Customer Service Is As Important As The Products You Buy –


Should You Factor In How Good A Company’s Consumer Service Is Before Making A Purchase Decision?  Yes you should.

There are a lot of excellent products in the market that are more than capable of fulfilling our needs as photographers. When we make decisions we take the time to look at all the features, the comfort factor, and the benefits.

However, one of the most important things that we should consider but usually do not is how good the support is from the company who manufactured the product and from who ever the retailer your are going to purchase from.

Can you depend upon the manufacturer to own up to a problem and not take you in circles to resolve the problem?  If you cannot then you should consider not buying products from that company because using their products could impact the quality of your very important photographs and videos.

While I am not a whistle-blower, I think it is important that with my many years in the photography equipment business and as person who is called upon for purchasing advice almost every day, that I report the good and the bad when I think it may cause some serious adverse effects for someone’s important purchase.

I have been working with video for the past few months and trying to learn those things that will help others take decent video.  One type of product that I have been working with is a stabilizer.  See definition according to Wiki.

“What these devices do, once you calibrate them for your particular gear is give the Hollywood look of smoothness to your clips.  A stabilizer essentially combines the stabilized steady footage of a conventional tripod mount with the fluid motion of a dolly shot and the flexibility of hand-held camera work. While smoothly following the operator’s broad movements, the stabilizer’s gimbal absorbs jerks, bumps, and shakes by isolating the videographer from the camera itself.”

While there are many on the market the best known and most popular are the Steadicam by Tiffen – made in Taiwan and the Glidecam by Glidecam – made in the United States.

I opted to try the lightweight units from each company.  The Steadicam Merlin 2 and the Glidecam hd-1000.  This however is not a review of these two products.  A review will follow in few weeks and for those interested in having very smooth video footage, without the bouncing and drifting we often see.  I say a few weeks because I am new to these devices and learning to balance them and walk with them does have a small but important learning curve.

While this in not a review of the products themselves it is a review as to how each company worked with me to resolve some issues that happened to arise for both products.  They are different issues, but nonetheless, issues.

The Tiffin Steadicam ($600.00) after a few hours of use developed a broken lock mechanism, which is essential for holding the camera mounting plate on top of the device.  This rendered the device unusable.  While the unit at first appears to be well made, the lock mechanism uses plastic parts, which did not hold up.  It also gives me an uncomfortable feeling about what else might fall apart.

The Glidecam HD-1000) ($368.00), while balanced, would drift when pivoted on the gimbal pole throwing the balance off.  In order to correct the problem, which could be done by a user, it involved making adjustments that I was not prepared to make on my own.  The reason is that my hands are not made for delicate adjustment work and my tri-focals are simply not great for that kind of work.  The percentage of manufactured units that could be delivered with this issue is less than 1%.  I just happened to be in that minute amount.

I emailed Tiffen about the lock problem and there tardy response was a meager one.  They told me that the mechanism had 8 parts.  (I did not see 8 parts.)  They asked if the screw and bolt holding the lock lever was loose.  It was not.  They said if it could not be tightened or did not need to be tightened then it would have to be sent for repair at their factory.   The factory is in Taiwan.  I wrote back and said that this was a brand new product, two weeks old and that it would be nice if they would simply swap out the whole mounting plate and mechanism.  I heard back from them and they said I could purchase a new plate and mechanism for $85.00 at B&H and that I must have done something to the original part.  Believe me, I did nothing but use it in the correct manner as described in their instructions.  This was via a phone call I had to make.  They were not willing to work with me on this problem, which was really their problem.

Glidecam responded to my email in about 15 minutes and asked if I wanted them to help walk through the procedure of fine-tuning the gimbal and I explained that I would prefer not to.  They understood.  Remember nothing was broken, and only an adjustment needed to be made to my two-week old purchase, which someone with a bit more finger dexterity could have done in 10 minutes.  I also had other questions about the Glidecam HD-1000, which I had detailed in my email to them.  A very nice lady named Cheryl responded back and told me that she had turned over my information to Mr. Tom Howie who is VP of sales at Glidecam.

In less than an hour I had a phone call from Tom and we arranged via their UPS number to send the unit in for adjustment for a quick turn around.  He then proceeded to go over the questions I had asked in my email and answered each one of them in a very polite and knowledgeable way and actually saved me several hundreds of dollars, by convincing me that I did not need to make additional accessory purchases from them.

I hope you are getting the gist of all of this.  

It is about customer service.  Each product like everything else has pluses and minuses and each product will fill someone’s needs.  Could I have used either one and been happy.  Maybe.  But in the end the one that I shall keep and recommend will be the Glidecam because the customer service was simply outstanding as is the product itself.

I ultimately would have decided on the Glidecam anyway because I think the design is better and the quality of materials is better. It will stay in balance after adjustments far longer than the Steadicam Merlin 2.  By the way the Steadicam also has gimbal adjustments, which I can tell you if you have large or pudgy fingers will prove to be a nightmare.  The Glidecam gimbal would be easier to adjust but arthritis in my fingers would make it too difficult for me.  They understood that.

I hope I have been able to enlighten you about one company’s very poor customer service vs. another companies above and beyond service. Then I know you will avoid Tiffen company products overall.  I am not angry with Tiffen but I am disappointed.  Of course that decision is ultimately yours.

What it all boils down to is you are buying customer service along with the product and you should be taking a company’s commitment to customer service or lack of into consideration when making a final decision about what to buy and where.


Glidecam hd1000

Youtube setting up a Glidecam part one

Youtube Glidecam part two

Youtube Glidecam part three

An addendum:

I went to the Tiffen page on Facebook and told about my disappointment in their customer service and who I dealt with.

It was not long before someone from Tiffen via Facebook apologized and said I should call certain people and they would arrange for a free replacement, under warranty of the defective Doveplate and locking mechanism.

Unfortunately, with freight charges I had spent 121.00 dollars at B&H on line to get the broken part because it seemed that Tiffen was not going to help.  I guess as the old saying goes “better late than never”.  Well the old saying is wrong.  It would have been better to take care of the customer quickly and politely in a fair and correct manner.  They did not.  So now if I put it all together the Merlin 2 from Tiffen wound up costing me $721.00 plus time lost.

I am not telling you to avoid Tiffen and their products.  But based on their performance in regards to customers with defective brand new products I would think twice about doing business with them.  This of course is my opinion.  But I am shelving their Merlin 2 Stabilizer and using the much better Glidecam HD1000 which has turned out to be a better product overall.

If you need a video stabilizer go with Glidecam.  It is a superior product which goes along with their superior service.


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