• We apologize for the somewhat convoluted sign-up process. Due to ever-more sophisticated attacks by chatbots, we had to increase our filtering in order to weed out AI while letting humans through. It's a nuisance, but a necessary one in order to keep the level of discourse on the forums authentic and useful. From the actual humans using WCP, thanks for your understanding!

Three customer service experiences: Exped, REI, Icom

alexsidles

Paddler
Joined
Jan 10, 2009
Messages
615
Location
Seattle WA
So I recently went on a gear-fixing bender, taking care of all the various items that have gotten beat up over the last few years of kayaking and camping. I thought I would mention my experience with the customer service departments of three different companies that kayakers should know well: Exped, REI, and Icom. In each case, the item I needed repaired cost about 200 bucks and in each case I did get it fixed - but the experience was very different depending on the company.

The items were:

1) An Exped Downmat 7 sleeping mat. I burst one of the baffles on this mat while submerging it in warm water to test a patched leak. The mat is obviously quite buoyant; I pressed down very hard to get it all the way underwater, and pop! a baffle broke, and a huge lumped formed in the middle of the mat, rendering it unserviceable.

2) An REI Half Dome 2 tent. I put the rainfly through the dryer. I thought two minutes on low heat wouldn't hurt it, but I was wrong. For a year afterward, I tolerated its mild leakiness, but on a recent camping trip in the Boulder River Wilderness (WA State), I got so much water inside the tent that I decided to get it replaced.

3) An Icom M-88 handheld radio. Saltwater corroded the spring-loaded battery terminals. They got stuck inside the radio, making it impossible for the battery to connect with the rest of the unit.

Three items, all in the same price range, but three very different experiences:

Exped had by far the best customer service. I emailed them explaining what I'd done to the mat, and they replied requesting pictures and the lot number. Then they mailed me a brand new mat at no charge, which arrived within five days of our initial contact. I was blown away by the speed and generosity of their response, and will be an Exped customer for life as a result of this experience.

REI's customer service was also top-notch. Their main store is right here in Seattle, so I drove down with the rainfly to trade it in. They insisted I trade in the whole tent (luckily I had the whole thing in the car) because apparently rainflies aren't sold separately, and they gave me store credit for the cost of a new tent. I bought the same model again, but did have to pay sales tax which pushed the price above the amount of credit. The bottom line was that I got a brand new tent and rainfly for $20, which is pretty good considering that the damage to the rainfly was my own fault.

Icom's customer service was unfortunately horrible. It turns out Icom USA's headquarters is in Bellevue, right across the lake from Seattle, so I drove the radio over there to get it repaired or replaced. I gave it directly to the actual technicians who would be working on it. A few days later I got a call saying that the cost of repairing the radio and replacing its battery would be $170! They actually quoted me a higher price initially - 170 was AFTER I'd talked them down. With tax and shipping to mail it back to me, it came to just over $200. It also took two weeks to arrive. Bear in mind that the cost of a brand new M-88 with battery and charger is $240. I seriously considered telling them just to keep their stupid radio, and next time it breaks, I will switch to Standard Horizon.

I hope this is helpful for anyone considering buying from any of these companies. All three make excellent equipment, but there is a big difference in how they respond when that equipment breaks down.

Alex
 
Nice to know. Companies need to remember the motto: "If you like the service tell your friends. If you don't, tell everyone."

Having said that...Exped and REI are a bit crazy replacing something that was clearly not a warranty repair, but that level of service is what creates truly loyal customers. Makes me wonder about their profit margins if they can afford to do that. In the end someone always pays...
 
alexsidles said:
3) Icom's customer service was unfortunately horrible. It turns out Icom USA's headquarters is in Bellevue, right across the lake from Seattle, so I drove the radio over there to get it repaired or replaced. I gave it directly to the actual technicians who would be working on it. A few days later I got a call saying that the cost of repairing the radio and replacing its battery would be $170! They actually quoted me a higher price initially - 170 was AFTER I'd talked them down. With tax and shipping to mail it back to me, it came to just over $200. It also took two weeks to arrive. Bear in mind that the cost of a brand new M-88 with battery and charger is $240. I seriously considered telling them just to keep their stupid radio, and next time it breaks, I will switch to Standard Horizon.

I hope this is helpful for anyone considering buying from any of these companies. All three make excellent equipment, but there is a big difference in how they respond when that equipment breaks down.

Alex
Hi Alex, I can't speak to the first two companies but I can speak to Icom. As a ham radio operator there really only used to be two companies that made decent gear.......Icom and Kenwood. Personally I always preferred Kenwood but that a personal thing. As you stated the companies make excellent gear but then the dealers come into play and screw things up. Nowadays it is hard to find good electronic repair technicians as in most cases it's a matter of taking out a board and swapping it with a new one, there is very little board level repair done nowadays.

The second thing that screws a guy up is in order for the dealers to house a repair facility they have to have the space and square footage in commercial space as we know is expensive!!! Hence they have to pay for it and the way they do that is charging you and I far more than what the actual repair should cost in your eye and mine. I don't fault the company for that. That's just life in my experience.

Most of that high price repair started when the companies started insisting that their repair depots had to be in a retail outlet rather than in someones basement where that person could make a decent dollar and still keep the costs down to reasonable levels. Hence high repair costs. And sometimes the folks down at Com West in Vancouver were far less than sympathetic and their attitude about what it cost did far more to sway me away from the product than the actual cost of the repair. :evil:

Alinco is another maker of vhf gear. You may wish to try their product. I know several folks that quite like their stuff.

Glad you had better luck with the first two. Thanks for posting ur experiences.

Teach
 
alexsidles said:
So I recently went on a gear-fixing bender, taking care of all the various items that have gotten beat up over the last few years of kayaking and camping.
You don't mention exactly how long you have owned this gear or what the manufactures warranty is. I assume from what you wrote that all the three items were beyond their warranty period?
 
Hummm Alexsidles,
You better make sure Standard Horizon or any other radio company would replace or fix it really cheap in the same situation.
I can't compare the low tech item and high tech item for that kind of service.

BTW, I got my GPS ($240.00) at REI about 3 years back, and because of my poor maintenance, it got broken.
I wonder if REI replace it or fix it for "FREE"???
 
KayDubbya said:
Having said that...Exped and REI are a bit crazy replacing something that was clearly not a warranty repair, but that level of service is what creates truly loyal customers. Makes me wonder about their profit margins if they can afford to do that. In the end someone always pays...

+1
:big_thumb

The Icom was the only one of the three that should have been a warranty issue, IMO. "Waterproof radio"? Strange but typical corporate behaviour that it wasn't 'made good'. Icom generally makes good equipment but the service/warranty side of the business @Icom USA is known (in the ham and marine/sailing communities) for this type of response.
 
JohnAbercrombie said:
The Icom was the only one of the three that should have been a warranty issue, IMO. "Waterproof radio"? Strange but typical corporate behaviour that it wasn't 'made good'. Icom generally makes good equipment but the service/warranty side of the business @Icom USA is known (in the ham and marine/sailing communities) for this type of response.
If the warranty period has expired on this item, why should ICOM be expected to replace it?
 
I looked and couldn't find any warranty info on the Icom USA website but the Canadian Icom website has a page about warranty:

http://www.icomcanada.com/warranty.html

The ICOM M-88 is warranted for 3 years in Canada. If the radio is older than 3 years I don't think it would be reasonable to expect a replacement or discount to have it repaired.
 
ICOM does not guarantee the handhelds to be waterproof, meaning that they will not replace your radio because you got it wet.
However West Marine will.

It is great for you that these companies helped you out, but it sure does confuse people about what a warranty means in the outdoor gear world.
 
KayDubbya said:
Exped and REI are a bit crazy replacing something that was clearly not a warranty repair, but that level of service is what creates truly loyal customers

REI's policy is that they guarantee everything they sell for life. If something breaks or wears out or you just plain get tired of it, they will repair or replace or refund it. Exped apparently operates under a similar model. It does seem a bit crazy, but I am really grateful to those two companies. They were loyal to me, so I will be loyal to them.

Dan_Millsip said:
You don't mention exactly how long you have owned this gear or what the manufactures warranty is. I assume from what you wrote that all the three items were beyond their warranty period?

The Icom M-88 was five years old, so no longer under warranty. The REI tent was about three years old, but REI has the lifetime guarantee I mentioned above, rather than a warranty. The Exped mat was about two years old. They replaced it without asking its age or demanding a receipt, but I don't know whether they have a formal policy of always doing so.

Dan_Millsip said:
If the warranty period has expired on this item, why should Icom be expected to replace it?

Icom is under no obligation to replace their radios or repair them at reasonable cost. Their voluntary decision not to do so makes them look bad in comparison to the other two companies, but it is their decision to make. If they want to do only the bare minimum required to help customers, they have that right. And of course the customers have the right to buy elsewhere.

sushiy said:
I got my GPS ($240.00) at REI about 3 years back, and because of my poor maintenance, it got broken. I wonder if REI will replace it?

Yes, they definitely will, as long as you can prove you bought it there. One way is to show them the receipt, obviously. If you are a member, they will have a record of the purchase even without a receipt. If you are not a member and you don't have the receipt, I suspect REI will not take back the GPS. The manufacturer still might.

Alex
 
alexsidles said:
Dan_Millsip said:
If the warranty period has expired on this item, why should Icom be expected to replace it?
Icom is under no obligation to replace their radios or repair them at reasonable cost. Their voluntary decision not to do so makes them look bad in comparison to the other two companies, but it is their decision to make. If they want to do only the bare minimum required to help customers, they have that right. And of course the customers have the right to buy elsewhere.
Bare minimum?!? Really? Your radio was five years old -- two years out of warranty and you have an expectation for them to replace it or fix it for a fee where they would probably lose money and you think it makes them look bad?!? Wow.

Do you sincerely feel that you didn't get your money's worth from your product? After all, it lasted you two years past the end of it's warranty.

I agree completely with Sushiy when she states "I can't compare the low tech item and high tech item for that kind of service."

Sorry to say it, but I think you're completely unreasonable here and have wrongfully attempted to paint a sullied picture of a company that provides excellent products.
 
alexsidles said:
sushiy said:
I got my GPS ($240.00) at REI about 3 years back, and because of my poor maintenance, it got broken. I wonder if REI will replace it?

Yes, they definitely will, as long as you can prove you bought it there. One way is to show them the receipt, obviously. If you are a member, they will have a record of the purchase even without a receipt. If you are not a member and you don't have the receipt, I suspect REI will not take back the GPS. The manufacturer still might.

Alex
Woohooo! :big_thumb
I feel like I got an early holiday gift! Thanks!!
REI rocks, and Icom is decent IMO (they replaced my radio), I am happy with both company.

Happy Thanksgiving.
 
sushiy said:
alexsidles said:
sushiy said:
I got my GPS ($240.00) at REI about 3 years back, and because of my poor maintenance, it got broken. I wonder if REI will replace it?
Yes, they definitely will, as long as you can prove you bought it there. One way is to show them the receipt, obviously. If you are a member, they will have a record of the purchase even without a receipt. If you are not a member and you don't have the receipt, I suspect REI will not take back the GPS. The manufacturer still might.

Alex
Woohooo! :big_thumb
I feel like I got an early holiday gift! Thanks!!
REI rocks, and Icom is decent IMO (they replaced my radio), I am happy with both company.

Happy Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving was last month. :)

I hope you tell us how the return works out for you. I'm skeptical, I just can't see REI replacing it; how on earth can they stay in business doing that? I'd be returning my stuff every couple of years just to get something newer.
 
Sorry, I was very unclear there.
I meant to say that despite the IPX7 "waterproofness level", they do not give replace/repair radios that have had leaks or corrosion being used within those contraints.

IMO, 5 years for a radio is excellent(if you are using it the wet). My experience is the ICOM radios seem to last the longest with regard to waterproofness. However, in all brands of radio, there is variability in how waterproof it will actually be, due to design and compression of the gasket system. ICOMs M34 and M36 radios (with the coin style closure on the slide in battery pack) are by far the most waterproof compared to the style that have a gasket solely around the battery connection.
 
Reef said:
Sorry, I was very unclear there.
I meant to say that despite the IPX7 "waterproofness level", they do not give replace/repair radios that have had leaks or corrosion being used within those constraints.
Where did you get that from?
 
I just seem to always remember this from my first radio, And from dealing with ICOM on warranties over the years. but from the ICOM warranty website it says
http://www.icomcanada.com/warranty.html
they say that the warranty does not cover corrosion (#1 way vhf seem to die is contact corrosion and short) and "does not cover the "influence of ....... chemical properties of water"
Warranties to me are for manufacturer defect in workmanship or materials. Remember that the IPS7 rating is pretty soft compared to what most paddlers do to their radios on trips.

Lastly, last time I was in at West Marine, they said they are the providers of a "not matter what" style of warranty with respect to water intrusion in handhelds.

sorry to get so way off topic here
 
Reef, I get what you're saying here. However, I worked in a retail shop a few years back where we sold Icom radios. I recall only one instance where an Icom radio was returned for a leaky seal and it was replaced without any problems at all (that was the only Icom return that I can remember). My thoughts on their warranty disclaimer is that they are covering their butts for any misuse -- generally, if something electronic is going to fail it will happen within the first few weeks of use and (imho) if salt water is going to get into the battery compartment it's likely a user error.

I've had an Icom M-72 radio for about 5 years now and have never had a problem with it even after countless salt-water dunkings. That being said, I generally take very good care of my equipment and give my radio a fresh water rinse after each use.

If it did happen to fail now, I certainly wouldn't consider returning it for a warranty replacement.
 
I too had an Icom radio with corroded battery pins. At least these can be serviced in the field if you catch it soon enough.

My greatest disappointment with Icom was their rubber ducky antenna. The connection corrodes all too easily, even when you religiously rinse your radio in fresh water after every paddling day.

If you've noticed that you just can't receive weather broadcasts, or transmit to your buddies very well, try undoing the antenna. (Like taking a lid off a jar).
Inside the antenna is a tiny metal pin...or at least it used to be there. If you don't see that pin, it may have corroded away, or come to pieces.

I've had two of these failures with Icom marine handheld radios.

Icom's price for a replacement antenna is somewhere north of $40. Quite a lot for what is essentially a long, thin slinky, encased in rubber.
Worse, all the time you are blissfully transmitting through that faulty antenna, the "finals"--radio frequency power transistors, inside your radio--are taking a real beating.

I wish Icom would spend the extra 5 cents on their antenna, to use an alloy that does not corrode so well.
These are after all, MARINE radios.
 
Reading the first post inspired me to go check my own M-88.
It's lived a pretty quiet life; it's only been wet twice - both times in the past three weeks, and both times in salt water. Before that, it spent its life on a shelf in the basement - I bought it a few years ago, but just started using it very recently. (So warranty is 'expired').

As Reef has mentioned, the M-88 "seals' the battery connection area with an O-ring. The connection is made by four (gold?) plated spring-loaded pins which contact the terminals on the battery. The O-ring obviously doesn't seal the connection area; there was a drop of water inside.

The springs apparently are steel, since one of the 4 pins in my radio was covered in rust and no longer 'spring loaded'. Mixing metals when designing a product to be used around salt water is terrible engineering. This radio didn't get damaged by 'wear and tear'- it was poorly designed for its advertised use.

Kinda makes the 'Waterproof' labelling a joke, IMO. A big 'thumbs down' from me to ICOM, and I retract my previous comment about ICOM making good gear.

EDITED:If you own one of these radios, I'd advise (at minimum) rinsing the (separated) battery and radio with fresh water and drying well after every time the radio leaves the house, IF YOU SEE ANY EVIDENCE OF SALT WATER INSIDE THE SEALED CONNECTION AREA. OTHERWISE, JUST MAKE SURE IT'S DRY.

Operating a VHF in a bag is a PITA and could be very difficult with cold hands, but I guess it's something I'll have to consider.
 
Back
Top