In early March, while checking in to a hotel room, I was holding my Leica 10x42 Trinovid BA binoculars (ca. 1991) on my hip with some other gear while I tried to open the hotel room door. Unfortunately, during this process my binoculars fell the ~70 cm to the ground. When I picked them up I was shocked to see that parts of the optics had become loose in the right barrel. I was very disappointed because they were great binoculars and it meant I had to conduct field work for the rest of the week with damaged binoculars. I also knew it meant I may be without my binoculars for some time.
I sent in my binoculars and did some online research to see what other’s experiences with Leica repair/warranty service was. The results were mixed but weighted towards negative results, with some people happy and others not. I prepared myself for the worst. Unfortunately, as you will see from the timeline below, even preparing for the worst was not enough to get me ready for the complete lack of care Leica has shown me as a customer. Basic courtesies like returning emails and phone calls when promised were completely absent. There was no attempt made to give me any information without considerable effort on my part.
So read on and make up your own mind. But I don’t think you need to bother asking me for my opinion on Leica!
- March 7: I emailed for instructions on sending binoculars in for repair. Received instructions back within 3 hours. Mailed my binoculars as instructed later that day.
- March 14: binoculars entered into Leica’s system. Notice mailed to me to tell me I needed to call them to proceed further.
- March 24: I received the note and I phoned Leica. Was informed the binoculars were not covered by warranty and the damage would cost more than a replacement pair. I expressed my disappointment and the Leica rep told me they would have another technician inspect them to confirm and then call me back on Monday (29 March; which was Easter Monday so I assumed it would be Tuesday).
- April 1: Having not received a call back I phoned Leica. I waited on hold for a couple of minutes then was transferred to the voicemail which was full so I could not even leave a message.
- April 5: Still hadn’t received a call back so I emailed Leica with a CC to the president. Received a phone call and email from Customer Care manager explaining that the binoculars were indeed damaged beyond repair but they would offer me a discount on a replacement pair.
- April 6: I phoned Customer Care manager and agreed to their offer and passed on my Credit Card information for payment. He informed me they should ship the following week.
- April 21: emailed Customer Care manager to ask about status. Did not get a reply back.
- April 22: phoned Customer service in morning. Rep told me they should have been shipped but will check on the status and phone me back (I assumed that meant that day). Did not hear back from this person – ever.
- April 25: phoned Customer Care since I did not get a call back from previous rep. I was placed on hold, then transferred to voicemail, which was full. Phoned Customer Care manager and got through. He told me they hadn’t been shipped yet but they would be very soon. I asked about having them shipped to my work address since I wasn’t at home much at that time and living a couple hours away from my home address and he said no problem, just email the address to him, so I did.
- April 26: Phoned Customer Care manager and got through; he told me he would get the binoculars tomorrow AM and ship them overnight. He confirmed he did get my work address by email (even though he didn’t reply).
- April 27: Phoned Customer Care manager – no answer.
- April 28: Phoned Customer Care manager. Left a message. Called back twice more but no answer.
- April 29: Phoned Customer Care manager. Got through. He told me they had shipped on April 27 and should arrive today, or Monday (May 2) at the latest. He didn’t have the tracking number handy. Checked credit card info and debit to Leica was processed on April 27.
- May 2: Since I hadn’t received the binoculars yet, I phoned Customer Care manager. No answer so I emailed him- no reply. Tried calling Customer Service dept. and was placed on hold then transferred to voicemail that was full. Tried calling another number I had from March 7 for a Leica Technical Advisor and got through; he checked with the operator who transferred me to someone who was in the service department who was supposedly in – my call went to voicemail.
- May 3: Still no binoculars or response to email from Customer Care manager. Tried calling customer service – was placed on hold then transferred to voicemail that was full. Tried calling customer care manager – no answer. Tried calling other person in service department – no answer. Tried being transferred to operator – no answer. Tried again later and got a hold of the operator; she looked through files but said the shipping information must be still with shipping department (which was already closed for the day) and she or Customer Care manager would call me back tomorrow morning.
- May 4: emailed Custom Care manager with a CC to the president reminding him that I needed the binoculars for a trip on Friday and sharing the timeline and frustration I have gone through so far. I got an email back from the president saying I would be sent the tracking info shortly. The Customer Care manager sent me the tracking info….and….they sent them to my house, despite me telling them not to. I hadn’t been home for a couple of weeks and that is why I asked them to be sent to my office. To make things worse, according to UPS, they were signed for by me when they were delivered at 4:30 pm on Monday (May 2). I phoned UPS and they emailed me the signature – someone else’s hand-written “Mike Burrell”; I told them there has not been anyone at my house for over a week and they told me all I could do is check with my neighbours to see if they had been delivered to the wrong address. If not, then I would have to get Leica to open a complaint with UPS. Great, I thought, another ordeal! I scrambled to get in touch with someone nearby (I was two hours away) and got a hold of my friend, James. He was good enough to make the 45 minutes round trip up to my house and there they were – sitting on my porch (presumably for two days). He grabbed them and held on to them until I was able to pick them up.
- May 5: I finally picked up my binoculars and eagerly opened the box. At first things looked fine but I soon realized that there was a problem with the diopter: even at the most extreme setting I couldn't get the two barrels to be in focus together! So, I now had my binoculars in time to head to Pelee but they were broken...
- May 11: When I returned home from Pelee, I packaged them back up and express-shipped them back to Leica (at my expense) and emailed the Custom Care manager with a CC to the president to send them my shipping receipt and tell them what had happened and that I expected to be reimbursed for the extra shipping cost ($80), which seemed like a perfectly reasonable request.
- I never heard anything back in reply to my request for reimbursement but I did get another pair of binoculars (that were not broken) within a few business days.
Morals of the story is a) don’t expect to ever have email or phone calls back from Leica unless you get a hold of them directly by phone (don’t bother with voicemail); b) don’t believe anything their customer service department tells you unless they can give you some proof; c) if you think you will ever want something related to customer service/repair, it is probably best to buy some other brand than Leica; and d) if you do have to deal with customer service, I’d CC the president for Leica USA, Roger Horn, to make sure you are actually dealt with.
In fairness to Leica, at least some of this poor service resulted because they were undergoing upgrades to their computer system. And, the offer to replace my 25 year old binoculars for a reduced price on a new pair seemed fair, even though I was very surprised that they broke in the first place. But that’s probably fairer than I should be…
How does that compare to customer service you have received from a binocular manufacturer? You can find all sorts of reviews online about the performance of different binocular makes/models but it seems we rarely talk much about their post-purchase service.