thoughts and decisions for a creative edge

lousy

Vibram FiveFingers. Don’t believe the Signa hype.

I was curious about Vibram FiveFinger shoes that keeps popping up in stores and web stores. I own a couple of Vibram-soled shoes. Many which I can swear by. From RockPorts to UGG which have outlasted other shoes I own. If you haven’t heard about the FiveFingers, these are basically extremely light ninja-like shoes like those of the dorky fingered socks.. except made of more durable material and a sole to cushion your feet from the impacts it receives from various form of exercises and activities. They make these for distance running, trail running and just daily use too. In favour of the weightless ergonomic look and since I do tonnes of dragon boating and stand up paddling, I kinda got my eyes set on one of their products which markets specifically for water activities.

There are various kind of shoes you can wear while doing water activities. Most of these would be neoprene based from 2mm to 5mm for various weather conditions. These are good but it usually gets pretty hot and sweaty when you’re wearing them in the peak of summer. This design however are derived from scuba diving or snorkelling as they cool you down when you’re submerged in water. But when you’re staying on ground exposed to hot sun or winter’s weather, it can be pretty unbearable. Then there is the netted top material aqua-shoe that’s sprawling the market with a thick polyurythane sole underneath. Even though they work for its purpose, you tend to however lose your sole senses due to its thick unflexible soles. Despite all the comfort claims, this shoes make your toes and feet completely senseless; like having on gum boots when you want to feel the grass under your feet. If you catch my drift.

When in water, and on a paddle board, you want to feel connected to the water. Many will either go bare feet as it gives you that connection while you’re applying pressure on the deck of the board whilst paddling. On a dragonboat or SUP in summer weather, barefeet feels great but you don’t want to step off the board into old deck splinters or unexpected sharp rocks. And for us who trains on fresh water, these murky water sometimes makes your feet slippery during the power phase of your stroke. You’re transferring the full weight of the paddle to the bottom of your feet and the last thing you’d want it to do is slip.

Less about paddling technique, back about the Signa shoe and its advertising claims.

Whether kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding or simply walking the rocky shores all summer, the FiveFingers® Signa is the shoe for you. The segmented Coral outsole made of Vibram® TC-4 Plus rubber ensures ultimate grip and protection in the water and allows natural foot flexion when swimming. Small perforations in the sole encourage water drainage, minimize weight, and speedup drying time. The upper is built with a combination of synthetic and abrasion resistant fabrics to protect the foot. The Signa is finished off with a structural hook and loop strap for a secured fit. Machine washable. Air dry.

So I bought myself the Vibram FiveFingers Signa in January 17, 2015. I decided on these vs the TrekSport which also claims to be water specialized design due to its breathing sole. Water in – water out. Quick dry. It takes a bit of practise to get these on and off your feet. As advised, you should choose the proper size that allow your heel to firmly seat in the heel cup and for me this was one size smaller than the normal shoe size I wear. So in general, if you’re like me wearing a 44 you’d want to get a 43 to have a proper snug fit. So Jack is happy with his shoe fit. But through time and putting it to its paces, that’s where it becomes less desirable. Jack is starting to not like it.

After less than six months of use (2nd June 2015 at the time of writing) the shoe is starting to break apart. The first to snap off was the rear loop. You have to understand the snugness of these shoes when you try to get them on. The thing just decided it’s had enough and snapped off exactly where the stitches are. It was a perfect rip. Like that of a postage stamp. This was just the first of many other failure symptoms to come.

Broken Loop

The following week during my SUP race here in Netherlands, I thought the shoe had a less snug feel. A closer look unveiled that the rubber seal which connects the sole to the upper synthetic material is also torn. I’m beginning to doubt that this shoe was ever tested on and off water for this length of use. But 3x a week and about 2 hours average each time is not too much I think.

Torn sole seam

And the rest just starts to fall apart. The glue adhesive on the bottom of the toes have also started to give way and if you look closely to the upper synthetic material, it has started to tear in various places. It may be made for water, but I think its just not weather-proofed. This shoes dry fast but it feel like the materials used couldn’t withstand the repeated wet-wear and dry over a repeated period – of I say 6 months.

Glue wears off

Synthetic upper layer cracks and tears

So now I am at a loss of whether the shoe was well worth the $90 I paid for when it starts to deteriorate after 6 months of use. I wear them on average 3x a week for my dragonboat and SUP trainings. Nothing extreme like jumping rocks / running distances what so ever. To make matters slightly more complicated, I got these in Florida during my travel and I doubt the retailers in Netherlands would even want to bother with my issue on this shoe even if they stock them here on the shelves. But one thing for sure, I’d be more wary to look for feedbacks on this water-claim Signa shoes before giving them your hard earned money.

If any of you know where I can get this fixed, replaced or warrantied, do direct me to the right pls. I twittered about the torn loop once on Twitter with @FiveFingers tagged on it but never got any response from them. Too busy selling I guess.

Needless to say. It might be the last time I look into FiveFingers as a watersports wear. I was sceptical when I got it, and despite the great feel it gives, the sudden wear and break down on its material and build makes it an undesirable product for its claimed purpose. I guess I’m back to the old smelly neoprene boots when I hit the water. At least they can take the 5 year beatings without a problem. Don’t believe the hype. And don’t fall for false marketing.

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Excuse me Kamera-Express – Do you care?

Call me a sour customer. But I’ve never felt more right to be, especially after what I’ve experienced with this outlet’s service. Today, my blog will be a channel where I vent my unsatisfied experience with after-sales service from KameraExpress. Please be reminded that this is my 1st time expressing negative feedback on a company, which should focus on service more than anything else; to promote sales.

Over a year ago I flattered myself with the newly released Canon G9. The camera functioned great for my stop motion animation studio. Its also a handy camera to tote around for great pictures and videos. To make it even more user-friendly, I’ve added custom add-ons from Richard Freniec. Just to be clear, the camera itself was not tempered with the add-ons. This include a 35mm lens adapter, a glued-on hand grip and thumb rest and flash-shoe protector. I later got a Canon SpeedLight 580EX II to complement the built-in flash.

Nothing out of the unusual. But I did crack the LCD protector one time when I accidentally sat on the camera just 4 mths after purchaee. This would have been the 1st sign of how dear it is to get cameras fixed via Camera Express. They asked more than €80/$110 to get that plastic cover replaced. I ended up fixing it myself buying the part off DarnToothySam.com for $24/€17 incl shipping. Work the difference!


Your camera is still under warranty. We’ll fix it for free.

Fast forward a year later, in July, I took the camera out of my Crumpler Bag and started setting up for a stop motion shoot-out but the camera didn’t want to power up. I thought ok, probably need to recharge the battery. I got 3 spare batteries, fully charged, but none of them worked. So back to KE I went with my fav’d G9.

On the service desk, all was dandy. I showed them the non-working camera, KE guy tried it with various batteries he had behind the desk and verified it as faulty. I asked how much the servicing would cost and he smiled saying, you’re lucky coz its warrantied for 2 yrs! GREAT!!

“How long will it take?” I asked
“Maximum 6 weeks. And we can have it delivered back to your home for additional €8 charge.” He smiled.
“I’ll do that. And what a relief to have 2 year warranty!” But I guess I complimented a little too soon.

6 weeks later… Sorry sir..

Its unusual that repair service takes a whole 6 weeks, so I called KE asking for Repair Status #5653. Here’s when things started to go southwards. They explained that Canon Repair Centre in Netherlands have shut-down. OK so what does that mean for me? They say it might take a while longer since all repair services have been diverted to Germany. Great, so it will still get fixed right? Right. Said the voice on the other end. We’ll call you.

8 weeks’ passed… No news..

By this time, I was more concerned if I can have my compact camera back before the vacation coming in one week. I called again and KE rep said it should be ready in couple of days. He claimed hearing about repair service shipment coming in a couple of days. They’d call when its back. Again, no call.

Following that, 3 days before my vacation I rang again to ask about the camera return. Bad news, said KE, my camera is still not back. I bought the G9 specifically also for travel purpose, and its not going to be with me… In New York, if in B&H, they’d offer me a camera for loan I thought for the inconvenience. Thus I politely asked if I can be compensated with a temporary camera for loan. Something of equivalent standard maybe? But got rebutted right away. OK I can understand that they cannot loan out 800 similar cameras that’s stuck on service repair. But can they not make exceptions for a week’s loan. Its a small camera, thus small risk. I’d even pay rental if I got to. NOP. Said the rep. Final answer.

I was broken hearing that. I’m going on my one time vacation into France with the family without my fav pocket cam?? I paid so much for it, and not to be able to have it with me for that one purpose just killed me. Why can’t they loan one out? I just don’t understand… My camera is under warranty. They should respect that its not my fault to be camera-less. They’ve earned my money. KE or Canon should share for consumer rental costs if need be. Both these companies are not doing their work to keep their customers. That’s my final thought. Or somebody is just not doing the needed PR in these bad times.

DSLRs are good. But on the road, its not ideal.

I left for the vacation with my 400D. The vacation got my head off the hassle I’m in with KE for a while. At least I know I’ll have a fixed camera when we back. And I no longer need to vent more steam on the delayed repair. What’s done is done. I have no option but allow this to happen. But it would not be as so in USA or Singapore I’m sure. Or maybe I’m spoilt by these 2 previous places I lived in. I have heard before that there is no after-sales service in Holland. If you want one, you probably gotta pay for it.

Finally last week, I got an email from KameraExpress regarding the repair status. And if there was any lava in me, it’d be a good time to erupt. The email writes:

Uw reparatie met nummer: 5653 is niet gerepareerd. De kosten voor de reparatie zijn €49

Omschrijving:
Ongerepareerd retour i.v.m. val en /of stootschade de kosten van de reparatie bedragen meer dan de economische waarde van uw toestel.

U kunt uw reparatie afhalen bij Kamera-express.nl.

Translated:
Your repair service item numbered: 5653 is not repaired. The service cost is €49/$69

Note:
The damage cost to repair the camera is more than the economic worth of the product.

You can collect your repair service item at KE

We’ll advise you to buy a new camera.

I didn’t want to call them up right away after reading that email. It would not have been good. But I doubt it made any difference calling them a week later today. In due respect I doubt I needed to call em at all. But I did. The email received pretty much summarized the ‘work’ they’ve done. Nothing. Which is worth €49 on my behalf.

They promise a free fix after a visual check in the store 1st day
3 mths later they insist the camera was damaged from an accidental drop
They will not believe that the camera was in a bag until discovered faulty

I’ll let you deduce how that conversation went today. But if I was the owner of Kamera Express, I’ll definitely advise to look into the company’s relation with future and more importantly, current customers. Instead of driving me closer to the company for future business and garner positive feedback. This 3 months ordeal with KameraExpress brought me to the edge I’ve never been through before as a consumer and a company director. A company that stocks everything doesn’t mean it will sell everything with such after sales support and PR.

I read earlier about the Netherlands’ Consumer Satisfaction Index as compared to the rest of the EU and refused to believe the figures. Would KE has a chunk to do with its consumer’s votes? I’d pull it another point negative if you ask.

I was thinking of getting a new DSLR. But after this experience, I guess its clear that I’m not going to shop at KameraExpress no matter what the price offer is. And as for the camera they still hold. I’ll pay for it. I’m paying to thank them for the horrible service they’ve reminded me never to offer to my customers.

12 weeks later – Today

What do you think? Should I give them the €49 for a no-fix service that is within the 2 year camera warranty?