Friday’s blog post resulted in quite a few email exchanges and a few phone calls that deserve some follow up. It’s always interesting how quiet things are for long stretches of time and then….I hit on a topic that brings out all kinds of comments. Just about the time I’m assuming nobody really gives a rip I find out there’s a whole lot of folks thinking similar thoughts. But not everyone.
The sole voice that didn’t 100% agree said it sounded like I was whining about not participating in the SFO frenzy. Absolutely not the case. That was a personal decision I’ve never regretted. Oddly enough, this business is about more to me than just the money. It’s about finding and selling stuff that is reasonably priced, quality goods that perform.
To sum up the feedback I got, there’s a whole bunch of folks that are growing weary of the SFO frenzy and the resultant irrational price inflation.
I really hope if you haven’t looked at Queen for a while due to quality issues, reconsider them. There have been some major changes internally and between Ryan, Jeff Schley and Ashley Nottingham, they’re building a team that is working together and good things are happening.
This last group of knives that came in are great examples of the current quality. The fit and finish is obviously better. Gaps and significant chipping around the pins is vastly reduced. Side play has become something rarely encountered as well.
My only criticism on the recent releases are I like the smaller blades a bit sharper. From past experience, I’ve yet to find many knife companies that ship a knife with edges on their blades I’m totally satisfied with. If that’s the biggest issue I encounter, I can deal with that.
The big news of the week has been the arrival of the first of the Trestle Pine Grand Portage. My first shipment was limited in quantity and the reception has been excellent. More should arrive in the next day or two with the balance coming through next week. Lots more handle options are coming.
I started shipping knives early this past week and got my first, ‘hands on’ feedback yesterday. A local customer has purchased the Superior, Portage and the Grand Portage as they were released. The best way to sum up his comments is ‘…it perfectly fills the slot between the Superior and the Portage’.
I haven’t personally had the time to really put one to use, but it’s going to get a workout this summer. There’s always a Swiss Army knife in my kit and the screwdrivers are probably one of the most frequently called upon tools. The problem is I rarely carry it with me due to it’s bulk. Problem solved!
There’s been interest in the Superior which sold out very quickly. I decided to go ahead with another run using the CPM154 steel this time around. The 154CM on the first release has gotten great reviews and the CPM series will take things up a notch. The second run should be ready late this summer or early fall.
As interest in the Trestle Pine Knives has grown, there have been quite a few people not familiar with the Superior. I’ve also been asked what the difference is between the three folders and why I did what I did so next week I’ll try to do a brief run down for you. In the mean time, if you haven’t visited the Trestle Pine Knives website, check it out.
I also picked up some nice smooth Burnt Orange Bone Queen Barlows. Great looking handle with a unique blade combo in D2. It has the potential to be the perfect carving knife. And the price is right!
I’m not quite sure what’s driving it, but we’re back to the blade centering issue. In the last couple of weeks I’ve had two GEC’s come back because the blades weren’t ‘perfectly’ centered. One of the returns had a laundry list of issues which were totally and completely unfounded. And when we’re talking centering, I mean within .0001 of an inch. I understand why the customer didn’t send them back to GEC because there wasn’t a thing GEC would have done to them! And its not just GEC. Neither buyer was a repeat customer and one even admitted to having problems with another dealer not wanting to address similar issues. No kidding?
I’ve replaced knives that were truly ‘defective’ in the past, refunded money and in several cases not only refunded their money, but told the customer to keep the knife and do with it what they wish only to have it blow up in my face.
Recently I’ve started to try and sort out potential complaints/returns before they happen. When I hear or read the phrase “….I’m really particular about centering…”, we have a heart to heart discussion about the reality of production knife quality and expectations before the order is accepted. In some cases I’m cancelling orders with that type of note attached and recommending they find a B&M store to physically check out the knife or to go directly to the manufacturer with their order.
While I’ve encouraged going back to the manufacturer with legitimate quality issues, I have no doubt why some of these complaints come back to the dealer instead. The manufacturers are going to reply that there is no problem to be repaired. And they are right.
My philosophy is that if a dealer is willing to ‘sort’ their inventory for a ‘perfectly’ centered blade, that seems to imply that someone else is going to get a substandard knife. To insist that TSA Knives will only accept ‘perfectly’ centered blades from a manufacturer is an unreal demand. If that were reality it would start to feel like a Monty Python skit with a Department of Ridiculously Perfectly Centered Blades.
I want to sell high quality knives that perform as promised in the field. If I’m gutting a fish neither I nor that fish could give a damn if the blade is perfectly centered between the liners or not. Likewise cutting a slice of salami for my lunch, the sandwich doesn’t taste any different. I personally don’t have a 3 or 4 blade knife that probably doesn’t have rub marks on the blades, but let’s try to get a grip.
Sorry I had to drop this on all of you readers as this only applies to a very, very, small but growing minority. All I can say is if you read on any of the discussion boards about ANY dealer that was a jerk to deal with over an issue on a knife, take it with a grain of salt and do your best to ignore it. There’s always two sides to a story and the other side frequently goes unheard.
Here are the results of the recent survey on Quality & Customer Service. In the early days of the survey, I was informed the Survey format I was using had been upgraded and the survey was deleted when the upgrade installed. Fortunately, I had printed out the responses up to a point about 6 hours prior to the upgrade occurring. A few responses may have been lost, but don’t think it would have had much impact on the overall results. There were a total of 39 respondents.
It’s no surprise that over half of the respondents primarily purchase Great Eastern followed by Queen and Case. Most are not only collecting but using their knives as well with the majority buying 2 knives or less per month.
When it came to how important blade centering and gaps were, I was reallllly surprised. Blade centering, while important, falls into the middle to low importance end of the scale. Likewise, gaps don’t seem to be super critical.
Side play and lock up on the lock backs were 2 issues that are more important to most of the respondents. Blade lock up being most critical issue.
The response to question 9 was another interesting one. “Is it reasonable to expect the same level of quality in a $60 knife as a $120 knife?” While a majority of 68% said of course not, there were a number of people that said it was a reasonable expectation. My personal expectation of price to value is the more I pay, the more I expect for my money. It would have been interesting to put graduated prices comparing a $60 knife to a $200, $300, $400 knife to see where the break off in expectation occurs. The other aspect to consider is personally I’ve had a number of new customers over the past year admit they were specifically Chris Reeves fans and expected the same level of quality in the traditional folders selling for a fraction of the price.
THE most shocking result was the question regarding who was ‘most responsible for quality inspection’. An overwhelming 90% said it fell on the manufacturer. Now, I absolutely agree and I’ve always felt there shouldn’t be any need to check a knife prior to shipping but experience has shown otherwise. In reality, 90% of the time the blame for receiving a knife with quality issues falls upon the distributor (in my experience) with the knife going back to the distributor.
No doubt this is partially explained in the next two questions with about a third of the respondents answering. “If you have dealt with any Manufacturers regarding quality issues, how would you rate their response“. In this case 40% of the respondents fell on the side of dissatisfaction, 40% were satisfied with the rest falling in the middle. Finally, “If you had a bad experience with the manufacturer, what were the major issues“. As you probably already know, 38% were unhappy with the amount of time it took to get their knife back.
Just before I posted the survey, I exchanged emails with a longtime customer justifiably frustrated with the lack of response from a manufacturer over a quality issue. He returned a knife to the manufacturer with a VERY legitimate problem. After 14 weeks the knife came back with the same issue. They basically put lipstick on a pig and sent it back. When he emailed them asking for an explanation, he was met with dead silence. To the best of my knowledge that’s where it still stands. I refunded his money and sent a note of apology which is not the way this should have played out. No wonder consumers are reluctant to deal with the manufacturers.
Anyway, this was an interesting exercise and I really appreciate your participation. Hopefully, the manufacturers will pay some attention to your input.
I’ve settled on some minor changes to the TSA Knives, LLC return policy. From what I’m reading in my emails, posts on the blog and the poll results so far, I don’t think most of you are going to notice any change.
Here are the terms going forward:
Quality issues must be dealt with through the Manufacturer. TSA Knives, LLC is NOT authorized to act as a warranty station.
Requests for refunds are subject to a 15% restocking charge
In lieu of a refund, we will suspend the restocking charge and extend a store credit or exchange less any shipping charges
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for return request instructions
TSA Knives, LLC will NOT accept any items for return or exchange more than 10 days after the purchase date.
I’m really hoping this will encourage people that have REALquality issues to take it up directly with the manufacturers. While I’ll accept knives returned for any reason, the 15% restocking charge will help recover the initial cost of shipping/handling/packaging, relisting or returning the knife to the manufacturer, etc.
It was also gratifying to get the following email this week. I’ve edited out the customers name but really appreciated him allowing me to re-post the email he sent after he read the blog post.
Hello Greg, Totally agree that quality expectations have become crazy and I must admit I have been guilty of that to some degree being new to knife collecting and my ignorance. If I have a problem with any GEC product, which would be rare, I will contact Christine at GEC. Several months ago I returned two knives to you and you promptly refunded my money and in hindsight I should have known better and now I do! Knives are tools not art pieces and we collectors all need to keep that in mind. Take care sir!
As much as I hate to do it, I’m going to be changing my return policy which up till now has been pretty lax. I’ve extended cash refunds without question for returns whether there were supposed quality issues or maybe the customer just didn’t like the knife. No exchanges, no store credits, just an outright cash refund. If I felt the reason for the return was partially or entirely my fault, I’d cover return shipping charges. I’ve reserved the right to charge a restocking fee and have only imposed it a handful of times.
The Internet’s a wonderful bit of technological advancement, but there are aspects of it that aren’t. I quit reading the boards on any sort of regular basis long ago, having read too many posts presenting these mystical images of production knives that appeared to be created by almost mythical craftsman resulting in knives that seemed to be built only for the gods. Good grief, it’s a freaking TOOL!!!! I still laugh about the request a few months ago from a new customer looking for a specific knife and wanted it checked to assure that it was perfect in every respect because he wanted to do a ‘review’ on the internet. My response was I didn’t have such a knife and if he wanted to do an ‘objective’ review, why not simply take a random knife from stock. This,…. ‘my knife is better than your knife’…’she’s a beauty in every respect’… approach to ‘collecting’ has reached a ridiculous level.
I’ve been in this business roughly 15 years so I sure don’t have all the answers. But what I do know is that I sincerely believe we’re at a point where we’re seeing some of the best quality coming out of most manufacturers that we’ve seen in just the last two or three years. GEC has for some time been held up as the prime example of exemplary quality yet I had 4 GEC knives returned in the last 10 days with ‘problems’ that absolutely were not ‘problems’. It’s ridiculous.
I haven’t made an absolute decision as to how I’m going to handle returns in the future, but will finalize it next week. With great reluctance, I’m at the point of considering taking a hard line and referring customers with quality issues back to the manufacturers. IF the customer doesn’t want to go that route, there’s a 15% restocking charge. If you get a knife and want to return it because you just don’t like it, 15% restocking charge. If you feel I misrepresented the knife and want to return it, I’ll deal with it on an individual basis.
Without a doubt I’ll lose some customers as a result and I sincerely regret that. At the same time, from a financial standpoint, the value of that business is marginal at best to begin with. And above all, you just get tired of getting beat up about real or perceived quality issues you don’t have a damned bit of control over.
So I’ll mull this over a bit this weekend. It’s a change I’m really reluctant to make. We’ll see.