Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

An ounce of prevention

Whenever I share tips on this blog, I assume you have a question or problem with specific technology you own.

Rarely do I explicitly advise on how to avoid problems in the first place. Avoiding problems isn’t too difficult, really, presuming you take two tips to heart: only acquire things that aren’t likely to give you problems in the first place, and only acquire from companies that stand behind their products.

Of course, this can mean spending more money than you might want to. Rather than load you down with platitudes, let me tell you about products I’ve had trouble with: a Bluetooth headset, a computer, an iPod and a fountain pen. The common thread running through these stories? No-nonsense after-sale customer service.


This is actually my second Plantronics product, the first being a headset hooked up to my land-line phone that I’ve had for almost five years, and seems set to last as long as I want to keep it.

I bought the Plantronics BackBeat 903 (sold under the Altec Lansing brand in the United States) to work with my iPod, Mac and BlackBerry. But the “play/pause” button on the right ear soon started to crack. When the button finally fell off, the unit wasn’t as convenient to use.

One five-minute call to the Plantronics toll-free number led to a free replacement unit delivered to my door (under the one-year warranty). I shipped the old unit back to Plantronics at my own (minimal) expense.

Few questions. No argument. Customer satisfied.


I spent good money on my MacBook Pro three years ago. While I generally like Apple, the Mac experienced problems during its life, particularly with BlueTooth and overheating. Before the three-year AppleCare warranty expired, and at the point the Mac would have received its fourth replacement motherboard, Apple called me to say that they would exchange my Mac for a brand-new, like-for-like Mac.

That mirrors the 2009 experience I had with an iPod Touch I had received as a birthday gift. I took it into this Apple Store to get a minor glitch looked at. The Genius tried a couple things, screwed up his face at the results and ran a full diagnostic on it. Within 15 minutes, I received a refurbished iPod as a replacement.

Few questions. No argument. Customer satisfied.


I like to write with fountain pens. For years I have owned a Waterman Expert and a Sheaffer Intrigue.

The Sheaffer started to crack in 2007, and this September it lost a piece it needed to keep the nib assembly screwed tight to the barrel.

I bought this pen in 2003, so I dialed Sheaffer’s customer service number with little hope. But the good folks at Bic, who own Sheaffer, told me to ship the pen to them so they could send it to England to get checked out. All this for a seven-year-old pen.

Today, I got the pen back along with a note explaining that Sheaffer doesn’t have parts for the Intrigue any longer. They also sent me a replacement, a less-expensive but still nice-writing Sheaffer 300. Added perk – the black barrel and chrome “trim” matches the design of the Waterman in both looks and understated elegance.

Few questions. No argument. Customer satisfied.

Update: Sheaffer also offered a current model replacement pen of equal or greater value if I could produce the receipt. Oddly enough, I had the receipt, so I scanned it and emailed it to Sheaffer. Shortly afterwards, this arrived in the mail.