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tl;dr?  Customer service seems to be a very rare thing these days, but these people still provide excellent customer service: PWR+, Quality Watch Repair.

I’ve been thinking about customer service lately.  Mostly, I’ve been thinking about how customer service is severely lacking these days.  Ok, so mostly I’ve been thinking about these examples of poor customer service (oh, and I suppose I should warn you about salty language should you not wish to brine your brain):

Ok, yes, these were brought to my attention only because I stalk some incredibly geeky yet popular people on the internets.  And yes, three of the examples involve one company and probably could be consolidated into one example.  And yes yes, I do believe that all of these issues were resolved in the end.  (I think all but the post on the Ocean Marketing PR disaster include links to new posts on the resolution.  You can google for Gabe’s resolution with Ocean.)  But still, wth?  This is how you treat people these days?  In particular, this is how to you treat customers these days?  In case you’ve forgotten, a customer is

A customer is someone a company depends upon to purchase their commodity or service.  If you depend upon someone for your financial survival, shouldn’t that logically lead you to conclude that you ought to treat that person fairly at the very least?  I realize that sometimes you’ll have the overbearing individual who tries to wheedle for more than what was agreed upon.  I understand that you may wish to discourage that one individual (politely!) in giving you repeat business.  I mean, you need to remain sane to run your business and dealing with such people probably will drive you insane.

But in the above examples, the customer wasn’t being overbearing.  They were normal customers.  They could have been you or me.  And they were treated terribly, TERRIBLY, by the other party and with no reasonable explanation.  I’m also pretty sure there was a resolution to these cases because the other party picked on some popular people.  If something like that had happened to me, I would probably just have to take it.  It’s messed up, I tell you.

So, that’s the background of the whole thing.  It’s what I expect now from customer service and I’m pleasantly surprised when I’m treated politely.  Politely!  Which really should be the baseline of how we treat anyone.  Isn’t that sad?  Why should I be pleasantly surprised when I’m treated like how one human being should treat another?  What happened to politeness and respect?

Now then, I said background, right?  That implies that there is a foreground.  Otherwise, you would just have…ground.  So here’s the foreground.  I recently had two different entities provide me with wonderful customer service.  Wonderful.  It was full of wonder.  These people really did go above and beyond.

First, PWR+.  I managed to lose Codename Roodee’s AC adapter a few months back.  Or at least, I found out I had lost it a few months back and I may have lost it a long time before that.  You might find that really weird, since Roodee is my runner.  You would think Roodee’s battery would have died and I would have realized that I couldn’t charge it back up.  But no.  Because Alienware has been purchased by Dell, they all use Dell AC adapters now.  There are Dell laptops everywhere.  I would normally just grab whichever one was handy and charge up Roodee’s battery with it.  That’s why I didn’t realize that his AC adapter was missing for so long.  I thought about buying another one from Dell, but after my recent dealings with them (oh yeah, here‘s another example of bad customer service, but this one isn’t of maliciousness but one of general cluelessness) I didn’t really want to do that.  I found PWR+ makes cheaper AC adapters AND with smaller footprints!  So I purchased one through Amazon and then it broke two months later.  Electronic components fail.  This is something I know very well.  If a component fails because of a defect, normally it’s within the first few times of using it.  In this case, it was two months of irregular usage before the defective component died (it was working fine up to that point).  The rep for PWR+ was very polite and helpful, even when I couldn’t immediately find my Amazon order ID, which is apparently the only way they can look up orders fulfilled through Amazon.  He was uncommonly patient while waiting for me to find the order ID and issued me an RMA number without any hassle.  I got a new adapter shipped out to me the same day they received my defective one.  It was a very pleasant experience over all.

And second, Quality Watch Repair (QWR).  I have been sending my watch (a ’98 ladies Seiko kinetic) to QWR for several years now.  Originally, it was because I couldn’t find watch repair places in my area that were willing to take a ladies kinetic (they’re supposedly very hard to work with because it’s a lot of mechanics packed into a very small space).  Well, after the Seiko repair factory closed down in LA, there wasn’t much else I could do besides send it out for repair.  I found QWR through a quick search online and after a brief vetting, it seemed promising.  So, I mentally prepared myself for the possibility of never seeing my watch again and sent it off (to Oregon).  You don’t always know what you’re getting with online merchants.  But, my watch came back in wonderful condition…each and every time I’ve sent it off.  Yes, I’ve sent my watch (and my dad’s and sister’s watches) to QWR several times.  Not because QWR hasn’t done an excellent job of repairing our watches, but because even after I’ve found places that were willing to take older Seiko kinetics, I’ve decided that dealing with QWR is more than worth the extra step of mailing them the watch (and waiting for it to be mailed back).  The people behind QWR are pleasant, patient, fair, and do quality work.  They readily communicate the status of your repair and suggestions on what needs to be done.  They even have a “quibble-free one year guarantee.”  The last time I sent my watch back, they deemed that it the issue was a warranty item and refunded me my shipping fees and diagnostic fee.  That really surprised me.  It would have been totally fair for QWR to keep my diagnostic fee and there was no reason for them to also pay for my shipping fees, but they did.  It really was a quibble-free guarantee.

And…those were my thoughts on customer service.  Apparently it still exists.  Sometimes it exists in abundance.  We should support those businesses that supply customer service in abundance.  And we should probably avoid those business in which there is a dearth of customer service.  That’ll learn them.

It’s another craft review!  Huzzah!

tl;dr?  Verdict: Appropriate for elementary school kids.  You might think that would be obvious since the package itself says it’s for ages 6+, but sometimes they use weird mutant 6 year olds or something for testing.  Also, provide some glue.

Anyway…

A few weeks back, I mistakenly thought I needed to prepare a craft for the following Sunday’s craft time with the younger kids.  The thing was, it wasn’t my turn to be with them, so I couldn’t do any number of crafts that I already had in mind.  That’s because I’ve been told that the crafts I choose to do with the kids are “complicated” and likely come out of the engineer in me.  Meh, I says to that.  MEH.  They aren’t hard and the kids are smarter than you think.  Whiny, yes.  Dumb, no.

Anyhow, since I thought I wouldn’t be overseeing the craft time, I had to find something that any of the others who help care for the kids could oversee.  My whirlwind run to Michael’s yielded these:

Darice (R) Foamies (R) Modeling Kits

As it turns out, it was all a miscommunication.  I wasn’t responsible for providing the craft.  But the modeling kits still seemed like a good idea and a good emergency craft that doesn’t take a lot of prep work.  So, I tried them out with the junior high and high schoolers again (because I often use them as my test subjects) to see how they would react to the craft.  It also helps me gauge the amount of time it would take to do the same thing with the elementary school kids.  What I found is that yes, you can do these with younger kids, BUT you probably will also want to provide some glue and be patient in trying different ways to assemble these things.

The kits are very generous with the clay.  You have more than enough clay to make the two of the featured item.  However, you only have enough eyes for two creatures so if you want to use the extra clay to make another critter, you need to provide your own googly eyes.  Speaking of, that might not be a bad idea overall, because the eyes they provide are kind of strange.  The eyes don’t have “whites” per se.  They are all colored and it makes me think that these snails or whatever are all diseased.  That might just be me, though.

Aside from providing your own eyes, you will also want to provide some glue.  The kits’ (wondrously detailed) instructions only say to look at the picture and construct something similar out of the parts they give you.  Later on it says that you can try using the clay to stick the eyes and rhinestones on your creation.  That…doesn’t work very well.  The clay isn’t very sticky.  It even has some difficulty sticking to itself.  If you want to put the rhinestones or foam pieces on your creation, glue is the way to go.  Otherwise, the pieces might stick for awhile but the moment you move your creation, stuff starts falling off.

Here were the results from the tests:

Our strange, diseased creations.

A better shot of one of the butterflies:

I'm not really sure what that lavender thing is. One of the girls got creative and decided to combine a bunch of extra clay and make something different. Also, I think the mouth and cheek lines are Sharpie.

The girls who made the butterflies resorted to shoving a pipe cleaner down the center of the body of the butterfly because the individual balls of clay wouldn’t stick to each other very well.  She also used a small strip of clay to hold the wings in place.  It kind of worked.  Glue would have been better.  The wings started to fall off as the clay dried.

The pink ladybug used to have rhinestones where all the pink spots are on the wings.  But they all fell off.  Surprise!  Again, glue.  I had to reattach the wings with some glue as well.  They stayed on ok while the clay was still pliable, but when it dried the wings fell off.