Monday, January 28, 2013

Customer Disservice

One of the drawbacks of having a retail store is complaints. Our little shop gets about five a year. Some of them have been vituperative, complete with four-letter words and personal threats. Others have been just plain silly--a person who, after eight months, decided the ebook was defective and wanted to return it. Regardless of the mental state of the customer, in all cases, we replace the item or issue a refund. We want everyone to be satisfied, and if for some reason, it's not within our ability to please, we refund the money and thank the customer for patronizing our store.

A few months ago, I bought a $42 circular knitting needle...smiles at the group gasp. The day of the purchase, I had the unpleasant experience of having three sets of circulars needle tips separate from their respective cables as I was working on a top-down sweater. And I was sick and tired of picking up stitches. Thus, I decided to go for the Lamborghini, the Bentley, the ne plus ultra of knitting needles--a Signature.

When it arrived, I reverently unwrapped discover a slight burr on the tip. Oh well. It took five gentle swipes with 800-grit sandpaper to smooth the burr. I was in the middle of the sleeves at that point, so I put the needle aside until I was back at the underarms.

I knit four inches of sweater...and of the needle tips disengaged from the cable. I was flabbergasted.

Here's the letter I wrote to customer service:

Dear Signature-

I purchased this needle on November 29, 2012, invoice #xxxx, Paypal Unique Transaction ID #xxxx.

It arrived with a burr on the tip. You can see where I sanded it off. I knit four inches of a sweater with this needle. This morning, one of the tips separated from the cable and rolled underneath the refrigerator. I am not moving the refrigerator to find it. I am an old woman with a bad back.
Notice that if you run your finger up the remaining join from the cable to the needle, there is a sharp edge on the metal. I was wondering why I was seeing frayed yarn bits as I was knitting. As I paid $42 for this needle, it never occurred to me that the join was responsible. Instead, I was blaming the yarn vendor for the fact that I kept having to unknit areas and join in new yarn. Silly me.

I expect you to replace this needle with one that actually works as advertised. That is, the joins remained joined and doesn't shred the yarn.

And here's their reply:

Dear Susan,

Thank you for your note. You stated you received your order in  November 2012 and at that time you noticed a burr on the needle however you did not contact us regarding the burr. Our warranty/guarantee policy states you have 21-days from the day you receive your order to contact us regarding any manufacturing flaw or defect.  You also stated that you sanded the tip of your needle. As stated in our warranty/guarantee policy: "The warranty is void if any changes, modifications, or additions are made to the needles after purchase." I have included a link from our website detailing our warranty/guarantee policy. Unfortunately by sanding the tip of your needle you voided that warranty/guarantee. 

I am sorry but at this time we cannot replace your needle.  


 Now, I don't know about you, but I infinitely prefer the treatment I've received from KnitPicks when their needle tips go walkabout. They replace them. No fuss, no muss, at least for the four that I have called them about. And I give you three guesses as to which needles I will be purchasing in the future. And which company I will never again patronize nor recommend.

ETA: Less than an hour after this blog post appeared, this email dropped into my mailbox. Yay Internet!

Dear Susan,
I have consulted with our quality control department. They would like to inspect your needle for any manufacturing flaws or defects regarding the rough join/separation issue you encountered with your needle. I have attached a return merchandise authorization form for you to complete and include with your needle. Please use RMA#  XXXXXXXXX.  Which needle from your Nov. 2012 order did the cable separate from; the size 01-5"-32" or size 03-4"-20"?  Please tell me which size needle separated and I will send you a replacement needle.  
Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Thank you,

And finally... 

Good Afternoon Susan,

I wanted to thank you for contacting us this weekend and let you know I have come across your blog post this afternoon and reviewed the customer service practices on how your email was handled.  We strive for 100% customer satisfaction and I am never happy to see that a customer does not receive the highest quality attention to their concerns. 

I see that the information and policy was sent based on the burr being sanded, but as you have addressed in your blog this should not have mattered.  The breaking of the cable from the needle is 100% a manufacturing defect and per our normal policy, you should have been asked for a photo of the needle and a replacement should have been sent out immediately this afternoon no questions asked.    Again I do apologize that your inquiry was handled in this manner and that you did not receive the level of customer service that we strive for.  We aim to produce the highest quality products as well as always provide our customers with service to match.

Please let me know if you have additional questions or concerns and again I apologize for the reply you received.

Thank you,

Daniella Rosenthal
Vice President


Unknown said...

Regardless of the burr -- that the cord disengaged like that and they won't replace it? Rather short-sighted of them, even if you did violate the warranty by not sending the needles back when you originally noticed a problem. I was thinking about buying some Signatures, but that picture "speaks a thousand words." I'll stick with my Chiaogoo/KnitPicks, thanks! Sorry it turned out this way for you - what a waste.

Mary said...

I also don't think they realized how many knitters read your blog and now won't go near their products. I've not bought Signature needles and doubt I ever will.

Thanks for the heads-up!

Samina said...

I've got a couple of sets of Signature DPNS, but I've not used their circs before. I'm really surprised that you'd get a response like that. Your sanding the burr off has nothing to do with the cable join & while I'm not surprised that they chided you for doing that, I can't imagine them not replacing them. I guess I'll pass on their circs (& other products) for now.

Tricia said...

Wow, how unhelpful. I bought some Signatures a few years ago and was unhappy to find that the two needle tips were slightly different purples. I realise this would not bother everyone, but it did me. Signature refused to replace them. I haven't bought any since - they are not better than needles that cost a quarter of the price - Addi Lace and Chiaogoo Red Lace for example. The burr is appalling - what is their quality control like?

LANDMAUS said...

Hello from France,
Signature needles are hardly sold here - wonder why ?
Many thanks for the story about these "luxury" needles - it will help save money !
Kind regards, martine

Jennifer said...

Truly shocking. Part of what I pay for when I spend that much money is good customer service. Every other company where I've had this problem immediately replaced the needle--I didn't have to return the broken one to prove my case, nor did they ask when I made the purchase. Perhaps they can "afford" it and Signature can't..but who would ever give their business to Signature after this? They must know how small the knitting community is. Shortsighted in the extreme.

Anonymous said...

This is quite depressing. I'm allergic to nickel and the Signatures are one of the few completely nickel-free circulars available. (And they were so nice when I wrote to verify that.)

Cindy said...

Gotta love Knit Picks, once again!!!!

Crazy Colorado Knitter said...

Yeah, those needles are too expensive to get customer service like that. I'm appalled.

Dodi Raz said...

The fact they changed their tone and answer after you published your story is even more annoying in my view! Are only famous knitters entitle to this kind of customer service or what!?!

Linda said...

Seems to be more and more common that customer service is nonexistent until a little publicity prods it along. I've never seen any reason to pay for Simplicity needles, although I admired them and the story behind them. Addis and Chiagoos are wonderful. (My KnitPicks separated, so they're off the list.)

Dropstitchknitter said...

I'm so glad they decided to honor their warranty - regardless of whether you took the burr off or not - that was such poor customer service I was speechless reading your post. At the same time I was thinking "oh no, they didn't" because the interwebs can certainly adversely affect their business - I for one wouldn't have bought something from them after reading your post. I'm still not convinced that I would, and I'd be interested in seeing how the replacement performs. Good luck!

Alassel said...

As a previous poster noted, it's almost worse that Signature is reconsidering their story now that you've made it public. How many not-well-known knitters have had issues with their needles like yours, only to be blown off with no recompense?

My best friend just got a set of Signature DPNs for knitting socks, and she loves them and I was considering buying a set myself. Now I'm not so sure I want to spend the money on them...

SallyH said...

Oh dear, Signature, you've lost another customer here. I suppose you'd have got away with it if you hadn't done it to someone who's blog's so well-read - that's appalling.

Michaela, HiyaHiya needles are supposed to be nickle-free, although I'm not sure about "completely". They're nice needles, and a lot cheaper than $42.

Stitchmistress said...

I agree with you. This behavior from a company that sells "The Lamborghini" of needles is reprehensible. I purchased a needle from this company, and although there was nothing wrong with the needle per se, I was unimpressed for $42.00.

The cable was too floppy, and the join was terrible. I had such a hard time moving my stitches along that floppy cable and over the poor join.

Luckily I was able to destash the needle (because there was nothing wrong with it), and the recipient seems happy with it.

I highly recommend Hiya Hiya "Sharp" needles at a 3rd of the price. I adore them, and use them exclusively. (I too enjoy lace knitting)

Glad this will be resolved for you.

Dana Strotheide said...

How ridiculous! I've not purchased any SIgnature needles, and likely will not now. I can second that Knit Picks has excellent customer service. My husband purchased the full set of their interchangable needles several years ago. I've had a few break, either the needle from the join or the cable from the join, and a couple that had weird glue bumps on them. They have always sent replacements immediately, no questions asked, even years later.

Laura Sue said...

Yes, a bit of bad press goes a long way, eh? The dastardly villains! I'm just not inclined to spend that much money on a pair of knitting needles. Sorry, but the Lamborghini has engine problems just like the Ford.

MinnesotaKnitter said...

I am so sorry that you had this issue. I have dealt with Signature customer service in the past and been very pleased. I have always felt that they were courteous and responsive and went out of their way to resolve any issue to my satisfaction. They have been extremely patient with all my questions. The one time I had a problem with a needle, they could not have been nicer about it and I had a new needle within a few days. I have tried all the different brands of needles and Signature are by far my favorites. The stiletto tips make my knitting so much more enjoyable.
I hope you enjoy the replacement needles. Please let us know.

Shell said...

I am very glad I have not purchased any of their needles. After looking at their site and seeing how on the page that has the circular needles it states : " All Signature needles have a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects."
To find out that they actually have only a 21 day replacement is very disappointing. I will stick with my Addi's or other needles.

I am glad they decided to replace at the end, but the issue still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. No Signature needles for me.

Tricia said...

I need to update my post above. I posted a link to this blog post on Ravelry and have since been contacted by Signature, who have offered to remedy the mismatching tips.

Fujiyamamama said...

That was a terrible first response Signature! I was debating saving up for some, but I'm not so sure I would bother now.

maries said...

I was surprised to read your blog as I have had the total opposite happen when I have contacted the SNA Customer Service. I see that they will replace your circs due to the cable issue. I love mine and wouldn't trade them for the world. Any time I have called SNA Customer Service I have always got very prompt resolutions to any questions and/or problems.


the draogns rock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the draogns rock said...

I have thought several times about buying several pairs of Signature straights just because the end caps are SO cool!!!

Can't justify it tho'.....too rich for my blood and I prefer wood.

I buy almost strictly Knit Picks Harmony and Sunkissed interchangeable circs. I had a pair of size 9 tips arrive that were delamming: tried to sand and reglue.......still peeling apart.

So I called Knit Picks and BAM!!! 5 days later had another pair of tips and these were perfect!!

Knit Picks rocks.

Sad to hear that you had to "blog about it" to get the company to stand by their own warranty policy.

Hopefully the next set will be much better!

Unknown said...

The positive part is that they did follow up. An apology was made and I'm sure the customer service person responsible for letter 1 has been informed of the error of their action.
I've worked as customer service reps for several companies over the years. My first goal was to be sure I understood the problem (burr on tip vs cable issue) and once that was clear, what does the customer expect to make him/her happy with the product (replace the needle). As long as that was within company guidelines - it was done. Signature is in competition with too many others to be able to afford to irritate customers and have them post the problems. I believe they have probably learned a lesson from all of this.

Sylvia said...

Glad you have a blog so the knit world will hear how SNA treats customers. I had a similar episode last Octoberbur Daniella told me she would replace a defective circ. once she received them she wrote that she could not replace them.. I too had used sand paper to smooth a burr which I disclosed before I returned them.

I've foolishly purchased several SNA needles but I won't any longer and you are right Knit Picks never treated me badly..

Glad you have a forum to alert knitters.

Sylvia Jordan

Anne said...

I bought some circular needles and was unhappy with the cable. I spoke to someone from Signature at Stitches East. They had just changed the cable with a more flexible one and since it was quite soon after I had purchased my needles, I asked if I could exchange them for a set with the new cables. I was told that this was not possible in accordance with company policy. The manner and attitude of the person was very unpleasant. One more cheer for KnitPicks! When will vendors realize that the customer is always right!

Unknown said...

So basically they replaced your needle because you blogged about it.
No signature needles for me.

Cheryl S. said...

What an experience! What a shame they weren't interested in customer service until after they were shamed on your blog. But at least they finally agreed to replace them.

I love my KnitPicks. The pointy tips and super-flexible cables! Yes, I've had a couple of cables come loose, and I know they would replace them, but I just had my husband re-glue them, and I never had a problem again.

I also have Hiya Hiya interchangeable needles (the smaller size), which I like because they have a 16" cable and go down to a size US2. But the cable is not as flexible, the tips aren't as pointy (sometimes that's good, though), and they don't have end caps like the KPs. I also have one cable that is slightly bent at an angle at the needle join, and it's a little annoying. Still, I like them, and love their silk case.

Overall, I think I'm happiest using the KP, and for the great price (and great customer service), can buy extra cables to have on hand, plus have multiple needle tips in the sizes I use most.

Aponi said...

Kind of makes me wonder what happens to people who have a problem and don't have a blog!

My friend also had a Sig circular fall apart on her. She hasn't contacted them yet, and I will be curious to see what happens when she does.

IMO if a company is going to sell a product with a "Cadillac" price tag, then they must provide unconditional customer service, in the manner of Nordstrom, REI and LL Bean.

Flaming Norah said...

Confirmed KnitPicks needler with a full set of shiny metal tips and a few pretty wooden ones. Nary a one has come apart on me whether it be a Shetland Shawl or a fairisle cardigan. The worst that occurred was when a determined West Highland Terrier made off with one and had to be chased down the garden before I could separate her from it. It was retrieved completely intact apart from a small kink in the cable which was neither here nor there. It was just as if KnitPicks road-tested them on grumpy little dogs to see how they stood up to being wound round apple trees! I think if I'd bought luxury needles that disintegrated before my very eyes, I'd cry my eyes out and then stab cushions with the separated ends!

Glad it all ended well

J said...

I have sent an email to this company stating that I won't buy anything from them due to their ridulous demands on their return policy. sheesh

Signature said...

On behalf of Signature we strive to provide the highest quality product and the highest quality customer service to all of our customers. Our needles carry a 100% guarantee against manufacturing defects and we will always replace a needle with a manufacturing defect for the life of the product.
It is unfortunate that in an email to us we missed that the needles contained a broken cable defect as this would have been replaced immediately. We value each and every one of our customers and any email sent to us reporting a broken cable is replaced 100% of the time. We sincerely apologize that an honest mistake was made internally by our customer service when the original email was read. As soon as it was pointed out in the response email from the customer the defective needle was replaced immediately per our policy. We stand behind our products 100% and would be happy to answer any questions regarding our products or manufacturing guarantee.

Renada said...

My US1 cable broke too, in the same spot. I emailed them over a weekend and they responded back promptly and sent me a new needle. But I'm scared to use it for fear that the cable will pop off again.

Morandia said...

I'm glad you have the option to use a widely read blog to address issues like this. I wonder how many have received the first email you received and that was it. At least you were able to get a more detailed response.

Peggy said...

Interesting. I have had the opposite experience with both those vendors. I had repeated quality problems with items purchased from KP. They always made good but it got tedious having to contact them and complain, and the last time I purchased from them I had an encounter with a rather snippy person, and that put me off for good. With Signature I bought stiletto-point DPNs in sizes US #0 and #1. The size 1's were completely different from the 0's. I could not knit on the 0's--The yarn just would not move along the needles. When I contacted Signature I was told that the material on the 0's was indeed different from that used for the other sizes. I exchanged the 0's for 2's. All in all I was satisfied with the transaction but the needles are too expensive to justify further purchase.

stashmuffin said...

Hmmm... I love my KP needles, but have been disappointed in at least 4 cables popping off/getting loose. Yes, they replaced them no questions asked, but it made me realize how common that problem must be.

I have one set of Signature DPN in 2.25mm, but I never use them, because, as the person above said, the yarn will not slide along the needle. I contacted them once, but "since there was nothing wrong with them" they would not exchange them.

Where does that leave me?!

Susan (and SmokeyBlue in spirit) said...

oh hail the internet.
Do you know where the needles are manufactured?
Many these days are made in India wheree quality control is as fuzzy phrase.

In thenpast twomyrs I have had the same detaching problem with Knit Picks needles so have switched to Knitter's pride. At leaset they are an Indian company, rather than an outsourced one liek Knit Picks.

Also since I havem a Knit Picks wholesale acct, the turn policy is a bit different

DeirdreKnits said...

Every single one of my Signature needles has separated in that way. Every. Single. One. (I have three.) They always replace them but I can't be bothered with the hassle any more. I'm glad they replaced yours eventually, but caveat emptor and all that.

Gwen said...

I'm glad they finally made it right, but I hate that it's becoming more and more common that to get a customer service reply from any vendor apart for "Not my problem" you have to resort to social media shaming.

pandomesticus said...

What terrible customer service. And the fact that they changed their tune only AFTER your blog post shows that they are more concerned with status and reputation than with quality and good customer service.

I've had 15 dollar haircuts at walk-in salons that were better than 50 dollar haircuts at a more upscale salon. Price does NOT equal quality.

Feri said...

That's the "Superpower of fleeglesblog"! You're a hero in the knitworld :)
My warmest regards!

Beth said...

I was debating trying out their DPNs, but I think I'll stick with Brittany. Their return policy is no questions asked. I broke 2 of my wood DPN working on one project - one totally my fault not having the dpns in a protector tube. The other was nommed by my cat. Brittany replaced my needles no questions asked. Not just with new needles but with a new SET of needles that way they'd all be the same.

cate markey said...

I've gotta say I really love their needles and own a lot of them, but based on my own experience they have a lot to learn about C.S. (paying both ways for problem for example, and then only after begging they resolve the issue and multiple emails). I would stop dealing with them entirely if I didn't love their needles. Perhaps they will read this again and realize they need to change their whole style.
Signature absolutely needs to learn to honor customer requests - this is really a solid business practice for any good business. (I could name a yarn manufacturer that does lovely hand dyes that is equally bad at customer service - say for a yarn that bleeds endlessly...)

cate markey said...

First let me say I love Signature needles - and have lots of them because I love them so much, BUT I have found C.S. to be truly bad. They only honored my complaint after several "charming" emails and I had to pay shipping both ways. They need to read these ongoing messages and learn that they must do a complete attitude reversal to get and keep customers.
I could name a yarn company that is just as bad - They do exquisite hand dyes (MT) and are worthless in resolution for yarns that bleed endlessly.
It is shocking when encountering this, because most companies (knit picks and jimmybeanswool come to mind) are so outstanding in this area.

Thomas Mc. said...

Interesting how they didn't give a damn, until they found out you blogged about it.

In many states (including mine) the LAW says they must guarantee their product for 6 months, and stating otherwise doesn't change a thing.

Artlady said...

At $42 per set....PERFECTION is expected, and deserved. The burr on your needle tip is proof that NO ONE carefully inspects every set sold. This is unacceptable. The separation of the cable is an unexpected occurrence, not SNA negligence....however, they should address the issue asap, and replace faulty needles along with a gift certificate. At the price we pay for these circulars, SNA should maintain a slush fund to cover more than a "sorry" card, "oops, our's a replacement". To keep customers coming back, they should put their money where their mouth is by way of a gift certificate with the replacement!

Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

Dear Fleegle, I am sorry to hear that Signature has crummy customer service and even sadder to hear that their needles fall apart and have other problems. I am really cheering this company on because it is local to me in Wisconsin and has a great concept. I don't own any Signature needles. I do have a lot of KnitPicks needles and they have just as many problems. I am not as thrilled with their customer service as most of your commenters. They replaced my broken needles for a while, (but not ones whose tips I had to sand) but then stopped. I miss Susan Bates Silverados. If Boye would improve the cables on their Knit Master set, we'd really be in business. Love, Kathy

Ceriness said...

This is pretty much my experience. I bought my signature, then proceeded with my usual round knitting activity (guernsey sweaters). The cable snapped at the join as I got up to the armpit, which was crazy-making considering the amount of money I spent on this thing. Even my knit picks will last for at least 1.5 of these sweaters (I churn them out for my husband). I emailed them and have been waiting for a reply now for three days. Maybe it's ok for straight-needle folks, but for round? No. For $47 I could have bought a bunch of addis and just dealt with the short cable life.