helpful.

I think Teavana could and should reconsider its training methods, because I’ve heard too many tea enthusiasts complain about how uncomfortable they are visiting the stores. There is a way to sell without coming across as pushy and offensive.

xhado123 said

Yeah, we’re trained to sell in a specific way. Yeah, we have plan, and bonus. And yes, it takes time for those to become natural, so you aren’t as off-putting.

But the training manual really emphasises NOT being pushy. There’s a point, though, where there does feel like there’s a lot of pressure to perform.

I’ve only ever had one complaint about my ‘sales personality’ in over a year of working, but the individual in question was someone who was looking for an argument (asking provocative questions, leading questions, etc). The way I’ve always thought of it is everyone deserves to have the best and easiest way to brew the tea they enjoy. I do not upsell, unless I know that someone is trying to buy something cheaper, but won’t necessarily work with the tea they want. (Such as buying a tea ball designed for an 8 oz cup to use in a 60 oz kettle they have at home. Can’t fit enough tea in there to brew properly, you’ll get a watery tea.) I do, however, top down sell. I think everyone deserves to have the best they can have. If they don’t, that’s fine. About half of my regular customers (the ones who ask for me by name) own cast iron and love it. Of the half that haven’t cast iron, about 4/5 of them are saving up for one, but have another way to brew the tea that works for now. And the rest are perfectly happy without cast iron, because I’ve shown them yixing or glasswares, and they have a specific tea they always come back for which cast iron wouldn’t be the greatest with. Upselling and I don’t get along very well. There is a finesse to it which most people don’t have, which doesn’t seem to stop them. I’ve done it right once or twice, but basically it’s telling someone that what they think they want is not what they need, then convincing them that it’s worth it to spend more money. If you top down sell, you don’t have to worry about pulling them away from a product.

I agree with infusin_susan, I think some changes to training would be nice. An increase in tea knowledge would be nice, and emphasis on ‘playing nice’ should be stressed. Actually, the latter half is already being addressed. It’ll take a bit for the older employees (who’ve been doing the same BS since they’ve started) to get it, but emphasis is more being placed on making the experience fun and enjoyable.

I also think part of my ability to get along better with customers is that I am an Eagle scout, and thus I operate under the scout oath and law first and foremost. A bit like the prime directive, really…

Man, I’m a nerd.

Thank you xhado123 for honoring us with your forbearance and your own perspective from the front lines at Teavana. From your words it sounds like you set a good example for others around you (and for me). I am with you on the nerd part. The Weird Al song, White and Nerdy, is me to a ‘T’; almost, that is :).

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Tamara Fox said

I’d honored to visit your store, xhado 123 :) I will be back to Teavana, because they do have a few wonderful teas that I love. I’ve also discovered another independent tea shop nearby – I am lucky to have 5-6 in my area! – which will be getting most of my future business, I think.

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I would like to put a warning out in relation to TEAVANA’s return policy.
My spouse walked into TEAVANNA No. 64 in Burlington, MA to get a tea gift for a relative. She ended up walking out with two small canisters of a specialty green tea, total cost of which was $69.95. When I found out about this, knowing one can get a perfectly good specialty green tea from Starbucks for less than $20.00, I immediately returned to the store to return the unopened cylinders not 30 minutes after thet were bought. They say nothing verbally about their return policy at the time of sale. The return policy is on the sales slip at the bottom, in small print, and is posted on a tiny little sign that is small lettered on a tan background, in a dark store, making it hard to read. They state the tea products are not returnable, under some weak claim that it violates health code. I stated that the package was purchased less than an hour ago and has never been opened. I also stated that tea products at a supermarket, such as Demoulas’s (local to New England), are returnable without so much as a blink.
Alas, all this reasoning is for not. Thus, my spouse and I are out almost $70. I will be investigating filing a complaint with the company, my bank card company, and the BBB, for all the good it will do.

I can completely you understand being unhappy with your experience. I think I would be, too, if I were in your shoes.

The little bit of experience I have had in the food and retail industry tells me that they are likely correct about not being able to take the tea back, though. I worked in a restaurant, and anything that hit the table that was not sealed could not be given or sold to another customer (patties/plastic containers of butter being the only exception I remember), as it could have been tampered with.

So, depending on how they ‘seal’ the container (tins, bags) that they sell their bulk tea in (not any prepackaged tins, mind you), and whether or not that can be easily tampered with, is what I wonder about here. If there is no ‘seal’, then they can’t prove it wasn’t tampered with, and I think they can get in trouble with the health department if they do take it back, but I’m not certain about that. I’ll bet you didn’t tamper with it, but unfortunately, they can’t take your word for it (for better or for worse, that is accredited to our legal system).

The small print on the return policy is very unfortunate, though. I can easily see others getting into similar situations as you. (The way you describe how poorly they make others aware of their return policy reminds me of a part in, " The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the The Galaxy," where the notice that Arthur Dent’s house will be demolished is stored. Anyone else know what I’m talking about?).

It sounds like you bought everything together as a package, but you might be able to return any non-perishable item that was in the gift (like the tins).

CHANGE (I just created a B&M Teavana Place for Burlington, MA)
btw, I invite you to write a review of Teavana here: http://steepster.com/places/2898-teavana-burlington-massachusetts

Geoffrey said

Ugh. Reminds me of the last lyric in Tom Waits’ classic satire of advertising “Step Right Up”:

The large print giveth,
The small print taketh away.

What ever happened to “the customer is always right”? That is lame. I’m so sorry. Hopefully, filing with the BBB will result in a company change. It usually scares them enough that they listen.

Jillian said

As SimpliciTea said the non-return policy is pretty typical in store selling food items. I worked in a chocolate shop a few years ago and as my manager told me – it only take about a minute for someone to take out a syringe or whatever and contaminate the product. Is it likely to happen? No. But could it happen? Well, yes.

Of course that’s chocolate packed in easily-opened boxes; sealed metal tins might be a different story.

LefTea said

This is why I’ve always said that they should sell their teas in store the way they do online, using the sealed 2 oz bags. They could still have the bins for people to smell, but in instances like this, or if you bought more than one bag and realized you didn’t like it, you could return it and they should be able to take it back as it’s still visibly sealed. I’m not sure though, if they even allow that.

Uniquity said

I know this doesn’t help here, but David’s Tea (a large chain of tea stores in Canada) allow returns if you don’t like a tea, with receipt. So if I buy 100 g of something, use a bit and hate it, they will take it back (I assume for credit/exchange). Now, I don’t know what they do with the returned tea, but it is their policy, one I wish I had known a while ago actually as I have bought a few I hated. Of course, their tea costs a lot less than most of Teavana’s from what I can tell, so perhaps they can afford the waste. I assume not many people take them up on it either.

Uniquity, they destroy the returned tea, which makes me so sad! I encourage everyone to try and swap their teas with others, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that.

This is one of the things I really like about Trader Joe’s, a grocery store here in the States (Do they have any in Canada?). You can return any item for a full refund, no questions asked (I would think they throw out whatever you return). I did it once with these black pepper cashews I wanted to try; I really like cashews, and I put pepper on just about everything, but the two didn’t seem to go well together at all. So I returned the bag (I know, I don’t like to admit it as I judge it’s wasteful), and they didn’t ask any questions. Honestly, it encourages us to try things we never would have tried otherwise (and we consequently tried and liked some of their food because of this policy).

You know, Teavana could adopt such a policy, and weigh the cost of the wasted tea against the benefit of keeping a customer (as it sounds like David’s Tea does). The cost benefit analysis would probably be complicated, but I would also be willing to bet research has been done in this area. Very interesting to hear David’s Tea does this; yes, very interesting indeed (it says a lot about them).

If I were in the aforementioned circumstances, I may very well mention (to someone in corporate) that David’s teas does this (a attempt to appeal to their competitive nature, so-to-speak). And who knows, one may get some level of satisfaction, for at least trying.

DavidsTea has the best customer service I’ve ever seen. My brother and I had a bit of a bad experience in store (the girl helping us didn’t know teas/teaware at all, reminded us of Teavana in the pushy department, and sent us to another store, telling us they had an item after being told they didn’t). They sent my brother the tea for one set we’d been looking for along with 120 g of tea, and sent me a new perfect mug, the winter collection, and some pumpkin chai. They will do anything and everything to make sure a customer walks away happy.

Just had a similar experience. The sales guy told me I had to buy the tins and put in way more tea than I wanted. It is ridiculous.

The only time I buy from Teavana is during their end-of-year sales, where the tins are pre-measured. But, if I ever do go in and tell them, for example, that I want two ounces of a particular tea, and they put in more than that, and say, “Is that OK?” I would love to say, “Sure! As long as you’re buying!”

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SunnyinNY said

We have a Teavana in our mall & they normally have some free tea for you to sample. By chance a friend & I had been there & we decided to try the tea. I liked one more than the other. Of course the tea I wanted was a blend of two other teas. And here is where it gets costly….the nice sales girl tells me I should buy a pound of each & how I need their special tins to keep the tea fresh. Cost to me….$100. OMG! I immediately tell her no thanks. As I start looking around the store, I was approached by every staff member. Everyone wanted to help me. They were all there to answer my questions. I politely thanked them, but I wanted to be alone to look.

Did I buy anything?
Nope.
Would I go back to buy anything?
Nope.

My friend ended up buying me a smaller portion on the two teas. He didn’t understand why they needed to be in two different bags, until I explained that you can’t get the right 50/50 blend if they are actually mixed together in the same bag.

The people in the store, the ‘professionals’ failed to explain this to him.

I have no desire to go back to Teavana. I feel their people are pushy & not as knowledgeable as they’d like you to think.

As for the return policy, I’ve heard several people complain about it. I found out from the home office they don’t take returns on open teas as they feel you can ‘add something of less quality’ to the bag & then if they mix it back in with their ‘superior quality’ teas it ruins the experience for the next person. Or so they say….

SunnyinNY I invite you also to write a review of Teavana here: http://steepster.com/places/2822-teavana-online-atlanta-georgia

SunnyinNY said

Thanks. I posted a review. I’m sure they won’t love me….but the truth had to be said.

SunnyinNY: Thanks for posting your review! Unfortunately I just realized, that review actually belongs here: http://steepster.com/places/2892-teavana-garden-city-new-york

That particular store didn’t exist on Steepster, so I just created it. If you are willing to delete the review of the online store and add it to the brick and mortar place I just created, that would be great! (only you can do that).

Sorry about the mix-up.

SunnyinNY said

No problem….I’ll make the change.
Thanks.

I just read your review. Thanks for moving it. I have had very similar experiences as you stated in your review (I still have to write a review for one of my own B&M experiences with Teavana; I’m off to do that now!) – done!

SunnyinNY said

It’s a shame really…I really enjoyed the tea my friend ended up buying me. But sadly, I don’t like their staff. Customer service goes a long way for me.

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Spot52 select said

I walked into the store a month ago, and I intentionally avoided eye contact. The sales clerk loudly ask who I was shopping for. I told no one and that I was just looking. She then came over to me and started hard selling the products that I was looking at. WOW—-HOW ANNOYING! I guess I was one of the people who did not know what I wanted, and that she had to tell me what I wanted. Lol. Too bad the store was empty. Maybe she would have left me alone. The store is a joke.

Spot52: it looks like you haven’t review them yet. I invite you do share your experiences with the rest of us in a place for all to see (In the appropriate Teavana Brick and Mortar (B&M) Place on Steepster)!

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I find Teavana to be ridiculously expensive. I LOVE my $14.99 cast iron teapot from Sost Plus World Market and it works perfectly.

Miguelnoche: Cost Plus World Market has a Cast Iron for $15? I can handle that. Do you have any specific info that Cast Iron (I have a Cost Plus World Market in my town)?

SunnyinNY said

I had to Google search Cost Plus Market…whew…luckily you can order on-line from them. Sweet!!

The links don’t direct me to the actual teapot, but yes – It’s $14.99 for the cast iron teapot and $9.99 for it’s warmer. Both are black in color. The site seems to be sold out now. It’ll be back, I’ve seen it there (and in store) for quite some time.

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