Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Portland Pudgy: How to Ruin a Otherwise Good Product

Not our boat, but a perfect representation of how I feel about it right now.

I can be very patient and understanding with challenges facing small companies, especially if they have a good product but, I have no patience with shoddy customer service and a continuing failure to deliver. 
This was my original review, not built on satisfaction but a desire to just let things go and make do the best we can with a product we believed in. When I wrote this, we were just leaving on our world cruise. We finally had all the parts to our Pudgy. I didn't want to fault the product, even if we had some challenges with delivery and communication. My review wasn't as glowing but, I didn't want to be that customer, you know? 
"Portland Pudgy provided us with a literal lifeboat. Instead of a liferaft, we carry a Pudgy, with sail kit and lifeboat canopy. It’s a small company, and you have to take that into account but, Dave really cares about delivering. Though we had to wait a bit for the original boat and, later, the lifeboat canopy, Dave worked diligently to get us the product we needed. He deserves your business.
It was with great anticipation I ordered our Portland Pudgy a few years ago. We had researched the options for offshore safety. Portland Pudgy seemed to have the answer, attached to what seemed to be tough little dinghy that actually functioned as a lifeboat. It wasn't inexpensive for a dinghy, but we could get it with a sail kit and an actual lifeboat canopy. This seemed to make a lot of sense to us, so we ordered one.
I spent the last couple years praising this product to others. When Dave asked, I even agreed to show other potential customers the boat. I raved about it. It made so much sense. I was an advocate for this idea and product. 
Here are my challenges with Portland Pudgy, specifically Dave, the owner. Here are the stories he told me as he failed, time and time again, to deliver what is otherwise a good product. But, is it? I don't know anymore.
1) Ordering the actual boat. 
I talked to Dave in February of 2010 with initial questions and placed our order in November of 2013, with the promise of a December 2013, delivery.
It arrived three months late. At first, we were told the boat would be delivered in about a month, that they had them in stock. Then we received notice that they were doing a new mold formulation, that it was an improvement, and that it would be delayed. It wasn't what I was originally promised, but Dave did call and, while we were disappointed, we waited. While I didn't get the product I paid for when it was promised, I was getting it. I saw no reason to be a jerk to Dave so I shrugged and waited. Things happen. People have challenges. I understood that. 
When the Pudgy was finally delivered, it seemed to be everything promised so I just let the delays go. I considered the late delivery a glitch and planned to order the Lifeboat Canopy with enough lead time in case there was a delay. Little did I know what that would entail.
2) Ordering the Lifeboat Canopy.
We placed our order and sent the deposit in February of 2016. 
Based on our previous experience, we ordered this item a year in advance. We were told to order early, so we could be "in the queue" and ensure we received it in time. We eagerly awaited the delivery of the canopy while we continued to prepare for our departure.
Then the first delay came. Their seamstress was pregnant and was on maternity leave. Apparently, at the time, only one person had the knowledge, skills and responsibility to create this canopy. Like some women do, she went on maternity leave, and decided she could not return. I get it. This happens. Companies have to deal with this all the time, right?
Again, I was disappointed but, we still had time.
Then Dave went dark, sometimes for months. I had to call him multiple times to get status, and longer stories, more reasons until I finally had to tell him, "Dave, I understand your challenges, and I believe you when you say you are working diligently to fix them but, your customers will stop caring about that if you cannot deliver. They will also stop caring if you don't communicate with them. If you don't resolve this, someone will take this to social media and you will have to deal with that too."
In September of 2016,  Dave was still making promises, interwoven with a business sob story that was no longer interesting to me, nor effective. Yes, I understood his predicament but at the same time, April of 2017 was fast approaching. Were we to receive our product in time? He promised that we would be first in the queue.
Then he went dark again. We had to call him again and again. 
The stories and what I finally considered excuses got more involved until I finally had to tell him they didn't matter anymore. I had heard them all by now. 
  • The seamstress was gone. She hand cut all the patters and was the only person who knew how to sew the canopies. It took her ten hours to cut them -- a laborious process to be sure. 
  • Truly skilled seamstresses were hard to come by.
  • They were investigating a new laser cutting machine to make the canopies faster and were having problems with the CAD files. 
  • They had problems sewing the canopy together. It wasn't right and they were delayed.
  • Then they were working on the prototype and it still wasn't right but -- get this -- I could have the stitched and re-stitched prototype if I needed it in time...
All I was really interested in was when he was going to deliver what I paid for -- when.
When was he going to deliver? That was all I wanted to know. 
He made promises to update us via email. We waited. He made promises to call. We waited. Time and time again he failed to communicate with us.
We had to call him. We did. I wasn't rude with him in our conversations, though I had to get pretty direct.
"When are you going to call us with the next status, Dave?"
"Next week...I'll call next week."
"When next week, Dave?"
"Dave, will you call me one week from today, on this day? How about this time of day? Can I hear from you then?"
He agreed. Then Dave didn't call. When Kerry called him (I didn't want to lose my temper), he said he was 'afraid to call and give us bad news."
At that point, Kerry was dealing with Dave. 
In March of 2017, our canopy had still not arrived, but a bunch of promises did. 
On Mon, Jan 30, 2017 at 2:48 PM, Portland Pudgy wrote:
Hi Don,  I have not in the past committed to a final date for the exposure canopy, but I now do feel certain we will be able to get you a canopy in time for your trip.  We have a hand cut prototype built that fits the boat perfectly.  We have Rhino computer drawings completed ready to be cut out by a computerized cutting machine, and we have a seamstress (maybe even two) lined up for fabrication.  The prototype is exactly the same as the computer cut pieces will be.  The difference is that some of the fabric for the prototype was folded for a long time and has the fold marks in it.  Another piece is quite wrinkled with a little irregularity around one of the seams.  Not really important, but not our best.  If in the very unlikely chance something extraterrestrial happens we can get you the prototype.  All fabric, valves, bladders, valves are new.  Thanks,
David H., Pres.
It's a good thing that other work delayed our departure on April 1st. Otherwise we would be sitting here, still waiting, delayed, for the canopy.
It finally arrived. We received two boxes, one containing the pressure canisters and one containing a beaten up box with three canopy parts in side. 
There were no instructions, no note, and no followup call of any sort from Dave. We searched the box for instructions, anything to guide us in the installation. Nope. Nothing.
And Dave accepted the final payment for the full amount for the canopy. We said we would pay on time and we did. 
We went online and downloaded the instructions for installing the canopy.
There were no mounting pad eyes delivered with the canopy. I didn't want to call Dave again and, frankly, we were out of time and patience. I had to find some.
I took some measurements and purchased some pad eyes, planning to do the install work on the Pudgy. At least I had everything else and I did like how the boat sailed and rowed.
Today, in Echo Bay, on Sucia Island, at anchor, more than a year of frustrating phone calls, missed commitments, reasons and excuses, I climbed down into the Pudgy with a screw driver and the pad eyes. I'd finally start the install. I'd have this installed and ready before we turned south in August. We had time.
The first pad eye didn't fit. The screw holes were 1/8 to 1/4" off. 
So, if Portland Pudgy pre-drills holes in the boat, obviously for the pad eyes, and they are crucial to the function of the canopy, and I'm, supposed to 'trust my life' (Dave's words over and over and over) to it, why not provide the actual pad eyes that fit? Why have your customer discover they don't fit 10 days into a world cruise? 
Dave, meet my last straw.
What am I supposed to do now? Is Dave going to ship me pad eyes that fit? Where to? Canada? Alaska? Will he fly them into some desolate bay in the Broughtons or wherever we might be in the next few weeks?
I am done dealing with this company or recommending them. Their product is great but, Dave is awful at following up and delivering what he promises. We waited one YEAR for our lifeboat canopy to be delivered. One Year. It was sob story after excuse after some reason as we waited. He was going to send us his prototype but eventually sent the next model produced. After it arrived, we heard nothing. No question if it arrived or if we had any other concerns.
I was going to let this go, even though he provided no actual mounting hardware for the straps and eye hooks to attach to the boat mounting points. I purchased my own and -- they don't fit. It's too bad that a decent product, one that we like so much, has to be supported in such a shoddy and unprofessional manner.
I really wanted to like this company and their product. I shouldn't have to screw around buying the wrong $20.00 worth of stainless steel eyes after I've spent $6,000 on his product.
Now, as I awake at dawn, I wonder, I doubt, about that canopy. What else might I discover? Will it actually fit and inflate properly? 
Can I trust my life to it, as Dave claims?
I don't know if I can believe anything Dave says anymore.

There's only one thing I really resent. It's paying good money, full price, on time, as I promised, for an experience like this.

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