Is Customer Service Running Out Of Time?

My last Timex watch ever!

What ever happened to good old fashioned customer service? To a time when companies seemed to value their clientele? It seems to be that the pendulum has swung completely from “the customer is always right” to “if you don’t like it, buzz off!” While I don’t necessarily agree that the pendulum has to swing all the way back, somewhere in the middle would be nice.

I’ve used “time” in the title and “pendulum” in the first paragraph, because right now I have a beef with a very famous watch maker. It seems to be that the company known for their products that “take a licking and keeps on ticking” still make wonderful quality time pieces. Their straps, however, are something to be desired and their telephone bedside manner is rather lacking.

I have been a loyal Timex watch wearer since I got my first time piece. I was four. I’m now 52 and all of my watches have been Timex. Besides Coca-Cola there isn’t a company I’ve been more loyal to for almost half century. But all it took to change that was a bad strap and even worse customer service.

It was less than two years ago that I purchased my latest Timex. It was the Timex Ironman, pictured above. I didn’t really need a new watch, but I had been a good boy and I decided to be nice to me by treating myself to a new trinket.

While I loved the watch, I didn’t care much for the strap. It was one of those rubbery type ones that come with various models of watches. I had had them before, they rarely last, but up until now they were easy to replace.

In the past, when they would eventually snap, I would simply go to either the original place of purchase or a neighbourhood jeweller to change the strap for a similar one, leather one, metal one or any other strap of my choosing. But that’s not an option with this latest watch.

I was informed, first by a jeweller, that they couldn’t do anything. I was then told by Sears, the place of purchase, that I had to deal directly with the company (by the way, kudos to the folks at Sears for being thoroughly helpful in giving me all the information I needed in a friendly manner. Now, that’s customer service). Apparently the intricate design and fused melding of the watch and strap can only be circumvented by ambidextrous gnomes locked away somewhere in the Timex basement.

So I called the number I was given (allegedly it was in Toronto, but for all I know it could have been Bangalore). When I informed the person of my plight, she told me where to send the watch. When I asked if I could get a leather strap, I was informed that it was not possible, but a replacement similar to the one I had could be obtained for a price, plus shipping and handling and of course I would be without the use of my watch for the time it took to repair and return.

When I mentioned that putting on the same strap would mean that probably the same thing would happen to it in less than two years, precipitating yet another round of mailing and waiting, the rather cold response was “well what do you expect, sir, that’s normal wear and tear.”

Now call me madcap, but I find it hard to believe that for however long I have this watch, I will be forced every two years to mail it away to replace a watch strap, waiting at the door for its return like a forlorn prom date. Not only does this not make economic sense, but it’s extremely inconvenient. However, it was the terse response in the phone conversation that put me over the top.

I’m a person with a very long fuse. Not much ticks me off. But this woman somehow managed to do it with one snarky sentence. So here’s what’s happening now. Rather than mail the watch out to replace the strap and wait during that time without a watch, I am going to go out and simply replace the watch. In the meantime, I have written to Timex to let them know how I feel (so far, I’ve yet to hear a response. If I do, I’ll share).

I’ve let them know that for the first time in 48 years, I will not be wearing a Timex. I explained in my letter that they can thank the person who answered the phone at customer service for that.

Have you ever had a customer service situation that just put you over the edge? I would really like to hear your story. And just to make sure that this doesn’t turn into a complete “bitching-fest” I would also love to hear from people who have had wonderful dealings with customer service.

I’m hoping that my faith in humanity, consumer confidence and yes, even customer service can be restored (I am, after all, an eternal optimist). Apparently loyalty isn’t worth as much as it used to be. That’s why I’m taking my watch business elsewhere. I’ll also stay away from rubbery straps. At least I still have Coca-Cola.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

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