Discuss: Warranty Periods, Good Faith Ethics, Statutes of Limitations.

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Bobby_M

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Looking for honest feedback here. As a business owner, I deal with my share of customer service inqueries and I don't mind testing my demeanor here among my peers and peoples.. To my delight, the vast majority of the experiences are positive. We are often praised for going above and beyond our very industry standard policies. We make mistakes like everyone else of course. I'm not patting myself on the back, just setting up the context. Anyway...

Customer emailed that they received a leaky valve from me. It's brand new, never used, never taken apart.

I'm in the middle of writing back saying "of course we'll replace it, we have a one year warranty" when I decided to just quickly find the order to see when it was purchased. I couldn't find it in our shipping system's dashboard, but that only goes back 6 months. I figured I'd go all the way into the ordering system because it's not time filtered. I see that the same customer placed a few orders in recent months/years but couldn't find the valve order. Eventually I found it. The customer bought it in November of 2016. That means the warranty against MFG defects ran out Nov 2017. If you do the math, it's 3+ years out of warranty. I refused the warranty replacement.

I get it, it doesn't hurt to ask right? On the other hand, the customer went full nuclear. This is one of those cases of principal. If it had been a few months out of warranty, I'd probably bend. I've done it plenty of times especially for repeat customers. I think in this case, I was even a little insulted that someone would berate me for refusing to full warranty replace a 4.4 year old item. I don't know, maybe I'm out of touch but I think it's on the customer to discover problems with purchases within the warranty period. Imagine buying a new car with a 3 year/36K warranty and trying to claim that the engine won't start 12 years later. Yeah but it has zero miles on it.

I'm ranting now... what say you?
 

Qhrumphf

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I'd say that customer is completely unreasonable. If it was never used I get asking, but I'd never expect someone to honor a 400% expired warranty, let alone "go nuclear" if they refuse.

Presuming that said valve has gaskets/seats that've dry rotted out, the most I'd do if I were you (assuming it's inexpensive) is send em those parts and let them deal with it. Even then that's being super charitable on your part.
 
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Bobby_M

Bobby_M

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I'm not doxing anyone here.. I'm just being transparent. This is the email exchange starting from first report:


I have yet to use this 3 way ball valve. For all intent and purposes this is a brand new piece.
This valve has failed to shut off the flow to the heat heat ex. That is to say it’s not functioning properly.
Please see video attached. I hope we can come to a solution.

-XXXXX

(I didn't respond over the weekend and got this email)

I would hope you all would be professional enough to make this situation right and not just ignore my messages.
Since valve cost over 30$ I have no choice but to continue and try and contact you.
If you choose to ignore me, I’ll have to proceed with other avenues action.
-XXXXX


***********************************************************

XXXXX, I was unable to find the original transaction but then I found it in the archived database because this was ordered in November of 2016. Our standard warranty protects you from manufacturing defects for 1 year from date of sale so this claim is over 3 years too late.

I've since switched suppliers of these valves twice since 2016 so I have no recourse myself. We strive to be more than fair with our customers, often erring on the side of taking losses beyond our official policies but I don't know any vendor that would honor a warranty over 4 times older than the initial period.

-Bobby

************************************************
Alright.
Well, nice doing business with you while it lasted.
Say what you want to justify not backing your materials sold, but you vended a faulty product, 2016 or not, and you know it.
This was 100% untouched/used until a few days prior to the video sent.
That’s the brass tacks.
I’ll be sure to communicate this experience when friends, in and outside of the industry, ask me for part supplier recommendations for brewing.
Perhaps weigh the total amount I’ve spent with your company versus the 36$ that it would cost you not to permanently loose my patronage.
Bon voyage

-XXXXX

***************************************************
XXXXX,
Be sure to include the fact that the item was 4.5 years past the purchase date when you bash my service ethic.
-Bobby

****************************************************

Don’t worry. I have been. The truth still makes you look shitty.

-XXXXX
 

Tom R

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o_O :no:
It sucks to have unhappy customers, but at this point, I'd realize that this one person cannot be reasoned with.
And I'd remember that there are many, many more folks who are happy to support your business.
 

jhnmdahl

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If it’s a manufacturing defect and not wear and tear, I can see trying to help him out if he’a being polite and you still have a relationship with the part manufacturer.

In this particular case, I’d be tempted to just move on and amend my T&C to encourage users to immediately inspect any purchase for manufacturing defects or other problems so that they may be rectified during the stated warranty period.

Almost all of your potential/future customers will recognize that asking for something four years out of warranty to be replaced is a long shot at best, and you’re probably better of without the handful of potential customers who might side with this particular customer.
 

Steveruch

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Sounds like he's trying to pull something. Personally I would, maybe, ask politely but would not expect a freebee that long after the warranty expired.
 
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Bobby_M

Bobby_M

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I kinda knew the answer before I asked but I think it's good to check your ethics occassionally. I honestly care about doing the right thing and when I'm so jaded that I don't anymore, I'll get out of the business.

Even with the attitude I got, I'm still looking into getting some replacement seats from that vendor.
 

Kharnynb

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I mean, it never hurts to ask and I can see someone having a part as "spare" that long.
But the vendor has the right to refuse replacing after warranty is over.
I've worked for a bunch of big tech companies as support when younger and some are more lenient than others, but all tend to let the support agent make the call to give leniency or not.
 
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Bobby_M

Bobby_M

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I mean, it never hurts to ask and I can see someone having a part as "spare" that long.
But the vendor has the right to refuse replacing after warranty is over.
I've worked for a bunch of big tech companies as support when younger and some are more lenient than others, but all tend to let the support agent make the call to give leniency or not.

Completely agree. He didn't come in asking if there replacement seats or a way to repair. If I had replacements on hand, I would have offered them for free if the customer covered shipping.
 

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I don’t get people like this. The few times I found something faulty after I tested it past the return period was on me. The vendor shouldn't have to suffer loss due to me being busy or lazy.
 

Sailingeric

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Lack of use is probably worse on a part like this than using the hell out of it. We have two sinks in the guest bathroom that hardly is ever used and the faucet started leaking and given the part was 4 years old, I knew it was all on me, even though it may have been used a dozen times. The best I would have done if the customer was nice is to offer a discount, but being an ass, screw them.
 

eric19312

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Seems like somebody was having a bad day and took it out on you. Hopefully not one of these vile trolls that is going to wander around posting negative reviews all over the place. I think you are in the right here Bobby but hope it doesn't bite you.
 

Genuine

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I've been working in retail and customer service for 10+ years now and there's always a few people who try to take advantage of something. I think if he was a as decent of a "customer" he claims to be, then he wouldn't have acted in the way that he did, and then further threaten and treat you the way he did. That's just like a 2 year old stomping their feet when they don't get their way. The warranty is good only for the warranty period...end of story. Not for someone to demand it be replaced 4 years later. As soon as the piece was purchased the warranty clock starts ticking. I personally don't care about warranty's because I feel like they're such a pain in the ass to deal with and I'd rather attempt to fix or just buy another one instead of going through the entire process...but that's just me.

No reason for him to act the way he did. Sometimes there are some people not worth doing business with.
 

pvpeacock

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Unfortunately, that may also be a reflection of our times where people want something for nothing and don't want to follow rules when they do not suit their interests. You did the right thing and I continue to believe the vast majority of Americans are honorable and reasonable. It just seems like the "vast majority" has been slipping to a "simple majority" over time.
 

Electric Brewer

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Sounds like exactly the type of customer that you are better off without. People who think that the customer is king are forgetting that there's no kings anymore. France even had a nice way to end the tyranny.

Personally, what I look for in a relationship with a business depends on the size. For small local shops, I expect to have a human contact. Maybe some advices. And for that I will pay their asking price on things that I need. For a big business, it's competitive pricing, good inventory and fast shipping.
 

Rodent

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WarrantyPossumMeme.jpg
 

jseyfert3

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Honestly the second email tips off the sort of person they are. There's nothing wrong at all with refusing to warranty a 4 year old valve with a 1 year warranty.
 

Knightshade

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It is kind of appalling that they even bothered to ask. There is a certain truth to the 'it never hurts to ask' type of mentality that some customers feel entitled..obligated...(pick) to follow through with. You even went so far as to entertain the notion, repeat customer, relatively inexpensive part..WTH, why not.

The response afterwards from this now (and I would say thankfully) ex-customer...wow. Such is life in small business, you will try to please everybody but inevitably you won't. And you've got to be okay with it, and in some cases like this one, you'll be better off that you didn't.
 

Tobor_8thMan

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I had a problem with a MB item. It was over a year old so I didn't feel right asking MB for a replacement. I just chalked it up to "lesson learned" and "I should have more thoroughly tested the item within the warranty period." I posted my honest review of the item at MB. MB contacted me about the item. We then spoke on the phone. MB offered 100% store credit. I honestly felt guilty accepting as I didn't return/complain within the warranty period. MB will not give up with their offer. I accepted their offer in the hopes a better model will eventually appear for sale at MB.
 

bkboiler

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Wow I'm totally on the opposite end of this...usually I'll just repair unless something is obviously a total loss...only contact the vendor when looking for advice on how to repair.

I'm talking like a kettle or something. I reckon brew parts are a lot like a roof...materials and workmanship warranty should be long (it's stainless), but it's gotta be obviously due to that.
Point leaks (like on a roof) are so usually due to installer error, the manufacturer only warrants them for a short time.
Sounds like this guy stored it too long without turning it, then was suprised when the compression set on the seals rendered them ineffective....that's kinda how they're designed...gotta move em every once in a while, just like a car that's not driven can wear out the seals (no oil flow).
 
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I'm ranting now... what say you?

Meh. A thousand years ago, and a thousand years from now, that customer will exist. It's the human condition. To rant about it is to shout at at the clouds. I'm all for venting, let er rip Bobby. But don't expect anything to change, ever.

For every customer, even the type you had there, there is an IDEAL way to deal with them that effectively talks them down from their heap of anger, and ends with both of you satisfied. It is possible with every person. I own a company and deal with this same thing all the time. Look at every confrontation as an opportunity for you to sharpen your skills.
 

khannon

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Thing is, everyone who deals with the customer in question knows what type of person they are within a few minutes of talking with them. I don't doubt they will complain, I do doubt that many will listen.

For what it is worth. Everything I have bought from Brewhardware.com has been top notch, and I would not hesitate to recommend to friends.

I suppose on topic, yes expecting to return a part 4+ years later seems ridiculous. I don't think I would ask much less expect it unless it specifically specified with a warranty that long.
 
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Bobby_M

Bobby_M

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Meh. A thousand years ago, and a thousand years from now, that customer will exist. It's the human condition. To rant about it is to shout at at the clouds. I'm all for venting, let er rip Bobby. But don't expect anything to change, ever.

For every customer, even the type you had there, there is an IDEAL way to deal with them that effectively talks them down from their heap of anger, and ends with both of you satisfied. It is possible with every person. I own a company and deal with this same thing all the time. Look at every confrontation as an opportunity for you to sharpen your skills.

The best thing I can really do is to get myself out of the customer facing side of the post-sale business entirely. I have a very polite employee that is fielding more of these types of calls, ultimately with the "answer" coming from me behind the scenes but she more prone to the high road for longer than I can handle. I remember dealing with St. Pat's of Texas about 12 years ago and the owner was short, rude, aggressive and profane with me for asking for a shipping quote. Immediately I wondered who pissed in the guy's cherrios. I guess it was a handful of customers over a lot of years.
 
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Social media and email often amplifies the message in unnatural ways.

Most of it is discussion and maybe it (social media and email) is best discarded before it becomes "toxic".

eta: updated to take a different path towards the same destination.
 
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bkboiler

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I've interfaced with Gail from Seattle Coffee Gear on the phone before and I think she has a great balance of staying involved with the business to make sure it keeps a customer focus with great service, but also stepping back to focus on new business development.
I think you do a great job as well Bobby, but yes, like you said, maybe time for a break and a vacation! :)
 

InspectorJon

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This is the reason one must always be careful when relying on social media or internet posted product reviews. They often self select for disgruntled customers that are difficult or impossible to please. People that are happy with a product or service rarely say anything about it, they just go on with life. People that are disappointed or angry are looking for a platform to be heard and a place to vent. Any of us that are in business and deal with customers have similar stories about unreasonable customers that just cannot be made happy. Some people are just unhappy most of the time and don't even know it. There are other people just have unrealistic expectations. Dealing with them is part of the emotional cost of doing business.
 

betarhoalphadelta

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The best thing I can really do is to get myself out of the customer facing side of the post-sale business entirely. I have a very polite employee that is fielding more of these types of calls, ultimately with the "answer" coming from me behind the scenes but she more prone to the high road for longer than I can handle. I remember dealing with St. Pat's of Texas about 12 years ago and the owner was short, rude, aggressive and profane with me for asking for a shipping quote. Immediately I wondered who pissed in the guy's cherrios. I guess it was a handful of customers over a lot of years.

If you've got an employee like that, make sure she feels very valued and is well compensated--it'll make your life easier in the long run!

I'm in a similar role. I'm an engineer, but my job is to be the technical side of the customer support organization and work with our large customers using our products. I feel like a bit of a unicorn to have both the technical ability and simultaneously have the "soft skills" to deal with customers in difficult circumstances, such as when millions of dollars are on the line because something's going wrong and their execs are breathing down their necks to fix it and it's my job to help.

I've found that many small business owners get into what they do out of love and passion for their craft, but rarely does that love and passion also reside in a personality that is naturally tuned to customer service. Many CAN do it; few are naturals.

So my advice would be to just give whatever is appropriate of a reward for said employee... Maybe it's a $20 Starbucks gift card, or $50 from Amazon; it could be more or less, but I don't know the situation... Tell her you know that she's on the front lines of dealing with customers and it's a rough job, but she's good at it and you're happy to have her to do it so you don't have to.

It'll make her day and continue to make your life easier.
 

Bramling Cross

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It seems like the frequency of full bore nut jobs has quadrupled on the custom service front. I'm no expert about these things, but I can't help but think that the frustration, hopelessness, and lack of agency that people are experiencing as a result of the pandemic must be (at least in part) driving this uptick.

It's sad. It's as if they're using customer service reps as a kind of depraved therapy. I sure hope I never let myself get that low.
 

marc1

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If all is as described, you are not the A hole.

Many years ago I did product development for a chemical company. Additionally, I would help out with customer complaint investigation/resolution.
The easiest ones to close out were expired product - nothing was warranted after expiration, no investigation necessary, recommend they buy fresh.
The second easiest were complaints about properties that weren't on the spec sheet - also not warranted. I could however help them find a better grade to meet their needs if we had it.

I don't think I ever had anyone argue about expired product.

This was B2B though, so maybe people were expecting less freebies?
 

Cyclman

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I was a National sales manager, responsible for a 9 figure territory. Got hollered at hundreds of times. Sometimes by very large customers.

At some point, you have to know where your “line” is (mine, like yours, was rather customer-sided), and know, when you are unfairly attacked, it is they who are the a-hole. Or, having a bad day.

Offer a shallow apology that they are dissatisfied, move on, forget it happened. Gotta have very thick skin to be customer facing.
 

Steveruch

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Keep on mind that there are a lot of stupid people out there; some are also jerks.
Back in the 80s I worked for McCullough chain saw company. The guy in the returns department told me a fair amount of the "won't start" complaints were because of bone dry gas tanks.
 

Hammy71

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Sucks you have to deal with people like this Bobby. You and your company have always been upfront and decent to me. As stated above, there's always gonna be these folks, especially with retail.
 
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