a great story of plastics, design and customer service...

Here’s an interesting personal story I just thought I would share, FWIW.

I have the below Microplane kicthen grater. It’s great. Super sharp and handy for grating parmesan, chocolate, etc. I bought it about 2 years ago. Since then, the clear plastic body has developed a lot of stress fractures at all the points where the metal is embedded in the plastic. A few have spread to the edges and cracked the plastic completely in half. I always wash it by hand and take care of it in use and putting it away.

Concerned with the crack I tried to analyze the design/plastic, and came to the conclusion that the plastic (not sure, maybe PC/PMMA) is too hard and brittle in composition. I sent off an email to the company letting them know about the problem and that as an IDer I suspected that perhaps the plastic used may be of incorrect spec. I hardly expected a return email let alone what followed…

…I got an email back from customer service 1 day later saying-

You are correct - we had gotten in the wrong version from our supplier of resin for that product, which will wear down, which is what has happened to your product. I will be glad to send you a replacement at no charge to you

not only did they offer to replace the product, but they admitted the material flaw and the CSR even knew what I was talking about! They promptly shipped me a replacement (plus a sliding grater attachment for the trouble) via UPS! Looking at the original vs. the new one, I can certainly tell the plastic is different (less clear, a bit yellow, and more flexible- possibly HIPS?/PC+additive?).

You never know what you might get by asking!



Way better than the Bisphenol A and Lead paint finger pointing that has happened lately.

Thanks for sharing.

well apparently these are actually made in the US, so at least no worry about that!


here’s an interesting, related question…

how many of you have been involved with dealing with a customer on a CSR call?

occassionally CSRs where i work will call me first after speaking with the customer, we will discuss the problem, discuss the solution, then we call the customer via conference. it’s pretty interesting to be a part of these conversations. sometimes the CSRs will conference in so we can hear some praise from the customers who are excited or pleased with our work.

it’s good stuff.

It’s funny you mention that. In my previous job as footwear director at hummel I actually made a point to get involved in the customer service side of the business to better understand our product and the customer. Previously all claims by customers were routed through some CSR center/warehouse that would inspect any faulty products and issues refunds/replacements. When i got there I asked that any claims would be forwarded to me for review so I could better see what was happening in the full life cycle of the product. What I found was not only the scope and issues of potential design flaws and mfg defects (and the ability to catch them before they became a huge issue) but also a personal relation to the customer and a heads up on things that I may have not noticed if just processed by the claim center without my knowledge. Same thing as well with some of the pro teams we sponsored and personal visits to the athletes.

To the same extent I also got really involved with a few specific internet forums and received and replied to every email concern/praise I got from actual/potential customers. With the blessing of the company I posted stuff to my blog of future product still in development for comment, replied to questions (on my own time, to my personal email account, for the most part), and made a direct connection to the consumer.

I actually find it pretty amazing how in most companies there is little connection between consumer and design (except via edited marketing channels) and how much value it can bring. As an example, when I first started posting on one of these forums I had one guy who was totally against the brand/product, but then by answering all questions in an non-BS way (ie. explaining how FOB costs translate to retail prices, material specs, design intent, positioning, etc.) I somehow converted him so much that he not only put our product in his sig but became an advocate for the brand. Increase in sale, I dunno, but personal memory and value - priceless.

if only more companies would go this route I think we would all benefit with better product and more informed designers…No doubt there are issues of IP and marketing position to uphold, but I do truly believe and more open and transparent design-consumer relation benefits everyone.

a bit OT, I know, but had to rant in reply to KFJ’s post:)


Great CS story, and also awesome because the plastic on my Microplane ribbon grater snapped in half just yesterday due to the same issue.