Wednesday, May 05, 2010

How Unfortunate

My mother raised me to be one of "those" shoppers. Always polite, but also always ready to question a price that seems incorrect or return a product that turns out to be defective. I'm the person who checks the supermarket receipt and goes to the customer service desk to get my two dollars back when the scanner at the register blips up the wrong price. I'm the person who will call the seafood counter and complain that, of the three dozen clams I purchased, four were DOA and another 3 were smashed to smithereens at the bottom of the bag.

Which is why, when I found myself dissatisfied with the quality of a skein of yarn recently, I emailed the producer -- a small-scale, indie dyer -- to ask about the exchange/return policy. I first explained how much I liked the yarn itself, then described the problem I'd found with the skein, and finally I said that I would like to buy more of this yarn, but only if I knew that, were I to come across this problem again, I would be able to exchange the skeins for problem-free ones. I wasn't looking to exchange this particular skein, mind you, and I said exactly that. But I did want to know that if I bought more, I wouldn't get stuck with yarn that I felt was sub-par.

The response I got was disheartening, to say the least. I was told that lots of people love this yarn, so if I bought any in the future that I didn't like, I would find it very easy to give away.

Yes, that's right. The solution to the problem of defective yarn is to give the yarn away.

Let me state right up front that I have no qualms about giving yarn away. I'd much rather give away yarn that I know I won't use than trash it or otherwise have it go to waste. But, really? Really? The best that the dyer could do was suggest that I give the yarn away? No chance of an exchange to keep a customer happy? And a snarky tone in the email to boot?


I was really annoyed over this earlier. Really annoyed. When I'm really annoyed, I tend to vote with my feet, as we say in my line of work. If I don't like what I find, I walk. So, the solution for me is never to buy yarn from this dyer. Too bad, really, since it's nice stuff on the whole.

But what I'd really like to do, so I don't wind up ending my night with an upset stomach from annoyance, is contrast this decidedly unfortunate experience with its polar opposite. While I won't give the name of the company from which I will no longer be purchasing yarn, I will happily give the name of the company from which I wish I could still purchase yarn: Sonny and Shear.

If you never shopped at Sonny and Shear (The "I Got Ewe, Babe" Yarn Shop), you truly missed out. They were a fantastic online store, and in addition to selling superb yarns, they really put their customers first. They did all sorts of cool stuff, like giving you discounts if you sent in the labels from skeins of yarn that you'd knit up, whether or not you'd bought that yarn at S&S. Small, family-run, they were something else.

Sadly, they shut down several months back, and at that time, they had a huge going-out-of-business sale. I bought three gorgeous skeins of Dream in Color Starry in a deep ocean-blue colorway. I think I paid half price for the three.

When the yarn arrived, I took one whiff and knew something was wrong. The yarn absolutely reeked of black mold. I checked with my husband, who agreed: that yarn seriously stank.

Well, I figured, S&S was going out of business. Maybe they'd had a storage issue, and the yarn had been stored in an area with a mold problem. For half price, I couldn't really complain. I would wash the yarn and see if I could get the smell out. If I couldn't, I would probably have to trash it. Who would want to knit with (and wear an item made out of) moldy yarn?

But, since my mother raised me to be the customer who at least provides feedback, I contacted S&S and told them about the smell. I said I certainly didn't expect them to do anything about it since they were going out of business, but I did want them to be aware that wherever they were storing their yarn might be harboring dangerous black mold, especially if that place were in their house.

Imagine my surprise when I received a reply the next day stating that it wasn't a case of mold at all; it was a defect on the DIC end that they'd identified months earlier. It had something to do with the final rinse of the yarn after the dyeing process, and it had left the yarn smelling of the dyestuffs used on it. S&S was very apologetic, saying that they'd thought that they had pulled all the affected yarn off the shelves when the problem was discovered, but that they must have missed the skeins that I'd purchased. They gave me instructions for what to use on the yarn to get the smell out.

And then they issued me a full refund.

Can you believe it? A full refund, after telling me to keep the yarn and letting me know how to get the smell out so that I could use it. And all this from a company that realistically shouldn't have cared a bit about providing good customer service since it was going out of business.

Sonny & Shear, I miss you. All companies should be as good to their customers as you were.

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