“We have a very strict policy in regards to product purchased OS.
We won’t provide parts, power supplies, circuit diagrams or labour for any goods purchased outside the local music retail channel.”
That’s what Electric Factory, the Australian distributor of M-Audio equipment, had to say when I asked them about where I could get my new Axiom keyboard repaired. I waited months for it to be delivered by Amazon (their supplier kept delaying delivery apparently), only to discover two of the faders had been damaged in transit.
Now, I wasn’t asking for this to be covered under warranty – I sent an email a good week and a half ago simply asking if they could provide me with details of a repair centre in Sydney. I rang Sound Devices at the same time, and they passed me onto Phase Engineering. I dropped the keyboard off to them, and they said they “contacted M-Audio for the parts” but had no luck, but were able to source a suitable replacement elsewhere.
Now, imagine that you’re a touring international musician – your M-Audio gear falls off the stand and onto the stage. You ring Electric Factory: “We have a very strict policy in regards to product purchased OS…”.
Imagine you bought your M-Audio keyboard when you were living in London, you’ve moved back to Australia and it’s damaged in transit. You ring Electric Factory: “We have a very strict policy in regards to product purchased OS…”.
Or imagaine you bought your Axiom keyboard as in an Ableton Live bundle, it’s delivered to you but is faulty upon delivery. You check the M-Audio website for warranty details – no mention of jurisdiction or country of purchase – so you ring Electric Factory… well, you get the picture.
In this day and age, of relatively free migration, global travel, and the internet, a global brand like M-Audio can prosper. But this also places a lot of pressure on local distributors – their margins are increasing depressed by overseas competition. It’s also hard for M-Audio to provide service in all those countries – they have to rely on local distributers to provide such services.
If the M-Audio warranty stated that it was applicable only in the country of purchase, I’d accept Electric Factory’s right to refuse service for warranty or technical support. But there is no such clause, and that wasn’t my request anyway – all I asked for was the name and number of a suitable repair centre. I think it’s telling that Electric Factory’s first response to my request was “Where did you purchase the unit from in the first place?”.
As a customer I will always be working in my best interest – sometimes that’s price, sometimes it’s other factors such as support – which is obviously what they’re banking on by being so strict. IMO, where I choose to purchase an item should be irrelevant when dealing with things like warranty and organising paid repairs (different story if I was asking for support on the product from a store that I have no relationship with – financial or otherwise).
When I pointed out to Electric Factory that I felt this was perhaps “short-sighted” and an “abuse of your sole-distributer status” I received an this response (in part):
“Grant feel extremely free to contact M Audio. Their number is 0011 1 626 633 9050.”
… If you chose to by pass the local industry we cannot support you because it would be disloyal to our retail partners.
Our company has been successful since 1973 underpinned by loyalty not shortsightedness.
There will always be a few disgruntled customers… no business can please 100% of the people…. enjoy being the small few who we can’t please.
(I noted it was a phone number, not an email address, they quoted). Again – Electric Factory is the distributer. Their customers are the retailers, not the public – so they are loyal to their retail partners. But how much is their sole-distributer status a factor in customer “loyalty”? I wonder…
In this case it took them as long to respond to my initial email inquiry as it did for me to put the keyboard in for service and have it repaired (I picked it up on the same day as my first response from Electric Factory). I have also contacted Electric Factory in the past for support for a purchase made through a retailer in Australia and was less than satisfied with the response – the support person was rude and sounded like I was the last person they were interested in talking to.
As it stands my relationship with Sound Devices has been improved through this exchange. I’m also very happy with the service provided by Phase Engineering – so a plus for them (the phone number for Phase Engineering is 02 9982 0000 btw). If Electric Factory had have simply answered my question with “Phase Engineering can help you out, here’s their number” I would be a happy customer, and not investing the energy it takes to write this negative post about them. They may not have made many $$ on the repair (depending on how much they charged for replacement parts, they may have made a few bucks), but they would have benefited from goodwill – at least avoided the badwill that ensued.
The biggest loser I think in this exchange is M-Audio (and to a lesser extent any manufacturer for which Electric Factory is the sole distributer).
My relationship is with M-Audio and their gear (I love a lot of what they produce), not Electric Factory. Yet my dealings with Electric Factory have tainted my relationship with M-Audio.
It makes me think twice about buying M-Audio gear in the future, if I’ll have to deal with Electric Factory in any way (whether the purchase be local or international). I’ve contacted M-Audio, and received an understanding response, and an offer to help any way they can, from the States. They say, in part:
I understand your frustration, but indeed a company is global via distribution and they are unfortunately entitled to turn down supporting users that don’t purchase locally as they try to discourage this daily.
I do agree that it should be in their interest to do so, but this is the way they try to stop it and by having users recognize the benefits of buying locally.
This is a business for them and M-Audio nor most manufacturers can afford to have world wide service centers like Sony (a consumer company) vs. an MI (musical instrument) company.
With all that said, we do support folks like you but in the States, where you bought the product.
Just wanted to share my experience with y’all so that when you’re thinking of buying M-Audio gear over the net, you know what to expect.
Am I tripping? Is this basic level of service too much to expect? Am I getting what I deserve by purchasing overseas?
FWIW, even with the repair bill (AUD$120) and transport (approx. AUD$100) I do slightly better than breaking event based on the RRP in Australia (after GST). I may claw some of that repair bill back through postal insurance. It makes me wonder where that $120+ (the repair cost + whatever a distributer would save on transport costs) going when you buy in Australia?
Update 03-Aug-2006: I just received another email from M-Audio directly – it seems they are working on updating their warranty information on their site to reflect the situation internationally. I found out that they have 80+ distributers internationally, and that they are trying to get some basic levels of service secured across all jurisdictions. So, I have to say that I’m happy with M-Audio again, but still none-too-fond of Electric Factory.