A Difficult Customer

If you buy a pen from me and you don’t like it, I’ll take it back. You don’t even need to tell me why you don’t like it. I see no point in sticking you with a pen you don’t like. All it will cost you is the price of sending it back. If there were to be something actually wrong with the pen, I’ll pay the return postage. That’s how it works and I make that plain to my customers.

On the subject of customers, mine are great and I’m happy to say that many have become personal friends. In any walk of life, though, you do occasionally bump up against an awkward customer. Some weeks ago I sold a nice little Swan 3160. It’s a very nice pen and I believe the price was very good. A few days later I received an email acknowledging receipt of the pen. This is what the customer had to say:

I should like to return this to you for a refund please. I have not inked or written with this pen but it is obvious that it will not write correctly. There is a large easily visible gab (sic) between the nib and feed, the nib has obviously been sprung at some point. If you have replaced the sac then you must have shellacked the barrel again as there is no way it will unscrew by hand?

The customer hadn’t inked or written with the pen but he knew it wouldn’t write properly! That’s a clever trick, especially since I’d written a page with the pen as part of post-restoration testing. That’s what I do with every pen. The “gab” between the feed and the nib is an illusion. It’s perfectly set.

As you can see, the nib is perfect. It certainly has never been sprung. Then this delightful gentleman questioned whether I had replaced the sac! This was because he couldn’t unscrew the section. Ignoring the question why he wanted to remove the section, he was evidently unaware that these sections rarely unscrew by hand without the application of heat. Of course, I never shellac sections – it’s bad practice and unnecessary.

All in all, I thought it was a pretty nasty communication and it came as rather a shock. It’s a little like answering a knock at the door and getting a punch in the face. I told the customer to return the pen for a refund, and I did complain about the tone of the email and the wrong accusations. He assured me he was not trying to be nasty. Well, there you go.

I love my job. There is no aspect of pen restoration and sales that I don’t enjoy. Interaction with customers is the best of it, usually, and I try to provide a good service, happy to give advice and information to anyone who contacts me. I’ve only rarely had difficulty with customers but when such an event happens it’s a rude awakening and a reminder that – as in any other business – not everyone in the pen world is nice. I’m very glad most are.

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About goodwriterspens
I restore fountain pens, and used to trade as redripple52 in eBay. I also have my own fountain pen sales website, www.goodwriterssales.com

10 Responses to A Difficult Customer

  1. jomatthews says:

    I do wonder where good manners have gone. People are too quick to behave rudely even if there is nothing to have reacted like that in the first place. I’m glad to hear these customers are few and far between.

  2. Andy Barnett says:

    Unfortunately there are some very strange people in the world. Luckily they are few and far between. This was his failing, not yours. Happy Christmas.

  3. Philip Akin says:

    I know of people who have opted out of selling to the public because of customer issues. They sell for less to a middle man. I know that from my selling at Scriptus there are only a couple of difficult people and at this last show there were a couple that I really didn’t want to sell to as I knew that there would be heartache ahead.

  4. Brian says:

    I’ve just started getting into restoring lever-fillers and I had wondered whether I ought to be shellacing sections – glad to know that I can carry on without! Thanks for an informative post.

    • I don’t say that there’s no situation in which shellac might be used. I’ve used it to build up a loose section, but I would never routinely shellac a section closed. That just unnecessarily increases the difficulty next time work has to be done on the pen. Good luck with restoration, Brian.

  5. Robert Johnson says:

    Some people are just naturally awkward, others work at it. Some leave me baffled. I sold a small Conway Stewart to someone in Eastern Europe, it hadnt been restored recently but had been my daily user, an ordinary little pen. I sent him a writing sample and we agreed a price. Thought no more about it until I get an email saying the pen doesnt work. My first thought was bad ink or paper, but he had tried all sorts of combinations. Told him to send it back and I would refund in full including postage, which I did. Pen worked perfectly and I sent him a vid to prove it, he said he couldnt understand it, no could I. Unless he just wanted to try out a Conway Stewart or buyers remorse.

    • Unfortunately I think the latter explanantion prevails in these instances, which are thankfully rare. It is annoying but it’s a part of sales that we must accept. As I said, I have no problem with someone sending back a pen, it’s when they justify doing so by being insulting that it rankles a bit.

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