Re-jacketed

2008-10-04

in Geek stuff, The outdoors

I once again have cause to praise the excellence of Mountain Equipment Co-Op as well as W. L. Gore & Associates. Two years ago, I got one of their excellent but now discontinued Aegis rain jackets. Recently, I noticed that a patch on the back near my right shoulder was starting to de-laminate: the Gore-Tex was coming apart from the nylon.

I took the jacket into MEC today to ask if there was any way to stop the patch from spreading. They told me that Gore-Tex has a lifetime guarantee that their jackets will not delaminate and that they would refund me the original purchase price. I used it towards a new MEC Synergy Jacket. It is dramatically lighter than the Aegis and has waterproof zippers instead of flap-covered ones. The only obvious downside is that there are fewer and somewhat less capacious pockets. The new jacket is less cumbersome and takes up less space in a pack. It is also made from Gore-Tex Pro Shell, which is supposedly more waterproof and breathable than the Gore-Tex XCR the Aegis was made from. I hope I get the chance to climb some rainy mountains in the new garment – ideally back in British Columbia.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan October 4, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Another time when I was impressed with MEC was when I bought an MSR Simmerlite stove for the Bowron Lakes expedition. We only discovered that it was a faulty unit once we were in the field. It worked decently, though not properly, and we really needed two stoves to cook for so many people. As such, it went through a hard period of use before I brought it back to MEC. They were nevertheless happy to replace it with a correctly operating stove.

Padraic October 5, 2008 at 2:35 pm

I’m as big a fan as anybody of MEC, but isn’t it really Gore which should get your praise here, not MEC itself? From what you say, it sounds like they only took it back because Gore will take it back.

Maybe I’m just bitter because today I took in a backpack and was told I would need to pay $90 if I wanted the zipper repaired…

Milan October 5, 2008 at 3:02 pm

MEC could have required me to send the jacket to Gore for a refund, or they could have offered store credit instead of a cash refund, or they could have not told me about the Gore guarantee at all.

Why did they want to charge you for the zipper repair?

Alena Prazak October 5, 2008 at 3:08 pm

I have also had a very good experience with MEC. I remember taking in a bike pannier where I had broken the bracket (my fault) and their repair team fixed it a no cost.

I am off for a hike in those BC Mountains in a few minutes. No need for rain jacket as ominous forecasts did not bear out as weather is good.

Of the film festival movies in Vancouver this week (I saw five in order of preference I would recommend
Blindness
Heaven on Earth
I am Good (Also Fine wiht Me ) a Czech film
Donkey in Lahore.

You may want to pass on Tricks (Poland)

The Film Festival is truly a magic experience

Enjoy Ottawa during the change in season. something we see little of in BC. Enjoy your time in Montreal with Sasha

Oleh

Padraic October 5, 2008 at 5:15 pm

I was told the zipper malfunction wasn’t due to a manufacturing defect – which is true, it’s just due to not standing up to hard use – which sounds to me just like their Rock Solid Guarantee. I didn’t press the point, because I didn’t actually think I deserved a free repair, but I was disappointed, given the very generous experiences I’ve had in the past.

For example, a pair of hiking boots wore out after a year of use – which is quick, but not impossible, and obviously they had no idea how hard the use had been. I got a full refund and walked out in a new pair of boots.

Not to nitpick – but a big part of the reason they can offer cash refunds is that they track all purchases via member numbers, so they have a very good idea of whether you bought the item at MEC or not. Other stores don’t have the data – and I imagine many people would find it an invasion of privacy if they started compiling it – so they offer in-store credit.

Milan October 6, 2008 at 11:21 am

Two other important elements are probably approach and the customer service person you encounter.

Coming in and demanding the replacement of a product several years old seems less likely to lead to a replacement than inquiring about how it might be fixed.

The personality and mood of the customer service agent also matters. When I worked at Staples, it was very clear that some managers were more generous with returns than others, and that there was also individual variation based on the day’s sales figures and other factors.

Not to nitpick – but a big part of the reason they can offer cash refunds is that they track all purchases via member numbers, so they have a very good idea of whether you bought the item at MEC or not.

Good point. Also, most of the gear I buy from them is actually MEC branded (nearly as good as top-notch brands like North Face, and much cheaper).

Another aspect of their willingness to give refunds is the fact that they are a not-for-profit entity and their salespeople don’t work on commission. Nobody is less likely to give a refund than a salesperson on commission, during a period of slow sales.

Milan October 6, 2008 at 11:23 am

MEC also took back the Garmin GPS receiver I bought from them, because it didn’t perform as well under tree cover as the salesperson said it should.

(The small units with patch antennae tended not to, at that point. I ended up getting a much larger but dramatically more sensitive GPS76 unit from Deakin Equipment.)

Padraic October 6, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Alright, we can agree that MEC is awesome and that MEC has awesome return policies.

Now I just need to learn how to use a sewing machine and get on this backpack issue…

Milan October 6, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Which pack is it, and which zipper broke?

Padraic October 7, 2008 at 8:35 am

It is the main compartment zipper on the Walkabout Travel Pack.

Padraic October 7, 2008 at 8:39 am

On a related note, I’ve been really impressed with how well the MEC website has integrated its customer review data. After I bought sandals from an American retailer in 2007 and saw that they had the same review system, I sent MEC an email suggesting it, and they happily responded it was in the works.

Member feedback is something MEC always seems to be vary good at capitalizing on, in terms of design, and it’s great to have that feedback given in a transparent manner. I would hypothesize that MEC members are also more willing to post their reviews than with other retailers, given the high degree of loyalty a lot of us have.

oleh May 30, 2009 at 3:17 am

Another good service MEC story . . . beyond the call. This week the arm of my favourite cycling glasses broke off when I was unfolding them in a normal way. The glasses were purchased at MEC a year ago. I took them in to MEC and explained what had happenned without expecting anything . The service provider provided me with a new frame without any questions immediately. I felt so sheepish I accepted the replacement and bough a second pair . . . and some shorts.

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