20 March 2010

Customer Service

Customer service is a dying art. People working in shops often have no knowledge of the products they sell, and if you don't have a receipt, forget it. Hell, we're even expected to ring up our own purchases at the gas station and grocery store these days. And no one seems to care. The bright side of all this is that when one is served properly as a customer, it's a treat to be relished (which it shouldn't be, I know, but I am looking for a bright side). For example:
This little package arrived in the morning mail, all the way from England, the end result of some extraordinary customer service.
Inside was this huge piece (36" x 60") of actual Barbour waxed cotton, completely free of charge.

My Barbour jacket is one of my most prized items of clothing. After a few years of solid wear in the snow and cold of Winters in New England, it's got some battle scars:

No matter, I can hang with the idea of the tattered and patched Barbour. All I need is a piece of waxed cotton fabric, so I can have Mr. Lee fashion some patches to close up the holes. I don't know if you ever tried to find a piece of waxed cotton cloth, bulk, on the internet or otherwise, but believe me, it ain't easy.

As a last resort, I email the customer service department at Barbour. I explain to them how much I love this jacket, and how much I'd rather repair it than buy a new one, and how I have secret elderly Korean tailor whose work is tight-as-sh*t, and I want him to make patches, and please, where can I get some cloth? In reply, I get an email asking me for the model number of my jacket. I email back that it's an A50, an older style "Moorland".

Two weeks go by with no reply. Just as I'm about to rat them out, I get an email apologizing for the length of time to reply, but it took a while to track down the fabric to match an older jacket, and of course we'll send you a yard at no charge, just give us an address. I never actually asked them for the cloth.

A scant five days later, the cloth arrives via airmail at my door.

That, folks is customer service.


Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Great post. After "a few years" and your jacket looks like that?! Bloody hell, what did you do to it?! Maintain your Barbour to a higher standards, or, buy a new one.

SB7 said...

The misanthrope in me is always happy to be surprised by rare good service.

I got a belt and a pocket square from Lands' End Canvas a couple of months ago, and a few weeks later received a hand-written note thanking me for the purchase and inquiring if I was satisfied. For a purchase of less than $35 I was pretty impressed.

NCJack said...

Reminds me of a line in a novel:

"I see, we want customers for life."

"No, for generations."

Companies who think that way get them, too.

Giuseppe said...


I wear that sucker hard. For three years, in serious Winter, it was this coat over a Lands End down vest that got me through. Pretty much from September till April on a five days a week basis.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the $14.67 in postage that they didn't charge you for either.

Truly amazing.

Rebecca said...

Refreshing to hear of this! The only station in our town to pump gas for the customer closed just this year. I am REALLY bulking at the self check out lanes at our supermarket! I stubbornly haul even my small orders to the "manned" lanes.

Sophie said...

I'm guessing you don't wax it often? My dad still wears a Barbour that he bought in 1963 and it looks in great shape... the secret is regularly applying Barbour's thornproof wax dressing.

Anonymous said...

Amazing. That's a serious amount of fabric they sent. You might have enough left to make something for one of the kids.

Thad said...

I am also sure that Barbour was happy to hear from a customer that has actually used one of their coats for more than from the Castle to the Land Rover!

Good Luck on the patching! Also, don't forget to wax the seams or they may leak.


Giuseppe said...


Till now, once a year, but that's probably not enough. I think going forward I'll srtep up my regimen.

Pigtown*Design said...

Excellent service. I am going to write something this week about shops that went the extra mile and beyond for a group of us, and those which didn't...

PS... I have friends who live in South Shields!

Young Fogey said...

Wow. That's incredible.

Folks, if you have a bad customer "service" experience, let the company know! Most companies want customer feedback, and the good ones will change in response.

For example, credit card companies ask you to key in (or say) your account number. After wading through voice mail hell, you might finally get to an actual customer service representative (probably in India), whose first question is: what's your account number? I always ask them what was the point of my keying it it, especially when the automated instructions tell me that it's so the representative will know who I am! They apologize and come up with an excuse; then I say I know it's not their responsibility, but they should pass my complaint on.

I also politely complain--every time--when I have to press 1 for English. Most reps agree with me, and, come to think of it, I hear that less less often now (though I still hear the 100%-inappropriate gibberish offering Spanish).

Anyway, it's good to hear such a wonderful customer service story.

For good phone service, it's hard to beat Lands End and LL Bean. Both employ Americans in America, women who are unfailingly polite and willing to help. And yes, sometimes they will even bend the rules for you. I always compliment them on their service, and let the companies know, too. If we don't vote with our dollars, how will the companies know?

The Red Velvet Shoe said...

Another wonderful example of why one should make customer service one's primary importance. . .I think it's amazing they took the time to track down your specific fabric. Unheard of nowadays. . .

Turling said...

I must ask the same type of question as Trad, were you attacked by a dog? Motorcycle accident? But, I must commend you on repairing and not replacing. Admirable.

Also, with regards to your first sentence that customer service is a dying art, I was going to tell you that you used the wrong tense...it's already dead. Then, I read the rest of the post. Perhaps, it's still on life support.

Anonymous said...

Hi Giuseppe.

I am an avid reader of your Blog here in the UK, this behaviour from J Barbour and Son is what keeps the company in business. I am a travelling salesman here in the UK and regularly visit their outlet store at the factory. I just dropped my own 10 year old, Black Bedale model in for reproofing last week. The service is fantastic and you are treated like an old friend.
Incidently the factory store sometimes sell off samples that never made mass production.
I have a Barbour International Motorcycle jacket in Black Moleskin (Very Dapper) Cost £25 Sterling and Hey! Its a One-Off and brand new!
Worth visiting if anyones hopping across the pond to N.E. England.

Keep Blogging Sandy

Anonymous said...

Barbour is a wonderful company that makes a durable and well-designed product. Only logical that they would care for their customers too. I wore a green Border jackets for @ 20 years, and finally broke down and bought a new one last year. Their web site included a navy color now, and I thought that would be a nice change for the next 20 years. I called Orvis, who said the navy version was not regularly sold in the U.S. but they would order one from London. Which they did and I had it in a couple of weeks. Perfect fit, perfect jacket.


bRITS AIN'T yANKEE "cry yer eyes out babies" who live in a zoo where its camels v Monkeys.We're the best

Unknown said...

All your high praise of your barbour over the past few months have made me decide to get one. Found a good one on eBay and will hopefully get it soon.

Thanks for all you style pointers!