Mr J bought me my Pandora bracelet when we were on our way home from Egypt. We had gone on a cruise of the Nile for my 30th. No-one but us knew that I was 12 weeks pregnant with CM. 2008.
Over the years, as is the point of a Pandora bracelet, I added charms. Each one holding such a clear memory.
This is the last photo I can find of my charm bracelet, from Christmas 2012. With some new charms. It has become a tradition. Like our embroidered Christmas decoration, my mum gifts me a charm.I can tell you a story about each of these charms. Where they came from and why. Who I held close as I touched each charm for comfort, or confidence. I can tell you which one isn’t a real Pandora charm, ironically being the one which held most value.
I lost my Pandora bracelet before the summer of 2013. Somewhere between staying at a Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury and Butlins in Skegness. I couldn’t pin down where I last had it to try to retrieve it. I had a horrible habit of taking my bracelet off to type. Which would regularly happen in offices and on trains. I also (obviously) took it off to sleep, which has allowed me to narrow it down as much as I have.
Heartbroken seems a strong reaction. But I was. My bracelet was full of memories, which I’d use like a rosary when I felt unease.
I hoped like my previously lost Thomas Sabo bracelet (which my besties gifted me for my 30th) and my wedding ring, it would turn up, seemingly magically.
After turning the house upside down, and all my travel luggage. And waiting. And waiting. It didn’t.
I agreed with my mum that I would like a new charm bracelet, but rather than it replacing the one I had, I opted for a Pandora bangle. Just so it wasn’t a replacement.
The memories associated with the charms don’t seem as pure, as ‘mine’.
Or maybe it’s because I’m still living in hope my original bracelet with turn up, and I don’t want it to think I’ve been cheating on it.
I’m trying to set this post up to how I got into the position of what now feels like greed.
I’m signed up to Pandora emails.
I’ve never bothered with Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the past.
The email landed in my inbox. Innocently enough. It looked like all my other Pandora emails. It was offering fantastic discounts.
Whilst I had budgeted for Christmas with our family coming out of November pay and my family coming out of December, I looked at the website and thought “I should definitely buy my mum a really expensive charm (even though she hinted she’d like something else).” and “Oh, at these prices I should sort mum’s birthday gift as well.”, and “Oooooh, if I spend X I get a free charm so I should definitely top my new bracelet up with a charm I love”. And yes, just oooooh.
Because, according to my Martin Lewis emails, it’s only a bargain if you need it and you can afford it. And my mum loves Pandora as much as me, so this was definitely a bargain.
I spoke to my husband, “It’s only a bargain if it’s full-price elsewhere.” I went online and all three charms were still at full price.
Martin Lewis really should encourage that once you’ve established it’s a bargain, you question the authenticity.
As soon as I did I got suspicious.
It would be the outlook address for enquiries that did it.
Because really, when wouldn’t – email@example.com – offer confidence?
I started making enquiries using a different email address. My spidey senses were more than tingling.
My charms arrived from China. I felt a little bit sick.
My really expensive charm for my mum, you know the realistically reduced from £300 to £50 didn’t look gold-plated, it looked like if I squeezed it, it would compress.
I was gutted. Not as let down given my spidey senses, but gutted.
I got in touch with them. It seems it was me who was in the wrong.
Why would I have the impression Pandora charms would all be made to the same Pandora specification.
I got in touch with Pandora.
Who advised me there are a lot of counterfeit websites, which they do shutdown as they identify them, but they’re so fast. They shut down this one after my email and after 48 hours I found it again.
Fortunately, after noticing something amiss with my bank account – more money had been taken than I had authorised. It transpired from the bank’s perspective it was legitimate, it was currency conversion. I admitted I had no clue, as I didn’t know I was buying anything from China. Fortunately the bank had time for me, I confessed my complete naivety (and greed), and they advised me if the goods received had been purchased as genuine and weren’t, there’s a whole disputes team to support customers in this situation.
I spoke to the Disputes team. In all of this I can’t fault my bank. They were appropriately sympathetic without patronising. They were realistic in managing my expectations. As long as I could demonstrate I didn’t set out to buy counterfeit goods, and that they were counterfeit, and I could get a refund. Fortunately the joy of the internet and email meant this was really easy.
Then the interesting bit. It is illegal to post counterfeit goods. So following the phone call, even if I did receive an instruction of where to post the charms back, I couldn’t.
And, because it was Christmas, I’d be in a queue to get my refund.
But again, this was all my own greed. As long as there was a chance of me getting my money back, to get some decent gifts I couldn’t complain.
I knew myself, I should have done more checks on the website. I delete the random paypal and bank related emails, the lottery/ inheritance related ones go straight to spam. Why wasn’t I as suspicious about shop related emails, when I had signed up to the shop?
And then it got a bit worse.
I revelled in my 50% confidence. The bank would sort it. All being well, at some point, I would be refunded my money for my ignorance in buying the (now seemingly) counterfeit charms.
Until I woke up Christmas week.
It’s one of those. A cold had hit and I was hauled up in bed whilst Mr J took the children to their (fortunately pre-arranged) sleepover at my parents. I checked my online banking.
I phoned hubby. (We tend to share my bank card as I can’t set my account up as a joint account- don’t you just love chip and pin, not to mention contactless?).
“I don’t suppose you’ve used my card to buy anything from xxxxx?”, which happens to sound Chinese.
A phone call to the (still very accommodating) bank. This time rather than being transferred to Disputes I was straight to the fraud team.
Just what you need the week before Christmas.
Yes, perfect service. The fraudulent amounts were refunded.
My card was stopped. Did I mention. Christmas week.
It wasn’t so bad. I could still use online banking and transfer cash to hubby’s account.
And my replacement card turned up super-fast.
This week I’ve received notification that I’ve been refunded the amount. But the supplier still has a right of appeal.
I wonder whether Pandora and I are doomed in our relationship.
Or whether I should just revert to ‘real life’ shopping.
Maybe face-to-face communication will strengthen our relationship.
There’s a thought.