A couple of weeks ago we bought one of Pete’s Picnic Tables to go on our back deck. It’s a great table, made of macrocarpa. It’s solid, comfortable and heavy enough to withstand any Wellington wind.
It drizzled a bit the next day, and the grain showed up beautifully. The damp made the table golden. The picture here doesn’t do it justice.
Table and 2 ‘pews’: around $850, with a bit extra for delivery.
First impression of the table: it’s great.
We need an umbrella
Our back deck is pretty exposed and in summer there’s no shade from the sun, so we made sure to buy a table that would hold a shade umbrella:
Will hold a big umbrella comfortably.
The manufacturer and salesman, Pete, was a jovial chap. He pointed out that a cheap umbrella would probably fall to bits fairly quickly, as one of his display umbrellas had. He advised us to buy a more durable umbrella.
After some research we bought a decent quality Latitude brand umbrella from Mitre 10 for around $150.
For those outside New Zealand Mitre 10’s a well-known hardware chain store.
The hole’s a tad too small
For a few days after buying the umbrella we didn’t do anything with it because it was foggy or windy or rainy.
Then Wellington turned summer back on and we had a very hot and sunny afternoon.
I unpacked the new umbrella and put the bottom part of the pole through the hole in the table.
Well, that was the plan.
The pole’s slightly bevelled at the bottom end, so what happened was it sorted of rested just inside the hole. The diameter of the hole was about 1 or 2 millimetres too small.
Obviously there was a mistake — perhaps the apprentice put the hole in this table and used the wrong drill bit. Perhaps Pete didn’t realise he’d made a table with a hole just fractionally too small for a ‘big umbrella’.
Second impression of the table: it had a problem. That happens.
The customer service call
Next morning — another stunning hot and sunny day, I rang Pete, who was still very jovial. In a friendly way I explained the problem. I expected a cheery response and a quick fix. I imagined he’d offer to stop in sometime soon and make the hole wider.
Instead Pete explained that:
- he can’t cater for all umbrella sizes
- I wasn’t the first customer to have this problem
- it would cost loads to get him round to fix it
- I could buy a rasp and fix it myself in 10 minutes
- I could take the umbrella back to Mitre 10 and exchange it for one that did fit the hole
- my asking him to fix the table was like buying a car and then complaining to the salesman that I now couldn’t fit my sofa in the back (???).
It turns out a rasp is a coarse file, semicircular on one side and flat on the other.
Pete also asked, rather sarcastically, if I thought he should put a note on each table, pointing out that some umbrellas maybe wouldn’t fit. I replied that he should.
Third impression: this guy has zero customer service skills. I’d be cautious about buying anything else from him. I’m looking at the table in a less favourable light.
The rasp and blister
Next day, I took the dogs to the beach and stopped in at The Warehouse. For those outside New Zealand, The Warehouse is a big chain store that stocks cheap goods.
For $9 I bought a cheap set of 3 files that included a rasp. I’ve never needed a rasp before and imagine I never will again. I had no intention of paying good money to buy a well-made, durable handtool.
Then I came home and spent half an hour making the hole wider. I have a blister, and there’s a small dent in the table where the tool slipped.
For 30 minutes while I ‘rasped’ I had in my mind how annoying this whole thing was, and what exceptionally poor customer service I’d received.
I imagine that every time I sit at the table, or put the umbrella in the hole, I’ll be reminded that Pete didn’t care. Whenever we have visitors I imagine it’ll jog my memory about how Pete didn’t care.
The hole’s now big enough, and no longer quite circular. It’s close, but not a perfect circle.
My last, and lasting, impression: Pete’s table had a problem and he didn’t care.
The umbrella’s great. On calm, sunny days in summer I’ll sit out there with my laptop and work.
From gold to lead
I think Pete makes great tables (with a flaw). I’m surprised that he hasn’t used customer feedback to his advantage and made allowance for all standard umbrella sizes.
A friend suggested he could drill 2 holes, at 2 different sizes. I thought he could supply some kind of insert that would allow people to choose a larger or smaller hole.
He could offer tables with holes of various sizes. He could post a notice that his tables can accept umbrellas with poles up to a certain maximum size.
He has experience: he’s been making these tables for years, and allowing for umbrellas.
This is the first picnic table I’ve ever bought, and the first shade umbrella. I had no idea there were different sized poles. I had no idea I’d have to measure the damned hole before choosing an umbrella.
I’ve gone from being thrilled with my purchase of a well-made table to being peeved and writing a blog post to tell the world how annoyed I am.
Pete has successfully transformed my ‘golden’ experience into lead.