vendor problem

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vendor problem

Postby rolandvinyard » Dec 13, 2007 9:47 pm

For decades, I have dealt happily with the various vendors of caving gear; they're a great bunch of folks and give superb service. But there is now an exception: HOWIE'S HARNESSES. This summer at Convention, I bought a bunch of webbing and stuff from him to replace my seat harness. When I got ready to sew it, I found I had failed get enough seatbelt webbing to complete the project. So I called and ordered more. Not cheap, but recognizing that it was something of a hassle for him to send a small amount, I did not argue on the price. He asked me to send him a check ($4 - hardly a large transaction) which I did that very day. That was in August. It cleared the bank September 10th.

When my order did not show up after a few weeks, I inquired politely, and was told that it had been shipped, but could not be traced. Another would be (a bit grudgingly?)sent to me. More weeks go by, neither arrives, and my polite email inquiries were studiously ignored. So finally, I asked for a refund. Still no answer. 8 days later, I repeat the request, with the same result. Yet another week goes by with complete radio silence on his end, so I ordered some webbing from Karst Sports, getting 8 feet of identical product for less money than the 3 feet I had ordered from Howie. It arrived in 2 days. To be fair, Howie did call later on, with profuse apologies and promises he'd get it out to me as soon as he returned from wherever he was (he can't do this from just any post office? - we're talking $4). That was about a month ago.

Hey, think about it. If someone rips you off for $4, what will happen on a large order? Please let me know (privately) if you have had these kind of problems with him. And a word to the wise: be sure to make your purchases by credit card, so that you can have the weight of the credit card company on your side when establishing a claim.
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Postby David Grimes » Dec 13, 2007 11:34 pm

I have not dealt with that particular vendor but I have found the same kinds of issues even with the biggest vendors.

I have had tons of issues with amazon.com not pertaining to caving gear but it seems that from the smallest to the largest vendors they tend to act like children when there is a problem (just ignore it and it will go away) nothing makes me angrier than that.

Really I have not dealt with allot of online caving gear vendors but the only one I have dealt with with no problems ever was karstsports.com.

I am actually in the process of starting an online store selling new and secondhand caving and climbing gear. I am starting an ebay store first while I am building the actual website. I am just so tired of dealing with other vendors for my gear needs and other items and getting run around all the time. I figure I can have the best of both worlds I can directly order all my own gear and make a little money while offering great deals to fellow cavers.

I will cut this off now I didn't mean to make it look more like an advertisement just trying to get my 2 cents in there.
Last edited by David Grimes on Dec 13, 2007 11:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby NZcaver » Dec 13, 2007 11:38 pm

Hi Roland. Welcome to the forum.

Sorry to hear about your problem with Howie's. I've can't say I've ever had a problem there, but my purchases have been over-the-counter at caving events and not by mail order. For what it's worth, I've found Howie very helpful and accommodating in person - especially with the little custom stuff.

I have stories about disappointing experiences with other vendors (mostly concerning a lack of timely communication), but also some tales of above-and-beyond customer service. Since Howie did finally contact you to apologize, I'm thinking he'll probably want to make the effort to see it doesn't happen again. Reputation being so important in a niche business and all.
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Postby ek » Dec 14, 2007 1:58 am

This may be considered off-topic but I think it would be relevant for me to say: Thus far, I have had excellent experiences dealing with Inner Mountain Outfitters. In my experience, when it comes to customer service, Nina Martin has been very timely and helpful. Of course, IMO doesn't provide the kind if custom work that Howie does.

I believe my grotto has also had very good experiences with Inner Mountain Outfitters, but I don't do the purchasing so when it comes to that, I'm not really one to talk.
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Re: vendor problem

Postby mgmills » Dec 14, 2007 6:52 am

rolandvinyard wrote:promises he'd get it out to me as soon as he returned from wherever he was (he can't do this from just any post office? - we're talking $4). That was about a month ago.

Hey, think about it. If someone rips you off for $4, what will happen on a large order? Please let me know (privately) if you have had these kind of problems with him. And a word to the wise: be sure to make your purchases by credit card, so that you can have the weight of the credit card company on your side when establishing a claim.


Just a couple of comments.

I'm not a vendor but regarding mailing from "any post office". . . yeah he probably could, but have you ever purchased an envelope to mail a single item at the post office? Talk about pricy. Most people don't travel with a supply of envelopes. Then there is the issue of trying to find the post office in an unfamiliar town. This in itself can be a time consuming challenge. I'd probably tell you I'd mail it when I got home too.

Regarding credit card purchases. A lot of vendors require a minimum purchase to use a card. I know that is true of IMO and it is over your $4.00.
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Postby InTucky » Dec 14, 2007 7:07 am

I had a very bad experience with http://www.moosejaw.com about a 2 months ago, I ordered a petzl duo, and they just kept pushing the delivery date back, 1st call they advised it was on back order, 2nd time they said they screwed up how they ordered it, and it would be another 2 weeks. I canceled my order, and found http://www.aoutfitters.com and it was even on sale, with free shipping! Placed my order on wed. morning, and thur. morning it was in my mailbox, by far the best online service i've ever had. Even got a email to let them know when we're going caving, there only about 30 mins from rockcastle county. :kewl:
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Vendor issues

Postby Jep » Dec 14, 2007 8:53 am

Okay. You state that the vendor shipped it but no tracking, just like the USPS. Well I took a package to a local PO, and asked them how much to walk the package across the room to deliver it to a PO Box in the same post office. That was three weeks ago. I spoke with that recipient last night and she stated she never got the package. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the PO Box was 12 feet from where I dropped it off at the counter. The package is gone.

Howie's Harness has always dealt with me fairly. And, it seems the last two major caving events they were at and I was at (convention and OTR) some light fingered AH shop-lifted high dollar items from them.

Don't give up on any of our speleovendors. Without them we couldn't get gear. Use to be only Bob & Bob was out there it seemed 25 plus years ago or else you had to go to an event, to get gear. Now I can get it from my living room. Jep.
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Postby Teresa » Dec 14, 2007 10:08 am

You can track things with the USPS, but on a $4 item, it probably isn't worth it.

Sorry for your bad experience, but all the speleovendors are entrepreneurs, and mostly one or two person shops. Sometimes life gets in the way of business. even if you do your best, because you cannot clone yourself to deal with illness, family crises, overwork burnout, and people don't expect you to take a vacation, either. Deal with amazon.com's many vendors, and you're back in the entrepreneur business, especially for non-mass-market items.

Years ago, a small shop owner could just hang a sign "Out for funeral" or "gone fishing" and people understood. Not so in this 24/7/52 week a year world we live in.

So, if a vendor messes with you-- just don't patronize them. Do that too much, and they go broke. If a vendor goes the extra mile-- praise them to everyone. But if you want them to persist, just realize they're a working stiff just like you except they have to run a business and a life on the side.
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Postby icave » Dec 14, 2007 1:50 pm

I've delt with Howie and Amanda on several occasions, both in person and through the mail. I have had nothing but an excellent experience with him. The same goes for Nina at IMO (and Alex before Nina) and Karst Sports. I have found speleovenders to be much more helpful and expediant than other places. I would certainly recommend buying from Howie, IMO or Karst Sports to anyone at anytime.

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Re: vendor problem

Postby volica » Dec 14, 2007 5:49 pm

mgmills wrote:Regarding credit card purchases. A lot of vendors require a minimum purchase to use a card. I know that is true of IMO and it is over your $4.00.

As it states here: http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cc/20010418a.asp
retailer requiring minimum amount is violating a CC company contact.
I pay for my coffee refills in 7/11 with CC.
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Re: vendor problem

Postby David Grimes » Dec 14, 2007 7:44 pm

volica wrote:
mgmills wrote:Regarding credit card purchases. A lot of vendors require a minimum purchase to use a card. I know that is true of IMO and it is over your $4.00.

As it states here: http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cc/20010418a.asp
retailer requiring minimum amount is violating a CC company contact.
I pay for my coffee refills in 7/11 with CC.


I think the problem is that most people do not know that stores are not allowed to have a minimum charge and the ones that do are just too lazy to really do anything about it.

I know here where I live there are several small stores that have minimum purchase signs for credit cards but apparently not enough people report them or the credit card company just doesn't care enough to do something so all you really can do is just avoid going to those shops.
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Re: vendor problem

Postby NZcaver » Dec 14, 2007 8:02 pm

volica wrote:
mgmills wrote:Regarding credit card purchases. A lot of vendors require a minimum purchase to use a card. I know that is true of IMO and it is over your $4.00.

As it states here: http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cc/20010418a.asp
retailer requiring minimum amount is violating a CC company contact.
I pay for my coffee refills in 7/11 with CC.

Good point! I forgot about that. As I recall, there's also a similar rule stating merchants are forbidden to add a surcharge to purchases for using a credit card.

Sure enough, IMO states a minimum CC purchase amount of $20 on their website. Wonder how that flies?

On the flip side, I can certainly understand why vendors want to avoid the small CC transactions. Compared with the overall purchase price, they get killed on fees. When you sell stuff cheap on eBay, PayPal does the same with their fees. But for the convenience and reliability, I'll still take that option over sending ridiculously-outdated paper checks by mail any day.

I guess the only other option for vendors to make a profit is to push up the prices of everything, regardless of payment method. What the US really needs is to catch up with some other countries where it's common to send electronic checks (or eCheques) back and forth between bank accounts. In my experience, there's usually no fee to receive payments, and people are allowed X number of outgoing payments free per month. It doesn't matter which bank either - they're all connected electronically these days anyway. Oh well, maybe one day. [End of rant.]
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Postby volica » Dec 14, 2007 8:29 pm

Even more...
In countries more developed than USA you can pay by sending text message from your cell phone. For example in public transportation.

About vendors. If I have only 2$ cash in my pocket I cannot spend more than that, so I am limited to one coffee. But if the shop will accept CC I can get coffee and cookie, by paying with my card.
So, vendor could earn 1.50$ on my coffee when I pay cash, or 3$ coffee and cookie minus commission (2% and 10 cents I think) which comes to 2$ something. I just don't buy that whining
Last edited by volica on Dec 14, 2007 8:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: vendor problem

Postby NZcaver » Dec 14, 2007 8:30 pm

mgmills wrote:I'm not a vendor but regarding mailing from "any post office". . . yeah he probably could, but have you ever purchased an envelope to mail a single item at the post office? Talk about pricy. Most people don't travel with a supply of envelopes. Then there is the issue of trying to find the post office in an unfamiliar town. This in itself can be a time consuming challenge. I'd probably tell you I'd mail it when I got home too.

I'm not picking on you here Martha :wink: but I had a couple more thoughts.

For people in business, it's better to mail things sooner rather than later. A day or two probably won't matter, but if they're away for a week or more - and have their stock with them but nobody at home to mind the store - they should really try to find a post office. It's not that tough, even for those without talking GPS units.

You're right, don't buy your envelopes at the post office. Use Wally Mart or similar for that. Better still, use and abuse the USPS Priority packaging - it's free! Cram whatever you can into flat rate envelopes and boxes. I have routinely squeezed clothing items, vertical gear, etc into those flat rate envelopes, and taped them up. As for the boxes, well my record thus far is gettting almost 20lbs into one.

I agree the post office is far from perfect, but I've still had far more reliability from them than with UPS. Besides the flat rate packaging, my favorite USPS features are electronic postage labels I can print at home, and scheduling a free pickup so I don't have to go to the post office.

Oops :doh: I guess I slipped :off topic: again... :grin:
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Postby VACaver » Dec 24, 2007 4:13 am

I've never heard a bad word about Howie's...this is a first for me.

As far as shipping to a customer, I never mail anything...it's UPS of FedEx only. Sure, it's a bit pricier, but not much. More important, it provides a history. When a customer calls and complains about not receiving his order, I can look it up and tell him when it was delivered :oops:

One last thing...prices of webbing. It's nylon, and nylon manufacturing is directly affected by oil prices. Oil price going up? So's your webbing.

Sorry to hear you had a problem with Howie. Talk to him about it the next time you see him...I'm willing to bet he'll treat you right.
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