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March 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 25, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Where’s Your Customer Service, Scubapro?

a reader’s detailed 30-minute video is met with silence

from the March, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Undercurrent reader Richard Welk (Moodus, CT) had problems with his new Scubapro BCD. Having used Scubapro gear nearly exclusively for 30 years, he made a 36-minute video last summer, with his wife holding the camera and him comparing his trusty Scubapro STAB jacket to his new Classic Plus. “There’s no sleight of hand, we’re not lawyers or tricksters,” Welk said on camera while standing in front of his garage, surrounded by his dive gear. “We’re just trying to show the problem with my new BC.”

Welk, a big man, bought a new Classic Plus in XL, the same size as his old STAB jacket. He went through two that didn’t fit right, then his dive shop owner put him in an XL Classic Plus. Again no dice, and BCs in size large were too small. Welk believes Scubapro has shortened the backpack and lowered it too far down on the bladder. He measured the difference from the top of the backpack to the top of the BC for each. It’s 3.5 inches for the STAB jacket, and eight inches for the Classic Plus, a difference of 4.5 inches. This was all in his video, which he sent to both Scubapro and its parent company, Johnson International, in August. He might as well have tossed it in the trash can. He got no response from either party.

So in November, Welk e-mailed Scubapro and got a response from Jules Ganier in technical services. He had never heard of the video Welk made, so he asked Welk to send photos. After review, Ganier made suggestions to Welk as to how he might use the BC, which Welk said didn’t help. And it didn’t address his issues with sizing.

In an e-mail, Ganier asked, “What do you think the proper resolution for this issue would be?” Welk replied, “I am convinced my new BC is an XXL, and any tweaking would just be compensating for the wrong size. All I want is a BC in this style that fits me properly.” Welk didn’t hear back from anyone afterwards.

In January, we e-mailed Ganier to find out whether Welk had a bead on a problem. The same day, we got a call from Scubapro’s general manager, Mario Valenzuela, and product manager Brad Lally. They said our e-mail was the first they had heard about Welk, his problem or his video. “We changed the style in this particular jacket in 2000, and this is the first time we’ve encountered this kind of problem,” Valenzuela said. “He should have contacted us here to begin with instead of Johnson Outdoors. It’s a big company so God knows where the video ended up.”

Easier said than done. In the “Contact Us” section of Scubapro-Uwatec’s website, it says most questions are answered in its FAQ section, or by contacting your local dealer. Otherwise, you can only e-mail Scubapro via its website. Scubapro-Uwatec lists addresses for its global offices but no telephone numbers or names for executives or department managers. Members of the press also have to fill out the online e-mail form (we found it funny that on Scubapro-Uwatec’s website for British users, the “Press” page only consists of filler text in Latin).

Scubapro is not the only gear maker that plays hard-to-get with its customers. Mares has no contact info on its website, and you have to dig deep into the website of its owner, sporting-goods maker Head, to find contact info for corporate headquarters in Norwalk, CT. Tusa, owned by Japanese company Tabata, only has a “Contact Us” e-mail form on its website. Oceanic and Aqua Lung are better -- both list their U.S. addresses and phone numbers. You can call and have a live operator transfer you to the right person; Oceanic’s phone directory sends you straight to sales, customer service or technical support. What’s so hard about listing a phone number, Scubapro? You’re based in California; divers with concerns won’t mind paying for a long-distance call.

After speaking with us, Scubapro offered a full refund on the Classic Plus but Welk turned it down. “I would much rather Scubapro get me a BC that fits like my old Scubapro BC, as I do not want to go to another company.” Lally e-mailed Welk offering their new Classic Unlimited, which they thought might resolve the problem. He offered to ship it FedEx and take back the Classic Plus. If Welk’s not satisfied with that fit, Scubapro will refund the cost of the ClassicPlus.

Welk accepted the offer, but he’s still miffed that no one looked at his video or sent him any acknowledgment, and that he had to keep calling and calling. “I’ve been a customer for 30 years. You can’t turn your back on the people who made your company. I’ve been unemployed for a year and I’m still buying their gear. Even if they sent me a letter saying I was full of shit, at least they would have acknowledged me.” Still, he says, “More than anything else, I want to remain with Scubapro.”

Welk went above and beyond what other dissatisfied customers would do, and he has a point: If a devoted guy like him can’t get through, who can?

- - Vanessa Richardson

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