Let me preface this by stating that I supervised a coffee-focused cafe for 2 years and had worked at different cafes (usually in bookstores) for almost a decade. Part of that time I also trained new employees and was in charge of customer service. So perhaps I’m a bit more critical of retail establishments than others, but I make sure that a place or employee gets loud praise when they do a great job. I rarely complain with bad experiences, but if I do then I try to make it constructive. Finally, I live approximately an hour away from this store and had really hoped that I would have a “local” shop to support either via their website or on special trips out there. So maybe my hopes were too high. I don’t want this review to sound like whining – it’s not meant to be. I’m just tryting to explain my experiences and unfortunately that involves a lot of info.
When searching for and selecting my first teapot I decided to spend extra money and go through The Tea Smith’s website (since I would be paying state taxes this would be more expensive than through Amazon). The layout of their website really impressed me. I got an automatic response that my order would be filled promptly. Six days later I had heard nothing and my credit card had not been charged. So I emailed them and received a reply the next day that apologized and explained that my order was found “under some papers” and unfortunately the size in the color of the pot I wanted was out of stock. I decided to cancel my order and go through Amazon. I had spent a week looking for the exact teapot that I wanted (color included). I also decided that I wanted to visit the shop in person before placing another order online. After all, I might really like their teas and making a special trip out there would save me shipping.
Weeks later I received an email newsletter from them that mentioned on a side bar that they had a green tea class on April 18th. I’m still new to teas (especially greens) so this sounded perfect. A friend of mine was interested in joining me who is completely new to loose leaf teas. So I signed us up over the phone using my credit card. I messed up on the date (I got it into my head that the class was the 11th) so my friend and I went there a week early. We arrived early so that we could look around some.
The shop itself was very clean and organized beautifully. I didn’t find a single speck of dust on all their displays (and I know how tough that is to do). I enjoyed the binder menu that they had for their teas, but they only had one so when another customer asked to see it I gave it to him and stopped my tea browsing. I wished that they had more than one menu binder. For those who care: the bathroom is very clean and well stocked.
The two employees acknowledged us after we’d done some initial browsing and we mentioned that we were there for the class. One employee even double-checked my name. After about 5 more minutes of browsing the other employee explained to us that the class was actually 2 hours later. Both employees were apologetic. After the initial shock my friend and I ordered teas to go and figured out a time killer. I asked a few questions of the employee who was preparing my order and he was rather short on explanations (such as “do you do multiple steepings for people who stay?” “Well yeah, but only if they stay”). I even mentioned that I’d found this place on Steepster to which he said “Oh, a former employee told us about that and we looked into it.” That was all. I wasn’t impressed with the customer service. It didn’t upset me, but I didn’t feel welcomed. My friend commented after we left the shop that she thought that they were snobs. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that, but in my opinion they could use some training on customer service just to kick it up it a slight notch. I liked the oolong I had ordered and was sad that I didn’t get to try more steeps of it (I actually ended up purchasing 2 oz of it later).
We came back 15 minutes before the tea class and were told that they had tried to get ahold of me since the class was actually next Sunday. (Turns out the phone call was 5 minutes earlier, so our time would have still been wasted even if I’d gotten the call). I was floored. My friend couldn’t make it the next week, and since it was on my credit card I asked to just do an exchange for her class expense on some tea that I wanted to purchase. That worked out well, but as the guy measured my tea he explained that if it was only going to be me at the class next Sunday, then it would be cancelled and I might try to come to the Thursday class since that was a for sure thing. Unfortunately I work on Thursdays during their class time.
My friend ordered one more tea to go and the employee helping her really helped her make a selection. When we left she remarked that he was much nicer and quite helpful. So employee with the beard/stache – keep rockin’ it!!!!! I decided that my final call on The Tea Smith would be if I had a chance to attend their class on the 18th. I received a nice phone call two days prior explaining that unfortunately the class was cancelled. Therefore I don’t plan on giving this shop any more chances.
I think that if I lived closer I could imagine this being a place I would haunt. It’d be great to take my work there and listen to music while typing away (the atmosphere’s somewhat loud and not so private due to the small size and nothing to really dampen the acoustics). But the mess-ups and cancellations have made this a place that I don’t plan on ever spending my money on again. I do hope that someone who frequents this shop would also write a review to help even out my lone one. I understand that freaky things do happen in retail and maybe I ended up with a set of fluke experiences.