Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Orvis: In Need of Lessons in Customer Service & improved wader quality

First of all, I have avoided writing this post for a while. I gave Orvis a break and assumed that they actually care about customer service. However, recent events associated with my wader repair have driven me to write this post. This post is an atypical one for YGF and is not necessarily meant for my regular readers, but for some prospective Orvis customer that searches the interweb for information about the company, the quality of their product, and the quality of their customer service. All of which, I have found to be extremely disappointing.

Here is a quick rundown of the sequence of events:

1) got Orvis waders in december 2009
2) major leaks developed by november 2010
3) sent waders in to Orvis for repairs January 27th 2011 (typically takes 4 to 6 weeks)
4) told waders would be replaced not repaired
5) Orvis receives waders on February 8th, 2011.
6) Orvis tries to fix waders they said they would replace
7) March 14th, 2011 - I contact Orvis and they inform me that waders could not be fixed and I would have to pay for new ones. I tell them that they told me I would get new waders, they fold and set me up to get waders sent to me on April 5th, 2011.
8) April 7th, 2011 - I contact Orvis and they inform me that the replacement waders would not be sent until May 6th, 2011 (3 months after they received my waders). I tell them that this is unacceptable, send me a pair of waders from one of your retail locations, overnight.
9) Waders sent standard shipping.
10) Waders scheduled to arrive today (a half of a month to a month late).

A more detailed version of the story is provided below.

When asked what I wanted for Christmas 2009, I knew I wanted waders. I had been looking at Patagonia, Simms, and Dan Bailey waders for a while and had heard great things about all three companies. But, their waders are expensive. So, I searched the internet for "sweet deals" and found the Orvis Pro Guide 3 waders on sale. So, I asked for a pair of the Pro Guide 3 waders, figuring that I could get a high quality wader for less. A pair of waders that would hold up to the wear and tear of field work and fishing. I happily used my new waders for about a year, but some major leaks formed. I tried patching them to no avail and finally sent them back to Orvis in February. When I contacted Orvis and told them about the leak that had formed at the junction of the neoprene booty and the upper leg and they informed me that based on the nature of damage, my waders would be replaced.

While I put my waders in the mail on January 27th, according Orvis, the waders were received on February 8, 2011. Based on their diagnosis, I hoped that I would receive my waders sooner than the typical 4 to 6 week repair time frame. I contacted Orvis on February 8th and was informed that my waders were "currently at our repair facility in the process of being repaired. We should be done with them soon." I was confused because I was told the waders would not repaired and would simply be replaced. They informed me that they were going to try to repair them, which would take 3 to 6 weeks.

I contacted Orvis, via e-mail, on February 14th and 28th. On the 28th, I was informed that "We received them on Feb 8, 2011. There is a 4-6 week turnaround on wader repairs. "We will do our best to get them tested, evaluated, and repaired as quickly as possible." A completely reasonable response from Orvis. I responded with a slightly dickish email "So, I should expect the return of my waders between 3/8 and 3/22. Will you let me know when they have been repaired and have been shipped or am I going to be surprised when they show up at my door?" They told me that they understood that the season was fast approaching and they would contact me on a weekly basis informing me as to the status of the repair. On March 3rd, I was told they were still being repaired.

I didn't receive an update for the next ten days. So, I emailed them on March 14th. They responded with the news that my waders could not be repaired and that I was to call them to talk about possible solutions. Firstly, I would think that such a significant change in status would warrant some contact from their end. I shouldn't be the one to contact them. Additionally, this email was confusing to me and made it seem as though I would have to pay for something that I originally was told would be replaced....for no cost. After playing phone tag for a couple days, I finally spoke with a representative from Orvis' wader repair center. I was informed that my waders had more than 50 holes and they couldn't be repaired. While, I didn't know that there were 50+ holes, I knew originally that the waders could not be repaired. I was then informed that since I returned them more than a year (a whopping month) after I had received them, that I didn't qualify for free replacement waders. Instead, I would have to pay 25% of the retail value for some new waders.

Becoming increasingly more frustrated, as calmly as I could, I told them that I thought it was a load of donkey dung that I didn't quality for free replacement waders because I didn't return them a month earlier, even though they had been leaking since November. Combining this with the fact that I was told that I would receive new waders from the beginning, they quickly changed their tune and told me that I would qualify for a replacement pair of waders. However, the waders that I wanted could not be shipped until April 5th, 2011. I accepted that fact since I felt as though I had received what I deserved.

April 7th rolled around and I contacted Orvis about a tracking number for my package, that was supposed to be sent on April 5th. I was told that my waders would not be sent until May 6th because of some factory delays. I asked why I hadn't been informed about this change in status and they swore that they emailed me. After conducting a thorough search of my inbox and trash folder, I quickly realized that they had not contacted me. I called them the next day, miffed about the fact that I wasn't contacted about yet another major change in status, and went off. At this rate, I was scheduled to receive my replacement waders a whopping three months after they supposedly arrived at the repair center. I told them that such a wait was unacceptable, they were a big enough company, call one of their retail stores and send me a pair of waders from the retail stores. They found a pair and I suggested that based on the length of the wait for these waders, they should overnight them. They agreed. They were supposed to arrive yesterday if overnighted. I planned on going fishing in my new waders today. I was planning on a day of dry fly fishing on the 'root. But, they never arrived. One last insult to injury, I contacted them and they told me that they were sent standard, not overnight.

They are scheduled to arrive today. A half-a-month to a month late. A day late. Finally, I will be wearing waders that fit and hopefully don't leak. I have been wearing my 5'8" to 5'10" shrimpish friend's waders for the past 2 months. I am 6'2". The fit has been a tight one.

When you compare my experience with Orvis to my experience with Patagonia's customer service, the differences are mind boggling. I contacted Patagonia once about my boots. They sent a replacement pair of Rock Grip studded/sticky boots in a prompt and reasonable timeframe (I think it was two weeks or so). Apparently, Patagonia had received reports that the studs were coming out (something that I had experienced, but hadn't complained about). So, yesterday, when I was patiently waiting for my waders to arrive, I got a package from Patagonia with a set of new, bigger, longer studs for the Rock Grips, unprompted and free. That is good GREAT customer service.

UPDATE: The waders have been received. I can confirm that they are indeed waders and they fit. More to follow when they actually get used.


Dustin's Fly Box said...

Good write up. I had issues with orvis on my waders 12 years ago. I sent them in and they said they would replace. 2 months later I got my original waders back untouched. I called and they gave me the run around. I had to pay to send them back. This was mid summer living 20 minutes from the henry's fork in Last Chance Idaho. Not having my waders was death. I was only 16 and really had no money. They then said a new pair would be sent in a month I did the same thing by saying to have one sent from the retail store in Jackson Hole. They said I can pick them up but they can't send them. So I do the 2 and a half hour drive to pick them up. When I came home I found my dad bought me a new pair of dan baileys and they were on my bed. I still have the orvis waders never used and 12 years later still using the Baileys. I did get a leak once and I sent them in and 2 weeks later I had a new pair at my doorstep.

Ivan said...

Wow Dustin. Thanks for sharing your Orvis story. All we need is a third similar story and it is a verified trend. Isn't that how statistics works? When I am done with school and have enough money to buy new waders I cannot wait to buy waders from a company that stands behind their product like Dan Bailey, Simms or Patagonia.

Brian J. said...

Thanks for the reminder on why I quit going to orvis... definitely not my favorite place.

Ivan said...

you're welcome brian. i just wish i could have wally backman-ed the entire orvis customer service department.


troutrageous1 said...

Wow Ivan. Sorry to hear about that ordeal. It's really unfortunate, especially considering Orvis' standing in fly fishing. Working at an e-commerce company, I know writings like this, when placed in the right hands, actually can, and often do create change...so although I don't suspect you're looking for anything out of this (other than fixed waders), hopefully someone up the food chain catches wind and others will not have to go through the same experience in the future.

DarkoV said...

Ivan re. your comment for Patagonia's "Good customer Service"....I'd change that to GREAT Customer Service. Come on..they sent your replacement studs as if they'd been reading your mind.
Re. the Orvis Waders...don't let your baka hear about this. She'll call them up and give them Croatian-accented hell for treating her "poor little grandson" this way. Oh, you may even pity the Orvis rep who gets to hear that!

DarkoV said...

"I have been wearing my 5'8" to 5'10" friend's waders for the past 2 months"

I would like to meet this friend. I mean, there aren't too many people who can alter their height at will. Must come in handy when spelunking.

Ivan said...

thanks mike. if orvis sees this and institutes some change that would be great for their future customers. I am not one of those future customers.

Ivan said...

tats - forgive me if i don't measure the height of my friends. people fall into three categories: (1) people who are taller than me (2) people who are shorter than me (3) people who are much shorter than me.

while baka falls into the third category, i think her presence makes tall ones shrink down to size. while i am angry with orvis, i am not that angry. If they don't come today, I will call in the one woman mini-croatian cuclic army.

Sanders said...

Ivan- Sorry about the waders! Hopefully you don't have to shrink anymore to catch a fish!

Ivan said...

shrinking is a painful process sanders. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Anonymous said...

From La Maman

...shorter than I - not me. Shorter than I.


La Maman/Grammarian

Ivan said...

so noted mama.

Jay said...

Three things I learned from this post:
1. Don't buy waders from Orvis.
2. Patagonia has freaky excellent (mind reading) customer service.
3. At 5'9", I am considered "shrimpish."

Ivan said...

glad you were paying attention jay, maybe I could change the height descriptors. shrimpish might be a little harsh.

DarkoV said...

I'm with Jay. "Shrimpish"? I used to be 5'9" but all that accumulation of wisdom has squashed me down to a hair over 5'8". But..."Shrimpish"?

Next thing you know, you'll be simply referring to your friend as "Bait".

DarkoV said...

A hint.
Want to get soem attention from Orvis?
Change this post's title to "Orvis - Needing a lesson in Customer Service".
Easier for Orvis to, ahem...., fish for.

Ivan said...

you are right father. it has been changed. orvis be aware.

Travis said...

good post ivan, hope it all works out. the orvis customer service your talking about sounds like the orvis store in jackson, and oh wait, every other orvis store i've been to... if you're not wearing tweed don't even go in.. patagonia on the other hand, has super customer service... in this economy where every buck is spent wisely doesn't that make sense?

Ivan said...

indeed travis. i don't wear tweed. maybe they could sense that over the phone.

Anonymous said...

Ivan, just wanted to add that the power of blogging should not be mistaken. One thing that would effect Orvis would be if they knew how fishing bloggers tend to get the word out if they take on a mission. I wonder if Orvis would even listen?

Ivan said...

I totally agree mel. this article will likely be in the vault of google vaults and ready to be accessed for future customers and hopefully orvis itself. while I doubt they will listen, there is always hope that they will.

James Cates said...

Wow, Ivan, that is EXACTLY what happened to me...

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