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Customer complaint: handle came off a mug


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So this morning I got this email from a customer:  "Just wanted you to know that the handle came off of the mug I bought from you for a Christmas gift.  It was being hand washed and the handle just came off!  Have you had this problem before?"

I've never had this happen to anyone and I take great care to attach handles securely. 

Should I ask the customer for a picture? Will I be able to tell whether it actually came off or it was broken off? This would only be for the record and to learn for the future.

I think I should just refund a move on? What would you do?

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Weclome to the world of customer relations.

So you know there are many reasons for this 

They wacked it on something  cracked and it later came off-a real possibility 

It was not attached well to begin with-Only you now that for sure

if its your fualt it needs to be replaced for free

Since its a gift many hands where on it and no telling what happened.

So you can question this till the cows come home or now what are you goiing to do about it.

For me I usually just ask to spilt the difference  money wide on a new one-you get some $ and they get a deal

I expalin the fact that who knows how it was cracked?

everybody feels better and you retain a good feeling customer

I do not think the customer is always right no matter what but I like to have them happy in the end

There are many ways to handle it-also was it a art mug or a standard functional peice ?

Sometimes you know what happens sometime you never will

Edited by Mark C.
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37 minutes ago, Mark C. said:

For me I usually just ask to spilt the difference  money wide on a new one-you get some $ and they get a deal

I expalin the fact that who knows how it was cracked?

everybody feels better and you retain a good feeling customer

I do not think the customer is always right no matter what but I like to have them happy in the end

 

So Mark, when you say "split the difference" do you mean the customer gets 50% off on the new mug? Do you also refund half the $$ paid for the broken mug?

I will be offering a free replacement but would like to explore this "split the difference" way as well.

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1 hour ago, Min said:

 I would offer to replace the mug and ask for the broken one to help figure out the cause of the break. If they are local I would make the time to go and do it rather than ask them to mail it to you.

Thank you Min, I will  ask to get the broken one back. I hope I'll be able to gather some clues as to how/why the handle came off...

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If there’s shipping involved, I’d just ask for pictures taken in front of a window and tell them to toss it. It’s not worth shipping broken pottery at all. Depending on localCOVID rates and comfort levels, they may also appreciate only sending images. You’d be able to tell if it was a matter of the handle just got cracked in use and the handle just came off during washing, or if it was a weird join. It happens to the best of us. If it was customer error, I agree with Mark about offering them another for half price, but only if they’re nice about it. 

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14 minutes ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

If there’s shipping involved, I’d just ask for pictures taken in front of a window and tell them to toss it. It’s not worth shipping broken pottery at all. Depending on localCOVID rates and comfort levels, they may also appreciate only sending images. You’d be able to tell if it was a matter of the handle just got cracked in use and the handle just came off during washing, or if it was a weird join. It happens to the best of us. If it was customer error, I agree with Mark about offering them another for half price, but only if they’re nice about it. 

It's a local buyer so I should be able to arrange for pick up unless they gave the mug as a gift to someone who's not local...

 

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I just give a replacement.  The amount of people who would cheat some way in this situation are so minimal and are the worst people to deal with it's just not worth my trouble.  The caveat being that this is the only replacement they'll get.

Just try not to take it as a judgement of your work.  Pottery is fragile, things like this happen, but a mug should last more than 2 months for sure.

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(Just try not to take it as a judgement of your work.  Pottery is fragile, things like this happen, but a mug should last more than 2 months for sure)

this is always good policy as well

I make many many thousands of mugs and things happen. Usually customer is not aware of when they wacked it to make the 1st mini crack.

In terms of 1/2 off thats a mail order deal as they get a new mug -if its local I do as Liam does and just give them a fee replacement

This happens once in about  20,000 mugs for me. I had one have a pinhole and would pee out the side once (I never water test mugs) As I make to many to bother with.

The main idea is to keep folks happy and to be fair-people get fair and it pays off in the long run.

I think I posted a story at shows when someone has a pot and they love it but they tear thru the purse and have no money-I write the total on a bus card and say mail it to me. That customer comes back at shows many many times as that trust is powerful tool that nowadays no one does.If they never send the money I would never know as I have so many customers at shows. It all works out in the long run.

Edited by Mark C.
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I would just replace the mug and not ask for the broken one back. Although you will be explaining to the customer that you want to learn from the broken mug, you also risk them thinking that you are placing blame (even if they are the reason for the handle falling off). 

I bought a mug about 5 yrs ago from a well known, well respected, experience potter and it leaked the first time I used it. He willingly took it back and gave me a replacement, but I felt like he was blaming me, he inferred that I "bumped" it on something. Well I didn't bump it, and although I appreciated him giving me a new one, I didn't like that he implied that I was at fault. 

Your customer might not tell others about your excellent customer service, but he/she will certainly tell others about what they perceive as poor customer service.

My two cents....from a customer perspective.

Edited by Bam2015
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Thank you all for suggestions and insight. I offered a replacement or a split price and got a nice response so I will be replacing that mug.  They're even willing to wait for the new mug to be made (I'm a super low volume and very slow potter). All good here.

But this got me thinking - how often do we take a mug whose handle fell off back to the store and say: "Here's what happened"? 
Of course the price point is very different in store-bought vs handmade,  but still...

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Returning pots to a outlet has happened to me.Its rare but not unknown. Pot had a small flaw that got by me-usually at xmas when I am doing large volumes. Another is broken pottery at shops I always take the hit and replace for free.No often but not unheard of as customers do teh breaking.

I had a 100$ bowl at a show say 25 -30 years ago and a guy picked it up and dropped it. I said just buy 100$ worth of pots and we are even. He said he did not have 100$ ,I said give me $50 and we are even. He had that but it got me thinking .Since that time I still ask for the amount (at shows  that they break) and they leave with pots and feel bad but have something to show for my loss.

Edited by Mark C.
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I’ve had shipping breakage that I replaced without hesitation. The pictures are more so I can troubleshoot than asking them for any proof that something went wrong. 

I’ve had people come to me, sad that they’d broken their favourite mug and looking for a replacement, but so far they’ve all expected to pay for them. Heck, a guy contacted me 2 days ago because his wife had broken her favourite, and wanted to surprise her with a new one. ( I love the thoughtful ones like that!)

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12 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I’ve had shipping breakage that I replaced without hesitation. The pictures are more so I can troubleshoot than asking them for any proof that something went wrong. 

I’ve had people come to me, sad that they’d broken their favourite mug and looking for a replacement, but so far they’ve all expected to pay for them. Heck, a guy contacted me 2 days ago because his wife had broken her favourite, and wanted to surprise her with a new one. ( I love the thoughtful ones like that!)

I had that happen just now.  Customer bought a mug from me years ago, dropped it last month, and tracked me down to order a new one.  She said it was her favorite mug.  I hope the replacement will be the same!

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Over all of the years of selling pottery, I have only experienced one case of a customer trying to tell me “I have no idea why it broke” when it was obvious the damage was caused by a strike against something hard, and the customer’s body language was oozing “I’m lying.” Over 99% of them are honest and nice people. I’ve had a few cases of a pot cracking when boiling water was poured in. That is definitely my fault and they get a free replacement. I once made a batch of liner glaze that was experimental and turned out it did not hold up to dishwasher detergent. Those came back to me over the next year or so, and all got replaced. One time, a customer put a platter under a broiler and it cracked. She totally confessed to how it broke. I offered her a half-price replacement, which she took, then also bought another nice pot. The incident taught me something, now when a customer asks about oven use, I know to tell them to keep the pot in the middle of the oven, not too close to the bottom element or the top broiler. 

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I have a standing situation with chalices and patens. . . . If they break from accident, I replace with some money off especially if "no fault/act of God" kind If broke in shipping, new one rushed on my dime completely. If however, the piece shows a defect of some sort, I replace completely free of charge. Keeps everyone happy, and I don't get many replacement requests . . . maybe 4-5 in last 20 years.

 

best,

Pres

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Customer stories-yes we have a few

Well I have had my share in 45 years believe me but my Potter Fiend who sells more high-end stuff has the best stories. We often share hotel expenses doing out of state shows when we both do the same show. This was about 3 times a year for nearly 2 decades. Now we do not do the same shows anymore as I dropped some and he did to.

One of the best stories is the BBQ people. His booth is built for corner and he stands behind the l shaped booth and has a great view of the show and customers whatever way he is facing. This was years ago in some high-end show in Colorado or Montana or Idaho. His works is function but has lots of designs on them like fish or frogs and some are incorporated into the handles.

His backdrop is all walls of pro panels full of hanging platters and flat stuff as I call it. It was about 30 years into his career and he had made the largest platter of his life .It was a monster and the largest pot he had ever made and that still stands today for him. Anyway a very wealthy couple came by and took a liking to it and asked if he had any more that size. That was a clue. They did not bat an eye on the high price as Jim thought he would have this pot a long time and priced it according as to the largest platter that would ever fit in his car kiln. He wrapped it up and sent them on their way feeling great about a huge dollar sale. That was a Saturday.

Next day he sees the couple early heading up the street towards him looking very bent out of shape. They were carrying his bag but it somehow looked smaller. They immediately said his pottery was crap and it broke on the 1stnight of use. He asked what happened. They said they filled the platter with steaks and put it on the large hot Barbeque and within minutes it broke into 4 pieces. At this point Jim knew he was dealing with people with more money than brains and he got a little steamed that the largest piece he ever made was tossed onto a hot grill. He explained thermo shock to them which was somehow a new concept to them as Adults. He told them with no certain love that they where out of line and refund did not enter the conversation. When they left all he could think of were stupid Barbeque people. Now at shows I run across people like this and we always joke about customers who now are just BBQ people after they leave.

I had a young Kid buy a large teapot a few years ago and I asked if he wanted to know how to use it and take care of it-he looked at me like I was nut and said he knew all about it. Next day he was back and said he put it on the gas flame on the stove and it cracked. I was feeling just like Jim at that moment, as that teapot was one of my finest. At this point its not about money its about your best work abused by idiots. (sorry to be so frank) No I did not offer a refund or a deal but I gave him the lessen he blew off the day before. The thing was he really down deep knew better he said. Now you get that lesson with every teapot bought from me no ifs ands of buts. Yes I have given free pots many times and split the difference a few times. I even take a free box of seconds at Xmas to customers now and again. The customer sometimes may be a BBQ person and in those circumstances pottery does not fit well.Its up to you to see and smell the smoke  on them from the BBQ .

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On 2/5/2021 at 1:46 PM, 2Relaxed said:

Thank you Min, I will  ask to get the broken one back. I hope I'll be able to gather some clues as to how/why the handle came off...

If this helps at all, years ago a mug I was using (Not mine) had this failure so I decided to test my mugs after bisque. I think I mustered up six bisque fired mugs with as much of a a mix of handle attachments as I could find,  and proceeded to whack the handles off with a hammer. It made for some interesting stares. The thing I came away with was how could I always ensure the attachment was as strong or stronger than the base clay. It was good experience and taught me how to make really strong attachments. The fortunate lesson for me was the mug that broke was well made and I  knew the artist that made it. Her work is impeccable but it was obvious her handle attachment was not as strong as one would think. Since then I never experienced a handle coming off without the entire mug shattering.

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