CSI-CoffeeCrew Chapter One

This is the first installment in a series on surviving the retail experience in the coffee world. With chapter one, Glenn describes the heartache of laying out good cash on a grinder that he critically researched only to be dealt one low blow after another. Read on. Take notes!

The Internet is a wonderful thing. With just a click or two you can find the
absolutely lowest price of everything and anything.

Wait! Do not be too hasty. Before you click on the "Proceed to Checkout" button or call the order desk,  you have to do a little homework first.

CoffeeCrew CSI (Coffee Special Investigations) or Consumer Service Issues

Check out the vendors web site and look for their official return or guarantee policy.  If they don't have one, you may want to ask your espresso equipment vendor some tough but important questions. 

1. What is your policy if the courier damages your espresso equipment?
2. Are your shipments insured?
3. Do you have a "buyer's remorse" "satisfaction guaranteed" or refund policy?
4. If my equipment needs service, who fixes it.
5. What is the warranty and what parts are (or aren't) covered. 

Why all the questions? Keep reading about my nightmarish buying and service experience with a well known vendor - highly recommended by another web site.

So here is my sad tale about my coffee grinder:

At first, things went well. I had decided upon the grinder and the model I wanted. After making some inquiries by email, we (the vendor and I) agreed on a price and I ordered the equipment over the phone with credit card in hand. 

I received the package the very next day by UPS. The package was in perfect condition and I eagerly opened it right away.

I knew something was wrong because now I was looking directly into the innards of my new grinder(sans top panel). The top was completely off the grinder and broken bits of plastic fell out of the packaging when I took it out of the box. Other bits were rattling inside the grinder body. I inverted the grinder and shook them out. Worse, the grind adjustment knob was turning freely without turning the shaft. The knob had been split. The top panel was broken. The gear was binding and was difficult to turn. 


A call to the vendor resulted in some confusion. I was asked to file a claim with UPS and to take some pictures. After spending an hour with UPS, filing my deposition and trying to answer questions about estimated repair costs, I found out that the unit would have to be inspected by UPS in order to proceed with my claim. Pictures would be of no use to anyone.

I eventually found out that there was no UPS inspector in my area and I would have to ship my unit to another city where it could be inspected. UPS was mildly curious why the vendor wasn't filing the claim for me.  

Yes, confusion from the vendor. They were not pleased. They did not want UPS to have their grinder. Understandable.

One sympathetic employee said to ship the damaged grinder back - collect. They would send a new one. Yet, later, one of the owners said I would have to ship it back at my expense. I took Option "A" and sent it back collect. They tell me that they will handle the damage claim. 

I was pleasantly surprised when the replacement grinder arrived the next day. I was not pleased to see that the top panel was partly off the grinder. Closer inspection showed that the adjustment gear threads were bent and chipped.

Similar damage like the first grinder.

I told the vendor that packaging appeared to be a problem. A severe blow to the side of the box would almost always be lethal as there was no protection for the adjustment knob at all except for a few layers of cardboard.

More calls. I notify the vendor about the gear problem. The vendor said I was too picky. I held my ground and eventually the vendor reluctantly agreed to send me a new gear assembly. I couriered the damaged part back to them at my expense. 

The new gear assembly was perfect. It was very easy to replace. I was happy for about one week. Then I noticed that the plastic spout was cracking bit by bit every day. Soon after, I was finding bits of plastic in my coffee grounds.

Not good.

Another email. I was asked what caused the cracking(several times).

Dunno, vibration maybe?

I asked the vendor to send me a new spout and I would replace it myself. That couriers are very bad for this machine. Vendor says no, they want to thoroughly inspect the grinder and they would repair it. 

OK. I send back the grinder. That's $28 courier cost plus the $17 for the
damaged part that I returned previously. 

The vendor receives the unit and ships the unit to another city for repair. The vendor calls me and asks why the spout is cracking. Ummm...I thought I was supposed to ask that question...
I get the unit back two weeks later damaged! The repair guys lost two of the cardboard inserts and did not bother to use the cardboard collar that holds the grinder in place. Plus, they packed the heavy grinder on top of the fragile hopper instead of the other way 'round. Hmm...where did that hopper scratch come from?

The top panel was broken once again and the adjustment knob had punched a hole right through the inner packing carton. The knob was split from the impact. The gear shaft looked bent.


Another call. Vendor is really not happy. Said I would have to file a damage claim. More calls to the courier. Found out from the courier that the repair depot did not insure the package. Any thoughts of claiming "damaged beyond repair" went out the window.

Relayed this news to vendor. More strident unhappiness. However they agree to take the unit back to repair the repaired grinder.

This time I take no chances. I spend a couple of hours carefully double boxing the grinder and ship it off. Courier charges me an extra $10 for the larger size box.

Ouch! That's another $38 spent on couriers.

Total courier cost so far: $83. 

A few days later I get a belligerent call from the vendor. Why did I send them a undamaged grinder?


I carefully explain the whole story once again (I had emailed it in previously) that the top panel was indeed broken (they could not see it) and yes, I was holding the broken bits in my hand and explained about the damage to the gear assembly. 

I asked about the burr free play problem and they insisted that none was present at all.

I get the grinder back. They replaced the top panel and gear shaft. The repair guys did not bother to use packing tape. All of the inner boxes were open and not taped. Miraculously, the grinder survives the trip. Hey! they must have fixed the burr sloppiness problem. There is absolutely no free play! Finally, things seem to be going right for once. That is, until I
fire up the grinder.

First, I back off the adjustment knob a bit just in case.

Not enough unfortunately. The repair guy for reasons unknown, tightened down the two burrs tight together and when I turned on the grinder, horrible noises ripped though the grinder as the burrs were slowly mashing together. I now realize (too late) why there was no burr free
play - the burrs were tight together!


It took four start-up attempts and 20+ revolutions of the knob to get the burrs far enough apart so they were freed up once again. 

Notified vendor of their carelessness - no response.

I suspected I would have future spout problems so I asked if they would supply me a replacement spout at cost - no response. 

Sure enough, just a few short weeks later, the newly repaired spout is cracking once again.

And just to make my day, I found a chunk of bean in my puck this week.

So what is the moral of the story? Was this purchaser unreasonable in his expectations? Did the vendor do enough?

Now go back to the very top of the article and re-read those five questions that you should be asking your retailer BEFORE you buy.

Don't forget them. jump to chapter 2

Glenn S is a senior financial consultant in Southern Ontario surviving RRSP time. He works hard all year long and, like other hard working people just like him, does not deserve the crap and abuse when buying a coveted kitchen tool.

 Proudly sponsored by...
Planet Friendly Coffees
Lower Level
St. Lawrence Market - Front Street - Toronto
Everyday Gourmet Coffee - Front Street - St. Lawrence Market