My experience with the Fashion Retail Academy

I’m really keen on a career in fashion PR or Marketing, but it’s something I only became aware of/started to want to do when I was half way through my degree in Philosophy. Whilst I’ve absolutely zero regrets about uni and the degree choices I made, I thought that it would be good to get some additional education that directly links to the career I want to go into.

I’d done some work experience in London the year before and lots of the people I spoke to there mentioned that they’d been to the Fashion Retail Academy, as well as already hearing about it from people back home…it sounded perfect for me.

I found a course in marketing and PR, the dates suited and I arranged some accommodation for the duration of the course. I was genuinely so excited to learn more about these careers because after doing some PR work experience earlier in July, I’d absolutely loved it. So I paid the (expensive) course fee, bought all the equipment I needed, booked my coaches there and headed to London. I’d never received a confirmation after paying, but the money had been taken from my account and the course organiser had emailed me and asked me to confirm my details and confirm the course I’d paid for, to which she responded to my reply saying everything was good to go, excellent…right?

I mentally prepared myself for what eventually seemed a little daunting on the day, I got myself there, arrived on time. I walked into reception and was un-warmingly welcomed by a security guard and receptionist, who looked at me gone out when I told them I was here for the PR and Marketing course. They eventually called someone down who spoke with me and told me the course had been cancelled and was being reorganised…”did you not get an email?” I double double checked my emails…no email. “Sorry about that”, she replied…I was absolutely shocked, I genuinely didn’t know what to say or do, so in an extremely British way, said that it was fine, and walked out (Megan what the hell, this is not fine!)

I left the building and called my dad, I cried on the phone to him and he told me to get myself together, compose myself and go back inside confidently and tell them that you want a full refund and a refund of all the costs I’d incurred due to their mistake. I was so devastated that I’d made all that effort, spent all that money (which I didn’t really have) to make this course happen. Not only had I handed over loads of money, I’d had to start working a week later than planned because of needing time of for the course, essentially losing a weeks worth of pay.

I went back inside and spoke to the same woman who told me the course had been cancelled. She told me that I’d get a full refund of both the course fees and the other costs I’d incurred. She tried to get me to just join on to the next course in November, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to let them keep my money, as well as not being sure if I could get the time off of work to do the course. She told me to send over her details and that she’d send me the refund form and that I’d get my refund shortly after.

I had sorted accommodation for the duration of the course, but with nothing to do in London, and all my friends working, there was no point in staying. I emailed the lady and asked her if I could get refunded for my train home that day as well, seeing as there was no reason for me to stay in London…to which she said absolutely! No problem at all, I specifically asked her to confirm whether I should book a (£40 something) train home for that day, she said I should. She asked me for train tickets and other proof of costs I’d incurred that week, so I sent those along…great…I’ll be getting my refund.

I sent her my form and after over a month of waiting, I finally got the refund for the course fee…but no additional refund. After sending her more than 10 emails about the additional refunds, and her replying telling me that she was ‘just waiting for her manager to sign off the refund’…she eventually changed her mind. I was told that I would not be getting any other additional refund and that it states in the terms and conditions that if there’s a cancellation, the student is only entitled to a course refund.

After trying to explain to her that irrespective of the terms and conditions, I was promised otherwise and therefore the arrangement we had already made should go ahead. Additionally, after reading the terms and conditions myself, those terms only apply to ‘cancellations’…but my course wasn’t cancelled for me until on the day, I was never made aware. These were not normal cancellation circumstances…making the terms and conditions VOID. She repeatedly gave me the excuse that it was in the terms and conditions, so with what seemed like no chance of getting my money back, I’ve accepted what happened. But I most certainly will not be going back to the Fashion Retail Academy unless I got the full refund I was told I would receive.

If I’d received notice about the cancellation I wouldn’t have incurred all the costs I did for trains, coaches, food, tubes etc. There is also not the excuse of them not having my details, as I’d already emailed the lady who was organising the courses (the same person who promised me the refunds etc). She knew what course I was doing, my name, my email…what was the point in that email if she wasn’t going to do anything with my details?

To be honest I’m still in absolute shock at the whole thing, I can’t believe how unprofessional, unfair and down right pathetic way I was treated. I made a lot of sacrifices to afford that week and incurred so many costs that I won’t get back despite being promised I would.

I have all of our emails which confirm everything I’m saying and I’m in two minds whether to go to the small claims court about it, out of principle more than anything. I’m not sure whether I want the extra stress and negativity to be honest, even writing this now makes me so upset at how much money I lost and how I was treated. It was totally wrong what they did to me and they have shown no business acumen or even respect for someone who just wanted to strengthen their CV for a career they want to pursue.

So for anyone thinking about doing a course at the FRA, please think twice…whilst I’m sure what happened to me doesn’t happen regularly, I don’t think they deserve any consideration for your time effort and money after the way they over promised, lied to and treated me.

To be honest I think the saddest part was that I’d planned and even started a blog post about my experience with the FRA, but that it was going to be a positive one, explaining how much I’d learnt and how happy I was that I’d done it, and how much I’d recommend it to others. Unfortunately it didn’t go that way due to no fault of my own, but things don’t always go to plan!

Have you ever been treated badly by a big name company? What did you do about it? I’d love to know.

Until next time,

Megan

x x

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