I have to imagine that many pipe and cigar smokers have both favorite online vendors, and local vendors that they visit out of convenience. This is certainly true for me, and until recently, I had never had to question my loyalty to my primary online vendor.

A lot of people reading this will know the company I’m talking about, but I’m not going to name it directly, as I believe doing so would be unfair.

Earlier this year, my primary online vendor for pipe tobacco, that I can’t get locally, was sold to a larger tobacco retailer looking to expand its operations without putting in all the time and money to have an “organic” expansion so to speak. On the face of it, I don’t have a problem with such maneuvers, as it’s a part of the natural flow of capitalism. Many in online forums, and myself, held reservations as to what the merger would do to the exemplary customer service and phenomenal selection that the other company provided.

Being that some time has passed, reactions online are mixed, if not overall negative on the question of customer service. When it comes to product selection, the first rule of retail is that you must have stock to sell. Since the merger, the new company seems unable or unwilling to shore up its supply lines in order to prevent backorders and stock shortages. Recently, as I was looking to place an order, out of stock and backordered products prevented me from utilizing the services of this particular company, which unto this point had received ALL of my online business for the past three years.

Today, I traded loyalty for convenience. Tomorrow, I am unlikely to forget my need for doing so. In the future, the e-tailer in question cannot reasonably expect my patronage. As a consumer it is frustrating if not sad, to see a company known for its customer service, selection, and overall personality, to be bought out by a larger and somewhat faceless company. Being that I harbor no specific frustration with capitalism, I may someday stop in and visit the B&M of the original retailer, if I should ever find my way to that part of the country.

I do, however, harbor frustration with the failure of a company to meet the expectations and demands of its customer base. Therefore, I have found a new online retailer with whom I hope to forge a similar relationship in years to come. Should they fail to meet my expectations, I shall look to another part of functional capitalism to help remedy my displeasure: there’s always someone or someplace else willing to go the extra mile, for the extra dollar.

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