Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Excellent Vendors: Jo Ling Bridal

Oddly, wedding dress vendors seem to yield some of the worst customer service stories. For many brides the dress is probably the most important part to get right, and in some ways is one of the most irrational elements of weddings (I'm not saying you shouldn't spend lots on a dress, I spent plenty on mine cos I like pretty dresses. Just that in the normal scheme of things the average wedding dress costs more than might be seen as strictly sensible!).

My first experience wasn't terrible, but also wasn't great - I took Mr Cake with me, due to a) a lack of superstition around him not being allowed to see it (though I am retaining some element of surprise for fun's sake) and b) due to only family knowing about our engagement at that point, and no family members being in Wellington, I didn't have a lot of choice.

Unfortunately, major bridal stores apparently do a roaring trade in superstition, tradition, and emotion-driven purchases.

They weren't too thrilled with Mr Cake being there - even after asking if it was all right him seeing the dress they were a bit cagey, and more or less ignored anything he said. Other than that, and looking at me like I was a mutant when I told them my bra size so they could provide appropriate undergarments - well, it was all okay. And it was fun trying on amazing frilly dresses and posing on a little pedestal. But I did pay $50 for the privilege! One thing I will say for that particular protocol: if you're like me and might normally feel bad about going into a shop to try something on so you can buy it elsewhere for less, paying the fee just turns the try-on into a service for which you've compensated the vendor.

I did visit a couple of other stores and had varying degrees of ambivalence from the salespeople - but enough about the traditional grumps; the vendor from whom I eventually purchased my dress was Jo Ling Bridal. They have a store in Whakatane, but I suspect do most of their trade online. They sell designer dresses (mine is Essense of Australia, but they'll try to source any dress you ask for) for usually well under the price charged by the regular bridal boutiques. In my case, I saved about $500. That on its own would be enough to get my attention - but the service was amazing.

Emails were my only form of communication - though if you're in/near Whakatane (or Palm Cove in Queensland) you can visit a store, and they are also contactable by phone. But Alison, who runs the business, writes thorough emails and answers as many questions as you might have (trust me, I had plenty). I don't often encounter service as great as hers - she really went out of her way to be helpful, which gave me heaps of confidence in the service. She made lots of recommendations to help me get the right size, and helped me purchase extra matching lace to make alterations myself.

Getting the dress still takes a while - I think it was about five months total, and the only flaw in the service was that it did take 2 or 3 weeks longer than I was initially told, but general recommendations are to order your dress well in advance because delays can occur, so this wasn't a problem for me, and Alison kept me informed on the delays so there were no surprises.

The dress arrived in perfect condition and with a lovely letter from the Jo Ling crew - and it fits me perfectly. So a happy ending! Now I just have to avoid eating too much chocolate and ice-cream for the next month, lest that changes. ;-)

So definitely recommend Jo Ling Bridal - the best customer service I've seen for quite a while, an excellent dress, and a great price. What more could you ask for?

Jo Ling Bridal have stores in Whakatane and Palm Cove, and are contactable by email: info@jolingbridal.com

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