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December 30, 2013
It seems like too many of my few blog entries so far have been about (or at least high-lighted) negative experiences. So I thought I'd take a moment to make an entry about some not so negative experiences. Now, to be fair, some of these were negative experiences as well. But, ones which turned into positive experiences. Most of these stories center around the theme of "if you can't find what you need, talk to the manufacturer". In this world, you don't get nothing for nothing. Unless you ask. As an example . . .
In the fall, I did some windows for a long time customer (not unusual). Two days later I got a call from that same customer explaining how, seemingly moments after I left, a bird (you know where this is going don't you?) flew by and left a gift right smack dab in the middle of her largest window on the second floor. She asked if I could come by and look after it for her and she'd be happy to pay me. About 2 hours later, I drove by her house, stopped and cleaned the one window and went on my way. It took perhaps 20 minutes in all (including travel time). I left no bill (truth be told, I was relieved that she wasn't home because I know she would have insisted on paying me). She was happy, and I was happy.
That, (to me) is the type of experience that I hope for when I deal with a business. From some of my previous posts, you can see that's not always the type of experience I get. And I'm sure that many of you are all too familiar with the phrase "I'm sorry, that's our policy". But not every company is like that, so please don't let that discourage you. Some companies want to know when something goes wrong because they WANT to fix it.
Now, to be fair to the rest of the world, these are not necessarily the only or the first such instances of extraordinary behaviour by business or owners. They just happened to come in a string this past year and made me realize that the business ethic is not dead.
The first company/story that comes to mind is my recent experience with Garrett Wade. On my hoses, I use metal connectors which are compatible with the "Gardena" brand of plastic quick connect system. For many years now, I have purchased these connectors at either Rona or Canadian Tire. The past few years, these metal connectors have become increasingly difficult to locate ( I like to have a few spares, and I do weird things to hoses which can be tough on these ends). This past year, I was simply unable to locate the needed parts in any local store.
After much searching I finally found a listing online for the ends I needed at Garrett Wade. Garrett Wade is a tool retailer. The description (and picture) was precisely the part I was searching for. I ordered 10 (since I figured they would be even more difficult to find next year). The shipping/duty from the USA was virtually the same as the cost of the parts. In all, it cost me $60.
About a week or so later the parts arrived. Unfortunately they did not fit the 5/8 inch hose for which they were purchased. They did however fit perfectly on my 1/2 inch hose. They also looked identical to my existing 1/2 inch connectors. These were clearly the 1/2 connectors and not the 5/8 inch ones advertised. I presumed that a packing error had occurred and called the company. My concerns were passed on to Joe Wolfe who took one of the parts home on the weekend to see if it fit on his hose. On Monday he called me and offered to replace them, but it seemed that he did not have any of the 5/8 inch connectors. He did have some 3/4 inch connectors. I presumed that I could stretch the 5/8 hose over the 3/4 connector and (although bulky) they would likely work. Joe said to keep the 1/2 inch connectors as shipping them back would be more than they were worth. In turn I said to only ship 4 of the larger connectors as a replacement as they were more expensive and not exactly what I was looking for. They shipped the new connectors and thanks to some mess up with UPS, there were duty charges to be paid on arrival amounting to "almost" $50 (remember the original package with 10 in it cost only $30 for the shipping and duty). I rejected the package and it was sent back to Garrett Wade (who had paid for the shipping this time). Joe apologized profusely for the charge (they had to pay the charge when the item was returned) and sent out another 6 connectors (this time with the duty and the shipping prepaid).
This transaction cost Garrett Wade more than my original order was worth. But it did earn them a great deal of my respect.
Now, the above experience has left me with ten 1/2 inch connectors and only one 1/2 inch hose ( I generally carry 3 hoses). The best hose I have ever used was purchased many years ago. It was a 1/2 inch "soft and supple" hose made by Swan. Since shortly after purchasing my first one I have looked (off and on) for another. I have not been able to find one for (I'm guessing) about 15 years. I have been able to find a 5/8 version of the same hose and did purchase it, but it did not meet my expectations (in fact I would not recommend that hose to anyone). This year I figured that I would call the company directly. You see they still make the "soft and supple" hose and on their web site they show the 1/2 inch version (which is odd because they don't sell that version in the USA).
I explained my situation to Judy and asked if I could purchase the hose directly from them or if she could locate an online distributor in Canada or a retailer in the Toronto area that carried the 1/2 inch version of the soft and supple hose (100 foot length). Judy first explained that the 1/2 inch version of the hose was not available in the USA. When I pointed out that I was in Canada, she said she would have a look and see what she could find.
Judy called me back about an hour later and said that she had come to the same conclusion that I had. No one in Canada carried the 1/2 inch version of this hose in 100 foot lengths. On the good news front though, Home Hardware is scheduled to begin carrying it in Spring of 2014. Being fall of 2013 at this time, I thought "great" and asked for for the part number, so that if my local store did not carry it, they could order it for me (come spring). Judy put me on hold. When she came back she had 2 part numbers for me (apparently they have an internal part number that some retailers will use and an external part number which most retailers use). I was thrilled and about to hang up when she said "I have also been authorized to send you 1 hose for free". I was happy (and stunned) at this. I provided the address for shipping. A little over a week later my free hose arrived.
As a matter of perspective, the hose I bought 15 years ago cost me $50 (and I wish I could go back and buy 10 more). The new hose is not structurally the same as my old one. But it still "unkinks" with the flip of the hose and the kinks don't embed themselves in the hose like they did the 5/8 version. In spring, I will be heading to Home Hardware to buy another.
Update : After using the free hose for 2 years, I had to give up on it. Although it did not appear to hold kinks originally, after some use, it simply kinks much too easily and anywhere it kinks once, it continues to kink forever after. I have since replaced that hose (and another) with FlexZilla hoses (by Legacy manufacturing) which (so far) are not kinking and are almost as good as my original soft and supple hoses (although sadly, not available in 1/2 inch diameter). The cost of these hoses is very high and so far, worth every penny.
Last year I bought a product from IMMI called CargoBuckle Retractable Ratchet Tie Downs. The product is essentially a ratchet strap with a spring loaded "compartment" into which it retracts the strap when it's not being used. I thought these would be perfect to hold my ladders, where previously I had used bungee cords or latch straps which worked but were not very "neat" when not doing their job. They could also get lost or dropped. These straps seemed like the ideal solution. After about a month or so, one of the straps began to fray (through no fault of the design or manufacturer). I corrected the problem which caused the fraying and decided to replace the strap on the Cargo Buckle.
Just as I disconnected the strap from the ladders to begin replacing it, the spring (which retracts the strap into the unit) snapped. How fortunate I thought that it chose right now to snap (as I was going to service the unit anyway). When I disassembled the unit to replace the strap, I found the spring had broken right where it was bent to the stationary post (right at the end where it was easy to fix). So I proceeded to replace the strap and fix the spring all at the same time. I replaced the unit on the truck and forgot about it (except that the new strap was red and the other 3 were black).
In the fall this year, the spring snapped again. I stopped by my local Canadian Tire store to buy a replacement (you might ask why, but the trouble these things save me makes them well worth the slight added expense). Of course, Canadian Tire no longer sells them. Later, I begin an online search for them. It turns out that literally everywhere I can buy them from is MUCH more expensive than what I originally paid. I did however find a listing on Amazon.ca for them. Unfortunately this listing was "on back-order", which meant that I could order a replacement but there's no way to know when I might get it. This, however, was the only place I could find them at a reasonable price ($50 for a pair of them with free shipping). I ordered one pair (to be shipped when they are back in stock).
Shortly thereafter it occurred to me that perhaps I might be able to buy just the new spring. I contacted the company that makes them (IMMI) and asked if the spring was available for purchase. Brian replied saying that they were now aware that some units "around" the time I purchased mine had bad springs and they would be happy to send me a replacement unit free of charge. I was quite pleased. I asked Brian if they were sending them to please not use UPS but rather USPS if that were an option since UPS charges MUCH more than the postal service for import charges. Brian said that all such charges would be taken care of on their end.
About two weeks later, my parcel arrived by UPS. $24.00 owing for import fees. I gladly paid the $24.00 (remember it was going to cost me $50 plus tax for the pair that I ordered on Amazon). I unpacked the box and Brian had in fact sent a pair of them. Okay, it would have been nice if they has sent them by mail (probably about $15 cheaper for me), but I still got a pair of them for $24. which is half the cost of the cheapest place I could find them (on back-order).
I cancelled my still pending order on Amazon.ca.
Some time ago I purchased an Arkon GPS mount. Recently I needed to remove it for some reason or other and when I did so, the retaining nut, dropped to the ground and promptly found it's way into a sewer. Essentially, this is a 50 cent plastic ring with threads. The problem however is that it is only available as part of an assembly usually costing $30 plus tax and shipping.
So I searched online at all the usual places to try to find a replacement. I even looked for a Chinese equivalent (for those who aren't aware, you can buy the Chinese ones for pennies, if you don't mind waiting 6 weeks for them to arrive). The problem, of course, is that you cannot be certain that they will fit the genuine Arkon mount. Arkon mounts are not ridiculously priced, but they also are not cheap and are typically only available online (reliably) which means that you must also pay shipping, and often can only find a limited selection.
I was unable to find the part I needed or a really cheap mount assembly which included the part. I decided that I would probably have to just buy the cheapest mount I could find which included the part I needed (estimated to cost me about $30 after tax and shipping).
Having had a few positive results from manufacturers recently, I figured I would check the manufacturer's site for the part. Again, the part did not seem to be available separately, and Arkon (like many companies) tends not to sell there stuff any cheaper than their retailers. Given their USA location, ordering from them seemed like a losing proposition (it would cost me more than ordering a more expensive product in Canada). However, just because I don't see the part available for sale doesn't mean that it's not. I decided to drop the sales inquiry email a note explaining what happened and asking if they sold the individual part. Bryan replied with a nice email explain how I should have a discussion with my parts about not swimming without appropriate safety gear. It was nice to get a humourous reply. He sent me a copy of the current catalogue.
Sure enough the part I wanted was available. I told Brian the part number and he sent one off to me at no cost. As of this moment, I have not yet received the part, but I wait with baited breath (as my GPS slides merrily across my dashboard).
If you'll recall (or if you later read my earlier blog entries), I recently upgraded to a Nexus 5. When I did that, I found that my OWL CarPad wireless charger did not charge my Nexus 5. I had to cut the feet off in order to position the phone correctly to line up with the charging coil. Well, not long thereafter OWL made a modified board for the charger which moved the coil to line up with the new Nexus 5.
Naturally, I want to be able to charge my phone in the car (that's why I bought a car charger). And now that I've cut the feet off of my car charger, I don't fully trust it in the car unless it's in landscape mode (sideways).
So I emailed Moon (the guy who runs OWL) and explained my situation. He told me that I could order the new electronic board (PCB) to insert in my existing case. But that doesn't take into account that I have cut the feet off of my existing charger. I asked Moon if I could order the fully assembled unit without the mount or the power supply. Moon replied that I can order the PCB. At this point he didn't seem to realize that I have no feet on my existing unit to hold the phone in the "correct" position ( I get the feeling that English is not Moon's stronger language - but his English is WAY better than my Korean would be). I reiterated that my case had no feet and that I needed a new casing. Moon told me that if I ordered the PCB (electronic board only) he would be happy to send me the assembled unit but "no" he does not sell just the shell.
I ordered the PCB ($29) and sent Moon an extra $5 via Paypal. He sent me a fully assembled unit without the mount or power supply. Even though, (in this instance) I sent a couple of extra dollars to help him cover the cost, Moon was fully prepared to give me the shell for free. I have read a number of other stories of Moon's excellent treatment of customers on various sites and this just added to my already high opinion of his company and product. A week after this was written, I received a note from PayPal informing me that Moon had declined the additional $5.00. Instead, Moon prefers that I let people know of his good product and service by posting either on his site or on xda-developer's forum (which I had already done).
On a related topic. It's interesting to note that I own 3 (now 4) wireless chargers and the only one which works correctly with the Nexus 5 is the Owl CarPad (the others all charge fine, but they do not stop charging when the battery is full). They all worked fine with the Nexus 4. I just find it interesting that the one that is not a "certified" Qi charger is the one that works correctly.
While this is not an extensive list by any means of companies which have treated me better than they needed to. These are some companies and examples that there are in fact businesses out there that still know how to treat a customer. In most of these cases, they have treated me a little better than the circumstances justified, but that's what makes them stand out.
While the products that I might buy from these companies are limited, I will gladly recommend them and their products to others. If you find yourself needing a product and having to decide between a product of one of these companies and a competitor, please bear in mind the stories I've related here when making your decision. Should you find yourself needing assistance after your purchase . . .
Don't you want to be treated as well as these companies have treated me?
The only negative about this blog post is the sudden realization that not a single one of these companies is Canadian. That leads us to consider, is it the Canadian companies that I'm used to hearing "Sorry, but that's our policy" from? Or am I just not having as many problems with Canadian products and services? And I'm leaning a little more toward the . . .
Well you decide.