/ Mud on boots... and Cotswold Outdoors
Most of them seem to have the following somewhere in their T and Cs:
"to comply with Health and Safety regulations we cannot accept returns for exchange unless they are clean and free from any mud or debris"
Is this true? Or is it just because the manufacturer won't accept returns from the retailer in that state?
VERY irritating bloke in Rock Bottom yesterday questioning the return of gaiters purchased the week before because they hadn't been fully dried after being cleaned...
It's both. The store are not supposed to handle them due to H&S and the manufaturer uses the same interpretaion of H&S.
Why not clean them first?
But do the HSE actually state that they cannot handle them, or is it a perpetuated myth?
Not sure of the facts, but when I used to work in an outdoor shop some manufacturers wouldnt accept stuff that was dirty, and some would charge the customer for cleaning if the stuff was dirty. I can understand somebody in a shop not taking returns of stuff if it is still wet. It means they have to find somewhere to store it while it dries as you can't really post it while its wet. It was never that pleasant when somebody would walk in with a pair of muddy sodden boots after a day of torrential rain, put them on the counter expecting a full refund or a new pair as they had leaked all day!
It's been the same policy for outdoors shops I've worked in. It might seem like they're trying to be as awkward as possible and is probably a bit unnecessary, since there really isn't much likelihood of catching anything ghastly, but you should do it out of courtesy to the staff, if nothing else. Why should they have to wash someone else's boots?
Why should the people in the shop have to deal with your mingin wet gear? clean it dry it then send it back.
Re H+S regs, they probably mean their H+S policy which can be whatever they want it to be within reason.
> Most of them seem to have the following somewhere in their T and Cs:
> "to comply with Health and Safety regulations we cannot accept returns for exchange unless they are clean and free from any mud or debris"
> Is this true? Or is it just because the manufacturer won't accept returns from the retailer in that state?
> VERY irritating bloke in Rock Bottom yesterday questioning the return of gaiters purchased the week before because they hadn't been fully dried after being cleaned...
Surely it's good manners to dry them properly before returning them?
Just to note, the gaiters were clean, washed and just slightly damp. Not muddy in this case
Just trying to find out the actual legal right a store would have to refuse to follow the Sales of Goods act etc. When buying, you don't sign a piece of paper saying you will return faulty goods in the state they were sold to you in...
Look at it another way. You are a customer buying gaiters. You decide which one you want, the rack has two of them. One is brand new, shiny, with all the labels. The other one is either muddy or just does not look brand new - it hasd been used and washed. Which would you choose?
My understanding it that a shop has to safeguard it's staff.
You couldn't expect the staff to be able to identify whether it's "good" or "bad" mud, just easier to ask things come back clean.
Probably wasn't clear enough in the OP, these were £90 gaiters and the zip failed when i unzipped them after first use.
I just quietly wanted an exchange for a non-knackered pair and was subject to poss-taking and claims that it would be hazardous to the staff health as they were mildly moist...
A return should be fine if the goods are faulty, in which case they can be swapped for store credit or a new set of boots from the same shop.
If the customer wants their money back however, the retailer should expect that the goods have not been used (certainly not outdoors) and there's a taste or fit problem which wasn't picked up at the store. The store should also expect to be able to resale the returned item at the same price (hence cleanliness and tags/box retention) or with minimal discount, otherwise they're looking at a loss of profit or even a total write-off.
Reasonable customers should respect that they have an equal part to play in using consumer rights, just as shops should respect customers by ensuring customers are well informed of them (on the back of every receipt and on signage in store, for example)
Alternatively, the young lad just got the job in the shop and doesn't know his arse from his elbow, was out of his depth and somewhere in his head a dim lightbulb went ping! and he remembered thhe words H&S from the staff induction day which he spent half asleep, half looking at the pretty shop assistant, and for him a job is a job is a job, a way to earn money, and he has no interest in doing it well! And a bit like "the computer says no", when faced with a situation he'd not dealt with, rather than working out a solution, he defaulted to H&S.....
The general rule for nothing that is muddy is because you don't know what else is mixed in with that mud. If it was a pair of wet boots I wouldn't take them back, as they can really pong. Gaiters are a funny one, if they where a little bit damp then I would normally accept them back, if they where dripping wet I wouldn't. You must have gone from washing them back to the shop pretty quickly for them still to be damp!
Or he was following company rules and couldn't are arsed to piss about with wet gaiters, only to get in trouble with management?
> A return should be fine if the goods are faulty, in which case they can be swapped for store credit or a new set of boots from the same shop.
Or a full or partial refund.
There's nothing in the law saying staff can't handle wet or muddy boots.
If H&S is their reason (rather than it being rather impolite to return wet or muddy things) then it's down to their interpretation and policy.
The only times that the law cares about what you're handling is if it's dangerous in some way, as this obviously isn't too heavy or likely to blow up or something I would assume they are considering it could be hazardous in a chemical sense, which the law concerns itself with in the case of basically anything with a little orange box on the side warning you of a hazard.
They are presumably arguing that if it's wet or dirty they are unaware of what hazardous substances it may be oozing onto the skin of their poor employee's and thus are unable to risk assess it other than to say they can't handle it.
Which is obviously bollocks, it may equally have been impregnated it with some hazardous substance that just doesn't feel wet to touch, some form of hazardous powder perhaps? To follow this policy to the ridiculous conclusion would be that things simply cannot be returned because staff don't know where they've been so do not know if it's hazardous or not.
HSE's take would likely be to say that while it is correct that such things should be risk assessed, the logical conclusion that if it's muddy or wet it's almost certainly covered in ordinary mud or water which is highly unlikely to pose a risk to staff (which if was the genuine concern you'd just make them wear gloves) and to apply a ban has nothing to do with health and safety law and is someone just using H&S as an excuse to not have to take your muddy shoes.
Using H&S as an excuse is bullshit, if they want a policy not to take dirty returns then just say that, it's pretty reasonable. Why work towards undermining the good work that H&S law does (saving lives) with crap like this (this applies to virtually every headline on a silly H&S rule), it just makes everyone think the whole lot of it is crap rather than aimed at making shitty employers not kill their employees.
If someone has walked through a field covered in cow crap I don't really want to be handing that, wouldn't that be considered a biological hazard?
It could contain just as much bacteria without being visibly covered in cow crap.
So could my hands, that I've just put all over your counter, so could anything really. While HSE does have guidance (which is not the law, it's just advice on how you can fulfil your legal duties) on hazards presented by micro-organisms it's more aimed at people working in rather more dangerous places than a shop and while you could extend it to include dirty boots the same extension could also cover all staff having to work inside radiation suits with self contained breathing apparatus.
You may well be concerned enough about the risks to include it as a health and safety risk in your own policy, but it would just be your interpretation of the law and it would still be incorrect to say that health and safety regulations mean you can't handle it, which is what the OP wanted to clarify.
This may be getting somewhat into semantics (H&S law rarely states anything specifically).
I should point out that I don't think it's acceptable for people to expect a shop to take returns that are dirty or wet, but using health and safety as an excuse is bollocks and undermines it's real purpose. It may be a factor in your decision not to take them, but a minor one, after it being completely unreasonable to expect a shop to take wet or dirty returns.
The official lines for Cotswold is:
"Please be aware that in order to comply with Health & Safety regulations any faulty items should be returned for assessment in a clean condition free from mud and dirt. We regret that we are unable to process items that do not meet with these criteria and we will return such items to you. "
Probably because as part of there risk assessment the nasties that could be found in mud and dirt could be a risk to the staff. There precaution to make a safer environment for their staff is to say no to anything that is muddy or dirsty.
A customer has no entitlement to a refund for goods they've bought if the goods are not faulty or unfit for purpose. If a retailer chooses to allow such refunds, it's purely a goodwill gesture.
Distance selling regulations for purchases made via phone, mail order or internet entitle the customer to a refund, even if the goods aren't faulty.
But, as you say, the goods must be unused, otherwise you're just taking the p*ss...
If their risk assesment says that they are potentially hazardous then it is the duty of the company to ensure their staff are protected... But that would take the form of cleaning equipment, PPE and protocols to ensure problems are minimised. Refusing to obey the law with regards to faulty returns isn't the answer...
All nasty and all could be potentially found on muddy boots, google the diseases to see how they could ruin a shop assistants day...
Ahh! The good old "I can't help you, it's more than my job's worth, I am incapable of independent thought beyond what I have been told" response that seems all too prevalent in the British consumer industries.
I hope not, I have ingested enough cow crap over the years and it hasn't affected me moo much...
There is a world of difference between slightly damp but clean and dirty though. Since gaiters are generally waterproof it shouldn't take too much for the shop to leave them out in the fresh air for a bit to dry. As long as they haven't been washed in a bucket of stale tramp's piss they should be perfectly safe and hygienic to handle. Muddy stuff is different as it is not only discourteous but can be a bugger to clean up in the shop. I have had to pick cleat-shaped divots of semi-dried mud out of the cash drawer before, nobody likes a £5 note in their change with a brown streak across it do they?
Health and Safety is not the real issue here and I expect it gets reffered to as a quick and easy way to get people to go away and clean and dry the stuff they want to return.
I'm not saying the OP was wrong since I don't know if the gaiters being returned were soggy or just slightly damp in places. However, in general I wouldn't expect a shop assistant to have to handle dirty or wet goods out of common courtesy. They are selling brand new shiny gear all day in a clean, dry and (hopefully) pleasant environment. To expect someone to get all shitted up whilst working on a busy till where the next customer is buying something shiny and new would be out of order.
I never said that at all. More of a who do you think you are, demanding I do something that will potentially get me into the shit?
If you bought them in the morning, at an outdoors shop far from where you lived, and they failed whilst you were out with them that day, it would be absurd for the shop to refuse to take them back if they were wet.
It really isn't a question about 'respecting' the staff or fulfilling your obligations as a consumer.
> All nasty and all could be potentially found on muddy boots, google the diseases to see how they could ruin a shop assistants day...
You seem to be implying that shop assistants don't wash their hands iften enough?
You can't entirely remove these problems by washing boots so RA's should include handwashing as well as relying on things appearing to be clean.
I still think that this is all about good manners.
Interesting, i bought a pair of gaiters from Needle Sports the other week and one of them fell apart after walking literally 300m. I took them back at the end of my walk (they were put in my rucksack to avoid further damage and were flapping aroung which was annoying) whilst still wet but clean of mud etc and they were replaced instantly.
I think a bit of common sense is required from all parties, the OP said they had been cleaned but not fully dried, which it's not always possible to do. Lets face it if a good is faulty, the shop are hardly likely to put it back on the shelves once dry to sell it again are they!
That is all good an well until the same shop assistant has done it 10 times, and then its. "Look Jimmy, you have ignored company police several times now, unfortunately we are going to have to give you a written warning. If you carry on doing this we will have to considered further disciplinary action."
Que next customer with something to return that is muddy or wet.
But you have a problem of a busy shop, you handle the muddy boots at the till, and pass them onto your college. You then go and serve the next customer and pass them change. They then go and order food with the change you gave them from the fast food place next door. Unlikely but still possible.
Conversely, if someone the first time (or few times) they mess up really cannot justify to their management why in the interest of keeping customers, and acting in good faith and in accordance with their honest interpretation of policy, they did such and such, they are probably in the wrong job.
But if Jimmy does learn from his mistake and does not accept the return he gets all sorts of comments from you about how he doesn't know his arse from his elbow, and isn't interested in doing his job well.
> But you have a problem of a busy shop, you handle the muddy boots at the till, and pass them onto your college. You then go and serve the next customer and pass them change. They then go and order food with the change you gave them from the fast food place next door. Unlikely but still possible.
Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe that good manners dictate that boots should be returned clean.
Sadly the risk still exists even if the boots appear clean. Washing your hands before eating is always a sensible precaution.
You might think it utterly pathetic, but that is your problem. I read on your profile you used to be in the forces, you wouldn't disobey something you where told to do, so why should someone working in retail?
No, I am aware of it, I just don't believe that handling something that has been outside would class as a substance hazardous to health, nor apparently is it something the very anal auditor who likes to pick apart my work thinks either as mud and dirt is something that workers at the place I do health and safety for do come into contact with. I did however get in trouble at my last audit a month ago for failing to assess and document some old tipex he found in a drawer that I didn't know was there, because that actually is covered by COSHH.
But that's not really my point, my point is that the law does not forbid people from handling muddy boots.
If their reasoning is health and safety then the correct phrasing should be "due to our interpretation of health and safety regulations..." Of course most things with H&S law is down to interpretation, but in answer to the OP's question about whether or not the law forbids you from touching dirty shoes, the answer is no.
I imagine people working in shops come in contact with all manner of diseases, as do the rest of us, and a pair of boots is unlikely to be the cause of the issue, especially as if it's dirty people probably aren't going to touch it anyway, certainly not smear it all over their hands then lick their fingers.
And one pair of boots is less likely to be harbouring anything particularly nasty than every other pair of shoes walking in and out the shop, spreading their deadly poison. Or on the hands of customers, pawing everything. I imagine the shop is already crawling with enough bacteria that being worried about a single pair of shoes is worrying about a drop in the ocean.
On a related but unrelated note one first aid trainer I had said you're most likely to get Weils drinking from a bottle at the pub, as they've been pee'd over by rats, I always wanted to find out if it was true.
Ahmen to that!
> All nasty and all could be potentially found on muddy boots, google the diseases to see how they could ruin a shop assistants day...
Wow, I'm never going near the outdoors ever again.
In other news - stop being an idiot.
I've taken wet and a bit dirty boots back to cotswold in betws and they took them back fine. I think cotswold are amongst the most generous of shops with regards to what the accept- I've taken loads of stuff back and its exchanged no problem.
I think the op may have left himself a bit open to criticism by not giving the full details at the start. I would add that I suspect they took the item back as it was on their way home so was easier than having to return later at much additional cost to replace a clearly faulty item. In this case I feel it was entirely reasonable to have item exchanged.
Anyone else find kit is not as well made as it used to be... I'm thinking ME and gore-tex in general for me.
> Wow, I'm never going near the outdoors ever again.
> In other news - stop being an idiot.
Are you saying that as a farmer I don't need to about the huge heap of SHH in the yard ;)
For many many years we've minimised the risk it imposes upon us with a wonderful and readily available product called soap!
I wonder why Aus and NZ have such stringent footwear regultions at immigration ?
> I wonder why Aus and NZ have such stringent footwear regultions at immigration ?
Isn't that more about invasive species than disease.
Plants that can sprout from the smallest piece, seeds in the mud, insect eggs etc.
Although some stores are more strict than others!
And at the end of the day, shop staff shouldn't have to clean or dry your disgusting muddu foot wear, stop being so bloody snobbish and lazy and do it yourself!!
While I agree, the stores shouldn't be spreading bullshit about it being for H&S reasons.
As a previous employee of Cotswold Outdoor I hope to put a few of the issues raised here to bed.
Any kit returned must be clean and dry. For the following reasons: The manufacturer will reject the return. Think of it like this; you return the boots day 1. The boots are then stored in a returns basket. It may be a few days before the RTM (Return to Manufacturer) is processed. Lets say Day 3. From here, the faulty boots are then sent to head office, (day 5). At this point the boots are either written off or return to the manufacturer for a credit note if the boots are deemed to be faulty through manufacturer error. A few more days and the boots arrive at the manufacturer distributor and then the maker itself. From this example whilst someone leaves muddy boots with the shop and forget about them the staff have to deal with them for up to another 10-14 days. By which point they will smell more, might have gone moldy, especially if they are put inside a plastic bag for shipping to head office.
Health and Safety does play a big part - no one wants the risk of dog/cow crap on their hands or it being spread around the shop, but it is courtesy as well. Now if someone had brought in kit that was clean but damp from cleaning then personally I would accept it and store them until they are dry. I wouldn't do the same for dirty kit.
At the end of the day its a little bit staff/shop dependent - my old bosses policy was to do everything possible for customer but at the same time deal with customers who take the p*ss. Hope that helps
> As a previous employee of Cotswold Outdoor I hope to put a few of the issues raised here to bed.
> Any kit returned must be clean and dry.
In the example I gave of someone who bought it from Cotswold and used it that day, was faulty and returned to the shop with wet and dirty faulty goods, it would be unreasonable of Cotwold to refuse and they are not within their rights to do so.
It's just corpoarate bullshit hidden behind some stupid rules, it doesn't reflect the law.
> As a previous employee of Cotswold Outdoor I hope to put a few of the issues raised here to bed.
> Any kit returned must be clean and dry. For the following reasons: The manufacturer will reject the return. Think of it like this; you return the boots day 1. The boots are then stored in a returns basket. It may be a few days before the RTM (Return to Manufacturer) is processed. Lets say Day 3. From here, the faulty boots are then sent to head office, (day 5). At this point the boots are either written off or return to the manufacturer for a credit note if the boots are deemed to be faulty through manufacturer error. A few more days and the boots arrive at the manufacturer distributor and then the maker itself. From this example whilst someone leaves muddy boots with the shop and forget about them the staff have to deal with them for up to another 10-14 days. By which point they will smell more, might have gone moldy, especially if they are put inside a plastic bag for shipping to head office.
Exactly, bit of common sense is needed by both parties.
Agreed. If I buy something that later turns out not to be fit for purpose then I expect to be able to return in what ever condition. What the shop does or does not do with it afer that is of no concern to me.
Also a member of staff at Cotswold Outdoors, I understand the customer concerns about faulty items. As a company we are very good with returning faulting products. Unforchantly sometime there are manufacturing defaults and we try to please the customers as we can.
If you return something back to a store, you will get much better custom if they are clean and dry. Firstly it is easy to see a fault on the product. Secondly, many manufactures will not accept them back in a dirty/ wet condition. And finally, why should staff have to handle dirty/wet products.
I personally will be much happier if I don’t have to handle wet/dirty products. In the past I have told customers to clean them, and given them a bush.
If the customer has been on the fells, and wants to return them that day, I can’t see this being a problem if approached sensibly.
And Finally before people talk S**T, READ the customer return policy .
“Please be aware that in order to comply with Health & Safety regulations any faulty items should be returned for assessment in a clean condition free from mud and dirt. We regret that we are unable to process items that do not meet with these criteria and we will return such items to you”.
Your attitude is very irritating. Dry them before you take them back. Is that so hard?
I wouldnt care too much if I returned faulty goods in less than perfect condition.
The way I see it, the shop and manufacturer have let me down greatly by selling/making faulty goods. Its their fault that I have to go back with dirty shoes. Simply dont sell/make crappy and I wont have to return them.
How exactly are the shop staff to know they are faulty? Why do you think they would sell them to you if they where?
In fairness to the chap he'd paid 90 quid for them and by the sounds of it dropped them off for and exchange/refund/repair as I'm guessing (from his profile) the shop was exactly on his way home.
Given the options available and the fact that it was an obvious product failure I feel it would be very reasonable to accept the faulty goods rather than endure a 90 mile round trip or go to the extra expense of posting them.
As for the op being irritating? I felt he seemed reasonable and if told to take them away again I could understand him finding the shops attitude irritating.
I took a pair of TNF Apex pants back to Cotswold, they were nearly a year old. The bonding had gone on the edge of one of the pockets. I didn't have the receipt. Cotswold replaced them for a brand new pair straight away, no quibble. Excellent service. (they weren't muddy though)
Is that the best way to clean them?
> Is that the best way to clean them?
I don't know, I'll ask Jenkins when he's brought the coal in.
Just because you put it in your terms and conditions doesn't mean that you can ignore your legal requirement.
To be fair, it's not just Cotswold, lots of outdoor retailers seem to have a similar clause. It's misleading.
I use to work for a farm supplies company. Most weeks we would get returns of faulty this or that, wellies that leak etc. If we had asked customers to drive away and go clean and dry their knackered wellies we would have lost their future business and rightly so. Mud isn't covered under COSHH, if your company decides mud is hazardous the. It is up to your company to find a way to deal with it when accepting an obviously faulty return. It is not the responsibility of the customer.
BTW, several members of staff at the other Cotswold store in ByC have apologised on behalf of their colleague. I must say that the two places I normally receive great service are Cotswolds and Needle Sports.
Brilliant staff, brilliant service.
It is normally the way David
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