I'm sharing this story here in hopes of getting some advice and/or at least some comfort. I am learning an incredibly painful lesson here, and maybe offering these details will save someone else the trouble. In the Fall of 2018, I'd decided to purchase a Celine Classic Box bag. Although I have a modest collection of luxury handbags, this would be my first Celine bag. My early luxury purchases were all made in person, at boutiques, and allowed me to develop relationships with local SAs at both Chanel and LV. It would have been my preference to purchase this bag in store as well, but the SA at the local Celine boutique said they had no Classic Box bags and couldn't procure one for me. Since Celine.com began to sell handbags online, I added my email to the waitlist there so I could be notified if/when one of the colors I was interested in would be in stock. Fast forward a few weeks - it is now November 2018 - and I receive an email that two colors of the Medium size Classic are now available online: 1) the Camel in box leather and 2) the Tan in natural calfskin. Having no experience with Celine leathers, and because the colors look somewhat similar online, I wasn't sure which I preferred. I'd exchanged some emails with their customer service, who were kind enough to provide some additional information on each leather. On the natural leather, the customer service representative wrote: "Natural Calfskin will be smoother to its touch. The natural leather handbags are made a handful at a time due to the uniqueness of the leather and its exquisite, refined nature. It has a very genuine vegetal look and some aspects of the skin remain visible. This leather is very sensitive to scratches and it is not recommended for intensive use." I'd decided to order the natural leather bag in Tan and take a look in person. When I order high-end items that require a signature, I typically ship them to my workplace, so that the mailroom can sign for it and I don't have to worry. On the afternoon of December 3rd, the bag arrived at my office and I went to retrieve it from the mailroom. The box was in good shape, and everything seemed beautifully packaged, but when I took the bag out of the dustbag, I noticed a number of marks on the top flap. I truly didn't know what to make of them: were these scratches? or was this what the CS rep was referring to when she said "some aspects of the skin remain visible"? My first instinct was to take a couple of photos so I could ask someone, and so I took out my phone and snapped away. As you can see (photos below), the bag isn't even fully unwrapped yet. These photos are time- and location-stamped, which clearly shows that they were taken immediately upon delivery. That evening, at home, as I looked at the condition of the bag again, I decided that I wasn't able to accept these marks, whatever they were, and would be returning the bag. I didn't even bother unwrapping the whole thing. Instead, I read through the return instructions, affixed the return label to the outside of the box, and at my first opportunity walked over to UPS to drop it off. Several days passed, then a week, then two. It occurred to me that I wasn't seeing a refund, and nervously went online to track my return to see if it had been delivered. It had, and was signed for on the 11th of December. I made a note to wait a few more days and reach out to their customer service if I had no update, but before I could, I received an email: "With regards to your order XXXXXXXXX, we regret to inform you we are unable to process your refund. We regret to inform your Medium Classic bag in natural calfskin did not pass our quality inspection because the bag handle is warped." I was shocked and dumbfounded. What are they talking about? I barely handled that bag, and didn't even bother unwrapping it fully. Also, the Celine Classic Box bag has no handle! It has an adjustable strap, which remained coiled inside a small dustbag placed inside the bag the whole time it was in my possession - how could it have been warped?? I immediately called them to clarify - this must be some kind of a mistake - but the rep I spoke to had no additional details and unceremoniously informed me that I needed to provide them a return address so they could ship the bag back to me. I insisted that a mistake must have been made, as I didn't handle the strap. She promised to inquire further and indicated that someone would call me back the next day. However, the next day came and went and I heard nothing, so I called again. Imagine, if you can, how difficult it might be to contain your frustration and anxiety over being refused a nearly $5,000 refund. Add to this the fact that you are not being provided any photos or even sufficient explanation of what damage is being observed, and that every person you manage to get on the phone, while polite, remains utterly unable to offer any helpful information. I was physically shaking every time I was on the phone with them, that's how upset I was, and I am shaking now as I write this. I explained that I had photos, I explained that I was confused by the description of the damage since the bag has no handle. I kept hearing promises that they would inquire further with the compliance department (or whatever it's called) but days and weeks would pass and I still had no resolution. I was finally asked to provide a written description of my account of events and to forward my photos, which I did. I hoped a resolution would finally follow. Today, January 4th, I received a call. I was informed that a mistake was made, and that my bag didn't fail inspection due to a warped handle, as initially stated in their email - that was someone else's bag, not mine. Instead, my bag failed inspection because of the scratches on the flap. The manager in charge of the case reviewed my photos but evidently decided that this wasn't adequate and I am still responsible for this damage. They claim to have evidence that the scratches weren't there prior to shipment. Isn't it possible, I asked, that the string of the dust bag, which was packed tightly against the flap inside the box, could have rubbed against it during transit and caused some of these marks? Yes, I was told, it's possible. Given that I have photos which I've taken immediately upon its arrival, isn't it more likely that the damage occurred in shipment? Yes, the customer service rep said, that's likely, but she said she was unable to convince her manager that this isn't my fault, and they insist on holding me responsible. I feel confident in saying that I have never been treated more poorly as a customer than I have been by Celine. I was asked to spend hours of my time calling customer service, documenting my case and forwarding photos, but received absolutely no evidence or justification in return, just a curt attribution of blame. As of this writing, I've decided to handle this issue through my bank, and file a claim against them to seek my refund. I am appalled that a luxury brand could take this approach and deeply saddened that my love affair with Celine will end before it's begun, but I find this completely unacceptable. As I look at these photos again, I'm fairly certain that the way it was packaged, with the dust bag closed and the tied string placed over the bag, then tightly pressed against it by the lid of the small, white Celine box, caused these marks. They're not deep scratches, and they're right over the area where the string would have been. If Celine isn't able to extend some measure of a benefit of the doubt to its customers and treat us with respect, it should stop selling their products online and go back to stocking the boutiques, where this whole nightmare could have been entirely avoided. Assuming that this damage did occur during shipment, I am completely at a loss as to what I could have done differently to insure myself against this outcome. What evidence would they have accepted? Should I have filmed the entire unboxing? Has anyone had a similar experience with any luxury retailers? What's your take on this?