David Begneaud contrasts product quality and customer service in the outdoor equipment industry and the difficulties he encountered with a faulty generator purchased at a “Big Box” store.
“I use high end backpacking gear and am amazed that any time I have a problem with equipment such as rain gear, tents, headlights, etc. the manufacturer always replaces the equipment promptly with a replacement, not just within a year of purchase, but usually around five years later.
The customer service is in the outdoor gear industry is unbelievable. They are constantly improving their products without cutting corners.
On the other hand I have nothing but heartbreak when it comes to consumer devices sold at big box stores and home improvement companies. You can’t ever get through to someone that actually cares about customer satisfaction or improving the product to eliminate repeat failures.
One recent example I have is an experience I had with a product manufactured in the US.
I live in south Louisiana where portable generators are a big seller during the hurricane seasons, the home improvement companies can’t get enough of them to sell after a storm.
Most of these generators are built in China and designed to run a season or two and then self destruct. You then get to purchase a new one.
I purchased a small Coleman Powermate (PM0431800) generator at Home Depot that worked beautifully for about three hours until gasoline starting pouring from the large plastic tank that covers the entire top of the generator onto the engine as it was running. It’s a miracle it didn’t catch on fire and cause catastrophic damage.
A bolt on top of the engine vibrated loose (no lock washer) it then backed out a few turns and wore a hole through the bottom of the plastic tank.
I contacted Coleman and was informed by them that the Powermate division went bankrupt and I essentially had no warranty. I simply wanted them to send me a new tank and have them look into securing the bolt to prevent this problem from happening again. They weren’t interested in the problem at all. I contacted JB Weld about an adhesive to repair the tank and they advised me against using their product on a poly tank.
I returned it to Home Depot and explained my problem to the store manager and she without hesitation gave me a new one and said Home Depot would take the loss.
It was very interesting to notice that the identical replacement had Homelite (HG1800) on the box, and after researching it I found out Homelite bought the remaining stock from Powermate at the bankruptcy auction and resold them, and now Pramac America bought Coleman Powermate.
There is also another problem with the design of the vibration isolator rubber feet that keep the generator from “walking” away. If you move the generator at all without lifting it up first, the rubber feet separate from the mounting bolts that hold them to the frame. I observed these same units that were on display at Home Depot and they all had at least two legs missing before they were even sold. A consumer would probably never notice this until they actually use the generator which may not be until it is out of the time frame for a return..
I contacted Pramac America and Homelite about the rubber feet and they both said that the inferior design was always used and they did not seem receptive to any of the problems with these generators.
It is extremely aggravating that most companies in the US really don’t seem to care about listening to the consumers; perhaps I should forward my notes about these problems to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
To respond to some of the readers’ comments, I would never consider this generator for “serious” use, only occasional recreational use–for which it performs very well other than the “issues” with the tank and rubber feet.
Below is a photo of my “serious” use generator. It burns diesel or bio diesel and runs at 650/rpm versus the 3600/rpm for the Coleman–or would that be Homelite, or Pramac? It is 1930s technology at its best.