Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mattituck falls off Bob's pedestal

After my screed against Dynon a few weeks ago, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you that I'm stickler for customer service. I'll pay more for it, and reward those who give it. Unfortunately, this is a concept that has completely failed the American economy. Businesses, except the really smart ones, don't understand short term sacrifice for long-term gain.

I chose Mattituck for my engine, based almost exclusively on their reputation for customer service. And, indeed, Mahlon Russell was very helpful when it came time to order the engine. I ordered the thing in May. If I'd waited two months, I figured I could get the $500 Oshkosh discount, but I ordered anyway. I thought maybe -- maybe -- they'd throw the discount in. They didn't. C'est la vie. Stupid me.

So when exactly did I stop feeling I was in a business partnership with Mattituck? As soon as the big check was cashed.

It's not a big deal in the big scheme of things, but spending $24,500 is a big deal to me. So when Mattituck called to tell me they needed the remaining $23,500, I sent it quickly, electronically, and then waited for the confirmation that, indeed, the engine was shipped and -- like Van's -- I figured they'd give me a tracking number.

Wednesday the 13th, the day the check was to arrive electronically, came and went. Then Thursday, then Friday. I heard nothing. On Monday, I sent a note to the sales manager at Mattituck asking when the engine would ship.

Thank you for your e-mail. Your engine shipped on Aug 13th, via Yellow Freight. Please see the tracking info below. It appears close to delivery.
OK, cool. Annoying, perhaps, that I didn't warrant the the "hey, heads up we shipped the engine for which you went severely in debt", but maybe they're busy on Long Island.

I checked the Tuesday delivery date and although I had a horrendous day of work scheduled, I figured that when they called, I could shoehorn the delivery into the day. Besides, I was to be at the airport between 9 and noon anyway because Doug Weiler was stopping by for a tech counselor visit.

Of course, that assumed that they'd call -- like ABF did when they had all the various subkits of the plane on which the engine is to be installed.

But they didn't. And the Yellow Freight Web site didn't provide any more help since you had to be a shipper to get the information I needed.

And they didn't show up, at least when I was at the airport. They showed up later -- unannounced -- when I wasn't.

Today, their dispatcher called to tell me they have the engine and would I like to arrange delivery? "The problem is our trucks have no elevator gates and no ramp, but you can come pick it up." Sure, with the trailer I don't have and the Chevy Cavalier I do?

I tried to find someone with a trailer but I had no luck. So I went out to the airport to talk to the folks at Wipaire.

"I'm building an RV at 217 Charlie Lane," I said to Dave, the customer service guy. "And Yellow is delivering a 400 pound crate tomorrow only they have no elevator gate and no ramp..."

"So you need a forklift..." Dave said.

"Can you help me?" I said, somewhat relieved at his obvious friendliness.

"Call me tomorrow when Yellow gets here and if we're not moving something for us, I'll send a line guy and forklift over," Dave said.

"Great, how much?" I inquired.

"You get the good-guy discount, Wip believes in helping the people on this field," Dave said. No charge.

I called Yellow back to arrange delivery and it was then that I was told they had tried the day before and since I wasn't there, it would now cost me $63 for a "redelivery fee."

"Why didn't you call?" I asked.

"Because Mattituck didn't put your phone number on the waybill," he said. "We had to call them -- today -- to get your contact number."

OK, let's step back here.

Mattituck, that's a $63 mistake you just made. You think maybe it would be a good idea to put a contact number on the waybill? Me, too.

Yellow, that's just crappy stupid business.

Between the two of you, I've spent $25,000 on both of you and I don't like mistakes that cost me money. I don't like people who cash my check and then stop talking to me, not giving me heads up, and not giving me a freakin' break.

American business: You should treat the customer like gold from the time they call you to do business with you, all the way to the time you -- or your agent -- delivers your product. You should followup with phone calls from the time it ships, to make sure everyone is ready. Does it take more time? Yes it does, but what's the price of good customer service in the long run?

Let's ask the folks at Wipaire.

Between three companies, the one company that provided terrific customer service was the one company that didn't get some of my money beforehand. What's wrong with this picture?

Of course, Mattituck doesn't lose any skin in this deal. I'm not likely to ever buy an engine for a homebuilt again. So what's the big deal? As far as I know, they make a great engine at a halfway-decent value. Putting them on a customer-service pedestal was my fault, based on the tales of others. In many ways, my expectations of customer service far exceed the ability or interest businesses have of providing it. But in line with the rest of this project, I can still dream.

Update The engine arrived. I was sitting in the terminal waiting for Yellow to make its promised "one hour beforehand" notification. Of course, being a scuzzy business, they didn't make the promised call. So the guy was sitting outside the hangar when I walked back over.

"You were supposed to call," I said.

"I didn't have your number," the truckdriver said.

OK, here we go again. So I called over to Wipaire and they sent the forklift over but it took about 5-10 minutes, with the truckdriver saying, "I gotta get going." If I were a real jerk, I would've said, "hey, buddy, do me a favor. Shut your piehole. I've paid, now more than $300 for you to deliver the engine and you're going to sit right here and wait until the forklift gets here, because your scuzzy company didn't make the phone call it promised to make."

But, of course, I didn't.

And now I have an engine.

I think Tony Partain should get into the engine delivery business.

Here's one more suggestion for Mattituck: Put a letter in with the engine. Nothing fancy. Just a letter that says "thanks for your business, we hope we enjoy your engine." Maybe even sign it, although I suppose that would be optional.


  1. I think the biggest problem in this country is that people in general and customers in particular don't like to tell the truth if it's hard to swallow for others.

    It starts at the restaurant where you answer 'oh it's great' to the server's question 'how are things tasting' merely seconds after you told your spouse 'gosh they didn't add egg to the salad again!' and end up when we tell 'look at this freak! he's making scene over there about stupid 5 bucks he says he's been overcharged'.

    Last year I ordered some quite heavy metal parts for my off road car armor. It had to be shipped by freight company from Wisconsin to Iowa. The company quoted (knowing my zip code!) this service for around $70 which was about $50 less then FedEx wanted for this shipment. Imagine my surprise when I got the bill for the shipment on which freight was $150! It turned out that even though the driver didn't even have to get out of his cabin because I was prepared to unload everything by myself in less than 2 minutes he didn't forget to mark in his book that he made the delivery to the residential area. And the minimum fee for residential delivery is $150. But the story just started - when I called the manufacturer with complaint they said they can't do anything, they just forwarded the bill they got from freight company. When I called the company they said I can't complain because it's not me who ordered the shipment so I have no rights here. As you probably figured out I've never used that freight company nor the manufacturer again.

  2. And the company probably regularly bemoans the state of the economy... blaming politicians, oil companies, tax laws (all of which may be responsible) but NEVER the service they fail to provide to customers.

    It would be good if American business would go back and read "In Search of Excellence." But they won't.

  3. I had a similar problem with my empennage kit. The shipper does not deliver to my area. They use a contract carrier. Knowing the shipment was on the way, I called the shipper, and they gave the information to contact the contract carrier.

    I was going to be out of town on business so I called while the package was a day out from the terminal. I talked to a nice lady and explained to her that I was going to be away on business, and that I could take shipment on Monday or Friday. The package was not due to them until Monday, but she agreed that Friday would be fine. I said Ok, and she added that she would call me on Thursday to setup a time for delivery.

    I was still out of town on Thursday, so I called them to setup the delivery. At this time, the woman told me that my package had been scheduled for delivery on the next Monday. It was the same Woman that I had talked to earlier so I reminded her of our earlier conversation in which she had scheduled a Friday delivery.

    Her response was that she doesn't schedule the trucks, and so and so does that. Not being one to take no for an answer, I asked to speak to her supervisor.

    This led to a long series of calls between me, this contractor, and the original carrier. Eventually, I got to a VP at ABF and pleaded my case. Unfortunately, they couldn't force their contract carrier to deliver as promised, but they did take half off the bill, and I drove up and picked up the package myself.

  4. Maybe it is a size thing. I chose a smaller engine builder. I went to Tulsa to build my engine and was picked up at my hotel by the owner of the company. He set me up in the shop with an A&P and off we went- 4 hours later he came to the shop a took me out to lunch. At the end of the day he ran me to airport and thanked me for the business.

    They shopped the freight to get the engine minne for the best price and called to make sure everything was as expected.

    Maybe I just got lucky, but they have received at least 2 local orders based on my experience.

    Some places can still get it right.

  5. Was it Monty Barrett and famiy? I was thinking about them this afternoon. And kicking myself just a bit.

  6. Bob - it was Richard Fowler at America'a Aircraft Engines. They were good people to work with.


  7. Bob, you've made your point so I don't need to comment on that... but I do have to say a bright new engine is a beautiful thing!