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Swarovski service experience - part I

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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 15:23   #1
MandoBear
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Swarovski service experience - part I

I've been thinking long and hard about whether and how to make this post... The following happened a good few months ago, and it is history now. Nevertheless, I think other forum members may find my experience of interest.

My intention is not to attack Swarovski, as they are a company who I greatly respect and whose products I very much enjoy. However, my experiences illustrate that even the best companies can sometimes make mistakes and get things wrong – the very best still manage to make things right in the end.

In November 2018, I bought myself a pair of the new Companion CL 8x30s from my local Swarovski stockist – and I found them to be really very good. They don't displace my EL 8.5x42s, but when a lighter and more compact binocular is desired, they fit the bill very nicely. However, when observing a buzzard against the sky one dull afternoon in February 2019, I noticed a curved shadow in the field of view of one of the tubes. After a bit of examination, it was clear that it was internal: a short hair on one of the ocular lenses near to the field stop. I was able to photograph this – see attached photo. It hadn't been visible before, so I can only assume it got in during assembly and moved about inside during my use. Somewhat disappointing, but I figured it should be an easy fix for Swarovski. I had also noticed what looked like some very minor porosity in the casting of one of the tubes of the binoculars, so I photographed that (see second photo) and mentioned that to Swarovski as well. I duly printed off and filled in the return forms, boxed up the binoculars and sent them off to Swarovski UK who duly forwarded them to Absam in Austria. I got the confirmation of arrival, and that my binos would be fixed free of charge. No sweat, no bother.
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 15:26   #2
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Swarovski service experience - part II

After a few short weeks, my binoculars returned – very well packed as one might expect. I unboxed them carefully and inspected them with interest. The view was clean and clear, and both housings appeared to have been replaced, along with the armour. However, I was very disappointed to notice that the threaded rings retaining the objectives were both quite badly damaged and scratched. It was as if the service technician didn't have the correct tools available (unlikely) or that they hadn't been adequately trained to use them correctly. It was also evident that damage had been done both during disassembly and during reassembly. I then also noticed that one of the ocular lenses had a small scratch that hadn't been there when I sent the binos off. As a final observation, the adjustment of the central hinge tension was off – it was far too easy to move. I was very disappointed. Before returning the binoculars for a second time, I rang up Swarovski and spoke to a very helpful and apologetic assistant who listened carefully to the problems I described (and sounded quite shocked at my description of the problems). I said that as the binoculars had been in pristine condition (and only 3 months old when I sent them in), I would really prefer to be sent a new replacement pair, and she said that she would ask that this be done. I boxed my binos up and sent them off – again...

Sidenote #1... at about this time, my wife and I were preparing to move house: scheduled for early May. We were now into March, and I could have done without this additional complication.

Sidenote #2... it looks as if Swarovski had made a slight change to the interior of the housings – there was an extended ribbed section inside the new housings – perhaps to assist with better suppression of stray light. Interesting to see the design evolve quietly without any announcement of a new, improved “Mk II” version.
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 15:28   #3
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Swarovski service experience - part III

As before, I received the usual confirmations of receipt, and that the repair would be handled free of charge. I also emailed Swarovski to re-assert that I would prefer to have my binoculars replaced with a new pair – given the apparent damage they had received during their previous repair. Contrary to what I was told over the telephone, I was informed that it wasn't their policy to exchange binoculars, but they would be fully overhauled and “renewed” and thoroughly checked by the head of their quality control department before being sent out. I was only somewhat reassured by this (given my previous experience), but I had little option but to wait and see. Swarovski also said that by way of apology and as a gesture of goodwill they would send me one of their Swarovski woollen jackets if I would let them know what size I was. A very nice gesture, and much appreciated – these jackets are NOT cheap!

In due course, my binoculars returned and I opened the box with a combination of anticipation and trepidation. The good news: the hinge tension was now much firmer, and the screwed, objective retaining rings had been replaced with new ones – fitted correctly. The scratched ocular lens had also been replaced – but only the one that had been damaged was replaced, and it was obviously from a different production batch – the colour of the multicoating was distinctly different from the lens on the other side. Hmm... that was kind of disappointing. Then I had a quick look through the tubes – there appeared to be a bit of dirt inside, so I got my torch out and had a proper look; shining the light down inside each tube. I was quite shocked by what I saw – there was a significant film of dust on the lenses inside both tubes – apparently on the focusing lenses behind the objectives. You can see this in the attached photos. It looked like someone had left the disassembled binoculars lying about in the workshop whilst someone had been putting up some shelves or doing some DIY nearby. I mean, it was nice to have nice Swarovski woollen jacket, but what I really wanted right now was to have my binoculars back in factory-fresh condition, as they had been when I had sent them off in the first instance – but without the internal hair that had been the cause of the initial problem. I felt really let down and disappointed by Swarovski, and I was thinking to myself that maybe I should have opted the Nikon Monarch HG 8x30s that had been the other option at the top of my 8x30 shortlist after all...
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 15:30   #4
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Swarovski service experience - part IV - The conclusion...

In the meantime, I had more of a pressing problem. I was due to move house in a couple of weeks' time and I could really do with getting this issue sorted out before then. What to do?

I decided to reach out to my original Swarovski dealer in Worcester from whom I'd bought the binoculars to see if he could help. I gave him a call and explained the situation, and I emailed him some of the photos I'd taken to show the after-effects of both repairs. I explained that, really at this stage, I either wanted a brand new, pristine pair of CL 8x30s, or a refund. Within a few hours, the dealer phoned me back, telling me he'd been in contact with Swarovski UK, and they'd authorised him to take back my repaired binoculars (and send them back to Swaro UK for examination) and replace that pair with a new pair from his stock – which would also give me the opportunity to try a few examples and pick the pair I was happiest with. A couple of days later, at the weekend, that is just what I did, and I was able to pick a new pair which actually seemed discernibly better than my original pair – they just have a little bit extra definition and positive “snap” into focus. This new pair also have the additional ribbing inside the housings, behind the objective lenses – it seems to have been a “silent” design improvement to better control stray light.

A good few months down the line, and I have been using my CL Companion 8x30s quite a bit; taking them with me on longer walks when I don't want the weight and bulk of my 8.5x42 EL SVs, and they are a really nice binocular. No, they aren't as good as the SVs, but when I'm out using them, I don't feel like I'm missing out on much, and they are quite a bit lighter and more convenient. They are a thoroughly enjoyable binocular to use, and I'm (now) very satisfied with them indeed. Incidentally, I can also recommend the Swarovski woollen jacket – I've been wearing it a lot lately – it's made for Swarovski by a Swedish company called Woolpower.

This whole experience does leave me with some questions, in terms of how Swarovski went wrong with the repair of my binoculars, not once, but twice. To me, it would seem to indicate a lack of care and/or training in their service department at that time (February-April 2019) – especially as the second time around, my binoculars were supposedly checked by their head of quality control. In both cases, the defects were readily visible to me with no special training or equipment – just a decent torch and a pair of Mk. I eyeballs. Ultimately, they, or rather Swarovski UK in conjunction with my dealer in Worcester, did make it right in the end, and I now have the very good pair of CL Companions I should have had all along.

As I stated when I started this post, it's not my intention to bash Swarovski – I think they're a great company producing some first-rate products – but it's not enough to have a great reputation; that reputation has to vigilantly maintained by providing the very best service, and I think they missed the mark here. They were “saved” by a combination of my excellent local dealer (a shout out to Brian at The Birder's Store in Worcester, who was really great) and to Swarovski UK who cut through the “binocular ping-pong” and promptly authorised a direct exchange to resolve the problem.

Incidentally, a few years ago I had to send my Leica Trinovid 8x20 BCAs back to Leica in Solms, Germany for some internal cleaning under warranty – when they came back, it looked as though the service technician had sneezed over the inside of one of the objective lenses. They had to go back and were returned second time round perfectly clean – but with not even an apology.

Last edited by MandoBear : Monday 13th January 2020 at 15:39.
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 15:55   #5
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Thanks for that MandoBear.

Even top companies don't always get it right.

With servicing it basically comes down to the skill of the individual technician doing the job, and time pressure.

Regards,
B.
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 21:55   #6
tenex
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Originally Posted by MandoBear View Post
This new pair also have the additional ribbing inside the housings, behind the objective lenses – it seems to have been a “silent” design improvement to better control stray light.
Interesting, thanks for noting that. And I'm glad things worked out right in the end, although the overall process was less than reassuring.

I've had a flawless experience with Leica service (two really, one with an old camera) and a more frustrating one like yours with Zeiss myself. Actually, another perfect one with Swarovski also: a purely cosmetic problem, but the plastic(!) hinge covers on the SLC 56s tend to show marks of abrasion, presumably just from factory assembly, making them look worn when brand new. (Roger Vine has noted this also.) I grudgingly accepted this on my 15x, but it looked so bad on my 10x that I complained to Swaro USA who promptly sent me a replacement. (You'd think they'd figure out this problem and fix it. It's a strange thing to find on an alpha bino whose quality is otherwise superb.)
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Old Tuesday 14th January 2020, 07:26   #7
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Hello MandoBear,

Glad to see that you finally had your problem sorted out.
Service like that , (even if it took a few tries) , simply does not happen in my country.
Enjoy your replacement binocular.

Cheers.
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Old Tuesday 14th January 2020, 10:16   #8
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Mando
So sorry to hear about this but glad you got sorted eventually.

Please allow me to be a smart alec and say that, since the original problems were clearly there before you even bought the binos I would have taken the binos back to the dealer on the basis that you had been sold binos unfit for purpose and requested an exchange. I would only resort to warranty support for something that arises out of use of the binocular after some time. Anything defect present at the time of sale is the responsibility of the seller, at least in the UK.

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Old Tuesday 14th January 2020, 12:26   #9
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Lee,
As ever, hindsight is generally 20:20. And, were I to go through this process again (which I hope I don't ever have to) I would almost certainly approach the retailer as my first option - especially with my new knowledge of how good this particular retailer is. However, the defect only became obvious some three months after purchase - even though, logically, the defect of the errant hair must have been present inside the binoculars from the moment they were assembled in Austria.

The crucial thing is that the problem was eventually resolved satisfactorily - and before I was due to move house... And that was another "interesting" experience - which also eventually resolved satisfactorily.
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Old Tuesday 14th January 2020, 13:33   #10
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Well written account of your experience, MB, and I'm glad it worked out in the end. I'm wondering if there's an acute shortage of qualified binocular service technicians. The repair errors made on your CL 8x30s seem more the handiwork of trainees than journeymen.
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Old Tuesday 14th January 2020, 16:50   #11
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As has been said before I think we are all pleased to hear that you got it sorted eventually. I should add that in such cases the retailer is the person initially responsible for the repair/replacement of your binoculars within the period of any guarantee or if there is no guarantee a reasonable period of time for the product concerned, in this instance certainly the first year. 20/20 hindsight but worth knowing when retailers wash their hands of things.

I do have to dive in and say that on the occasions I have had cause to contact Swarovski both under their lifetime guarantee and issues that were of my own making they have been brilliant and absolutely beyond reproach.
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Old Tuesday 14th January 2020, 19:01   #12
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Well, excellent that you finally got a result. But what a hassle, just reading it makes me tired.

After buying my EL SV 10x40s a few years ago, I did shine a torch through them. Only two or three tiny specks of dust, and not on the oculars. I decided not to bother checking them again! There's no way that what I saw could affect the view and I content myself I have some of the very best bins around and nothing is absolutely perfect. I used to fuss over the tiniest optical "defect" in the 1980s, and it wasn't worth it.

Your problems were of an entirely different order, of course. I reckon that taking items back to the dealer you got them from is probably the best option. In 1990 I bought a pair of Habicht 10x40s. After a few weeks the focusing developed maybe a millimetre of slack. I didn't really know what was acceptable and it didn't affect their usability. I ended up taking them to another dealer (In Focus, north London) who was easier to get to during lunchtime from work, asking if they could tighten them up. The sales guy had his own Habicht 10x40s on the counter and handed them to me. "Mine are just the same" he said, and they were. I felt mildly foolish and said that well, if it's to be expected.. "No no, you want them fixed, it's perfectly reasonable, we can take care of that!". Got a call about 2 weeks later saying they were ready for collection. I'd assumed In Focus had a workroom and would do it themselves, but no, they'd been to Austria and back. No charge.

The focusing wheel was now perfect, and stayed that way the whole time I had them, which was 25 years. I did find a work slip in the box with the word (I think) Reklamation! (complaint). So the guy in Austria was surprised that someone could complain about such a minor issue.

So yes, take bins back to the shop in the first instance. But I'm surprised by your lousy experience. We don't hear about many negative experiences with Swarovski, which is why your tale has gathered interest. Maybe an employee will get to see it. I think there's someone from Zeiss who looks at BF from time to time, or used to at least.

Let's hope this is the last time you'll need to report such an experience.
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Old Tuesday 14th January 2020, 19:41   #13
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Yes indeed, I hope that's "it". As I've said, my intention is not to denigrate or attack Swarovski, but to report what happened, as I felt others might find it of interest.
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Old Friday 17th January 2020, 12:59   #14
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Well, excellent that you finally got a result. But what a hassle, just reading it makes me tired.

After buying my EL SV 10x40s a few years ago, I did shine a torch through them. Only two or three tiny specks of dust, and not on the oculars. I decided not to bother checking them again! There's no way that what I saw could affect the view and I content myself I have some of the very best bins around and nothing is absolutely perfect. I used to fuss over the tiniest optical "defect" in the 1980s, and it wasn't worth it.

Your problems were of an entirely different order, of course. I reckon that taking items back to the dealer you got them from is probably the best option. In 1990 I bought a pair of Habicht 10x40s. After a few weeks the focusing developed maybe a millimetre of slack. I didn't really know what was acceptable and it didn't affect their usability. I ended up taking them to another dealer (In Focus, north London) who was easier to get to during lunchtime from work, asking if they could tighten them up. The sales guy had his own Habicht 10x40s on the counter and handed them to me. "Mine are just the same" he said, and they were. I felt mildly foolish and said that well, if it's to be expected.. "No no, you want them fixed, it's perfectly reasonable, we can take care of that!". Got a call about 2 weeks later saying they were ready for collection. I'd assumed In Focus had a workroom and would do it themselves, but no, they'd been to Austria and back. No charge.

The focusing wheel was now perfect, and stayed that way the whole time I had them, which was 25 years. I did find a work slip in the box with the word (I think) Reklamation! (complaint). So the guy in Austria was surprised that someone could complain about such a minor issue.

So yes, take bins back to the shop in the first instance. But I'm surprised by your lousy experience. We don't hear about many negative experiences with Swarovski, which is why your tale has gathered interest. Maybe an employee will get to see it. I think there's someone from Zeiss who looks at BF from time to time, or used to at least.

Let's hope this is the last time you'll need to report such an experience.
I think there's someone from Zeiss who looks at BF from time to time, or used to at least. There is....
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