Wenger snags first Elliott Award for Excellent Customer Service

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 6.04.09 PMToday I’m introducing the Elliott Award for Excellent Customer Service, a weekly shout-out to companies that go above and beyond the call of duty to help their customers. And I’m pleased to announce the first winner: luggage manufacturer Wenger.

Christopher Smith bought a Wenger Swiss Army Pegasus Backpack in 2009 from a Circuit City store that was about to be shuttered. The retailer had marked the bag, which lists for $99, down by 50 percent, making it a real bargain.

“It looked sturdy, and since I travel a lot, I needed to make sure my laptop was safe, in addition to external hard drives and various other electronic devices I needed to carry for my job,” he says. “Over the past four years, the bag has been dropped, manhandled by TSA and always handled superbly. Aside from some dirt and some scuff marks, the bag looks brand-new, still.”

But two weeks ago, while he tried to sling the bag over his shoulder at the airport, a buckle connecting the shoulder strap to the bottom strap snapped. Smith dropped the bag from about three feet to the ground, directly on its back where his laptop was stored. Fortunately, the PC was unharmed, “attesting to the superior protection the bag provides,” he says.

He continues,

Since I rely on the bag, and figured the bag was well out of any warranty, I contacted Wenger customer service to inquire how much it would cost to fix the broken buckle.

A very friendly customer service person listened to my story and told me that she was going to send me a webform to fill out, which would require my original receipt (which I had kept since it was a business expense for me) and some pictures of the bag itself and the broken buckle.

I filled out the form, and e-mailed it back, as requested.

Unbelievably, Smith received response less than 24 hours later with some good news: His bag was still under warranty. But there was just one hitch. The buckle was really difficult to repair.

“Instead, they would be sending me a brand new bag, at their expense, and to dispose of the original bag if I wished,” he says. “Three days later, my brand new Wenger Pegasus bag was sitting on my doorstep.”

Wow. Not only did Wenger honor the warranty on a deeply-discounted purchase, but it went above and beyond what it needed to, sending Smith a new bag.

“If anyone is in the market for a new bag, I highly recommend Wenger, not only for their phenomenal craftsmanship, but because of their superior customer service,” he says.

Wenger, it’s an honor to give you a shout-out for excellent customer service. Nicely done.

By the way, if you have a story of a company going above and beyond the call of duty to help you, please share it with me.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://thestockhome.com/ Josh S

    And now I know who I’m buying my next backpack from when my current one wears out.

    To companies: Please note — good customer service wins customers!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rita.fitzpatrick.diver Rita Fitzpatrick

    Oh heck – we just bought a new travel bag for dive gear. Wish I had know about this company two weeks ago! Their Sierre 30″ Rolling Trolley Duffle looks good!

  • Erica

    I am still waiting for a response from Cal Pak. California Pack regarding my brand new hard side luggage set that cracked on its first use . Good to hear that some companies still stand behind their products.

  • John Keahey

    I purchased a Filson briefcase/computer bag for my daughter, who used it over several trips overseas to pack books and other parafernalia. After 3-4 years, the heavy zipper broke. I sent it to Filson asking them to replace the zipper and was willing to pay since it likely was well out of warranty and no receipt was available. A representative called me a few days later and said they were sending me a new bag, no charge. I’ve purchased a lot of their products over the years and like Filson a lot, but was pleasantly surprised. She, now perhaps 10 years later, is still using that bag.

  • emanon256

    I swear by those bags! I have dropped them, had them fall off airport conveyer belts, had TSA crush them under suitcases, stuffed them under hundreds of airline seats, and they hold up to it all while protecting my laptop. My typical travel bag would last about 3-6 months before getting a Wenger, however after getting one of these it lasted about 3 year, and at that point only had minor damage, unlike my previous bags, and was still usable.


    I use this model, the outer pocket is perfect for holding a rolled up towel, and a 1QT toiletries bag for quick access during the TSA screening.

  • Cheryl M

    Has anyone bought/used the Wenger 27″ sierre rolling duffle? I was about to purchase another High Sierra 25″ duffle to replace an old one, but the Wenger sounds like a better option. Would love to hear feedback.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    “a rolled up towel”. Interstellar hitchhiker AND deep sea diver, too?

  • emanon256

    Mostly for interstellar hitchhiking :) And you would be surprised how many times carrying a towel has saved the day.

  • lzeph

    My thoughts exactly. I’m saving up to buy my son a new backpack (the one he’s using now is a mess); when the purchase is made, it will definitely be from the Wenger company.

    It’s true (far more than many commercial entities seem to realize) that customer service can be the difference between gaining or losing business. I’d add that this is not – can not be – accomplished through advertising but by word of mouth. I will be recommending Wenger whenever possible.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Wow, thanks everyone for the positive comments. I wasn’t sure if I had enough material to keep publishing a regular post about good customer service, but I’ve been overwhelmed by reports — and I think I do!

  • bk

    I’ve had similar experiences with Kirkland rolling bags from Costco (liberal policy on returns and exchanges) and Lands End (my business attache case). Because of that, I’m loyal to both.

  • joshua362

    Actually, I’ve had this company’s similar laptop bag for over 2 years now and its held up grate considering that I’ve never gotten more than 6 months out of any other previous backpack!! Every zipper and compartment has held up extraordinarily. Its s a winner!

  • Mike Sch

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide will have to be rewritten: Don’t forget your towel AND Wenger backpack!!