There's a new, very small, Teavana in the mall close to the office building where I work. Because my coworkers know I like tea, I received a $25 gift card as a Christmas gift from a well meaning officemate.
Thus, for the first time, I set foot in a Teavana. Their selection of teas and teawares fit the size of their store, which is to say they had as much tea and accessories as could comfortably fit, but not much. Cutting out the non-camellia teas and the flavored teas, I had about 8 teas to choose from. I went for oolongs, and here I had two choices: a "monkey picked" TGY that did not look like the traditional medium roast that "monkey picked" describes, and a dancong that looked surprisingly roasted and promising. I went for 2 ounces of dancong for $25.
Here are the three problems I encountered:
1. The oolong was only nice looking at the surface layer of the tin.
When scooping my tea, the salesperson jabbed an enormous metal scoop into the tin; I could hear the leaves breaking. As he lifted the scoop up, I could see that the bottom third or so of the tin was full of broken leaves and dust from the broken leaves. I'm pretty certain that the bottom third of my bag is filled with that dust, too, though I haven't opened it yet.
2. I was advised that the tea would "go bad in 2 weeks" if not kept airtight.
Now, aside from the fact that the dancong tea probably spent 2 months on a boat from China and another few days, weeks, or months in the Teavana warehouse and thus would already have staled by their calculations, and in addition to the fact that they open and close (aerate) the tin holding the dancong several times per day to show it to customers, oolong doesn't "go bad" in 2 weeks, if at all.
They repeated this to all customers for all kinds of tea.
This misinformation would appear to accomplish two things: one, manufacture an urgency in the customer to purchase a tea tin and two, create an urgency in the customer to purchase tea more often to have "fresh" tea.
3. The salesperson asked: "Is that all you want to spend?"
Next, I'm understanding when companies want to cross-market me products related to my purchase that I might or might not find helpful, useful, neat, etc. If someone at McDonald's asks me if I want to supersize, I feel no insult directed at my thrifty nature. But "is that all you want to spend?" rubbed me the wrong way. Not: "would you like to look at any other teas?" or "if you like that oolong, you'd like this," or "do you need anything to help you brew this tea?"
The salesperson was smiling as he said it, and I didn't feel I needed to direct any nasty retort to him, but it does appear to underline a corporate philosophy that departs from customer service and into waddles into vampiric sales practice.
Anyway, I'll post pics of my purchase and maybe some thoughts about it once I have a chance to taste it.
While part of me believes that if Teavana is the inspiration for someone to delve into the world of fine teas, or to switch from an unhealthy beverage to tea, the business is still doing "good" despite these myths and sales practices. I just hope that Teavana's problems, as I perceive them, don't give tea vendors a bad reputation on the whole.