Monday, April 14, 2014

Acorn Bags - Great Customer Service

They say good customer service is hard to find.  Well if that's the case then great customer service is worth writing about.

Some time ago (more than a year, maybe two) I purchased the Boxy Rando Bag from Acorn Bags for my Surly Long Haul Trucker.   It's a solid product and does what it is supposed to do it.  It holds my stuff securely to the front of my bike just forward of the handle bars. The main opening is in the rear so when I stop for a moment I can easily open it up to fetch whatever I need, close the top and I'm on my way in a moment, still straddling the bike the whole time.  It's made of waxed canvass and I've only found wet contents once when the rain and wind combination was nearly biblical.  I like the internal stiffener that helps the bag hold it's shape. It's also white on the inside which really improves finding things with only a dim helmet lamp at night.   It has a clear plastic map window sewn in to the lid to hold my map or cue sheet securely where I can see it and protects it from moisture.  It just works.  It's one less thing to think about when I'm on a long brevet.  I like it.

I also own one of Acorn's large saddle bags.  It's also a solid product that works as advertised and holds up over time.  Others who use their products have also expressed to me similar satisfaction, that's how I heard of them in the first place, when I saw their products on other bikes and asked about them.  Those riders had only good things to say.

So you can imagine my disappointment when it broke early one morning this winter as I was preparing to commute to work.  It was cold.  Really, really cold.  Single digits on the Fahrenheit scale.  The kind of cold that included warnings on the evening news about windchill, frost bite and hypothermia. The kind of cold where a man's breath condenses then freezes on his mustache.  I opened the lid to stow my lunch and I heard a distinct "snap" sound.  But I couldn't figure out what it was. I closed the lid and opened it again, but the sound did not repeat.  I don't normally use a map or cue sheet for commuting.  Sadly, I have that route memorized.  So I didn't think to look at the plastic cover right away (it was still dark at this point).  But I noticed it just after sun rise.  The clear film that creates the map pocket on top had cracked in the cold.  A split opened parallel to the seam where the top flap folds back.  The split ran completely from one side of the bag to the other.  No map or cue would stay dry in there.

I didn't have any big rides coming up right away where I would depend on the bag.  So I shopped to see what new things were available. I was concerned it wouldn't be covered under warranty, and life was busy this winter. So I took the bag off the bike and the problem sat for a few weeks. But I like that bag, and any replacement would be expensive.

Spring rando season was coming and I would need something up front again. So finally, I wrote to Ron at Acorn and explained the problem.  I acknowledged that I'd already owned the bag well over a year and that it had seen enough weather that it was starting to show the classic fading of used canvas.  I asked what would be the best course of action to repair the bag.  I expected a price quote or a recommendation to see a canvas or sail repair service center that could do the work.  I was prepared for the possibility that cross country shipping plus time and material for the repair might make the repair uneconomical and I might have to make another purchase.   Instead I got an offer:  if I covered the shipping back to Ron, he'd repair the bag and cover the return shipping.

He did exactly that.  The round trip took less than two weeks.  We both used ground shipping services, so the majority of that time was in transit. That means the repair was done with the bag in Acorn's possession for only a couple of days.  It got an email letting me know the repair was done and bag on it's way back on a Sunday evening.  I got another Monday morning with a tracking number.  I got the back on Friday, 13 days after I shipped it.  The repair looks like the bag did when it was new.  Only a slight contrast between the faded material and the fresh stitching around the new plastic would tip anyone off that it was repaired.  My bag is ready for this season's big rides when I will really depend on it.

Acorn's web site has a page labeled simply Buying Information.   The paragraph on warranty is short and simple:

"I stand behind my products 100%. If the bag does not meet your definition of quality and value, let me know and I'll make it right."

Clearly he means it.  If the time comes to outfit a new bike, or perhaps if the Acorn product line expands to include panniers or an even larger saddle bag, I'll buy from Acorn again.  If anyone asks, I will certainly recommend Acorn.

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