Sunday, March 29, 2015

Customer Service Problems with Victor Technologies, JB Tool Sales and Amazon.com Part 1

When I started purchasing tools for the shop, the first item on the list was a welder.  After researching and comparing many different welders, I settled on the Tweco Fabricator 141i manufactured by Victor Technologies.  I knew that I needed a 120 volt welder, because at this shop I have no possible access to a 240 volt circuit.  For the price, the Tweco feature list was impressive.  At the same price as most other name brand MIG welders, you get a unit capable of MIG, stick and lift TIG.  The 17v TIG torch is an optional accessory and was listed on Cyberweld.com and Victor's web sites as having a gas valve and rotary amperage control.  That meant I wouldn't have to shell out for a foot pedal initially.

I went to order the welder from my local welding supply store.  It took them several minutes on the phone with their Victor representative to get the correct model number to order.  When they ordered the unit for me, the system notified them it was on back order.  Being this far into the process I went ahead and ordered it through them and paid my deposit.  A couple of weeks later, we still didn't have an estimate on how long it would take.  It was while I was on the phone with them and looking at my reciept that I noticed I had failed to order the TIG torch.  Since I wasn't able to get an ETA on the welder through that supplier, I decided to try to find someone who had the torch in stock.  I ended up ordering the torch through Amazon from JB Tool Sales.

The TIG torch arrived two days later.  Even though I still had no idea when my welder would arrive, I opened the box feeling like a kid on Christmas.  Only when I opened the box, I found a TIG torch with no amperage control.  I double checked the part number on the box against what I ordered, they matched.  Thinking maybe I ordered the wrong model, I looked it up on the Victor web site and also on Cyberweld.com.  It was the model listed on both sites as having a rotary amperage control.  Thinking maybe the wrong torch had been put in this box, I called the Victor customer service line.  Someone immediately answered, no hold time at all.  This must be a sign that they take customer service seriously, right?  The person that I talked to didn't know much about the torches, so he put me through to tech support.  I told the tech support guy that my torch seemed to be missing the amperage control and he immediately responds with "That model doesn't have an amperage control."  I explained that their web site said it did.  He asked me to wait while he looked it up.  He then stated that the page was in error and he would notify the people responsible to get it fixed.

After getting off of the phone, I started to think about it.  I bought this welder and this torch with the idea that I wouldn't have to buy a foot pedal to have amperage control.  I called the customer service line again.  Again there was no hold time.  It wasn't the same person and I couldn't remember the name of the person I talked to before.  I explained the situation to him and asked if there was anything they could do.  He said that they would be willing to help me, but they aren't set up to help customers directly.  All requests, exchanges and discounts are handled through the selling dealer.  He told me to have the dealer call them and they would arrange to help me.  This time I made sure to make note of who I was talking to.

I contacted JB Tool Sales via email through Amazon.  I explained the situation and asked them to call Victor to see what could be arranged.  They replied that they buy through a distributor and that they didn't think they would get anywhere if they called them or Victor.  They said their only option was to let me return the torch. I told them that I didn't blame them for the problem with the torch, but that as my supplier, I expected them to at least make the call.  Returning the torch didn't solve my problem, I still had the welder on order and wouldn't have a torch to use with it.  The reply that came back was simply "All we can do at this time is process your return."  That's it, a one line reply.  Now I'm mad.

I called Victor support back and asked to talk to the same person.  I told him what JB Tool Sales had said.  He asked for their information so he could look into it.  He then asked me where I live and asked if I had purchased the torch online.  I confirmed that I had.  At this time his tone changed.  It was like I wasn't a real customer anymore, I was now one of "those people."  He stated that they couldn't do anything for me directly, they are obligated to go through their dealer network.  He said that he would send an email to the district representative for my area and I should wait to here from him.

While waiting to hear from the district rep, my welder came in and I was impressed by the quality.  It was packaged very well and appeared to have been well designed.  I didn't have time to set it up or test it yet, but it looked good.

The next week I still hadn't heard back from anyone, so I called back and asked for the same person.  I asked why I hadn't heard from the district rep yet.  He said he didn't know.  He had sent the email and "it's out of my hands now."  WHAT?  That was it as far as he was concerned.  I ended up having to get the rep's phone number so I could call him.  Now I'm having to do customer service's job for them.  I was too pissed off at this point to call the rep.  I needed some time to cool down.

During this time I submitted a negative seller review for JB Tool Sales on Amazon.  They wouldn't make one phone call, so I was having to put up with this crap.

The next day I called the district rep.  He answers and I give him my name and tell him that customer service sent him an email about my TIG torch problem.  He tells me he has no idea who I am or what I'm talking about.  Now I'm pissed off again.  I start in with the whole story thinking that customer service failed to email him.  When I get finished with the story, he says that he remembers seeing that email now.  He then starts to tell me that it isn't a big deal because it's such a low powered welder, I don't "need" an amp control.  Trying to keep my cool, I explain that while I know you don't "need" an amp control, I would like to have one and I thought that's what I was going to have when I bought the welder and torch.  He asked what I wanted him to do.  I said I wanted what I paid for,  a torch with amperage control.  He said that Victor didn't make one for this welder and the only way to get amperage control was to use a foot pedal, but he wasn't about to give me one of those for free.  At this point I'm feeling really insulted.  Trying to keep my cool, I ask if he can give me a good discount on one.  He says that he can discount the pedal, but that the discount goes to the dealer and then they mark it up and give me my price.  He asks which dealer I want to go through.  I tell him the dealer I purchased the welder from.  He tells me that I will have to call the dealer and tell them to call him to get the price.  He we go again, I'm doing their work for them.

About this time JB Tool Sales emails me through Amazon.  They want to know what they can do to get me to change the review.  Really, after all the extra crap I've had to go through because they wouldn't make one phone call.  I tell them that I think it's a fair review considering all the extra work I was having to put into this thanks to their lack of effort.

I also got a chance to setup the welder and give it a test in MIG and stick modes.  My welding experience up to this point consisted of running a couple of short beads with an Oxy/Acetylene torch over 25 years ago and brazing two 1" cracks in the hinges of my outdoor grill this winter.  With that in mind, I was impressed with how easy it was to weld with this unit in both MIG and stick modes.  But I'll do a full review of the welder later.

JB Tool Sales keeps making excuses and they want me to change my review.  I tell them that I don't feel I should change it, but if they refund half the purchase price to make up for the extra time and effort I've had to put in because of them, I will.  I know they won't do it, but that's fine, I'm happy leaving the review up.  They email back offering $15 off.  I tell them no, the review will stay up.

I call the dealer and he agrees to call the rep and call me back with the price.  Good to his word, he calls me right back.  I was thinking that we would be talking a substantial discount, nope.  Even after the discount I could have purchased it for less online.  That felt like a major insult.

Now I considered this war.  I'm so pissed that I don't want a discount anymore.  I want a foot pedal or a pound of flesh.  They advertised a feature that didn't exist.  They sold me a welder and torch based on that advertisement and they were still trying to gouge me for almost full price on a foot pedal.  I decided to look up information on false advertising.  Yup, that's what we have here.  Who regulates that?  States and the FTC.  Okay, time for another phone call.

Now I call back to customer service.  Ask for the same person.  I tell him what an insult the discount was.  He tells me there is nothing more he can do.  I told him that I thought this was either a case of false advertising or bait and switch.  He transfers me to his supervisor.  I explain how upset I am and that I think that this is a case of false advertising and I want them to make it right.  She feeds me the same line about not being able to do anything for me directly.  She will have to call the district rep and get back to me.  Sounds like they're blowing me off again.

On to twitter.  I start tweeting. Asking for anyone else who has fallen victim to this false advertising to contact me.  I make sure to tag both the @FTC and @ESABglobal (Victor's parent corporation)  in my tweets.  I want them to know how pissed and serious I am.  If they aren't going to help me, I'm going to make them pay for it in lawyer's fees.

Fifteen minutes later I get a tweet from @ESABglobal.  They want me to email them about what is going on so they can help.  I send an email laying out the major points of the story you just read.  I add at the bottom that I'm fed up and if this doesn't get fixed I'm going to pursue a false advertising complaint with both the state and the FTC.  And at this point, I secretly hope they don't fix it.  I want to make them pay for treating me like this.  And I continue to send out my tweets, because I don't really think she is going to help.  After all nobody else in their company has given this any real effort.  She emails me back and asks for the names of the people I talked to.  I provide her with the names of the customer service person and district rep.  I couldn't remember the name of the customer service supervisor.

Later that afternoon my phone rings.  I'm at work and it's an out of state number that I don't recognize, so I don't answer.  Later my phone shows I have a voice mail.  It's the customer service supervisor I'd talked to.  I call her back.  She apologizes and asks me for my address so she can ship me a foot pedal.  WOW!

Now I get this email from Jason at JB Tool Sales.

"Hi,

I was able to get it removed. It amounted to a product review and it was felt that we did attempt to help.

Thanks, have a nice weekend!

Jason"

I check my Amazon account and the review is gone.  Amazon removed it!  They obviously hadn't read the emails or they didn't care.  And Amazon didn't contact me at all, they just took the sellers word for it.  I wonder how many other peoples negative reviews have been deleted and they don't even know.  I only found out because Jason at JB Tool Sales is so cocky he felt he needed to send me a passive aggressive email telling me he won.  I guess Amazon's whole seller review feature is a joke.  If sellers can get a negative review pulled so easy and without the author being notified, the whole system is less than useless.  It appears that Amazon wants to keep seller reviews high to keep sales up.  I can't help thinking they are manipulating the system to deceive customers and increase profit.

How will this end?  Will I really get the foot pedal promised by Victor?  How much trouble will I stir up for JB Tool Sales and Amazon?

Stay tuned for Part 2



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Welcome to my shop.

This is my shop.  It's not much, but at least it's a place to work.  It's really just a large storage unit, but the owner lets me use it as a shop.  It's smaller than most one car garages and only has one power outlet.  I've spent the last few months buying tools and getting it setup.  I still need to do some cleaning and organizing.



So far, I've managed to get my Sportster road worthy.  Then partially stripped it again in order to clean up the aluminum corrosion.  It's back together and ready for the riding season.  And I replaced the timing belt and water pump on my wife's car.  

I've got a few more projects for this summer.  There's the generator that needs carburetor and fuel tank work.  The Harbor Freight folding trailer to put together.  I purchased a Honda CL100 that needs some TLC.  And new tires for the wife's car.

One of the goals I have for this blog is doing some reviews of the tools I purchased for the shop.  I'm also thinking of doing some video reviews on my YouTube channel.