The immeasurable value of customer friendly policies

A while back we bought a duvet cover from Brooklinen based on, of course, a glowing Wirecutter review. We’ve been happy with it (it’s super comfy!), but sometime in the last couple months the teeniest, tiniest of holes appeared in it.

This wasn’t a big deal, but this tiny hole could eventually turn into a big gaping tear sometime in the future, so I wanted to get it fixed up. Thankfully, Brooklinen offers a lifetime warranty.

I sent them an email with a few details, and with zero fuss we had brand new replacement duvet sent to us for free. And on top of that, they told me to just keep the torn one so I didn’t have the hassle of shipping it back.

And with just that one small interaction, they’d secured me as a customer for life. The product is great, their service was outstanding, and the prices are fair (especially given how they stand behind their products). Why would I even bother shopping around in the future when they’ve done right by me in every way?

In absolute terms they lost a bit of money on this single transaction with me. But beyond the short term, they’ve setup potentially thousands of dollars of future sales from both me and word of mouth goodwill. I know I’ll be back for sure.

On the flip side, I recently ordered a couple pillows from Tempurpedic. They’re a well known brand in the bedding space and on the high end of the price scale.

I honestly didn’t think much about their warranty and return policy when I bought the pillows. I had just come off the Brooklinen experience and just kind of assumed a high-end brand like Tempurpedic would be as good if not better on the customer service front.

I gave the pillows an honest shot for about a week, but they just weren’t for me. There was nothing defective or wrong with them, but I found them uncomfortable. I decided to return them.

Wups! Their return policy clearly states that they don’t accept any kind of returns on pillows.

Now to be clear, this is 100% my fault for not checking the return policy before buying. And this also isn’t a product defect. They are well within their rights as a company to have a policy like this to protect their business. Objectively I have no problem with any of that.

But subjectively I was surprised and a little irritated. It left a bad taste in my mouth, especially coming off the Brooklinen experience and knowing they have a far more generous return policy (as do Leesa, Casper, and others in their industry). Surely they could be more lenient with this policy to take care of their customers?

Now could I have emailed them and finagled my way into a refund? Yeah, probably. But it hardly seemed worth the effort. From just reading their policy, I got the feeling — right or wrong — that emailing with them was probably going to be a huge pain in the ass. I didn’t bother.

All said and done, I doubt I’ll ever buy another Tempurpedic product again. I wasn’t really happy with the product and on paper the company didn’t seem to really care if I was happy. Why would I ever support this company again with my dollars?

They landed $80 from me this one time, but it sure seems like they missed out on a long-term relationship with a customer.

At Basecamp we try to be ultra-clear about our refunds. Yeah, we’re not making multi-thousand-dollar physical products, but treating customers the right way and making them happy is our golden rule.

We’re happy to make our customers happy. 😃

And beyond what our public policy says, there is a singular philosophy that we follow when helping out customers at Basecamp: if you have even the slightest doubt on what to do, just do right by the customer. The trust and respect we gain by making a customer happy — even if it means “losing” a few bucks today — is immeasurably more valuable in the long run.

In-store good vs. At-home good

Do you know what you’re getting?

A number of years ago we bought a new bath tub for our master bathroom. The tub looked something like this:

This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful life.

Man it looked great in the store. SO GREAT. It was luscious. Just look at it. So we bought it.

We couldn’t use the tub until the full bathroom rennovation was done. But once it was, I remember being so excited to try it out that first night. So I filled it up with piping hot water, tossed in some silly bath salts, and got ready to luxuriate.

The first thing I remember was that I couldn’t get comfortable. The sides were sloped in a way that forced me to slide down, vs sit up. I wanted to sit up, but I couldn’t. Or, I should say, if I put my arms outside the tub to hold on I could, but then only half of my body would be in the water. So I’d have this weird mix of hot and cold. It wasn’t right.

Then I noticed that the water was cooling off quite a bit faster than I’d expected. Ah ha, the tub was wide and shallow which meant a lot of surface area for heat to dissipate. Not good. The only remedy was to fill the thing with scalding hot water so it would stay hotter longer, but I was aiming for a soak, not a burn.

Then I realized what happened. We were duped. We bought something that was in-store good, not at-home good.

This happens a lot. The more sensational the claims, the more features on the box, the more something promises to do, the more likely you are to buy something in-store good. It looks great on the floor, it looks amazing in the showroom, the demo’s impressive, but once you remove it from the perfect setting, the perfect lighting, the “I need it” moment, it fails to deliver when you actally get it home.

Now, wait… Couldn’t I have gotten in the tub at the showroom to get a sense of the slope? Wouldn’t I have noticed I’d have slid down the side? In theory yes, but in practice no. You can’t exactly try a tub at a showroom, unless you take baths with clothes on. A clothed body (esp one with grippy shoes on or a belt that creates friction) hugs a curve much differently than a wet, naked, slippery one does. And the heat dissipation part really had to be experienced to even be considered. It just wasn’t something I thought about.

So, now when I buy things I think about them differently. Whenever I’m driven to make an over-enthusiastic purchase, I stop. Why am I so excited about this? Is it the presentation or the product? How’s this going to transition from showroom to living room? What am I going to be doing with this thing? Is it the same as how I’m experiencing it at the store?

So it’s not that an in-store product is bad. In fact it’s very good! It’s just good in the wrong way and wrong place (for you). Making something in-store good is easy. But we don’t live in controlled environments dripping with psychological, consumerism traps. Aim for at-home good.