For Want of a Buckle, a Company Went Missing

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About two years ago, I purchased a laptop sleeve with shoulder strap from Brenthaven directly from the Apple store. It fit my needs perfectly - think like a sleeve to fit into an airline carry-on, but with a shoulder strap and extra pockets to carry by itself. Barely a month after I bought it, the buckle that connects the strap to the sleeve came apart. It happens, you get a bad item, and the Apple store immediately replaced it.

Two years later, the exact same problem happened. One would figure it is time for a new sleeve, but Brenthaven, like Briggs & Riley, offers a no-questions-asked lifetime guarantee of their bags. Just fill in the form on the Web site and wait for them to schedule a repair with you.

I did exactly that.

To their credit, I received an email back in less than two hours, on a busy Monday morning. Clearly, Brenthaven takes monitoring warranty requests very seriously.

To their detriment, they did not quite offer to repair the bag. They offered to either:

  1. Have me bring the bag locally for repair, and they would give me a coupon for 50% off my next purchase. OR
  2. They would send me a replacement shoulder strap (with buckle, of course), but I would have to pay $7.50 for shipping and handling.

Now, offering to replace the broken strap is exactly the right response; no questions asked, here is a replacement part. After all, if the whole bag isn't broken, they should be able to replace only the broken part. But asking a warranty customer to pay for shipping and handling on a warranty repair is, well, cheap. It lowers Brenthaven from a high-quality product and service company to just another bag maker, and why pay their prices if you are going to get their nickel-and-dime service?

After strong pushback, a manager stepped in and waived the shipping and handling. The replacement strap is on its way. But, it seems pretty clear that Brenthaven has a policy of asking warranty customers to pay for part of the repair under the "shipping and handling" guise, and if someone pushes back, then waive it.

It sounds like classic price discrimination - always a good thing in business - but it isn't. You discriminate on price only at the time of purchase. You never ever ever do so at the time of post-purchase repair. When dealing with customer service after the deal is done, you always precisely meet the expectations you have set. 

Brenthaven wants to play in the high-quality big-boys Briggs-Riley space, who get top dollar for top-quality bags and unlimited repair service. But until they learn how real high-end quality customer service works, they have a long way to go.

Are your business's pricing, customer service, product quality, and marketing all aligned with each other?