Much has been written on the importance of buying well made goods, especially wardrobe workhorses like suits and shoes. Indeed, it’s likely that too much has been written on this one aspect of #menswear alone.
While it is of unquestionable importance to seek out quality in whatever accoutrements you require, the conscientious consumer must turn his mind to secondary considerations like customer service and brand warranties if he is to avoid disappointment with his purchases down the road. This couldn’t be truer in our era of ecommerce. I’d wager that most #menswear enthusiasts now do at least some of their shopping online, and whether that’s on eBay or through established online businesses - it comes with inherent risks. One of those risks is that the vendor won’t service or otherwise stand behind the product they sell you should a problem develop.
Of course one could encounter this problem when dealing with a brick-and-mortar retailer, but in my experience retailers physically rooted in a community are more responsive to the needs of their clientele. If you purchase a pair of shoes from the haberdasher downtown, and you return to the shoppe some time later bringing a latent defect in the shoe’s construction to the attention of the shoppe’s manager, it would be unusual not to receive some sort of compensation. Had you purchased the same shoes, with the same defect, online you may not be so lucky.
I recently had an experience that made me reflect on these and other concerns. A couple years ago now I bought a pair of Loake boots online. I purchased them “new” and in box, but from an eBay retailer based in the UK. Despite my best efforts looking after them, and even resoling them, a nasty hole developed in the upper of one of the boots. Though I had gotten good use out of them I expected more from this historic Northhamptonshire boot maker. With no “store” to return them to I had only the brand’s reputation to lean on for assistance. Accordingly I boxed them up, and sent them back to the factory.
I had no receipt. No warranty card. I couldn’t even say I bought them from an “authorized dealer”. My only currency was a thoughtfully written letter. The approach was simple and straightforward: I explained that I had thoroughly enjoyed wearing the boots, but had hoped to get more than two years use out of them.
Several weeks after I sent off my package I received an email from a gentleman at Loake named Oliver who was sympathetic to my troubles, and agreed that my boots must have been defective. He offered to replace them with a new pair. No further questions asked. No further charges. Now this is how a company stands behind its products.
My experience with Loake was a very tangible example of the enduring benefits of buying from bona fide #menswear brands. Could I have found Chelsea boots online for less than I paid for my Loakes? Sure, but had those down-market boots worn out prematurely I doubt even the most eloquent letter writing campaign would have generated a replacement pair. This unhappy occurrence would then result in me buying two pairs of poor quality boots, when I should have just bought a proper pair in the first instance. In this latter scenario the high street brand isn’t such a bargain after all.
As was recently observed over at A Suitable Wardrobe, #menswear fungibility is a myth. We pay more for products from reputable and established #menswear brands because they are better or different from the cut-rate competition. Cynics will always say that the discerning consumer needlessly pays more just for “the brand” – but if paying for “the brand” means that years after I make my purchase “the brand” will continue to provide me with prompt, courteous and in this case generous customer service, I think “the brand” is a pretty good long-term value.
So as tempting as it may be when you’re cruising eBay to zero-in on the most competitively priced version of the shoe, bag or jacket you desire – it is always worth a pause to consider what recourse you’d have if the article is defective or otherwise doesn’t live up to your expectations.