I had an unfortunate customer service experience last week with Marco Specialties that I have decided merits talking about here so that others might avoid a similar experience. Part of the problem I encountered stems from my own behavior - I have a tendency to order parts I anticipate needing for a particular project or known upcoming maintenance task all at once. Sometimes, I will not get to that project or maintenance task for a year or more. Some parts I just like to have on hand so I can perform common repairs as needed without both waiting and paying for delivery of a single part or two.
This has worked out fairly well for me as a general practice over the years, with a couple of exceptions - both of which have involved Marco and both coincidentally involving pop bumper parts. The first issue I ran across was poorly peened shaft attachments on pop bumper rings. The issue here is that sometimes the shafts are so poorly attached to the ring that the slightest flex or overtightening of the nuts will easily pull the two pieces apart. I have thrown at least a half dozen of these in the trash over the past couple of years, not bothering to ask for replacements.
Perhaps because of this experience, I was less willing to let slide an issue I encountered with some pop bumper lamp sockets last week. Again, the issue came down to poor (almost non-existent) attachment of the leads to the body. The slightest twist (as is reasonable to expect when installing them or changing a bulb) and the lamp socket comes right off. This was not a situation like the rings where some were good and some were bad. ALL 12 of the lamp sockets were bad! At $2.89 each that's $34.68 plus shipping straight into the trash. In the scheme of things in the pinball world, that's chump change but still annoying enough that I felt compelled to reach out to Marco directly, let them know what I had encountered and ask for replacements since I was rebuilding a bunch of pop bumpers and could not finish the job since I didn't have any usable new sockets.
Granted, it had been a long time since I had originally purchased these. (According to Marco, it had been three years. I am sure it had not been nearly that long. I thought it had been about a year.) Nevertheless, given that these were defective parts that had an unexpected defect not visible to the naked eye I fully expected that they would apologize for the inconvenience and simply replace them.
Sadly, that was not the case. They initially asked me for photos so I sent them these pictures:
Cale at Marco emailed me back asking me to allow him time to look into it. A little over a hour later he wrote back again informing me that too much time had elapsed to do anything for me. Duly noted. Still, I have to ask, why put a disgruntled customer through the added hassle of sending photos if you know you're not going to help them?
Since we can't change others, I will be changing my own behavior. I will no longer trust vendors to replace brand new defective parts unless the order is less than 30 days old. I will no longer order parts in advance unless I know I will be installing them within 30 days. I will no longer order parts from Marco Specialties. That might mean that I won't be able to get some stuff. That's a bummer, but I have decided that the convenience of their superior website search function and large inventory are not worth the (usually) higher prices or risk of eating it if something proves to be defective.
I've got another big restoration project coming up. I'll be dropping a minimum of $500-$700 on parts for it. Looks like between PinballLife and PBR I can cover all the bases, so that's where my money is going now.