T.C.Electronic: bad customer service

In the post “the noise you are hearing is perfectly normal”, I brought up how some manufacturers will simply deny there is a problem, when you ask for assistance with a problem you experience.  Recently, T.C.Electronic has taken that to a new level.

I had already been somewhat wary of TC because when their pedals break, they are nearly impossible to fix, and TC charges a very high price for repairs. And every one of their pedals that I’ve owned has broken, or some function does not work.

I bought one of their reissues of the Sustain+Parametric EQ for review, because I liked the tone of the original version so much. Right away I ran into problems with this reissue: both the Sustain and the noise gate would only engage at the maximum clockwise end of their knob rotation, rendering the whole pedal useless.  Naturally I figured it must be defective, so I returned it to the retailer, and they sent me a new one (different serial number)—and it behaves identically to the first one. I decided to contact TC and find out what the deal is: is this a known recurring problem with this pedal; can they explain to me what went wrong with it; is it actually defective, or is this the normal behavior; can I exchange it with them directly to avoid hassles from the retailer; or any information at all that might help me know what to say in my review.

It turns out there is no phone number anywhere on their website. There is a user forum, but very few of the questions there from other users have been answered.  There is one email address for the company—a generic “info@” address–and they specifically say “do not use this address for customer service”. There is no actual contact information of any kind on the “contact” page of the service section of their website, only an “interactive support” text field, kind of like “chat”.

I posted my query there as clearly as possible. A week goes by, with no response—so I post again. This time a service representative named “Eric” responds, saying he is not familiar with this pedal, he knows nothing about it, and he will ask the guys in Denmark for help. Two more weeks go by, so I post again asking for an update. The same day Eric replies that he just heard back from the guys in Denmark, and that they are not familiar with this pedal either, or how it is supposed to sound. I kid you not, and I’m not exaggerating. Both the US and Denmark “customer service” departments know nothing about this recent-production pedal or how it is supposed to work.  Not only were they unable to actually diagnose the problem, they were not even able to guess what about it might be “working” or “not working”, so they had nothing further to say.

Eric did however say that TC would not deal with it themselves, and that I should just return the pedal to the retailer for a refund. I asserted that that was an unacceptable answer; that the retailer was not at fault for having bought these bad products on good faith from TC; and that it was TC’s responsibility to make it right.  Once more I asked if I could send the pedal to them so they could test it to see if it was defective or not.  Eric again replies that it is not their problem, there is nothing they will do about it, and I should just send the pedal back to the retailer—let them deal with it.

I asked him for his office contact info so I could give that information to the retailer, and Eric refused to give that information, saying only that the retailer could contact TC customer service through their normal sales channels.  I asked to speak to his manager, and he did give me the manager’s phone number—but when I spoke to the manager on the phone, he was a total jerk to me.  He talked over me, would not listen to what I was saying, would not acknowledge any of my concerns, and steadfastly defended Eric for failing to provide any customer support.  I started to tell him how I think customers should be treated, and opened with “I have been in retail for a lot of years”–but before I could continue, he interrupted with “yeah well I’ve been doing this for 30 years!” in a very rude tone of voice.  He insisted that I could not send it to them, and they could not look at it, and they have no information to give.  At the end of the call, all he would say to me is “if you feel like you weren’t treated well then I’m sorry, but we were just following the channels that were open to us.”

Needless to say, I am ready to blow my lid. TC has lost me forever as a customer.  I know I should be offering some constructive advice right about now, but if they don’t know how to talk to customers at this stage in their company’s existence, then I can’t stop them from digging their own corporate grave.

Update: After I raised a stink about this situation around the web, one of the product managers from TC in Denmark contacted me.  He was respectful, helpful, and timely in his responses to my emails.  His team was able to test a couple of these pedals that they found in their “museum” (this pedal was bought brand new just a few months ago!) and determined that the lot of them were identically faulty.  This was the type of informative response I had hoped to get in the first place; and even if they hadn’t ended up being able to provide that level of answer, the fact that the product manager actually talked with me about it—instead of blowing me off completely, the way the CS at TC Americas did—showed a decent understanding of how customer service is supposed to work.

Further update: The “RH450” amplifier that TC makes, and markets as a 450-watt amp… turns out it is only a 235-watt amp. TC’s official explanation is that even though they knew perfectly well it was only 235 watts, to them it “sounded like” a 450-watt amp, so they figured they may as well say it was in fact 450 watts, and they went as far as to put “450 watts output” in the specs section of the product’s user manual. Of course this has nothing to do with my original complaint from when I wrote this blog post, but I felt it was worth appending here as a footnote, showing more of what TC is like as a company.

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3 Comments »

  1. John said,

    February 12, 2010 @ 7:13 am

    This is so bad that I am inclined to think the 3rd party “service” company TC hired here in the land of McCheez Doodlzz is the culprit. Whether or not they did this on purpose though..how many service companies have you contacted in the past only to find yourself talking to a minimum wage “eric”..every credit card company..every “health care” “associate”.. try calling the guvmint sometime! it’s endemic.

    But you know C..maybe if the elves in Jutland were sorta..umm..MADE AWARE of what’s going on, and got a bad review on one of their prized noisemakers..

    ahh..that’s just crazy talk.

  2. Cyrus said,

    February 12, 2010 @ 10:13 am

    Well, I tried the normal channels. There’s the generic “info” email address, which is obviously not going to the desk of anybody important; and there’s the “interactive service” page, and… that’s the problem.

    One of their product managers did contact me today, after I posted this message on Talkbass and Facebook, so we’ll see how that resolves. But it should not take a “nuclear assault” from a customer just to get a response from a middle manager.

  3. Tom said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

    Hey Cyrus,

    I spend months trying to get replacement screws from TC for 5 of their original pedals which I own. They are an odd size and only available in Denmark. I ended up dealing with their parts guy in Westlake Village, CA. I’d leave 20 messages before he’d call back; sometimes he would answer the phone and I’d have to explain the entire issue with him all over again. One time he answered the phone twice in one day and told me the second time he had no memory of my earlier call. This was twilight zone stuff! Eventually he got them in and wanted 80 cents each. I talked him down to 40 cents, which was still robbery, and then without telling me he charged $10 shipping when the actual postage was about $1 (I still have the postmarked packaging).

    If I could get any money for the pedals I’d unload them, but due to reliability issues in good conscience I can’t do that.

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