Cold Snap in NC: Customer Service Can Make or Break a Business

I guess the disclaimer here is that I wouldn’t be writing this post if mother nature had just kept delivering warm nights for the remainder of this mild winter in the south.  And that at least part of what I am about to explain is my fault for assuming she would.

Customer Service makes or breaks a business

A month ago, when I decided to attempt a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, I decided to purchase an Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt instead of a more traditional sleeping bag. Most of the previous and upcoming thru hikers seemed to favor them for their quality, price, and lightness of their quilts.

Given the mild winter in the south and my desire to keep my gear as light as possible, I decided to order a 30 degree, 6 foot long, standard width quilt in purple and yellow.

In a moment of panic I called Enlightened Equipment a week after purchasing, asking for them to rush the order.  I feared the lead time of 2 to 4 weeks was going to land closer to 4, which would mean I would be on the trail before it was ready.

The gentleman I spoke with was very accommodating and assured me the quilt would be completed that day and would ship the next business day. And that’s what happened. Amazing. I’ve been singing their praises since.

Friday Night at Trey Mountain Shelter

It was cold and windy. Temperatures dropped to somewhere in the 20s. It was at this time I realized 3 things: my Enigma Quilt was too short, too narrow, and not warm enough for the situation I had thrown myself into just days prior.

So sometime around 3:30am I decided two things: I was going to spend the next night in a hotel or hostel and I needed to order a warmer and better fitting quilt. My cold fingers got to work on my mobile and 30 minutes later I had a room booked in Hiawasee, Georgia, and a new quilt ordered from Enlightenend Equipment. 10 degrees warmer, 6 inches longer, and wider. And $395 vs the $255 for my original. I was not upset to spend that money given how cold I was when trying to sleep that night on Trey Mountain.
I left a note with the order explaining where I was and how badly I needed a new quilt to continue my journey. This was Friday night and I figured best case I would hear from them on Monday since they are a small but growing company. I also replied to the order confirmation email explaining the same, to make sure they noticed.

“Whaaaa whaaa..” (sad trombone)

They either didn’t notice or didn’t care. After taking a zero day on Sunday me, Scooby, and Pogo (current hiking buddies) set out for the NC/GA border and beyond. Outside of town, I lost my mobile signal and it remained lost for most of the day.

Once my phone finally found a signal in the afternoon, I checked my email and had not received a reply to my plea for quickness and expedited service. So I gave them a call to see what could be done.

Turns out nothing. Nothing at all. As in, it will be 2-4 weeks until we complete your order.  “Man, I really need this quilt. I’m already on the trail. 2-4 weeks doesn’t work at all. I’ve now spent nearly $700 with you in the last 3 weeks. You rushed my previous order.”

No dice. The kind but unwilling customer service representative said they were unable to push my order along any faster than 2-4 weeks. I was a little shocked. I am fairly certain Enlightened Equipment has enjoyed so much success because they worked hard to please their early customers, in addition to pumping out a quality product. I thought perhaps they were kindred spirits and would hear the plea of a fellow hiker in need of a quick solution they could most certainly provide.

Instead, I was speaking to a company who has apparently transcended the need to build their reputation any further or in need of my additional $395.  There was no compassion for my plight.

I said reluctantly that I would need a refund if they couldn’t deliver this week and the service representative did not hesitate for an instant before agreeing to cancel my order, even when I mentioned I would be forced to buy a different brand quilt.

Did he not realize he had just lost a customer for life? Do they even care? My impression was no, they didn’t seem to care about giving up $395 in sales for a 2nd time (in 3 weeks) customer.

I’m going to preach now

Let me tell you something. In my previous business, customer service was #1. Above all, make the customer happy. Even if it means extra work and fitting a circular peg into a square hole. We would spin up resources to address customer needs because we understood that in these moments of need we won or lost customers for life.

Most of my purchases for my hike were from the cottage industry. Companies like Zpacks stand behind their products for the duration of my thru hike. I assumed Enlightened Equipment would similarly be there for me when I was trying to purchase additional equipment from them while on my journey.

Instead, I am now seeking a new brand of quilt and a company who is ready to deliver said quilt within a few days, even if it is a custom order.

I lost my internet and mobile signal right after my call with Enlightened Equipment. So I haven’t been able to research their competitors, yet. Instead I set here after another cold night of rain, wind, and eventually snow, writing this blog post offline in an attempt to forget that my ass and hands are freezing right now.

I’m open to suggestions on alternative quilt brands, if anyone has an opinion.

I wish this was a blog blog post about how Enlightened Equipment answered my call and was going to deliver a new quilt this week. Instead, you get a cautionary tale in lackluster customer service. Or, how to lose a customer for lifE.

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Comments 86

  • Joe : Mar 14th

    Long Story Short: You made a mistake and demanded the company bend over backwards to accommodate you, asking them to delay other customer’s orders to fix your problem. You got mad when they didn’t. Did I leave anything out?

    You KNEW there was a lead time. Just because you are on the AT does not mean that they are obligated to answer to your every demand. The fact that they did it once should make you grateful. You stated yourself you know they are a small company without a 24/7 customer service department. I see nothing wrong with the way this was handled by EE.

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 14th

      I guess you skipped the disclaimer where I owned that part about not planning correctly. I needed help and they denied me. It is fair for me to point this out as much as it is for you to point out I wanted a little favoritism…Not because I am a thru hiker, but as a returning customer. None the less I respect your point of view.

      • Fremont : Mar 18th

        Did you stop to consider WHY a previously attentive company was unable to bail you out? Perhaps their quality product is in demand by people who planned appropriately? Sucks it got colder than you expected, not their fault, and I’m sure they’re working as quickly as possible to fill many orders given the time of year.
        Your post comes across a bit like a hatchet job on EE, and you come across like the “entitled thru-hiker” you will undoubtedly hear more about as you travel north.
        Be safe, enjoy your hike.

    • Jack : Mar 18th

      The Trek looks foolish here.
      TIM MARSHALL : MAR 15TH
      This happens every year. Some guy plans the biggest trip of his life that will take him months to complete and he waits to order a quilt until two weeks before he leaves. He never uses the quilt on a shakedown trip, he has never even slept in a quilt before, and when he realizes he needs a bigger, longer warmer quilt he gets mad at us because we won’t built it over night and send it to him on the trail before he returns the original to us.

      I talked with my customer service guys (both of them) today to find out what happened. We didn’t rush your first order as you think we did. We just made it really fast. In mid Feb we were cutting out quilts today that were ordered yesterday. We didn’t change our posted lead times because we eventually added in some stock so we could build quilts to have on the shelf, so you don’t have to wait for them (we had lots of 20* long/wide on the shelf March 10 when you instead ordered a custom quilt with a 2-4 week lead time). So even though you think we rushed Quilt 1 and that some how means we must now rush all quilts we in fact didn’t rush it, you just timed it perfectly and it got made really fast. Now it’s into March, the busiest month of the year for us (lead times over 8 weeks last year at this time) and we are now building quilts closer to 3-4 weeks due to high order volumes. We are never willing to rush any quilt. No one customer is more important than any other customer and we will never put someone who ordered ahead of you behind you, never. You can’t pay us to skip the line, ever. You must wait your turn, or buy from the quilts that we have on the shelf and ready to ship. We have tons of quilts ready to ship, and a warehouse page full of ready to ship quilts added each Monday.

      You waited too long to order, took an untested system on the biggest trip of your life, and now expect that we just take care of it all for you by moving you the top of our list, ridiculous. Your 2nd order came in after 5PM on a Friday, we don’t work nights or weekends, we want our employees to have a life too. You are mad it took 4 days to get a hold of us, lets count: 1-Firday after hours, 2-Saturday, 3-Sunday, 4-Monday before noon central time. Please don’t think that we had just your 1 email in our inbox Monday morning but instead of answering it we just let it sit there, watching the clock tick on by. We have hundreds of customers contact us each weekend and we have to take time to respond to every single one of them, in the order they were received. Everyone matters to us equally, we don’t, won’t, shan’t and can’t give thru-hikers special treatment no matter how entitled you think you are to it.

      As far as refunding your order goes, should we have not refunded you? Once you told us you couldn’t wait and you needed to get something else we were more than happy to refund your money so you could do so. Were you expecting the threat of losing the sale to get you what you wanted? People try to pull this all the time; if we can’t get you what you need we understand that you need to get it somewhere else. We aren’t afraid of you buying from them, or so desperate for the sale that we will do anything to keep it. We won’t do something for you that we wouldn’t do for someone else. If we rush one we have to rush all, if we rush them all whose gets done first?

      I’m sorry that you found yourself in this situation, it’s not fun, but it’s very self inflicted. This is what happens to the world when you stop having winners and losers and just hand out participation ribbons. You have to recognize your responsibility in your situation and not expect the world to scramble around you to make it all better.

      I hope your Zpacks works out, Joe is a good guy. As much as you don’t plan to do business with us in the future we also plan not to do business with you. Your reaction to this situation is just ridiculous and childish.

      -Tim Marshall
      Founder : Enlightened Equipment

      • Lee : Mar 18th

        Well said Tim. Seems like a case of self-inflicted errors. The entitled attitude of the author is quite childish and off-putting. No one owes you anything for your own completely preventable errors.

      • North Country Outdoor Guys : Mar 18th

        Tim,

        Bravo! Brilliant response! Heading to your website!

        P.S. Participation trophies, so true.

        • Adrienne : Mar 18th

          Ooooooohhhh!!!!! Solid response from the company.

      • Lucky : Mar 18th

        I used an enlightened equipment quilt from GA-PA in 2016 and lived every night I spent in it! I ordered both of my quilts months in advance and had great… amazing customer service when part of my quilt broke (a bottom around the neck came off).

        I can’t believe the entitlement here from this hiker, and I think your response is entirely appropriate.

        I’ve bought from EE, I’ve bought from zpacks, I’ve bought from six moon designs, I’ve bought from ULA, I’ve bought from a number of other cottage manufacturers, and will continue to do so. Thanks for all you do.

      • Liz : Mar 19th

        Boy, I really dislike the attitude of the company founder. Won’t be purchasing from this company ever. I am still “old school” and expect a grateful attitude, no matter what. I have run a successful company for 25 years and would NEVER even consider posting a comment lime that. Your responses makes you look small and petty to me. Good luck with that!

      • Ryan Hahn : Mar 19th

        Well said, Tim. I love this site but this article should not have been published, or at the least published under a different title. You guys put out some amazing products. I myself don’t own one of your quilts but I have friends that do and love them. People need to understand the wait times are because you are making a custom product. If this man had planned properly he would have known that the quilt was not right. If it were me and I was planning a 2,000 mile thru hike I would have ordered this item WELL before my start date.

      • Zach : Mar 19th

        Hey there-

        Zach Davis here, the owner and editor-in-chief of The Trek.

        Just wanted to quickly chime in. Enlightened Equipment makes a great product, a fact that’s been reinforced through our extensive thru-hiker survey, where it was found to be the most popular sleeping bag or quilt on the AT (https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/the-top-sleeping-bags-on-the-appalachian-trail-2016-thru-hiker-survey/), featured in our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide (https://thetrek.co/2016-backpackers-holiday-gift-guide-200/), as well as my current backpacking go-to (https://thetrek.co/my-wonderland-trail-thru-hike-gear-list/).

        We are not in the business of censoring our Bloggers’ opinions. Jim offered a thorough explanation of why he was unsatisfied with the customer service experience he received, from which readers can decide whether they find his criticism to be fair or not.

    • Second Shift : Mar 18th

      I really wish the trek.co would take your article off their website. I can’t stand when someone badmouths an awesome company because everything didn’t go exactly their way, especially when the company has already gone out of their was to help. Enlightened Equipment was not at fault for ANYTHING you were accusing them of! They are an amazing CUSTOM quilt manufacturer. I own two “Revelations” and will absolutely not use anything else! It’s absolutely ridiculous for you to imply the company has poor customer service because you can’t get a quilt CUSTOM made for you in the time window you desire. Like I stated before, these are CUSTOM quilts, and the beginning of hiking season is their busiest time of the year. You should have tested your gear before starting your hike so you could have known that your quilt was not going to be sufficiently warm, and you could have also gotten a feeling for the size. It’s nothing but sheer ignorance to blame your unpreparedness on a “cold snap” or complain about lead times on CUSTOM gear. You’re in the mountains, the weather is unpredictable, and it’s still winter! There is absolutely no reason to publish a poorly written article about such an awesome gear company. Enlightened Equipment is not at fault for anything! In all honesty, you’re just being a selfish overbearing customer who thinks a company should cater to his every need, before other paying customers. The whole situation could have been remedied with a little bit of research and preparedness. In fact, 100% of the problem with this situation is your sense of entitlement, and spoiled me-first attitude! I honestly wouldn’t worry about trying to find a new quilt or bag, because your attitude will get in the way of finishing the trail long before and of your gear will hold you back.

  • John : Mar 14th

    I can understand your frustration but I think the only fair complaint you have is that EE didn’t bother getting back to you in a timely manner – that’s just a lack of courtesy. I do think asking them to drop everything to rush your order is unreasonable, though (and maybe shows a hint of the dreaded entitled thru-hiker syndrome). This is the height of NOBO starting season and I’m sure that EE must be going full out to fulfill customer orders that were placed with plenty of lead time. Think of someone ready to start their hike who has ordered well in advance. Is is really fair to delay their delivery to fix your mistake? Its not like the quilt was defective, you just ordered the wrong size and filling for the conditions you encountered. If EE could have helped you out with your order without impacting delivery of existing orders, I’m sure they would have – but to expect them to delay other orders, sorry – I agree with EE but I understand your frustration.

    This also illustrates some of the downsides to dealing with small cottage manufacturers and going custom gear where custom is not really needed. Small firms often have limited experience with customer service (some take complaints personally instead of listening and trying to resolve issues), limited stock, limited sales channel, and limited ability to ramp up to meet a boost in demand. Personally, I use Western Mountaineering bags. Super high quality and made in CA but with a big enough retail channel that I can always find an item right away. That strikes a balance for me.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to following your blog – have a great hike!

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 14th

      Fair statement. Thanks for taking an interest in my journey!

    • James : Mar 15th

      “I think the only fair complaint you have is that EE didn’t bother getting back to you in a timely manner – that’s just a lack of courtesy.”
      He sent the email over the weekend and was mad he did not get a response by Monday Morning? Do you have any idea how many emails even a small company can receive over a weekend? Not to mention EE probably isn’t open on weekends. It’s time these kids start taking responsibility for their actions, part of being in the wilderness, is being uncomfortable at times. LNT principle #1, Plan ahead and Prepare, if you don’t know that get off the trail. Quit giving this whiney millennial the time of day and tell him to suck it up.

      • Jim McNelis : Mar 15th

        I’m 39 but thanks for mistaking me for someone 20 years younger. Zpacks got back to me within 6 hours of ordering and is happy to get my my new bag by Friday. See, when you spend money on a premium product, you come to expect the company to take care of you. Loyalty works both ways. I owned a small business that was successful because we took care of our customers better than the big guys so no lesson for me to learn here. I’ve been on the other side and have this earned the right to criticize. Thanks for sharing your opinion though!

      • John : Mar 16th

        Re: James (3/15): Get off my trail!! (shaking hiking pole in the air).

        Bottom line is that these cottage companies tend charge ultra premium prices, more due to lack of economies of scale rather than super innovative design/material or quality and push service as a differentiator. If I had a cottage gear company, you bet your butt that I’d be answering email and phones during the high season for my sales. That’s what successful entrepreneurs do.

        But that’s all the time this non-millenial is willing to spend on another (albeit cranky) non-millennial’s comment.

        • Jim McNelis : Mar 16th

          I’m on the trail to work on the crankiness. Self aware of my faults. As for the rest of your comment, I couldn’t have summed it up better myself.

          • craig von bargen : Mar 18th

            Jim, I hope the hike opens your awareness of this great big blue planet we live on, that’s is what hiking AT does. Sorry you have had a tough and expensive start to your hike. Make due with what you can, keep warm with what you have. You still have a great journey ahead of you and this is just a small distraction from every thing else you will learn about yourself. As you said, you know your faults, and it is something you are working on as you hike. Aren’t we all !

      • Ryan Hahn : Mar 19th

        THIS

  • Chris : Mar 14th

    At the very least they should have told you they couldn’t meet your deadline right away. The real test of a company for me is I always put something in the comments field of the order to see if they read it. If they dont to me it usually means they arent really concerned in my opinion. I have an enlightened equipment quilt as well but I purposely got one wider and longer than i needed based on a cleverhiker review of them and the fact I like to pull them over my head when I sleep. I am a hammock guy so if you can accept the premiss that an top quilt and a quilt are the same thing a company that I have been very impressed with their response time on ordering things and letting you know right away if they cant deliver in a certain time is hammock gear. Also form the top gear picks of 2016 a lot of people liked REI sleeping bags from what I remember and they will most definitely have them in stock and fast shipping. I hope this doesnt discourage you and you take this lesson and get your sleeping gear dialed in and enjoy your hike! Happy Hiking. Chris G.

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 15th

      Zpacks got back to me within 6 hours of ordering last night. They had a way to escalate the order by replying to confirmation email with URGENT in subject. My quilt shipped today and will be ready for pickup on the trail Friday afternoon. It was that easy. EEs owner claims below that they had quilts in stock and custom order was why they couldn’t help, but they didn’t have off the shelf in the model and specs I needed. I checked online and so did the device rep when in called them Monday around 3pm and they still hadn’t replied to my request. I’ve been called a millennial, and a participation ribbon kid by the founder himself, yet I was born in the 70s and earned my status and position in life through hard work and effort. Amazing to me the difference between good and bad customer support. The follow-up/reaction to this post tells you a you need to know about how EE treats returning customers looking for help. I found EE through clever hiker as well, along with a lot of gear but did not heed his advice regarding sizing. Lesson learned. Thanks for your comment! Happy trails.

    • Michelle : Mar 18th

      I reasearched for 2 months before I settled on a quilt from EE. I am 5’6″, 42 and a newb to hiking. I researched weather conditions on Mt. Katahdin and the Whites before making my purchase. Thankfully I found a discounted one from a FB Equipment Group but it met my requirements of 6′, wide and 20°. I’m ok with cold weather. I tested it out the other day just after the Nor’easter in 17° weather, wind and on top of snow. I did need to supplement but that’s part of the hiking experience and well the importance of shakedowns. I did have to use my emergency blanket over my sleeping pad. I did wear a base layer and fleece top and bottom. I wore gloves and a hat and wore socks. My mistake was not wearing another layer of socks because my feet were cold. If need be I still had my hiking clothes to add additional layers if need be but no amount of layers would do me any good because mynfeet would still be cold. Personally my shakedown was a positive one. I was warm and at some points through the night cozy. I’m sorry your experience was lackluster and you felt that EE didn’t empathize. I’ve read many trail blogs about gear failures but most just sucked it up and got something at the nearest outfitter and trekked on. I think this is one of those “Embrace the suck” moments you hear so much about. Glad you aren’t a popsicle though. HYOH and good luck on the rest of your journey.

      • Jim McNelis : Mar 18th

        Thanks for sharing your experience. I picked up my Zpacks 20 degree last night. Finally have the sleeping bag dialed in!

  • Ericka : Mar 15th

    Good luck! I have an EE quilt, and I don’t really have any alternatives for you. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably just pick up a bag at the next outfitters you come across. It took a solid 8 weeks (September to November) for me to receive my EE quilt, so I was super glad I ordered it early.

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 15th

      Thanks for the comment, Ericka! I ordered a Zpacks quilt last night from their bargain bin and hoping they can get it to me by Friday. They have a way to escalate your order (at least get their attention) via email so I followed those instructions and am waiting for them to open this morning to see if they can come through. The problem with EE stems from the fact that they didn’t have anything in stock that fit my needs where it appears Zpacks does. That’s just a coincidence though. I got my last EE quilt in just over a week. They DID speed up my previous order…So I know it can be done. Once the cat is out of the bag, you can’t put it back in 🙂

  • RC Angel : Mar 15th

    Admittedly, you are a ultra-lite ‘beginner’ attempting a thru hike w/less than a month to plan. Just as you said, you will learn as you go,.,so,.,you are learning. Best of luck, sounds like you will need it. ??⛰? ps there is always, every year, cold and snow in March an April in Ga, NC an Tenn, should not be a surprise

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 15th

      Spot on! Learning on the fly and adjusting as I go. Of course we want our plans to be perfect and work out as expected, but that almost never happens. I was hoping the cold weather would just stay away but as we now see, that just isn’t the case (per usual). Zpacks just got back to me and will have my new bag to me by Friday when I get to the NOC. Going to hold onto my EE quilt as well, carry the extra weight and be nice and toasty in 2 sleeping bags as I work north. Until it warms up. I’m over 10lbs base weight with the new bag, but that doesn’t matter at all now that I am on the trail and know how light my pack is / that I can handle another pound or two no problem. Thanks for your comment!

  • TicTac : Mar 15th

    Out of an abundance of kindness, I wont say what I really think. But please, as your hike progresses, try to keep in mind that no one owes you anything just because you are a thru-hiker: no Trail Magic on demand, no ride just because you stick your thumb out, no letting you bring your backpack into the store even though their sign on the door says otherwise, no antibiotic and bandaid for that infected cut – because your sub-10 pound base weight precluded a reasonable first aid kit. One of the first lessons the Trail teaches is self sufficiency, and it is THE most important lesson.

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 15th

      Thanks for the restraint but I can take the heat! I’m not asking for anything for free. I paid and would have paid more to rush the job. Money normally talks. That’s the only favoritism I sought. I am learning to be self sufficient on the trail but also need to know which companies are going to have my back as I walk up the trail. Zpacks does, EE doesn’t. Bottom line at the moment.

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 15th

      Btw I have sufficient first aid! Band aids, triple antibiotic, soap, KT tape, baby powder, body glide. Really u name it I have it, just in reduced quantities. Appreciate your advice and keeping it in mind!

  • Tim Marshall : Mar 15th

    This happens every year. Some guy plans the biggest trip of his life that will take him months to complete and he waits to order a quilt until two weeks before he leaves. He never uses the quilt on a shakedown trip, he has never even slept in a quilt before, and when he realizes he needs a bigger, longer warmer quilt he gets mad at us because we won’t built it over night and send it to him on the trail before he returns the original to us.

    I talked with my customer service guys (both of them) today to find out what happened. We didn’t rush your first order as you think we did. We just made it really fast. In mid Feb we were cutting out quilts today that were ordered yesterday. We didn’t change our posted lead times because we eventually added in some stock so we could build quilts to have on the shelf, so you don’t have to wait for them (we had lots of 20* long/wide on the shelf March 10 when you instead ordered a custom quilt with a 2-4 week lead time). So even though you think we rushed Quilt 1 and that some how means we must now rush all quilts we in fact didn’t rush it, you just timed it perfectly and it got made really fast. Now it’s into March, the busiest month of the year for us (lead times over 8 weeks last year at this time) and we are now building quilts closer to 3-4 weeks due to high order volumes. We are never willing to rush any quilt. No one customer is more important than any other customer and we will never put someone who ordered ahead of you behind you, never. You can’t pay us to skip the line, ever. You must wait your turn, or buy from the quilts that we have on the shelf and ready to ship. We have tons of quilts ready to ship, and a warehouse page full of ready to ship quilts added each Monday.

    You waited too long to order, took an untested system on the biggest trip of your life, and now expect that we just take care of it all for you by moving you the top of our list, ridiculous. Your 2nd order came in after 5PM on a Friday, we don’t work nights or weekends, we want our employees to have a life too. You are mad it took 4 days to get a hold of us, lets count: 1-Firday after hours, 2-Saturday, 3-Sunday, 4-Monday before noon central time. Please don’t think that we had just your 1 email in our inbox Monday morning but instead of answering it we just let it sit there, watching the clock tick on by. We have hundreds of customers contact us each weekend and we have to take time to respond to every single one of them, in the order they were received. Everyone matters to us equally, we don’t, won’t, shan’t and can’t give thru-hikers special treatment no matter how entitled you think you are to it.

    As far as refunding your order goes, should we have not refunded you? Once you told us you couldn’t wait and you needed to get something else we were more than happy to refund your money so you could do so. Were you expecting the threat of losing the sale to get you what you wanted? People try to pull this all the time; if we can’t get you what you need we understand that you need to get it somewhere else. We aren’t afraid of you buying from them, or so desperate for the sale that we will do anything to keep it. We won’t do something for you that we wouldn’t do for someone else. If we rush one we have to rush all, if we rush them all whose gets done first?

    I’m sorry that you found yourself in this situation, it’s not fun, but it’s very self inflicted. This is what happens to the world when you stop having winners and losers and just hand out participation ribbons. You have to recognize your responsibility in your situation and not expect the world to scramble around you to make it all better.

    I hope your Zpacks works out, Joe is a good guy. As much as you don’t plan to do business with us in the future we also plan not to do business with you. Your reaction to this situation is just ridiculous and childish.

    -Tim Marshall
    Founder : Enlightened Equipment

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 15th

      Timmy! Thanks for the reply. I really appreciate your candor and won’t hold that against you. I was trying to clear up a couple things though. 1) I just planned this trip 1 month ago. Time was not on my side in this case and rushes were a nessecity. I am very glad it happened to work out the first time around given that no rush occurred on my first order. 2) I tried to order an off the shelf quilt from you similar to the one I ended up custom ordering and Nick even checked to see if one was in stock that fit my needs but that was not the case even though you have claimed that in your comment above.

      I would suggest you revisit your policy of not helping out returning customers who are thru hiking when special circumstances arise. Perhaps add more staff to meet your customer demands.

      If you take the time to read my previous posts you will learn that I also do not advocate working weekends in most cases as a previous business owner and I gave you guys a pass for not replying during the weekend. However, Monday morning or even afternoon, there should have been a reply for my urgent request.

      My point about the refund is you should find a way to make it work vs giving people their money back and losing a future revenue stream unless you are already rolling in it, I which case you are no longer one of the struggling little guys and instead just like every other soulless gear company.

      Lastly, I am not of the participation ribbon generation, and am likely either older or the same age as you. I expect nothing but always hope for compassion and cooperation, especially with kindred spirits. You could have just apologized for letting a customer down, no matter how unreasonable the request..The saying goes, the customer is always right, even when they are wrong.

      Was I wrong to want a warmer and better fitting quilt quickly? I don’t think so.

      Again, Nick / your website didn’t have a quilt in stock that fit my needs. I would have ordered one of those. So your comment below is simply untrue. Sorry.

      In any case, I think I was fair to give you all credit where credit is due but it is my right to choose not to buy from you in the future based on your inability to fit my somewhat unreasonable request. If you read the notes I sent with the order it was an appeal for help. Not a demand.

      Zpacks is a great company and they have their customer service and thru hiker policies dialed to the right frequency.

      Again, thank you for your candor. I hope you appreciate mine.

      • Joe Andrews : Mar 19th

        I believe your expectations are unreasonable. Your lack of prior planning is not a valid reason for an emergency. Adapt, overcome. Don’t bad mouth the guy who already did you a favor!

    • Leviticus Bainbridge : Mar 16th

      Good on you, Tim!
      This hiker is clearly not thru-hiker material and it would be a waste of a fine quilt. Happy to hear a manufacturer stand up for themselves in this world of “yelp-review blackmail” (give me what I want or I will cost you business). I met several people on the trail with similar notions, I am happy to say they were all off trail by Dragon’s Tooth. I will support EE, and everyone I help with shakedowns will know about your company as well because quality gear is worth the price and the wait.

      I am a direct customer service rep for a large company and I cannot understand Jim’s “when you spend money on a premium product, you come to expect the company to take care of you” line. All of EE’s customer are spending money on a premium product and they all deserve to be taken care of.

      Jimmy, good luck man…
      Be humble, be kind, change your socks, and consider how much energy you are putting towards damaging a small company because you didn’t get your way. I hope you find more happiness out there than stress. Stay safe.

  • Tim Marshall : Mar 15th

    also buying a ready made bargin bin Zpacks and saying they are all in for their customer is not apples to apples of expecting us to build you a custom one. We have tons of quilts ready to ship, why didn’t you pick one of those?

    -Tim

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 15th

      None fit my needs, Tim. I tried. Even worked with Nick to confirm none of that model/size/width were a available. And zpacks responded within 1 hr of business opening for the day and had said quilt shipped 1 hr later. Key here being quick response and excellent customer service. Learn from this.

    • Dave : Mar 18th

      Tim,

      Stick to your guns. You’re absolutely, positively right to push back against this incredibly selfish and whiny customer, who expects special favors, and then uses their own apparent “amazing” business expertise to demand special treatment. I’ve never been so sickened listening to this crap.

      The next time I’m in the market for a quilt, I will happily check your company out. I’ll also be sure to give you the lag time that you require to make the quilt, and I’ll be sure to not email you in the middle of a weekend and call it “bad customer service” when you won’t drop everything you’re doing and ship me a new sleeping bag.

      Seriously… What. an. ass.

  • Dano : Mar 16th

    I want a feast
    I want a bean feast
    Cream buns and doughnuts and fruitcake with no nuts so good you could go nuts.
    No, now!
    I want a ball
    I want a party
    Pink macaroons and a million balloons and performing baboons
    Give it to me now.
    I want the world,
    I want the whole world.
    I want to lock it all up in my pocket
    It’s my bar of chocolate
    Give it to me now!
    I want today
    I want tomorrow
    I want to wear them like braids in my hair and I don’t want to share ’em’
    I want a party with roomfuls of laughter
    Ten thousand tons of ice cream
    And if I don’t get the things I am after
    I’m going to scream!
    I want the works,
    I want the whole works!
    Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises in all shapes and sizes,
    And now!
    I don’t care how I want it now!
    I don’t care how I want it now!

    • North Country Outdoor Guys : Mar 18th

      Oompa Loompa, doopity doo.

  • Jason : Mar 16th

    I’m sure Jim is not the only hiker that has ran into issues on the trail with his gear, regardless of the level of planning, two weeks or two years. We are human, we make mistakes. Each and every one of us. Arguably, his biggest mistake was basing his gear selection on quality/price over customer service. I’m not an extreme hiker by any stretch of the imagination, especially not one that focuses on lightweight gear where a quilt/fancy sleeping bag costs +$250. If there’s a market for that kind of gear, which there definitely seems to be and people are not having issues paying those prices, why not increase those prices a little more to be able to create a more positive customer service experience that can then lead to an increase in customer success? Hire a part time person that doesn’t mind working weekends to answer phones, create product, do the “dirty work”, etc, i.e. intern, college student, someone that needs additional income. Create additional product to keep on your shelves for expedited shipping, especially when you know the ebbs and flows of your target market.

    I might be going out on a limb here, but I’d imagine the clientele for this gear would fit into the extreme hiker category, i.e. multi week/month hikes covering challenging terrain. You choose the gear from a company that you hope has your back when you’re on your journey, especially when adversity is staring you in the eye. I would want peace of mind knowing that if something happened along the way, be it product defect or in Jim’s case choosing the wrong product for the climate, the companies I bought gear from would have my back and have “options” for me, even if it comes at a premium.

    Whether you’re a traditionalist, baby boomer, gen x’er, millennial, or gen z’er, it doesn’t matter. What matters is being respectful to each other. I think there are lessons to be learned by all. Stay humble.

    Jim, get in touch when you’re nearing the Triple Crown (McAfee’s Knob, Tinker Cliffs, and Dragon’s Tooth). That section is right down the road from me. Stay safe and enjoy your journey my friend!

    Jason

  • Julie Carpenter : Mar 17th

    “I paid and would have paid more to rush the job. Money normally talks. That’s the only favoritism I sought.”

    Hahahaha! One more bitter old man trying to buy his way into a more exciting social group.
    What a joke.

    So Jimmy, is this how you run your business? People paying extra to get more/faster/better over your clients that may be constrained financially? I hope some of them are reading this so they can cut their losses and invest with a more honest business.

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 17th

      Now I’m an old man. I’ve been called a millennial, a participation ribbon kid in these comments too. Full spectrum. None accurate.

      I sold my business, but yes, if someone needed something done say, over a weekend, we would do our best to meet that request and charge more. Never at the expense if another customer. My customers were companies like Netflix, City of Los Angeles, Kaplan University, Clark Construction, Blue Bottle Coffee, Cable & Wireless, LIME Telecom, and Google as well, to name a few (in addition to us being a partner of theirs, we also did work for them) I also concurrently worked at Google for 4 years while running and growing my business, in addition to the work they contracted out to my business. Not at all concerned about my professional reputation. But thanks for your concern!

      • Julie Carpenter : Mar 17th

        So you understand that Enlightened Equipment couldn’t just make a quilt for you overnight (to your specs) and mail it out in the morning. Where is the problem? They said we don’t have what you want ready, we can make it but it takes time, and you said no… they gave you your money so you could find a better fit. That sounds like a fair business model to me.

        On a separate note entirely, are you happy?
        This seems like so much work to justify your anger.
        I can’t be mad at someone so obviously wounded.

        I am guessing you went to the trail in search of something. It isn’t here on these comment boards.
        Take some time and walk solo.
        While on the AT, I found that walking alone was painful. Not because I was lonely, but because I was alone with my pain from situations long past. It wasn’t until I let go of the hurt, the blame, the justifications for myself that I truly felt free out there.
        You have been given an amazing opportunity to become the strongest version of yourself imaginable, but only if you let go of who/what you WERE and embrace each day with the intent of being better.

        God bless and keep you safe.

        • Jim McNelis : Mar 17th

          To answer your Question the problem lies with a lack of response for almost a full business day (and weekend which I gave a pass for but would have been awesome if they had). I called them Monday afternoon. A kind plea for help in 2 separate messages. And finally calling them to get a lackluster, sorry bout your luck response. We can’t help you. That’s disappointing, and that’s why I wrote the post. If people don’t understand why that would cause someone to seek a solution elsewhere, permanently, oh well. Keep in mind this is also the only not-amazing thing that has happened in the first 12 days of journey. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

          The comments in this article have become a bit of a distraction from my hike. Good to fill these cold moments before the sun comes up, but constantly defending yourself never comes across as humble or at peace etc.

          Happiness is subjective. In the moment, yes. I’m happy. Overall, no. I am out here trying to figure out what is missing that won’t allow me to get there. I am aware of some of the issues, like family, some of which are already on the mend. But just like my hike, I have a looooong way to go.

          Today I went solo. It was nice to be alone with my thoughts. Tears came easy. So did laughs, smiles, and confidence.

          Thank you, Julie, for looking a little deeper than the surface here. I am taking your advice to heart. I am wounded deeply and the attaboy certainly helps.

          • livingthedream : Mar 18th

            You think you understood that custom quilts have lead times yet it did not register. You wanted to cut in front of the line and sent it to you ASAP. They did have quilts in stock but didn’t meet your specifications. What to do? Shop around elsewhere that has what you want in stock. No need to badmouth a company who has no fault. The world does not stop just because you are a thru hiker, nevermind that you purchased the wrong product (your fault) for the proper weather conditions expected.

          • Moonlady : Mar 18th

            Oh the precious time you are wasting on this. You’re on a thru-hike and you’re spending so much time on this board! Go hike! Get real. Leave your awesome business alone for a few months. I hope the answers come to you. Those spiritual ones. Seems to me you have a few. Peace out and be nice. And please pack in what you pack out.

    • Moonlady : Mar 18th

      Yeah that ‘money usually talks’ line made me almost puke. That took any sympathy away.
      But to plan a through hike in a month?

    • Quinn : Mar 19th

      @Julie – What planet do you live on? This is how business works. When you pay more to prioritize your project whether it be to jump to the head of the line in a tech stack…or heck, even for an Amazon Prime membership, you’re damn right that special attention and treatment is given. Ever buy a first class airline ticket, upgrade to a premium membership, or splurge on anything to ensure primo service? Hell I pay top dollar to Xfinity just so I can guarantee faster upload/download times. Julie, you sound like every other snowflake whose comments I have read on here that doesn’t have a clue about how extremely successful businesses are run in the real world. Tim Marshall admitted that his business fell into his lap by accident. He was good at sewing quality quilts, and enjoyed doing it. But just being a founder of a company does not translate into being a good CEO. His email reply to Jim was bananas. That’s the kind of shit a CEO might say in private to his team, but definitely not something you put publicly facing.

  • Gentleman : Mar 17th

    After reading ALL of this. I’d LOVE to buy an EE quilt!! Interesting that the only nay-sayers are Jim and Mike. You two should be getting the message by now!!!!

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 17th

      They make an excellent product. I never said otherwise. I tried to order a 2nd quilt…That’s how this all started. Just don’t expect them to be there for you while you are on your journey and need a quick response or any consideration for your circumstances. Again, great quality product. They just lost me with their lackluster support and unwillingness to help a hiker already on the trail.

  • Mark Stanavage : Mar 18th

    “Wow” And “Yikes” the responses! I will only speak good. Hammock Gear has always treated me well and has always been concerned and made suggestions that led me to buying the proper gear. Extra length, overfill, whatever. They tell me when they can get gear to me, but because I usually leave them plenty of lead time, I can’t say if they do rush jobs, but feel they would do their best to be accommodating. Good luck, stay safe.

  • livingthedream : Mar 18th

    Poor article and definitely a very misleading Title at best. You knew there are lead times for custom quilts and the fact that the quilt you wanted was not in stock, yet you still demanded to have a new quilt delivered in a few days. Just not possible. Just because you spent $700 beforehand doesn’t mean everyone at Enlightened Equipment can stop stop what they’re doing, have you cut in front of the line, and focus all their resources on getting you a new quilt in a hurry. Bad mouthing Enlightened Equipment for this when they are at no fault is unfair. You should have just moved on, and just shopped around from other companies that have what you wanted in stock.

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 18th

      I’m informing other hikers who might expect the same that I did while on the trail. This isn’t the only gear issue I’ve had so far, and at least 3 other companies have responded with compassion and worked with me to get me new / replacement gear. Thanks for sharing your opinion though, even if we don’t agree, I appreciate it.

      • livingthedream : Mar 18th

        You tried to go ultralight but ended up going stupid light! Great job.

      • Patrick MacMillan : Mar 18th

        So 4 gear issues already in your short time on trail? Time to start looking in the mirror.

  • Sam : Mar 18th

    Hey, I get it. Things didn’t work out for you. Your plan didn’t get followed. You were cold for a few nights. That’s part of hiking, and solving these problems is part of thru hiking. Nonetheless, it’s pretty lame to put EE on blast on this site for “poor customer service” that really consisted of them not dropping everything to help you out. I’m disappointed that The Trek published this and that you feel you had to throw mud at a cottage company.

    Sincerely,
    some millenial who earned participation trophies as a kid.

  • Robin : Mar 18th

    So here’s the thing: what you were actually requesting from EE is for them to de-prioritize the orders of some customers in order to rush yours. They didn’t do that, because they’re a good, fair, honest company. You come off as exceedingly selfish here.

  • John Boyett : Mar 18th

    I certainly understand your situation and frustration. I worked in Customer Service for over a decade with the largest marine manufacturer in the US. I currently own an Outfitter Store in Florida. My philosophy is that the customer comes first. Our store operates with the premise of helping people get into the outdoors and enjoy the beauty and healing of nature. That philosophy doesn’t always translate into sales and often costs us money. What goes around, comes around. I can’t speak for EE. I can only speak for our company. We will continue to bend over backwards to help people enjoy a successful adventure in nature. Good luck on your journey. Stay focused on the prize! Your journey will change your life!!

  • HikeOn : Mar 18th

    Jim, although I agree with some of your concerns; I do not agree with the way you went about voicing them. This article comes off as a knee jerk reaction while you were freezing your butt off in your insufficient quilt. I agree that the way EE handled your concerns is not the most graceful I have seen. They should have said, “We are incredibly sorry that we can’t be more helpful to you in your situation. We will refund you your money and hope you can figure out a speedy solution. Best of luck on the rest of your thru-hike.” I imagine that something along these lines would have smoothed over the situation. As far as not responding to your email in a timely manner. Unfortunately it can happen due to a number of different factors. I highly doubt it was intentional on their part, it looks bad because your situation was an urgent one.

    What now: In my opinion this whole thing has gotten out of hand and I’m sure you would agree with that. I would delete the whole thing and move on. Focus on your hike and forget about this nonsense. Just enjoy ever moment on the trail, because once it’s over you will miss it. Good luck on the rest of your hike. Take it one day at a time and before you know it you’ll be summiting Katahdin. Happy trails!

    Waylon (Appalachian Trail SOBO 2015)

  • Andrew : Mar 18th

    Props to EE for standing their ground. If I was in desperate immediate need of something, I would be on the phone as soon as business opened to talk to a human being, not place on order online and expect miracles. You’d be surprised how different a phone conversation can be from an online order or email. If you expect an immediate answer, call the company!

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 18th

      I agree Andrew. It happened at 330am on Saturday when I ordered and I did call them on Monday afternoon, which was the first time that day I had a signal. Once I saw no email from them, I called. I don’t have constant access to outside world on the trail (and that’s a good thing, but not in this case)

  • Arnold Guzman : Mar 18th

    Well, there certainly is no lack of opinions here, pro or con. There ARE several potential takaways from this entire episode: 1. EE has is probably going to review their customer service process to ensure better customer service in the future. Hopefully their business won’t suffer too much irreversible damage from your article. 2. This article is going to give future hikers something else to think about in their gear planning. 3. You can bet other outfitters are reading all this controversy and are working on ways to preempt the problems experienced in this situation. It will enable them to capitalize on EE’s handling of the situation.

    • Jack : Mar 18th

      Nope. It isn’t a business’s fault when a ill-informed customer makes unreasonable demands.

    • Moonlady : Mar 18th

      And hopefully hikers will take longer than a month to plan their hike!

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 18th

      Thanks for the excellent insight, Arnold. I agree.

      My intent was not to harm EE but to inform other buyers of potential issues and hope EE would re-evaluate their customer interactions. In contrast, I have had 2 other issues with gear, one minor, one major, and both of those companies have responded quickly and have gone beyond my expectations to get me replacement gear (shoes from Altra and a trekking pole from Gossamer Gear). Not even a new order so to speak, and at the very most, covering their costs. And Zpacks responding by 10am the morning after ordering a sleeping bag and shipping less than 2 hours later. Contrast that with Tim’s response in the comments of this blog post. No matter how selfish or immature or wrong anyone thinks I am about Enlightened Equipment, every other company I have interacted with on the trail, HAS been able to provide excellent customer support, on the level I hope to expect from companies who want my continued business. I’ll let others decide how to pick that apart and continue to justify Tim’s response. His response btw, was the result of an automated email from Zendesk (a support platform many businesses use to provide customer support) asking for feedback on my support experience. I pointed them to this article. Ask yourself ladies and gentleman: Should Tim have publicly commented, belittling the customer and providing incomplete and inaccurate information, or perhaps emailed or called me to clear things up and ask me to remove the article? And by ‘clear things up’ I don’t mean bend to my will, but perhaps explain why they couldn’t help and perhaps offer alternative solutions? Maybe even an up and coming competitor he respects that could maybe deliver sooner on my needs? Would this not have been reasonable?

      Instead this article blew up because of his response. Which, no matter how defended it has been in the comments here, is textbook ‘how not to handle customer feedback’. Anyone in an executive, PR, or media position can attest to this without a doubt.

      If the editors choose to remove this article, that is their choice – I’m leaving it up and will continue to defend and clarify my position without malice but with intent to inform and hopefully improve other customers’ experiences with EE and (now I guess) other fledging gear companies.

  • Adam Ryan : Mar 18th

    I had the luxury of ordering my quilt several months in advance and I was able to test it out prior to my hike. I found my Revelation aas too cold. They said they could add 3 oz (make it a 10deg) and there’d be a turn around time of 1 day. It sucks they couldn’t help you and they SHOULD be more accommodating for thru hikers… But before heading out for a thru hike, or ANY hike you should know the limits of your gear. I slept out in my back yard in30 deg weather with 35 mph gusts to try out my quilt.

  • Jack : Mar 18th

    The Trek looks really stupid attaching their name to your screwed up tantrum over not getting special treatment to fix your error.

  • LongShanks : Mar 18th

    A lot of negative and nasty comments here.
    Jim, good luck on your thru hike and enjoy!

    -LongShanks

    • Jim McNelis : Mar 18th

      Thanks, Longshanks!

      Just sitting here with a PCT 16 thru hiker, Old English waxing philosophical while watching o brother where art thou while finishing up our zero near the NOC.

      Feeling good, feeling strong. Gear dialed in.

  • ALEXANDER MACDONALD : Mar 18th

    Please don’t publish any more hit pieces on good companies by hikers who are unprepared crybabies. Thanks.

  • Don Proctor : Mar 18th

    Jim, call the good folks at Underground Quilts and see if there’s anything they can do for you. Alternatively you can also contact Hammock Gear and see if there’s anything they can do for you. EE is not the only quilt company out there, despite the fact that it seems every AT thru-hiker vlogger has bought one.

    • Patrick MacMillan : Mar 18th

      I was also going to recommend Underground Quilts, but frankly this guy doesn’t deserve to even visit the website of a company as awesome as UGQ.

  • Dean in Denver : Mar 19th

    Whether all these comments are justified or not I can’t imagine distracting myself with this noise while attempting such a physical, mental and spiritual challenge.

    Remember why you decided to take on this endeavor and then focus on the things you can control that will help you succeed. Stay focused on your own self sufficiency and resourcefulness,

    Don’t let gear make or break your experience. Grandma Gatewood did far more with far less.

    Just keep it simple and only spend mental energy on the things you can control. Everything else is noise.

    Lastly, if you haven’t read this comment it prob means you are on the right track because you’ve moved on and now all your energy revolves around forward progress
    -Godspeed

  • Siren : Mar 19th

    I have two EE quilts and love them. On my PCT hike, one of the snaps on my quilt kept coming apart, so EE sent me new snaps and the pliers to put them on, and a prepaid label to ship the pliers back. I think they have great customer service and treat thru hikers well, although not better than any other customer, and why should they? Delaying other customers to boost one person’s order would be bad customer service.

  • Jeff Wood : Mar 19th

    EE makes exceptional equipment and I have nothing but good things to say about them and their service. I could not be happier with my purchase, custom made to order and delivered in less than 4 weeks. I highly recommend them. I support cottage industry entrepreneurs and the struggles they face competing with the larger manufacturers.

    With that stated, I understand Tim’s perspective as a small business owner who runs an online business during a rush season. Customer service is a huge issue when you’re a small shop. Making everyone happy with your shipping policies, especially customers who expect quick turns and overnight shipments on custom goods, tends to be the part of the business that creates the most friction. My business also receives a large amount of emails daily, and especially over the weekend. As a matter of policy, to maintain our sanity, we never answer emails after hours or on the weekends much like EE. There are some policies you have to have in place and abide by when your staff is giving it 100% all week long. Not to mention, this is the craziest time of year for cottage industry gear shops. Give them a break. They deserve it. They are pulling long hours in these rush periods to get product out as quickly as possible.

    Not that the majority of people don’t already understand this but here goes anyway…..Basic logic on new equipment:

    1) Test new equipment SEVERAL times on shakedown trips unless it’s something you can live without if it fails.
    2) Take shakedown trips often, generally weeks to months in advance, testing the equipment in a variety of situations ranging from sun, rain sleet and snow. You’re going to encounter all of them on the big three long distance hikes . Your life may depend on certain pieces you are testing.
    3) Have a back up plan in case equipment fails in the field, especially specialized custom made pieces that will be difficult to replace on trail.
    4) Once again, Plan, prepare and test, test, test. Learning and testing on the fly can sometimes lead to disastrous consequences when it comes to being in the back country.

    and I’ll leave you with a phrase my first boss passed on to me… “a lacking of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

    Tim (and the crew at Enlightened), keep cranking out the amazing quality quilts and equipment. I recommend EE to all the people who have asked about my gear. I’ve been very happy after testing the new quit in some nasty cold southern weather. So much so, I’m about to put in my order for a matching underquilt for my hammock. Keep up the good work. I’ll be back for more!

    Good luck on your Thru-hike Jim and I hope you enjoy the walk of a lifetime!