Back in the 80s I sometimes used to give someone who worked at John Lewis a lift to work. She was ‘Head of Trend’ at the Bristol store, although I was never really sure what constituted trend. She was clearly proud to work there and praised the shop a lot and, back then, she was quite right to do so. They stocked expensive goods but you got excellent customer service and a ’Never Knowingly Undersold’ guarantee. Indeed, she took up cases on behalf of people she knew when John Lewis had been undersold and always got the money back for them.

It was a shop true to its word; a veritable Grace Brothers.

Fast forward to 2018 and my attempt to purchase a fridge-freezer. Much has changed. My first choice was a Samsung that had an enticing £200 off if you recycled your old unit and entered a particular code at checkout. I duly attempted to buy said fridge but I simply could not get it to accept the code at checkout.

I rang their helpline at about 10AM and waited in a queue for a while because all their representatives were busy at the time. It doesn’t matter who you ring or when you ring them, all their representatives are always busy. When I got through to a representative, she tried to put the order through for me but it wouldn’t accept the £200-off code for her either. I stressed that this was urgent for two reasons: it was the last day of that offer and I had someone booked to tear parts of my kitchen apart to accommodate said fridge-freezer. I really needed to order by 2PM to get next-day delivery. She said she’d tell them this and someone would get back to me.

Nobody got back to me before 2PM. In fact it was two days before anyone got back to me. In the end I ordered another fridge-freezer. On the back of this problem I really didn’t want to use John Lewis but they were stocking my backup choice and I was under time pressure due to the kitchen work, so I used John Lewis for the purchase. The second fridge-freezer arrived fine.

Two days after my original order attempt I got an email from John Lewis apologising for the problems I had but noting that I had bought another fridge-freezer in the interim so presumably I needed no further help with the original purchase. All true but that’s not the point here.

The John Lewis of old would have found a way to deal with my original order. They’d probably have just taken £200 off the price for me and dealt with the code in their own time. Certainly they’d have found some way to properly recompense me for missing out on a £200 saving through no fault of my own.

But not these days it seems.

I replied to their email stating my annoyance at what was essentially false advertising (I certainly couldn’t get the advertised £200 off) and pointing out that they took two days over the reply even after I’d stressed the urgency of a 2PM solution on the day I tried to order. I haven’t received a reply.

So it seems John Lewis is now just another high street/internet store. Their values of integrity, trust, fairness and excellent customer service seem to have fallen by the wayside. Those things were their USP and one of the reasons people were prepared to pay more to shop at John Lewis. I’m not sure what they’ve got left now.