And I bet you thought I got all this gear for FREE, didn't you?
Ya, that is a good laugh! As you might imagine the Blog/just me generally/ goes through or at least sees a lot of gear. I have some interesting stories as a consumer. These are comments from transactions just from the month of December 2012 to date in early Jan. 2013. It was a big month for me. A lot of money going onto and getting credited back to my CCs. And enough cash transactions I'd rather not add them up right now. I thought I'd share the good will I received. The comments here are based on real incidents on a few retail purchases, refunds, exchanges, warranty from 12/4/12 till today. Some of which are still being processed when this blog post was published, on 1/13/13, much to my dismay. No one knows who I am or cares who I am when I am buying gear. Although one of the sales staff in all of this did recognise me from Cold Thistle. It was fun to chat about some of the great products their store did offer.
Steep and Cheap *A+, in stock goods, almost the speed of light shipping and easy returns to the CC. aka Backcountry.com *A... in disguise. Only an *A for Backcountry because they dicked around on a price match and lost a sale for the effort.
Mtn Gear *B+ (reason: initial delivery was a little slow across state)
Bought on mail order. 5 business day delivery. I get 2 or 3 day delivery from the Portland stores as a comparison. Called the retail store a day before I was to be in Spokane and wanted to know if I could try on a couple pairs of boots. Walked in with a pair bought via mail order. Walked out with a new pair after paying the difference in retail price and sales tax. Easy transaction. Mtn Gear has a habit of selling items they don't have in stock and making you wait. Likely happened with the mail order pair in this case..if the shipping time from Colorado is a clue. Hard to make a living if you have to inventory and warehouse every item in your mail order catalog. But some actually do just that.
Eddie Bauer *A+ (reason: everything was amazingly easy and seemed fair to the consumer)
Bought at retail in the local store. Returned a couple of items, one 9 months old with out receipt. The other items 6 months old. All new with tags. No receipt refunded for the lowest sale price. Fair enough. But more than 1/2 of what I had paid originally. The rest were refunded to my card and credited to my account the next working day. And because almost everything I was interested in buying or might have been interested in buying was at 50% off I dropped another $500 while I was there. But the the biggest reason I spent an additional $500? Was because I knew Eddie Bauer would stand behind the products no matter what I decided. Now or a year from now. I may not love everything they make but I know I won't get stung buying or returning it. EB is fast becoming one of my favorite gear supplier and that of my partners. Begrudgingly may be but none the less it is happening.
Patagonia *was a D-* now a solid F (reason: terrible return/refund time frames and communication)
By far the worst retail experience I have ever had with one company to date and involving the most amount of money on one transaction. Returned a used item ($400) and a new item ($250) no receipts. (my bad) The used pant was refunded at the full $400 the new jacket @ $100! Not happy about that and shouldn't have returned/accepted that price with that kind of a loss. Down $150! That is less than half of retail. 1/2 is the kind of price I like to pay not what I want to lose. I was a bit shell shocked on that one so I took a gift cert, and wanted to think about what I wanted next at Patagonia.
Mail ordered a new $450 jacket. Paid via a CC. Free 2 day air. 4 working days to deliver. Returned jacket. They received in on the 28th. Acknowledged via email on 28th. Refund was not been processed and not back on my card until Jan 4th. Quoted anywhere from 7 to 10 working days.
Bought more at the local retail store, 3 current, new items. $950 @ retail. Paid cash. Retail store didn't have a very good color selection but I needed to know sizes. After some thought I asked both retail and mail order if it was "easy" to exchange items for color through Patagonia Mail Order. "No problem" I was told. Patagonia mail order received items for exchange, ( I paid for tracking) no acknowledgement of that receipt. They got them on the 12/ 28. I received the replacements on Jan 12. Time frame to date? 16 days. I was told today it will be at least 10 WORKING days. They hit their estimate. What others seem to be able to do in 36 hrs. I really like some of the newest Patagonia gear. Just way too much to deal with trying to get exactly what you want if the retail store doesn't have it. And a little weird on returns. They ended up replacing the items for color and credited my CC on one item instead of doing an exchange and returning it. They did apologise how ever when I called looking for my jacket.
Zappos *A+ (in stock items, sale prices, fast deliver, easy returns)
I ended up buying a new Patagonia jacket and the matching pants from Zappos that Patagonia took "forever " to replace or simply kept. These guys always rock. I should give them more of my business.
Mountain Hardware *C- (reason: slow delivery and not such a great warranty)
Ordered a new jacket. Paid with a debit card. Did it the same day at the RAB order below. 5 days on delivery from RAB. 18 days for delivery from Mtn Hardware. Dismal. Returned a pair of gloves on warranty. Gloves were obviously damaged on a rappel. But leaking previous. I was offered a 50% discount on a new pair of gloves. I bought the gloves offered on "warranty". Same price you could find on line any time BTW. Not like the old days when they actually honored the "lifetime" warranty.
Dynafit *A+ (quick delivery)
5 small orders in 45 days. No fuss, no muss, credit card and ground UPS from Colorado. 4 days. Easy on one return (miss ship) as well.
La Sportiva *A (quick delivery, two really odd and separate addresses)
No fuss, no muss, credit card and ground UPS from Colorado. 4 days.
They rocked getting out two pair of skis to wildly differing mtn town addresses very quickly.
Moose Jaw *A (but could be an A++ if they would ditch the slow boat deliveries)
Ordered a $600 jacket on CC. Took for ever and a day to arrive on FED EX/USPS
8 days, 6 working days. But once returned, the return was processed next day. Refund on my CC the next. Almost the best ever.
US Outdoors *A, Items in stock, quick delivery (from Portland) and easy returns. Some what slow getting it back on the card. They took a week.
Outland USA via Amazon.com *A+
Free shipping and 3 day delivery including the weekend, Tenn. to Seattle WA!
Cold Cold World *A+ (worth the wait)
Impeccable custom or by design packs, made by hand to your order, delivered in a timely manner. It doesn't get any better than that. Seriously, it doesn't get any better on custom gear.
RAB *A (again quick delivery)
No fuss, no muss, credit card and ground UPS from Colorado. 4 days.
Ordered a new jacket. Paid with a debit card. Did it the same day at the Mtn H order below. 4 days on delivery from RAB. 18 days for delivery from Mtn Hardware. There stuff is good enough that I stopped fretting about the odd sizing for me and simply have the garments professionally tailored if I can't live with the factory fit.
Native glasses *F
Warranty replacement for faulty items cost me $35. on my credit card and my shipping. And two returns to get it right. I won't buy another pair of Native's because of the really bad customer service after the sale.
Love them or hate them. Never a hassle on returns for any reason and a quick refund back to your card. Almost immediate credit card refunds but always within 24 hrs since I started paying attention a few years ago. If they have what you want still an amazing place to do business with.
Everyone has a holiday shopping story I suspect....some good, some GREAT and some just as bad. That is mine for Dec 2012. What is your's?
My experience with Patagonia has been the same. Returns are a pain and communication is poor.
Put Outdoor Research on the A+ list.
I bought two pairs of MHW gloves for 50% off from Mtn Gear on Amazon and got them in two days freight free.
SteepAndCheap/Backcountry: A. They usually have my size (small) and usually have the best price I can find online. For years I've heard their customer service is great. I contacted their customer service for the first time in November 2012. The description for a pair of skins (G3 brand) said they came with skin savers, but I didn't receive any. Talking on the phone was pleasant and they 2-day shipped them to me with no hastle.
o2gearshop.com: A+. Sometimes they have the cheapest price online, other times they have some slammin' deals. My last purchase was last week, where I found the Arcteryx Aphix hoody (bought immediately after I read your review, Dane) shipped for about $158 (now sold out, I believe). On the product webpage they said it would be shipped after 5-7 business days, but was shipped sooner and I received it within 7 days of ordering.
REI: A. I'm lucky to live close to one, and I can spend hours browsing around. I've only ordered online from them once, during Black Friday for 50% off and free ground shipping (promptly shipped and received after 3-4 days). Returns to the store are quick and easy.
Patagonia: F. I live close to a retail store, and occasionally go in to try stuff on, but I hate the boxy cut and nothing fits my small frame (5'6", 125 lbs.). I own nothing from Patagonia.
North Face: A+. I live close to a retail store, but tend to buy their products on discount websites. What I really like is their lifetime warranty. I brought in a GoreTex hardshell because one of the elastic hood cords was not run properly through the stopper, so I couldn't cinch it down. The store shipped it to their repair facility in California, it was fixed and mailed back to me 6 weeks later. Didn't cost me a dime. Later I found a taped seam was delaminating so I repeated the repair process.
Altrec.com: A. Great prices online, quick shipping, no complaints.
bentgate.com: A. Great prices online, quick shipping, no complaints.
Eastern Mountain Sports: A. I'm not on the east coast often, but around New Years I was in Maine/NH doing some backcountry skiing and stopped in to a retail store. Awesome sale, got an Icebreaker wool hoodie for 50% off. Their membership program is free to join and you always get points (unlike REI).
My OR A+ story: had an 4 year old celestial jacket (10oz paclite jacket) with holes in it no longer waterproof. Sent an email asking for an axiom which was $125 more expensive than my jacket was NEW and they said sure no problem. I sent my jacket in and got my new one so quick I think they must have sent it out before they even got the old one! I don't think they advertise their infinite warrantee as much as patagonia's ironclad but it seems to hold up.
My Patagonia experience has been quite good, they are slow with the process but they are willing to upgrade your product (nano pullover to nano puff) without a fuss.
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