Thursday, February 16, 2012

How to Complain for Approximately $250 per Hour

Loyal readers of A Man in the Woods might find it shocking but I can be, on the rarest of occasions,  a bit sarcastic.  Yes, yes, I know, hard to believe but it is true.

The following is an exchange which took place in the month of November with a customer service representative at Toto Toilets.  "Toilets" you might ask?  How is this related to A Man in the Woods?  Why is this not a post on "how to cook a crow" or some other typical nonsense?

I'm not entirely sure... but when my choices on a weekend are to either (1) blow $540 and kill an entire day removing and replacing previously perfectly functioning commodes, (2) pay a plumber even more to do the same or (3) do something fun with my family; head to the woods with a rifle; or blow $540 on a new rifle, I'll choose Door #3 each time.

The exchange is generally self-contained and it is only provided for your reading pleasure and entertainment.  I have a great deal of respect for Toto and how they handled this situtation since I was fully expecting to be told to go "pound sand".  Assuming the problems I had with their products were the results of a "bad batch", I'd definitely buy their products again.  Here we go...

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11/14/11
SUBJECT:  Tale of the Three Cracked Tanks

Hello Toto,

I wish I had more positive news to share with you.  Unfortunately, I'm a shockingly displeased customer.

Long story short:

Our house is ~8 years old.  It has 4 toilets.  Within the past year, three (3) of the tanks on our Toto toilets have cracked.  All on the left side, all resulting in water leaking.

The first one (toilet #1) cracked about a year ago.  I woke up to the soothing sounds of rushing water.  Great if you are in a Japanese garden, not so great if it is coming from the second story, through the ceiling and out a light fixture.  I assumed it was some weird fluke.  Perhaps one of the kids dropped the lid or did something stupid.  Oh the joys of home ownership.

I now realize there is a problem.

This past Saturday morning, I woke up and thought I heard dripping water.  On investigation, I discovered the floor around a toilet (#2) was very wet.  I closed the valve and started to inspect it.  Like the tank from last year, it was the same general hairline crack on the left side of the tank.  This one started at the top left, ran down through the hole where the handle is installed, and continued around the tank to the back, left corner.  I became irritated, cleaned up the mess and went back to bed.

While planning a trip to the local home improvement store, my wife reminded me about a rarely used toilet upstairs which a few months back started to leak.  This restroom is dark and rarely used so I simply turned off the valve and told the family not to use it until I can look at the hose or whatever is leaking.  Upon inspection of the toilet (#3) with a flashlight to see what parts I needed, I discovered its tank too was broken with a long, hairline crack on the left side.

3 Toto toilets, all the same model, all breaking within 12 months of each other.  What are the chances?  One is a fluke but three indicates to me a design or manufacturing problem.

Toilet #1 was replaced with a Kohler model and Replacement Kohler Toilets are now at home and will be installed in the next few days.  What recourse do I have?  My strong preference would be for you to reimburse me for the three (3) broken toilets to the tune of ~$540 (I will not charge for my time).  I'd be perfectly fine if the internal guts or values needed replacement but the TANK, a non-moving, inert part, is a problem.

We live near Houston, TX.  We rarely get freezing temperatures and the coldest the inside of the house has been since it was built was maybe 60 degrees.  Even if the tanks had frozen in years past, the problem would have shown itself sooner.

I have pictures of toilets #2 and #3 if it matters or you care.  Warranty periods, legalese, etc. aside, do you stand by your products or not?

Thank you for hearing me out.  I look forward to learning your thoughts and response.

Larry Xxxxx

........

11/14/11
Case 211411:  Tale of Three Cracked Tanks

Dear Customer,

Thank you for your inquiry.  We have received your email.  A customer service representative will contact you shortly to resolve your issue.

It is our goal to respond to all questions within one business day.  If you do not receive a response to your inquiry, please check your email spam filter.  If our reply includes any attachments, your spam filter may be blocking them.

Thank you,

TOTO USA, INC.
Customer Service Department
Service Division

“Building our Brand through Outstanding Service"

........

11/15/11
Case  211411:  Tale of Three Cracked Tanks

Good Day,

Thank you for contacting TOTO USA.

Sorry to hear about such a bad experience with TOTO Toilets. If you have your original invoice we can definitely do something as replace the tank as part of the warranty.

Thanks,

Xxxx Xxxx
Technical Support Representative
TOTO USA, INC.

"Building our Brand through Outstanding Service"

........
11/15/11

Thank you for the note Xxxx.  Unfortunately, it is not what I was hoping to hear.

We are the second owners of the house so no... of course we don't have the original receipts or receipt.  Given my 41 years of toilet use and the fact not one tank has ever broken for any reason in the ~15,000 days I've been around them, this is not the sort of paperwork I tend to keep anyway.  Birth certificates, social security cards, 401k statements, passports, toilet purchase receipts?  Are you serious?  Is this how Toto tpically responds to these types inquiries knowing that the average toilet-using American does not have OCD and copies of all purchases of porcelain fixtures in their house?

I can absolutely certify, represent and warrant that (i) I am in possession of said defective toilets, (ii) neither I nor a family member stole them, (iii) all three broke, (iv) I had nothing to do with the failure of the tanks and (v) each leaked in my house like a puppy with a urinary tract infection.

So, short of fabricating paperwork with my budding photoshop skills, what are my options?

Do I need to start working on new side project?
www.saynotototo.com  or www.totodisaster.com  (I'm still torn between the URLs)

Do I need to post product reviews on Amazon and toilets.com?

A co-worker is in the middle of a significant remodel of her house.  Just last week she mentioned Toto toilets and that they are top of the line.  Last week, I told her we had them and were generally quite happy.  This week, I suggested she NOT go with a Toto but a 5 gallon bucket since it will likely perform better in their upgraded bathrooms.  Needless to say, she is rethinking her toilet purchasing decisions.

While I suspect your bonus will not be affected by one disgruntled customer and the missed sales of 2 additional toilets this quarter but, to me, this is much bigger than that.

Will Toto make good on and stand behind their products?

Again, thank you for your time.

Larry Xxxxx

….......
11/15/11
Can you please send me pictures of the toilets?
Xxxxx

Technical Support Representative
TOTO USA, INC.

"Building our Brand through Outstanding Service"

….......
11/16/11
Hello Xxxx,

Thank you for your time with this.

Attached is a PDF with pictures of broken toilets #2 and #3.

Please let me know the next steps in the process.  I do not have pictures of toilet #1 which, as noted earlier, cracked on the left side of the tank but on the rear corner.  I assumed that was a fluke but with 3/4th of the toilets having the same issue, there is another problem.

Thank you again.

Larry Xxxxx
     

….......
11/16/11

Does the crack wrap all the way around and through the mounting bolts as well on all three tanks?

Xxxx

Technical Support Representative
TOTO USA, INC.

"Building our Brand through Outstanding Service"


….......
11/16/11

Toilet #1 (now in a landfill from a year ago) --> definitely not. I had to remove the tank to carry out the two pieces.  That crack was in the back, left corner straight down about 75% of the way.  It did not affect the mounting bolts / holes.

I'll check on #2 and #3 tonight when I'm home.

Just to make sure, you are asking about the mounting bolts between the tank and the bowl and NOT the bolts holding the bowl to the floor, correct?

Larry Xxxxx

….......
11/16/11
Correct only from the tank area.

Xxxx

Technical Support Representative
TOTO USA, INC.

"Building our Brand through Outstanding Service"


….......
11/16/11
Good Afternoon Larry,

In regards to your case, Case#211411. We are going to go ahead and gladly reimburse you $540.00 for your TOTO toilets. Please submit the following information so we may process the case completely.

Name
Address
City
State
Zip
Phone Number

Best Regards,

Xxxxx Xxxxx
Technical Support
TOTO USA, INC.

….......
11/16/11

I sincerely thank you and Toto for taking care of this and your customers.  Now I've got to think about my alternative website...  www.totototallyrocks!!!.com

Seriously, I greatly, sincerely appreciate it.

Larry Xxxxx

++++

A few weeks later, a check showed up at the house.


To say I was shocked would be an understatement.

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A Man in the Woods

Sunday, February 5, 2012

And THIS Little Piggy took a 150 grain Bullet Through the Shoulders!

Since they had nothing better to do, the Texas Legislature recently passed laws allowing "feral hog hunting from helicopters".  While this does not quality as "hunting" in my book, it is cool nonetheless since it involves (a) guns and (b) helicopters.  Plus, it is probably one of the more effective ways of dealing with the feral hog problem.  (See cool video below)

Before anyone gets all judgmental on the Man in the Woods, feral hogs, whether you care to admit it or not, are literally a plague in Texas and other parts of the country.  They cause millions in crop damage, have decimated the native turkey and quail populations in many areas (these birds nest on the ground), eats tons of native frogs, toads, and snakes and compete aggressively for food with deer and other native species.  This is the root of such insults as "You are as ugly as a hog" or "You eat like a pig" or "You are as useless as teats on a boar".  

It has been stated that feral hogs are basically four-legged fire ants that breed like rabbits.  Most rural places either HAVE a feral hog problem or WILL HAVE a feral hog problem.

While exceedingly fun and thrilling to still-hunt or spot-and-stalk them, individual hunters simply cannot put a dent in their population growth.  Massive trapping and aerial cropping programs can help but this is a war that cannot be won, just managed.  Where I hunt, all are shot on sight for the reasons listed above.

Warning, the video below might bother some folks but if you are one of those folks, you probably should not read this blog.  'nough said.  It is long but worth watching when you have time


For an excellent overview of the feral hog problem in Texas, please see the Texas Parks and Wildlife brochure, The Feral Hog in Texas.

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A Man in the Woods