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21 Century Customer... Perpetual Replacement Of Pottery


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#1 Tracy

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 08:07 AM

Has anyone else noticed the "LL Bean Effect" with customers?  That is, they have purchased your pottery in the past and have broken it and now expect YOU to replace it free because, obviously, it was made improperly.  

 

At my last show a woman brought over a baking dish she purchased from me TWELVE YEARS AGO. She broke one of the handles.  She said it was inferior and did not withstand the weekly use.  Really?  I offered her a discount on another baker but she would have none of that.  She went off and got her girlfriend and the two of them basically bullied me into a free replacement.  I gave in due to having a full booth of customers and not wanting to create a scene.  But, I'm still steaming about it (obviously, LOL).

 

Just got an email from a customer who bought a mug last year and has used it daily.  It developed a crack and she wants a  free replacement with free shipping.

 

This has been happening to me more in the past few years than in the first 15 years I was in business.  Its annoying.  

 

Okay, I'm done venting.  Phew.  I feel better.



#2 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 08:12 AM

My friend who was an archeologist had a saying it is not the "good" pot that gets broken...meaning the everyday pot that gets used is more likely to be dug up in pieces. I'd say they got their money's worth from the pots. Sounds like a new trend you are getting ..and not a good one.

 

Marcia



#3 JBaymore

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 08:50 AM

This is coming from a lot of aspects of society. 

 

The "customer service" focus that most companies are employing these days is one of them.  It is not too many people that are "removed" from hearing about the training that they or a spouse or relative or friend is getting at thier place of employment.  The focus is on making the customer happy and "empoweering" the employees to "make it right".  The basic philosophy is "the squeeky wheel gets the oil". 

 

People have learned that to get satisfaction (meaning 'get their own way')...... don't talk to the front line employee... ask for a manager or the owner.  If you make a stink.... you'll "win".  Since as the potter you are the "owner/manager".... you're on the hook.

 

And with ethics seriously on the decline in society.... for a lot of folks it is about the "win" not about what is "right".  Pots do break in use.  Inherent thing.  But they know that if they make a big enough fuss...... they can get another one for free or at a serious discount.  And that saves them money.  So they'll take advantage of that situation....becasue they don't care what is right... they are in it for self-interest. (screw everyone else!) .   

 

Then there are the plethora of consumer oriented publications that are trumpeting "don't pay the asking price for anything".  Some are specific about going to craft fairs and the line and "talking down" the prices.

 

So when people are buying what they see as "luxury goods" (handmade priced pots compared to Walmart priced pots)... they expect more.

 

Yes ... this is a disturbing trend. 

 

best,

 

............................john


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#4 Mark C.

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 01:42 PM

I always evaluate the breakage and need to see the piece.
Here is my last story
At Xmas show in Tempe Az after show a fellow called about buying a broken mug
I said bring it to me in spring show so I can see it.
It looked like it was hit on side with ball pene hammer
This could have happened while I was graving with it so I gave him a new one on the house.
I always want to see what happened and many get that broken handles are tier fault.
This guy was willing to wait 4months and come look me up with said item this in itself cuts out many a scammer
The customer is not always right but needs to be given his day in the pottery court (I'm the judge)
Mark
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#5 GEP

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 09:19 AM

I treat these situations similar to Mark ... within a reasonable amount of time, and given the right circumstances, I will give a free replacement pot. Overall my policy is to have no policy, every case and every customer will be judged individually. My responses will range from "I promise to make this right" to "go away."

I think the 12 year old baking dish most definitely did not require a replacement. There's plenty of ways the owner could have mishandled it during 12 years. I would have offered a discount on a new one too, It think that was a fair solution. I don't know, if I had other customers in my booth, and I sensed that someone might make a scene, I might have given her a new baker too. Just to resolve it as quickly as possible. An angry scene only hurts you, no matter who is right or wrong. The only thing I would have done differently is, when handing her the new baker, say "I hope this resolves the matter. Please never buy my pottery again."

On the other hand, the mug that cracked within one year would get its day in "pottery court." Probably replaced. Although she would have to send the cracked one back first so I could see what happened to it. Did it crack when boiling water was poured in, or did somebody drop it?

I used to make an item that consisted of three parts. One of the parts was delicate and small. On three occasions, customers brought back the fragile part broken. I gave them replacements on the house. One of them started crying. Another one handed me a plate of brownies a few days later. The third one returned to my booth an hour later and bought a $250 platter. So this type of customer service can benefit you in some circumstances. I will add that I stopped making that item, due to its durability flaws.

I recently had an online customer who, although he had bought a good quantity of work, it became clear to me that he did not understand what he was buying, in ways similar to the customer who thinks a 12 year old pot should be replaced. I finally told him "this is your last order." (This is one of the reasons I closed my online store.) My point here is that sometimes it is appropriate and necessary to tell a customer their business is not welcome anymore.

I would speculate this attitude is growing because of the growth of online selling, not because of LL Bean. Online selling implies things are supposed to be convenient, and customers get served while they sit on their couches. LL Bean and REI have had their generous return policies for decades. Actually REI dramatically scaled back its return policy last year, because they finally realized customers were abusing the policy.
Mea Rhee
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#6 Wyndham

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 12:52 PM

There is little respect for fine utilitarian crafts anymore.

When potters have to stand at the same level as import low temp, white ware that is findings it's way into the traditional craft markets, there's nothing but a flea market mentality of the customers.

Sad to say but this may be the new normal, if so, we  all will be  heading to the door.

Wyndhaam



#7 Marc McMillan

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 02:08 PM

I just gotta hope Karma comes into play on that baking dish customer.



#8 Chris Campbell

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 02:53 PM

I have been thinking on this for a few days and I still cannot get over the 12 year use ... I mean 12 YEARS!!!!

Is her car 12 years old? Does she take back her old cars and demand a new one?

I cannot get over the fact that she found out you would be there, dug out the old casserole and hauled it back to you.

She was prepared and even armed with an assistant! How small and cheap can one person be?

 

The only thing I can think of in hindsight is you should have taken her picture ... telling her it would remind you to post a returns policy in plain sight in your booth.

Other than that ... Congrats on being a better person than her.


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#9 JBaymore

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 08:51 AM

I cannot get over the fact that she found out you would be there, dug out the old casserole and hauled it back to you.

She was prepared and even armed with an assistant! How small and cheap can one person be?

 

Wyndham kind of nailed it above. This is about respect.  How we, craftspeople, are thought about.  No.. she likely would not have done that with the car.  Because she knows that she couldn't get away with that there. 

 

But with the "lowly" craftsperson.... hey.... I'm the customer... I'm always right.  I have money,... I'm better than them..... I can control that situation.  I can't believe that they charged that much for that casserole in the first place!

 

 

best,

 

...............john


John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#10 JBaymore

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 09:02 AM

Sad to say but this may be the new normal, if so, we  all will be  heading to the door.

 

This is not "politically correct" to say.... but I will anyway.

 

A "shakeout" in an industry is not always necessarily a bad thing for the health of the field.  Yes, it is for those "shaken" for sure....... but sometimes the overall field improves for it as it re-invents itself. 

 

In some cases the result is that the best of the best are the ones that are left.  Last person standing and all that.  Perserverence and determination.  Quality over quantity.

 

In some cases though, the whole field can end up dropping to the lowest common denominator.... (most crafts fairs did this long ago....a dead marketing horse that many are still beating) and then basically disappearing altogether.  BTW... anyone need a buggy whip for their surrey?

 

best,

 

.................john


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Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#11 GEP

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 09:13 AM

John,

Art festivals and craft shows are alive and well! Yes they all suffered during the recent recession, and many of them disappeared. But the ones that still exist have recovered. Maybe it depends on the region where one lives. I'll just say that this year's ACC Baltimore show was mobbed with people carrying lots of shopping bags. I surpassed my previous sales record by quite a bit. Throughout all of last year, my sales were constantly exceeding my expectations at shows. I do shows from the $50 church shows, up to the ACC level. They were all good to great.
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#12 GEP

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 09:23 AM

I have a relevant story from this week ... a customer emailed me because a platter she bought last December had developed a crack. She wanted to buy a new one. Yes she was willing to pay full price. I asked her to bring the platter so I could see the crack, and asked if she could explain what happened. She said she didn't know, but thinks her mom used it under the broiler.

She brought the platter to my house. The crack was obviously a thermal shock crack. It came in from the rim, then curved around the base of the floor. I thanked her for teaching me that I need to caution customers not to use my pottery close to a broiler element. And I offered her 50% off the new platter. She was thrilled. Then she said she needed to buy a gift for an incoming house guest, and she picked out a $105 vase.

So just because Tracy had a bad experience, take heart that there are great customers out there too. Trust me, I've dealt with the turkeys and crack pots too. But my experience is that far more pottery customers are like this example.
Mea Rhee
Good Elephant Pottery
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