Glazer’s Camera in Seattle — Good customer service or bad?

Reviews

Glazer’s Camera is one of the last remaining camera stores in the Seattle area, they have a wonderful selection, a friendly staff, and convenient hours. I always told myself that even if I paid more for an item locally, that it was worth it to support a local business that would be there for me if I ever had a service issue. I have bought cameras, lighting gear, lenses, bags, microphones, and more from Glazer’s over the years. Recently, I needed their help with a defective lens.
The problem: A malfunctioning Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens less than 4 months old. It worked well in single autofocus mode for stills — you wouldn’t even notice a problem. However, when used for video with continuous autofocus, you would hear a terrible racket from the lens. You can hear the problem here:

The lens is not supposed to make that kind of noise, in fact it didn’t for the first few months that I owned it.

Just to be sure that it was indeed a noise from the lens and not the camera itself, on December 12th, 2013, I brought the lens back to Glazer’s Camera in Seattle where I had originally purchased my lens. Just a side note, I originally bought the lens as part of a kit with the Olympus E-P5 camera in August. I sold the E-P5 online, and bought the E-M1 to replace it — also from Glazer’s. We (the staff and myself) compared my lens to their demo model. Their lens functioned properly and was silent. We tried my lens on their camera, their lens on my camera, and in all instances it was agreed upon that the problem was with my lens.

The solution: The malfunctioning lens has been replaced with a new one.

Good customer service right? I’m not so sure. Here’s a play by play of the events as they happened, and what my expectations were — reasonable or otherwise, you decide. Please comment on this as well. I’d like to submit this article to Glazer’s and Olympus for their review.

Minimum expectation set #1: That Glazer’s would send my lens to Olympus for repairs that day, in an expedited fashion, follow up on the receipt of the lens by Olympus, communicate with them, make sure that the problem which is only apparent in continuous autofocus video mode is understood by the technicians, fixed without a charge, and returned to me in a timely manner.

Above and beyond expectation set #1: It never hurts to ask. So I asked if they could just exchange the lens for a new one. After all, I had bought a lot of expensive gear from them in the past. It’s all in who you know, right? Personalized service for good customers? I was told that they couldn’t exchange the lens because it had been so many months since I purchased the lens. I asked another question, could they contact their Olympus sales rep to see if he could do anything — specifically have Glazer’s give me a new lens right then and there. Then, the sales rep would make Glazer’s whole by replacing the faulty one with a brand new one. Thus, Olympus would take possession of the faulty lens, fix it on their own time, and resell it as refurbished. The owner stepped into the conversation and explained that’s not how things work, but that they would send it to Olympus for me.

Here’s what actually happened #1:

I believe Glazer’s could have made it much clearer as to what the problem was. The rep had a link to the video that illustrates the problem. He could have given that. He could have also written a more comprehensive analysis of the problem. A few minutes of detail here might have actually resulted in getting the lens fixed!
Customer # has my first initial wrong — not a big deal, just annoying.

12/18/2013: The lens wasn’t actually shipped out to Olympus until 12/18 — almost a full week after Glazer’s had it in their possession! Furthermore, they send it via UPS Ground — hardly expedited! Since they waited so long to send it, I would have at least expected them to overnight it because of the delay in their processing. That would have been an attempt at making the delay right. There was no apology, and when I inquired about why there was a delay, there was no response.

12/24/2013: I contacted Glazer’s via email to see if they had heard anything from Olympus yet. I was informed that they hadn’t — even though when I checked on UPS.com, the lens was received by Olympus on 12/21. At this point, the rep from Glazer’s explained to me that it’s a busy time of the year for Olympus, and that they (Glazer’s) usually don’t receive any information from Olympus until they receive a repair estimate. Although, he did apologize for it taking so long.

1/1/2014: I went onto Olympus’s own repair tracking website. All I needed to do was put in the phone number for Glazers, and was directed to a repair status lookup page that showed the lens was received on 12/26/2013. It was in for repairs on 12/30, and sent out on 12/31. I made a screen copy of this page and sent it to my repair contact at Glazer’s. Not only had he never checked up on the repair, he blamed Olympus for not following up with him!

1/7/2014: The lens was received by Glazer’s. I called them because I checked UPS to see if it had been delivered. They tracked the lens down in their store. Once they did, they explained to me that Olympus had not found the problem and did not fix anything. Thus, every single one of my minimum expectations as stated above were not met. However, now I had some new expectations on how to handle this problem going forward.

Minimum expectation set #2: Major apologies from Glazer’s staff and outrage at Olympus’s incompetence. They should have contacted their Olympus supplier and/or Olympus corporate to do everything possible to get this corrected immediately. At the very least, have a contact person at the repair center that would take personal responsibility for getting their oversight corrected — without any further delay. Overnight the lens to Olympus, get it fixed immediately, and overnighted back — fixed.

Above and beyond expectation set #2: the same as my “above and beyond expectation set #1” above. Give me a new lens on the spot, and let Olympus make them whole.

Here’s what actually happened #2: The people I talked to on the phone didn’t have an immediate answer for me. I was working and had to go into a meeting, they said they would call me when as soon as they had an answer. More than two hours later — no answer. So, I called them. Finally, they were going to contact their Olympus rep. It was explained to me that their rep was out of town at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas and I had to be patient. I figure after a month, I had already been patient enough, but I did understand (somewhat) that they couldn’t get an answer immediately. Still, I think there could have been someone at Olympus they could have called — the whole company wasn’t in Vegas. At the very least, make an executive decision to make things right — right then and there, and deal with Olympus later — on their own time.

1/8/2014–3:00 p.m.: I contacted Glazer’s — frustrated that I had no answer yet. I figured that they could at least call whomever they needed to in order to get results by then. They told me that they had left two messages the day before and two messages to their Olympus sales rep that day. I was frustrated and wanted to take action myself, so I asked for the number to their Olympus rep. They wouldn’t give out his information at all. However, in conversation, the person I was talking with mentioned the Olympus rep’s first name. I took a chance and logged into LinkedIn. I searched for the first name of the rep, Olympus, Seattle, and up popped the rep’s contact information.

1/8/2014–3:58 p.m.: I sent the Olympus sales rep the following email. I typed it in haste while I was home with the flu — so please forgive the spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors.

“I found your email on LinkedIn. I understand you’re busy at CES this week. However, I need your help with my problem.

During the summertime, I purchased an ep5 kit from glazers with the 17mm f/1.8 lens.
I have since upgraded to the em1, but kept the 17mm f/1.8.

A month ago, I brought the lens into Glazers because the lens is not functioning properly in continual autofocus video mode. Here’s a clip where you can hear the audio and the terrible clicking. This was not the case when I first acquired the lens. http://youtu.be/m98_yciDkGI

We (Glazers staff and I) compared my lens to their display model which was nearly silent (as mine was when I received it). We tried my lens on their body and their lens on my body. Without a doubt, my lens is defective.

Glazer’s sent the lens to Olympus for repairs and just received the lens back yesterday. Olympus didn’t fix it and couldn’t find any problem — honestly, they didn’t even try. The problem is constant and not intermittent.

I’m terribly upset by this. One for the inconvenience. Two and more importantly, I’ve made an investment in Olympus with my gear. I love the E-M1 and the 17mm f/1.8 is my primary lens for stills and videos — great focal length, fast, and perfect (when properly functioning) for video. That lens is one of the reasons I chose Olympus over the competitors. Third, I’m in the market to purchase the 45mm f/1.8, but hesitate to do so, because so far, Olympus hasn’t done right by me as a customer.

At this point, I’m asking for yours, Glazers, and Olympus’s help in making this right by replacing my defective lens with a new, fully working black 17mm f/1.8 (the same as my broken one).

Please work out whatever you need to do with Glazers and Olympus to replace my lens as soon as possible (again I have not had my lens in a month).

Currently, Glazers is in possession of my faulty lens. (Names of individuals removed for this blog post) at Glazers camera said they have also left you voice messages.

Best regards,

Noah N. Bershatsky”

1/8/2014–6:00 p.m.: Two hours after I sent my email, Glazer’s called me to say that their Olympus sales rep contacted them, and would indeed allow them to replace my lens with a new one. I also expressed that I would like to purchase the 45mm f/1.8 also, and would like them both shipped to me — I live an hour away and wasn’t going anywhere with the flu. I figured they could ship it to me sooner than it would be for me to get to their store. The Glazer’s rep told me to call back the next morning at 10:00 a.m. because a lot of his staff had left for the day. Why didn’t he just take all of the information and process it the next morning? Laziness? I really don’t know.

1/9/2014–10:30 a.m.: I spoke again with the same rep as the night before. He had all of my information for shipping pulled up, the 45mm all ready to go, and the replacement 17mm. He asked for my credit card information for the order and for the cost of shipping.

1/10/2014: Another problem! The lenses arrived — a brand new 45mm f/1.8 like I ordered, and the original broken 17mm f/1.8! I checked the serial number and sure enough, it was indeed the broken one. Just in case I was looking at the wrong thing, I put it on the camera. Now it was certain, it was the original broken lens. However, they did include the warranty information for a different 17mm f/1.8. I called Glazer’s and spoke with the same rep that I had spoken with yesterday. After I read him the serial number he acknowledged that they had made a mistake and sent me the wrong lens. He offered to mail me the correct one, but I was finally feeling well enough from the flu to venture out, and I had lost all faith in my dealings with Glazer’s at this point. Thus, I drove to the store, and got the replacement lens. The whole ordeal left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, so I returned the 45mm f/1.8 and asked for not only a refund of the lens, but also the shipping. The store manager honored my request. I took a moment after the transactions had been completed to explain to him much of what I had written in this posting — he was rushed because there was a line of customers behind me, so I didn’t explain my email to the Olympus sales rep. The manager was friendly, but had lots of excuses: they are a very busy store, that they handle many repairs, and cannot follow up on all of them. Also, he explained to me that the person in charge of repairs spends most of their time on eBay doing sales. At least he acknowledged, they should have mailed me the lens for free. Our conversation ended with a handshake. I thanked him for his help and explained that I would shop their store again in the future.

Minimum expectation set #3: Glazer’s should have shipped it to me for free in the first place. It would have been the least they could to do. I do believe without my persistence, the issue would not have been resolved at this point, and quite possibly never with a replacement lens — I understand I got lucky here.

Above and beyond expectation set #3: A discount or an in store credit for future purchases like the 45mm, and an apology would have been nice.

Here are the lingering questions in my mind:

  1. Without my involvement, where would I be at this point?
  2. What would have been the total time involved and outcome had I just let Glazer’s handle the whole thing?
  3. Would I have even received a new lens from that rep and Olympus had it not been for his relationship with Glazer’s Camera?
  4. Was it more of a favor to them since they are his immediate customer?
  5. Was Olympus truly looking out for me as a customer?
  6. Would it have been a lot less aggravating, faster, and a better experience had I contacted Olympus directly with the initial repair?
  7. Even though I am getting what I want, did Glazer’s provide good customer service or not?
  8. Should I shop there again? I still like the location, selection, and prices. There is no other store close to me that has everything Glazer’s does. Glazer’s is about an hour from where I live. If I were to drive an additional half hour, Kenmore Camera has everything Glazer’s does. Are they any better?
  9. Would you shop at Glazer’s again?
  10. What would your expectations have been?
  11. What kind of incompetent technicians does Olympus have working for them?
  12. Why didn’t Olympus’s repair department reach out to Glazer’s for clarification if they couldn’t find a problem?

In conclusion: I feel that the only person that did right by me, is the sales rep at Olympus. Without his help, I would still be stuck without a solution, and a broken lens (not even in my possession). It all comes down to who you know — in this the rep, I believe I just got lucky, lucky that I found him on LinkedIn, and lucky that he was sympathetic to my case. He helped Glazer’s deal with an upset customer, and he fixed my problem. I just hope that in the future my equipment works without any further problems.

I understand Glazer’s need to control costs, that overnight shipping costs more than ground shipping. I also understand that they just can’t give away new lenses and keep broken ones. However, had they just called their sales rep from the onset — like I originally asked, I might have had a new lens that day, and it would have actually saved Glazer’s money. In fact, it wouldn’t have cost them anything — no shipping, and no further man hours solving the problem. I feel like they dropped the customer service ball on so many levels here that I was compelled to write about it.

I would like to continue shopping at Glazer’s in the future, but I would like the ownership and management to acknowledge that they handled this issue poorly. They could have done more to insure a speedier and less aggravating process. After all, they are the ones with contacts at the various manufacturers — not I. Without customer service, they really are nothing but a showroom with average prices. It should go without saying, but apparently it needs to be said — customer service is THE only thing that will differentiate them from their online competition. Having a showroom will only go so far in today’s day and age. Online companies recommend in their ads to shop around local stores, try out the products, and then go home and buy it online for less money! This is precisely why Best Buy, Borders Books, Barnes & Noble, and many other retailers have had massive store closings. If the local stores won’t take care of their customers, then where’s the loyalty between the two parties? Repeat business and loyal customers are built on relationships and trust. At this point, I don’t feel like I have a connection or a relationship with anyone at Glazer’s. My dealings with them were very laborious — I was having to lead the charge in order to get things done. They didn’t go out of their way to help me — in fact, they didn’t even fulfill a minimum expecation of service. So, I did indeed end up purchasing the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 on 1/10/2014. However, I ordered it from Amazon.com.

This experience has taught me a few things:

  1. The next time I have a product support issue, I will attempt to contact the local sales rep again — it might be for naught, but worth a try.
  2. If #1 is a dead end, I will deal with the manufacturer by myself.
  3. The next time I am considering a purchase, I will look at the competition.

Please comment on this article, as I would like both Olympus and Glazer’s camera to see it as well as the feedback from other potential customers. My hope is that both companies can learn from and correct these customer service deficiencies.


Noah Bershatsky

Noah Bershatsky

I was a nerd before hipsters were cool.
https://bershatsky.com

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