The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword or How to Know When to Escalate an Issue (Customer Service Experience of Parker-Waterman Pens, by Ed Selender, 1/20/19)

As I related in my previous posts about Metro PCS, my long term frustration with Metro’s customer service (or lack thereof) drove me to to contact the CEO’s of both Metro and T-Mobile, Metro’s parent company (Metro PCS has since changed their name to Metro by T-Mobile). However, this was not the first time I made the decision to contact a company’s CEO over dissatisfaction with the company’s service (I actually contacted L.L. Bean’s CEO, to compliment L.L. Bean about their great customer service and got a very nice e-mail response from the grandson of the company’s founder).

The first time I made the decision to contact a company’s CEO, was about 3 ½ years earlier, in I believe June of 2014. The company in question was Newell Rubbermaid (now called Newell Brands, and founded in 1903 as Newell Company). According to the company’s website, www.newellbrands.com, , the company currently purports to sell products in close to 200 countries, comprises “over 150 brands across 8 global divisions,” and employees over 40,000 people.

According to wikipedia.org , Newell Brands’ revenue was close to 15 billion in 2017. The company’s CEO, at the time and now (and to whom I recently sent a second e-mail complaint) is Michael B. Polk. Per Wikipedia, Newell Brands’ diversified portfolio of products includes Rubbermaid “Rubbermaid food storage” containers, “Coleman outdoor products, “Kitchen electronics,” such as Sunbeam, Crock-Pot, and Mr. Coffee, Yankee Candles, and high-end writing instruments (pens), including Parker and Waterman.

As some of you who follow my blog and twitter site may know, I like collecting pens, and so it was over quality issues, with both Parker and Waterman pens, that I contacted Mr. Polk. Although I probably would not recommend contacting a company’s CEO all the time, I have gotten quick and positive responses in all three cases (two were to Mr. Polk).

I think it was a combination of factors that drove me to e-mail Mr. Polk. First, I felt that I received a very poor response when I contacted the customer service center’s supervisor. Secondly, I was more than a bit annoyed that the company kept insisting on their attention to quality, despite multiple serious quality issues I encountered with at least three of their high priced pens (the Waterman retails for about $150, and the first Parker pen I had issues with had a retail value of $300). Third, Parker initially lied to me, regarding the issue with the first Parker pen. Finally, when I was younger, my dad frequently would ask for a manager when calling a company to complain.

In any case, according to my records, from what I believe was my initial written complaint letter, on 7/24/14 (yes I still have a copy of the letter; at some point I plan to share, on this blog, copies of some of the letters, including the one I sent to Mr. Polk), to Newell Rubbermaid’s Parker/Waterman Service Center (at the time located in Wisconsin; I believe they are now in North Carolina), I had spoken in June to a Ms. Mary Boufford, a supervisor in Parker-Waterman’s SAS (Service After Sales Department, a misnomer if ever I heard one).

The problem with the Waterman pen, called a Carene (believe this is from a French word for sailing), was that a large section of the lacquer, on the top half of the pen, had completely worn away. The one I had was a green marble color called “Sea Green Shimmer” (Waterman has since discontinued this color). The problem with the Parker pen I had (called a blue checks Duofold, which had a beautiful blue marble pattern), was that large noticeable sections of the Platinum plated cap had worn away, and now had an unattractive red color- I believe the plating had rusted or oxidized).

When I placed a follow up call, on August 18, 2014, to the Service center, they lied about the Parker, stating one of the problems was that the twist mechanism was broken. This was patently false. Also, per an e-mail response I had received from Ms., Boufford, prior to the above call, Ms. Bouffard had advised: 1) I would have to pay $13 for Handling and Shipping of the replacement Waterman (after I had paid a significant amount of money – including shipping and insurance- to send both pens back to Parker-Waterman) and 2) the issue with Parker was an “oxidation (rust) issue, either due to excessive sweat or the use of a corrosive cleaning product,” and this was [NOT] a warrantee issue. 

As I stated in my e-mail to Mr. Polk: 1) I was “deeply offended at being told this [the rust] is not a ‘warrantee issue’ as this seems to me to be a ‘defect in materials’ and I am quite sure your [Parker’s] other customers would refrain from purchasing a $300 Parker whose surface will wear away within the warrantee period” and 2) “When I asked Ms. Boufford why I had to pay an additional $13.00 for a pen that was being replaced under warrantee (after spending $18.32 to send back the pens for repair), Ms. Boufford had no explanation whatsoever, nor did she offer to provide one. This is quite shameful.”

Within less than an hour after e-mailing Mr. Polk (I also copied someone else high up in the company), I received the following e-mail response from Ms. Boufford: Dear Mr. Selender, I am checking with our global repair center in France to see exactly what we can do for you regarding your pens.  I should have an answer on Tuesday or Wednesday.Pretty amazing how fast one can get a response when one e-mails the head of a company huh?

At any rate, based on my experience with coating issues, as described above, with Parker and Waterman pens, I asked Mr. Polk if, instead of replacing the $300 Parker, he would send me a Sterling Silver ballpoint pen, called the Sonnet, as the Sonnet was actually less expensive and was actual silver, NOT silver plated (so I reasoned I wouldn’t have issues with the Sonnet).

As it turned out, my complaint was forwarded to another representative, a Ms. Karine O’Neill (who identified herself as a Global SAS Consumer Service Representative), and who advised me, per an e-mailed dated September 2, 2014 that “in order to compensate for the inconvenience you have experienced, we will replace your Parker Duofold ballpoint pen by a Parker Sonnet ballpoint pen and remove the handling fee on the Waterman Carene pen as a gesture of goodwill and as an exception.

Below is a photo of the replacement Waterman Carene ballpoint and the Parker Cisele Sterling Silver Ballpoint Pen. I realize that it’s had to tell from the photo, as the Waterman is a dark green, but it truly has a nice marble pattern with varying shades of green,

20190121_092511.jpg

Believe it or not, less than six months later, the tip of the Sterling Silver Sonnet ballpoint pen just started popping off (quality issue number three). Did I mention that Ms. O’Neill stated, in her 9/2/14 e-mail that “I would like to assure you that our Company stands behind its products. The quality of our products is one key element to strengthen the image of our brands. We do pay an extreme attention to it.

This time, instead of e-mailing Mr. Polk, as: 1) Ms. O’Neill had actually tried to remedy my issues and 2) she had been so courteous in her e-mail, I decided to e-mail her instead of contacting Mr. Polk. This time, a Ms. Christiane Pinguaud (who also identified herself as being with Newell Rubbermaid’s – Parker/Waterman- Global SAS Consumer Service Center) e-mailed back, on February 2,2015, that: she had been transferred the chain of emails that were exchanged regarding your pen repairs. I would like to express my apologies and assure you that I am willing to find a positive outcome to the issues you are experiencing. Ms. Pinguaud also stated As a compensation to all of the inconvenience caused, I would be happy to offer you a matching PARKER SONNET SILVER CT roller ball pen or fountain pen (fine or medium nib) at no charge to you. Just let me know about your choice.”

In any case, this will probably sound a bit mercenary, but I ended up choosing the fountain pen, both because it is more expensive (at the time I believe this pen had a retail value of $375), and I had written with a fountain pen before, so thought I would truly enjoy having a new one.

To this day, I’m not sure if Ms. Pinguaud was just displaying good customer service or I had worn Parker down with all my complaint e-mails. In any case, I did send a “nice” e-mail to Ms. Pinguaud to express my gratitude (just so you guys will not think I’m a “blue meanie” -if you never saw the 1968 Beatles Yellow Submarine cartoon movie, the “blue meanies,” per Wikipedia.org , were “a fictional army of fierce though buffoonish music-hating beings and the main antagonists in the film”; I remember the silliest things- who just likes to complain; believe it or not, I hate having to send complaint e-mails).

And, to close this post, I would like to add I was right about liking the fountain pen. Problem is, after about two years of satisfaction with the Sterling Silver Sonnet fountain pen (which I reviewed in a prior post), I ended up having to e-mail Mr. Polk back because I ended up experiencing a serious quality issue with the fountain pen.Yes, this is for real. I plan to discuss the fountain pen issue, and how I got that resolved, in a future post.

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About edwardselender

I am a published writer who enjoys writing and sharing his opinions on all manner of subjects. My writing experience includes: 1) doing freelance writing, 2) having 45-50 letters to the editor (and some op-ed pieces) published in every major Connecticut newspaper in CT (New Haven Register, Hartford Courant, CT Post, Waterbury Republican American, as well as one piece in USA Today), 3) my master's thesis, and 4) writing and serving as associate editor on my alma mater UVa.'s daily paper The Cavalier Daily. Although I have a ton of writing experience, I am new at blogging. Some of the things I would like to blog about include: 1) my consumer experiences (both good and bad), as well as some consumer advice/advocacy, 2) pens (I collect good pens such as Pelikan, Waterman, and Parker), and 3) would like to post my letters/opinion pieces. In addition, I hope my blog will eventually serve as a forum for discussing and/or debating important issues of the day including public health, politics, sports, etc. I have a Master of Public Health degree, 13 years in health insurance, and over 2 1/2 years in human services. **** In honor of Dave Letterman's pending retirement, I will also be posting "Top Ten Lists" created by myself and in conjunction w/ my buddy (title of each list indicates authorship). ****
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2 Responses to The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword or How to Know When to Escalate an Issue (Customer Service Experience of Parker-Waterman Pens, by Ed Selender, 1/20/19)

  1. MG WELLS says:

    Thanks for sharing and enjoy the day.

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