Urban Outfitters CX Failures Revealed (part 1 of a 2-part series)

My recent customer experience buying an “online only” Urban Outfitters (UO) E-Gift Card for my daughter’s birthday stunned me with the unexpected. As a customer experience transformation expert, I felt an urge to research the company, only to be further shocked. This careless teen retailer illustrates the significant need to embrace 21st century customer-centric business model.


My daughter requested a gift card from UO at the last minute before her birthday. Rather than going to the store, I ordered it online. Simple right? – Wrong!

The process prompted me to select a dollar amount for the E-Gift Card, the recipient’s name, email address, and delivery date. I selected same-day delivery since I was purchasing (or thought I was) a same-day, pay-and-receive electronic gift card.

My purchase summary arrived within a few minutes noting that the order would be processed within 1-2 days. I assumed that the verbiage was non-applicable to UO’s “online only” E-Gift Card. Hours passed. My daughter would be home from school and the E-Gift Card still hadn’t arrived my inbox. I called customer service for a status update.

Customer Service Representative (CSR) “Brad” informed me that gift cards are emailed between 24 and 48 hours after purchase. I naturally asked, “Why?”

“It’s for the company and consumer’s protection,” he replied (no big deal – even though the transaction was already approved in real-time – but whatever, moving on).

I explained how I followed the prompts to enter the delivery date, which was my same-day-as-purchase date because:
A. payment was processed in real time
B. there is an inherent assumption that an “online only” E-Gift Card has same-day deliverability, and
C. same-day electronic deliverability is possible (as experienced elsewhere).

He countered, “Yeah, that delivery date isn’t accurate, it’s only for delivery outside of the 1 to 2-day window. It would [only] be used if you wanted to ship on a specific day… next week for instance.”


We went back and forth debating the murky details, the illogical web form that fails to black out dates within the 1 to 2-day range, and the lack of information describing these unusual terms for an “online only” E-Gift Card. Brad insisted that the “Terms of Use” (a small fine-print link at the very bottom of UO’s site) clearly defined everything in question.

It is now evident to me that customers cannot expect UO to quickly deliver E-Gift cards or increase users’ clarity with simple site modifications; yet, UO representatives expect consumers to conduct a tedious and time-consuming hunt for specifics terms.

As if this customer service call couldn’t get worse, Brad continued to defend, “I’m just reading from my script.” He indicated that he didn’t mean to sound unsympathetic, but he was just following the script!


Experiences like mine cause distrust of a company and its brand. Customer service failed to provide validation, alternative solutions, a willingness to escalate valuable feedback on UX, nor an attempt at service recovery.

• UO significantly decreased its brand value because they demonstrated untrustworthiness and lack of accountability from the moment of desktop interface all the way through the customer service call.
• UO provided me with faux options (i.e. delivery dates within a processing window). Companies with good CX design black out dates so that consumers know delivery date options. If they can’t black out the dates, then a pop-up message could inform consumers that the selected date isn’t possible and then list viable delivery dates.
• UO’s CSR exhibited zero interest in my issue; he was so focused on adhering to the script that he lost sight of the customer relationship. Even when I told him that I absolutely wouldn’t shop there again, he was disinterested in customer recovery; nor did he offer a solution other than cancelling the order.
• UO responded with blame to my dissatisfaction. From their point of view, I was at fault for NOT searching their entire site to find and read their “Terms of Use.” Even when I later read the “Terms of Use,” there was no information pertaining to the fine points addressed during the call.
• UO’s strict adherence to process seemingly disallows critical thinking by frontline employees to flex with human factors.
• UO’s expectations that consumers have super human instincts to know their business processes expands the perception gap and intensifies distrust of the brand.

Considering the recent press around UO’s failures and ongoing struggle to retain loyal customers, here lies an excellent learning opportunity for UO to improve upon simple issues that could make or break their business survival moving forward in the 21st century. Learn more about business survival and customer centricity in part 2 of this 2-part series.

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