A tip o’ the hat

The myth of the magical efficiency of the marketplace can generally be discredited with two words: “customer service.” As our retailers have combined, merged and globalized, as fewer and fewer people in the retail world have any reason to care whether or not you are satisfied with a product or service, customer service has become a thing of the past. We buy into this by shopping at the big boxes, which not only take no responsibility for the products they sell but likely won’t be selling the same “brands” next year as they did this year – and I put “brands” in quotes because they have become truly meaningless marks, no longer representing a particular company or factory, but simply a stamp put on something sourced from anonymous (and interchangeable) vendors in China. And we buy into this by buying only on price, putting the local stores that provided customer service out of business. And while some large retailers (Target and Amazon.com, in my experience) are generous on returns, too many others hide behind barely expired warranties and fine print and fail to show any concern for the customer’s experience at all.

So it’s refreshing to have had a series of very satisfying experiences with customer service over the past few months where companies actually lived up to warranties, provided new or repaired merchandise, or generally acted in ways that used to be commonplace, way back in the dark ages when people who lived in your communities ran your stores.

So click to find out who made me happy . . . .

Bogen Manfrotto is a widely respected maker of camera tripods. Although
the tripod I was given as a gift was hardly top of the line, there was
an expectation of quality that comes with that brand name, and this
particular tripod started to fail within months of very light use.
First one of the leg clips wouldn’t close right, then another, then
another. It was given to me as a gift and Bogen Manfrotto’s warranty
required proof of date of purchase  – not an unusual requirement, but a
difficult one with gifts. We don’t usually demand a receipt from those
who give us gifts. So I just lived with it until one of the clips
snapped completely off. I did have to ask for the receipt, but once I
did, I shipped it to Bogen and they promptly sent me a brand new

Christmas 2009 DSC_5878 a.jpg

Image by carljohnson via Flickr

Several years ago we bought my favorite tent I’ve ever owned, a magnificent, roomy, airy, dry Mantra 6 from Kelty. I’ve never had a tent so comfortable, and it’s seen a bit of use but nothing one would consider heavy. So I was dismayed when after a trip this summer I found that one of the critical pole loops had come partly out of the seam – one side of the loop was still in, and the seam was still solid, but somehow the webbing had popped out of it. Dug out Kelty’s lifetime warranty, marked what repair was needed, following their return procedures, and shipped it off. It was back inside of two weeks, repaired so perfectly that I couldn’t even tell anything had ever been wrong with it. So guess who I’m buying my next tent from? Thanks, Kelty!

At Christmas I broke one of my own dictums about buying locally when I was buying a new snare drum for my daughter. (I’ve since found there’s a place right in my town that I could have dealt with, but didn’t know they sold instruments then). Money was an issue, and I had a substantial coupon from Guitar Center. So I ordered what I needed from them, and it all came very promptly. When we went to tighten up the snare side head, it tore. Contacted Guitar Center by email, and they had a replacement head (and better quality than the one that had shipped with the drum) at my door the next day. Terrific customer service. Best of all, they looked at my order and figured out what I needed, which was very helpful as I’m not fluent in snare drum.

And most recently, a gift replacement that actually worked out without a receipt. We were given a lovely Typhoon Pantone pepper mill (Pantone 18-3949, for those who care) for Christmas – a very fun item for a graphic designer. Unfortunately, the internal mechanism that held the grinder failed (rather spectacularly) and we thought we were stuck with a decoration that used to grind pepper. Our first attempt to reach Typhoon through their web form got no response whatsoever. Then I sent an email to their sales department, who very promptly sent us a replacement pepper mill (reasonably, we had to prove that we owned one, but they didn’t demand a receipt).

So there are still some companies out there that care about the products they sell, and about keeping their customers happy. 

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