Thursday 11 August 2016

My experience with Leica Customer “Service”

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.


  1. What a horror story! At the the time I bought my last binoculars I debated between Leica and Swarovski and tried them both. Thank goodness I went with Swarovski! We also got Swarovski for Miriam. So far we have not needed service but it couldn't be any worse than this could it?

  2. Wow, that is brutal customer service. You are much more patient than I am, I would have told them not to bother sending me another about halfway through this ordeal. The only CS experience with a bino manufacturer I have is Vortex. Bought my son a pair of their binos years ago. After having them a couple years, one of the strap attachment points on the binos snapped off while we were walking. I called Vortex and then emailed them a picture. They mailed a brand new pair to us immediately and we received them in less than a week. That's great service.

    Knock on wood I haven't needed to experience CS for my own Zeiss binos.

  3. Absolutely terrible experience by the sounds of it, Mike! Thanks for posting - needless to say I have no plans to purchase any of their equipment after reading that.

    My only experience was with Swarovski earlier this year after saltwater leaked into one of the barrels of my 8.5x42 ELs. I contacted them when arriving back in Canada, they sent me Fedex shipping labels, I sent the binoculars off, and about 5 weeks later they had fixed and returned my binoculars. They also added new eye-cup rubber rings (mine had fallen off years ago). It was all free even though I had no receipt for the binoculars - they only required that I send them the serial number ahead of time.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to share that experience! I'm planning to buy new bins in the next year and Leica were a brand I was strongly considering. Not anymore!

    I currently have Vortex and they have been absolutely stellar with customer service. They always send replacement parts (straps, eye piece cups) within 24-hours of me emailing them. And they replaced my original set for free with a higher quality version due to water getting into the optics. Only issue is that their rain covers are poorly designed - which is an issue in Newfoundland :p It seems like such an easy thing to improve so I'm surprised that they continue to send the ones they have.

    My Swarovski scope once took a spill during a freak windstorm in the arctic. The eye piece got a small scratch which was really only an issue in very few light conditions. The scope also got some water in it during a rainstorm. So I sent the scope & eyepiece in knowing that their warranty would only cover the water issue. They sent it back all back in perfect condition, free of charge even though I wasn't really expecting them to fix the eyepiece.

    Great service from those two companies. I wonder if that kind of service is sustainable though?

  5. Wow what a nightmare. Scratch Leica off my list of dream binoculars.

  6. Mike, thanks for sharing how Leica "services" their customers. I think the "no fault" policies at Nikon or Vortex make those two brands a better value. Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware! -DM

  7. Sounds awful. I would never even consider Leica now based on this review. Nor would I ever consider or recommend Vortex to anyone as the products are just given to you and ready to fall apart. The service might be great, but if you have to have your gear constantly getting fixed, why bother.

  8. Another vote for Vortex here. The only issue I've had with my Vortex gear was self-inflicted. Fixed in record time and even shipped me loaner bins while mine were being fixed (which didn't take long). The communication is fantastic. Emails are responded to same day and phone calls are actually answered by humans.

  9. Mike

    Absolutely deplorable service. Have never considered Leica as an option and certainly never would now. Years ago my Zeiss Dialyts fell off the roof of my car at 30 mph and literally broke in two. I took them to Werner Schmaltz who was the Canadian Zeiss rep at the time and he shipped them off to the States for repair. They came back within a month, fully repaired and actually in better alignment than they had been. All free of charge.

    I still have them as well as a new pair of Conquests which I love.

  10. Thanks everyone for your feedback; I have to say all of your experiences sound pretty much exactly as I would expect from the research I did on this topic. Leica really does seem to be one of the worst.

    Since getting my new pair of Leica Trinovids, I have been happy with them (ONCE I got them...) but I shudder to think what will happen when something inevitably happens to them.

    1. how did you contact the president of Leica? I have a Leica camera in repair for more than 2 months now, and similar having experience with you (no updates, no call backs). I feel like I would never have it back. lol

    2. I did some creative googling and then guessed at the email address...I don't want to post it here but will send it to you if you email me.

  11. What a disaster. Sadly enough, I've never even thought about having my binoculars repaired. I always just bought new. I'm glad I came across this blog to learn that. Many years ago, I had a pair that fit my hands perfectly and were incredibly light weight. I dropped them and messed up the lens. I wish I would've thought to call the company.

    Joey @ Amerika Link

  12. The left barrel on my Leica 10x42 BA's did not work and I sent them off to a repairer in Melbourne Australia (I live in the Northern Trritory). They said the binos needed to go back to Germany for a fix under warranty. I bought them in 1998. The binos came back from Leica after 3 months, without charge, and they seem brand new. Needless to say I'm very impressed by Leica's customer service.

    1. Glad to hear you had a good experience! Maybe Leica Australia could teach Leica USA something.

  13. Really surprised at the saga. I was a Leica camera/binocular dealer for over 20 years.The service in those days was pretty good. We always had access to company management and although back orders were sometimes lengthly we had a happy customer group.
    Now I am looking for service for my ELCAN binoculars and have not yet found anyone who can do this for me.Frustrating!

  14. just looked on here as I am now having problems with Leica. I have a pair of 8x20 BR Ultravids, some while ago the plate which covers the focussing mechanism fell off. I tried to glue it back on but failed, ultimately I just pushed it in place and kept it in position with a piece of Sellotape. Last week I decided that it was probably best if I got them fixed properly by Leica - the binos came with a 30 year guarantee so I took them back to the shop I purchased them from and they sent them off to Portugal for me (apparently they're not serviced in Germany any more). Today I received a phone call from the shop - bad news - apparently my binoculars are unrepairable, show signs of heavy use (?), have a scratch on the lens and have some fungus inside !! They offered me a new pair at a small discount or want me to pay 60 something Euros for them to send them back to me unfixed. They also stated that there were obvious signs of impact to the body. Well, I can categorically state that they have never been knocked or dropped although they do look rather shabby having been used on a daily basis when I walked my dog or used in preference to larger binoculars (Swarovski) when I carry a large lens and camera. This is not the customer service I expect from a company with Leica's reputation for optics. If they want to wriggle out of the guarantee why would I trust them enough to spend even more money with them but to add insult to injury by asking me to pay them for the return of my binoculars has left me feeling furious as they were sent in to them for repair under warranty. I would advise anybody to look elsewhere when buying new optics !!

  15. Sorry you had a poor experience. I own 4 different Leica binoculars and 2 rangefinders. I love them all. My experience with their service dept in NJ has very good. There response has been great and they confirmed back to me via email. My service was grit in the eyepiece on my BN10x42’s and a diopter issue on my BN8x42’s. Both issues were handled professionally. I was required to pay shipping both ways which I thought was fair.