Customer Service…For Some It’s An Oxymoron

Let me begin first by saying this blog post will probably sound as though I am beating up on Ruger just a bit.   To some extent that may be true.   But my motivation for today’s writing is not to smear an otherwise reputable company…quite the contrary.   I feel companies who perform stellar customer service deserve our future support.   And those that have some deficiencies deserve to take a little heat if that’s what it requires to improve their customer care performance.

About six years ago I decided to purchase my first over and under shotgun.   I’ve never been a big O/U fan, but decided the time was probably right to own a gun I can take to the range and proudly display.   At first I logically looked at the various Brownings on the market…but then a buddy of mine convinced me to take a closer look at the Ruger Red Label Satin Grey All-Weather.   At first glance this gun seemed to appeal to me.   Sharp looking, with the gold duck inlays, a true performer that by all appearances could take some rugged use in the field.


I purchased the gun after spending what I felt was a small fortune for a gun of any kind.   Yet, I kept reminding myself that guns are a relatively good investment.   The excitement of taking the gun out of the box, however, quickly disappeared once I got on the range.   Misfire after misfire.   How could this be?   A brand new gun looking as fancy as this one…it’s supposed to perform, but it wasn’t.   Out of every 10 shots I would take at least one or two would produce nothing at the muzzle-end.   Not only was this new gun unreliable for shooting, I considered it to be downright dangerous.

I took the gun to a local authorized Ruger repair shop and nothing changed.   Still performed lousy.   My next step was to package it and send it in (at my own expense) to the factory under warranty repair.   At this point I was truly disappointed…but willing to be patient to get a gun back in good working order.   I waited, and waited, and waited.   I called the factory and was told there would be a backlog.   I then spoke to my dealer and he called the factory…but essentially was told the same thing.

Finally my frustration got the best of me.  I called and spent a great deal of time on hold until finally a customer service person answered who was not at all helpful.   Except I did learn one thing from her, however.   What she told me was that the gun I mailed in had been on their shelf waiting repair for over three months and they hadn’t even opened the box yet to look at it.   WHAT!   Gosh, sure glad I sent it in UPS Blue paying a small fortune so they could get it quickly.   Realizing I had spent about $1,500 for a new shotgun that has not worked correctly since I took it out of the box and then now learning the factory repair center is so cavalier to not even open the box even after 3 months setting on their shelf?

Needless to say I lost it.   The pheasant hunting season was only weeks away and dammit I purchased that gun in the spring to use on my fall pheasant hunts.   Suddenly it wasn’t looking very hopeful this would be a gun I’d get to use at all during that particular fall’s hunting season.   I expressed my frustrations with customer service and then hung up to call my dealer friend.   How could a responsible outdoors company treat their valued customers in such a shoddy manner.   Made me wish I had looked at the new Browning guns a bit closer.

That’s when I did it.   I called customer service back up and got another representative.   This time I asked immediately to speak to a supervisor.   When the customer service gal asked why…I told her that I wanted someone with enough corporate authority so I could quote them in my next article.   She gladly put me in touch with her supervisor.   I started off by asking for her name and the correct spelling, as well as her official title at Ruger.   She reluctantly gave me all that information.   I explained to her that I’m an outdoors writer on assignment going pheasant hunting in about a week in South Dakota.   I further explained that the gun was intended to have prominent mention in my article whether it continues sitting on the shelves at the Ruger Repair Center or is in my hands out pheasant hunting.   I reinforced to this person they will be quoted in the article reasoning that a writer has to develop a story one way or another.   If they wanted to continue holding my unfixed gun I would gladly oblige that fact in my story.

Guess what?   Over-nighted to me and arriving the next day was my shotgun all repaired and now functioning just fine.   Somehow I don’t think it finally was my gun’s queue to get the necessary repairs.   After a long overdue wait somebody finally felt motivated to avert what they saw could have been a bigger problem.   I suppose it’s an instance of the squeaky wheel gets the grease sort of mentality.

And you know, therein lies one of the main problems with many in corporate America.   It’s not just Ruger, but big companies are sometimes more than willing to let their customers get lost in the chaos of trying to maneuver through the system.   Had I known the gun would sit for months on end without even getting looked at…I wouldn’t have allowed that to happen in the first place.   I would have lit a fire under someone’s butt long before that amount of time had elapsed.

On the flip side of things I’ve heard stories about outdoor gear companies doing some fantastic customer service on their products.   One such company that quickly comes to mind is Leupold.   Oh, sure, you pay a bit extra for their optics…but the reputation of the company standing behind their quality somehow makes it a little easier to open up the pocketbook.

So, I’m anxious to hear some of your stories.   What hunting or fishing companies have treated you fairly…or possibly unfairly?   Of course, we can’t always base our impressions on one single experience, but then again if they don’t perform well the first time some can never be allowed to have a second chance.   Let’s hear your thoughts.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.