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Why Customer Service Matters More Than Ever

Let me out

I recently had two opposite experiences that illustrate how important customer service is, especially in this day and age.  Even though it happened more recently, I want to start with Gilt Taste first.

Gilt Taste

I should preface the story with: I recently moved and while I made a list of all the sites and services I needed to update, I clearly was not able to remember or get to them all. A few weeks ago I was doing some Christmas shopping. I found what I wanted on Gilt Taste and felt comfortable ordering from them because of my positive experiences on  I realized a few days after placing the order that it was being shipped to my old apartment. This was my fault because I had my (old) home address stored in Gilt and as a convenience feature, they offer a fairly quick checkout so there aren’t many layers of checks to slow you down. You can see how this can be a pro as well as a con (you don’t have a chance to catch mistake). Excuses aside, this was totally my fault. I saw that the item would not arrive for at least 5 days, giving plenty of time to correct it.

I emailed them to make the correction and about a day later, I received a response from a customer service rep that said they are not able to help because items are shipped from a supplier and they have no control over it. Also, she added, since the correct address was so close maybe I could figure out a way to pick it up or something.

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Philips Robust Collection


I am really digging this new appliance collection by Philips. The Robust Collection has a really nice clean, almost industrial, design that I am instantly attracted to. The trend for kitchen appliances (blenders, juicers etc) has really moved towards an emphasis on design and aesthetics. Compare the Breville appliances, for example, to the Kitchen-Aid’s and Cuisinart’s that have filled American countertops for the past 25 years.

Philips (which I think is a very strange company because it’s so multi-faceted) foray into the appliance market is a strong one. There are five pieces -blender, juicer, food processor, mixer, and cordless hand blender. The first three have an impressive 15 year warranty on them which shows a lot of confidence from Philips.

I have not found any place to purchase the items but if the pricing rumors are correct, they are aiming for a luxury market. For example, the hand-blender which I expected to be the cheapest item and the one I was most interested in, is quoted at $319. Wow.

Red Bull Is Changing The Game

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the privation of science, particularly the advancement of the space program. Many believe that NASA is no longer the pioneer it once was. Whether that may be due to the lack of funding (I agree here), bureaucracy and red tape, or just that it’s an agency with old thinking instead of new ideas, something has to change.

I covered the unveiling of the Virgin Galactic program in the Mojave Dessert and Sir Richard Branson hopes his idea of privatized space flight takes off (no pun intended). It is not a leap of logic to think that an international airline would move towards space. However, the company I think is really challenging the notion of where we turn to when looking for innovation is Red Bull. They started with their Air Races which is literally a race with jets flying around a course in the sky. It’s the stuff dreams are made of and just thinking about it has me excited, mostly due to how dangerous it sounds.

During the Olympics, it was revealed that the energy drink company constructed a massive half pipe and foam pit in a secret location for Shawn White so he could learn new tricks. He was quoted as saying that he learned as much in a few days of practice on that ramp than he could have in years on a traditional setup. I felt this was a massive amount of waste and gave White an (unfair) advantage but you cannot deny its impact. He invented, then shared, with the world new, never before seen tricks.

Today, I read in the New York times that Red Bull built a team of experts who, for the past few years, have been working on breaking the record for human decent. They want a guy to jump out of a balloon 120,000 feet in the air. He is going to break the sound barrier on his way down. They have no idea what will happen to him since the human body is so oddly shaped. There’s a chance he might enter a spin he can’t break out of or maybe get ripped apart as part of his body goes one speed and the other half a different speed.

This is crazy stuff and I love that Red Bull has the guts to do this sort of thing. I know what you’re thinking – it’s a marketing stunt. Of course it is, but you know what? I don’t really care. What is important to me is that a company out there is spending a lot of their own money (not taxpayers’) to push the boundaries of what we thought was possible or even safe. I don’t think I have to explain the ramifications of these “stunts.”  Do you think scientists will want to know the g-forces experienced by a man falling 690 miles per hour? You bet.

The most surprisingly thing about this whole thing is the company that decided to step up to the plate and take this challenge. It’s Red Bull, a company which I have mixed thoughts about. They make energy drinks which a a whole I find very gimmicky and lame. But if you had to choose a Nike of that world, it’s definitely them. They are the respected old dogs in the game but obviously with an element of fun. Right now, nobody is really challenging them in the space but imagine what could happen if others did?

Osprey Hydraulics

I have been using hydration packs for a decade and to be honest, nothing’s really changed. Sure, they’ve come out with brushes to help you clean the bladders and Camelbak has a new attachment that lets you figure out your flow rate and how much water is left, but the idea is still the same. Osprey has been in the technical pack game for a long time and is well regarded. Despite having packs that support bladders, they did not have a dedicated hydration pack in their line – until now. The Osprey Hydraulics line was launched recently and includes the Manta (day pack) and Raptor (mountain biking pack) which packs (no pun intended) plenty of features. Read more about their special bladder design (in conjunction with Nalgene) and their ingenious way of attaching the bite valve at my preview over at joshspear.

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Looking For Winter Gloves? Forget Icebreaker

I am a huge fan of technical clothing and my closet is littered with Patagonia, Marmot, Outdoor Research, and of course Icebreaker. In fact, I am such a fan that a third of my clothes can’t even be worn for 10 months of the year because I pretty much live in paradise, weather wise.

I recently volunteered for the inaugural Santa Barbara Marathon and I was at my post before 5 AM and it was freezing. I brought out my new pair of Icebreaker wool gloves which I bought earlier in the year in anticipation for winter. My job was just to direct traffic, and sometimes runner. By the end of the four hour shift, there were numerous holes and tears all over the gloves. Four hours! I sent a detailed email to the company and there was not a single reply. Luckily, their baselayers are great but if you are looking for gloves, look elsewhere.