Forgive me, but I need to vent.
I’m really not the “let me speak to a manager” type. I’ve worked in the service industry, and like anyone who’s had to deal with irrational angry customers, I’m pretty forgiving of poor service. Having said that, I constantly find myself frustrated with the state of customer service when it comes to pinball parts.
Two weeks ago today (May 6), I ordered a backglass for a System 11 machine from a reputable company (I’m not going to name the company because I don’t want to call anyone out specifically). My credit card was immediately charged. On Friday (May 10), I still hadn’t gotten a shipping confirmation. I e-mailed them and asked when the backglass would ship, and I got a response saying it would ship the following week. It didn’t. I e-mailed them again, but so far, radio silence.
I get that a lot of these pinball-related companies are smaller companies, and many of them are side projects for the owners. I also realize that shipping a backglass requires a degree of finesse to make sure it doesn’t break in transit. But if I’m paying $100 just in shipping, I expect the order to ship in a timely fashion. I’m not looking for Amazon speed, but within a week seems reasonable. At the very least, I’d like for the company to reach out TO ME and tell me if shipping is going to be delayed. That really doesn’t seem like a whole lot to ask.
I’m not singling this company out, though; this is something I’ve noticed across the board with a variety of pinball parts companies. Shipping usually costs an arm and a leg, and it often takes forever for the item to actually make its way to the post office. On one occasion, I ordered some hard-to-find pop bumper caps from Ministry of Pinball in the Netherlands and shipping across the Atlantic Ocean was CHEAPER than shipping from almost every U.S.-based company I’ve ordered from. With many companies, if I send them a polite e-mail asking when my parts will ship (which I only do after a full week has passed), the response, when and if it finally arrives, is generally about as specific and helpful as a Magic 8-Ball.
The reason for these issues, I imagine, is simple: As a friend and fellow Pinsider put it, I can’t exactly go down to the strip mall and hit up the Pinball Backglass Store. Many of these companies sell items that cannot be found anywhere else, at least not without some degree of difficulty, and I’m sure they know it. There isn’t much motivation to provide quality customer service when you’ve got a captive customer base that has to order from you no matter what kind of service you provide.
All of this is to say, when I do find a company that provides good customer service, they have won a customer for life. To give an example, I’ve ordered a slew of LEDs from Comet Pinball and I’ll never order LEDs from anyone else. They sell a quality product, they ship it out fast, and they even throw some candy in the box. On top of that, I had a box of LEDs get lost in the mail awhile back; when I reached out to them, they shipped me a replacement box of LEDs free of charge, only asking that I send the original package back to them if it ever arrived. It finally arrived a couple months later and I shipped it right back to them. THAT’S customer service. When I got my replacement LEDs, I immediately put the included Comet Pinball vinyl sticker on the back window of my car, and I recommend Comet whenever the topic of LEDs comes up.
It wouldn’t take much for a lot of pinball companies to receive that kind of loyalty, but I don’t know what it’s going to take for more companies to find it worth their while to provide that level of service.