Monday, November 14, 2011

V2 Cigarettes - Smoking Nirvana? Not so fast, my friend.

A few months back, I ordered an e-cigarette from V2. The V2 cigarette is supposed to be a premium brand of e-cig. On their website, you're bombarded with phrases like, "America's Best Brand of E-Cigarette", "The Thickest Vapor in the Business", and "The Difference is In Our Vapor".

I was very impressed with it at first. I got the basic kit. In that, you get a battery, USB charger, wall charger, and ten cartridges of your choice.

I ordered "Red", which was supposed to approximate the taste of Marlboro, and "Coffee" which is self explanatory. I also ordered "Vanilla" later on.

The performance of the V2 is top notch. True to the hype on the website, it produces a lot of thick vapor, which makes it feel a lot like smoking. The battery lasts about 24 hours or so, and charges pretty quickly. Even when it is totally dead, a few minutes charging gets you a few puffs, so you don't have to wait until it is completely charged in order to get enough drags to get you by.

The flavors are very good. The Red, although it doesn't taste like a real cigarette, is not objectionable. The Vanilla and Coffee are positively delicious.

A pack of 5 cartridges, with shipping, is around $18. Since a cartridge is supposed to be equivalent to a pack, that would roughly equate to $3.60 a pack. Cheaper, in many places, than real cigarettes, but not here. I can get real cigs for $3.50 or so locally.

So far, so good, but the cigarette itself costs over $60 just to get started. The overall cost of each puff diminishes the longer you have it, but if you already start higher than a pack of cigarettes, it won't be any more cost effective than regular smoking.

Fair enough. Most people buy this as a "safer" alternative to cigarettes, and there is evidence that suggests that it is. So, most won't mind the extra expense.

V2 also allows you to get free cartridges for "pimping" their get an order number with your first order, and you can give that out to friends, who may use it as a coupon code. Each time it is used, you get a free pack of cartridges, and your friends get a 15% discount off the price of a starter kit.

So, the cigarette itself is a well-made, quality piece. And the cartridges themselves are tasty and satisfying, and with a little work, you can get them for free. So, what's the problem?

There are actually two problems. One, quality control. Two, customer service.

Let me just say, I never expect a company to be perfect. I know that all kinds of things can happen during production of a product, and that's understood. It's how the company handles it that makes all the difference, and I was kinda surprised at V2, while trying to pass their product off as a "premium" brand, fell short in a couple of ways.

First, I ordered some "clearance" items, namely, coffee flavored cartridges that were heavily discounted. The product description said that were fine, except that the center electrode might need tweaking to work correctly. Being a handy individual, I didn't think it would be too hard to fix and I ordered some for the discounted price.

When I got them, the electrodes worked perfectly. The problem was, they were absolutely the worst tasting e-cig cartridges I'd ever had. They tasted sour and stale.

I chatted with a company rep, who informed me there were positively NO refunds or exchanges on clearance merchandise, even if problems arose that weren't listed in the description. I pushed a little. They pushed back. No refund or credit.

Let me be clear. If I'd gotten these and the center electrode had been impossible to fix, I'd have never asked for a refund. But not ONE of the clearance cartridges had ANY electrode problems. All had the same unpleasant taste, rendering them unusable. And the company wouldn't stand behind them! Which makes me wonder if there was an electrode problem to begin with. Let's face it, you wouldn't post these as a clearance item and then say, "Stale and sour tasting". Who would buy it?

So, lesson learned. Don't buy the clearance items. The next problem was a little more unavoidable.

The USB charger, which came with the original kit, began to fail. The insulation pulled away from the boot where it went into the USB plug, leaving an exposed red and black wire. An intermittent short meant the charger had to be in exactly the right position to function correctly.

No problem. The charger was under warranty, so I figured I'd have them send me a new one. Got online with the chat person and a new one was on the way the next day. Problem was, they wanted me to pay return shipping for the old one.

Not fair, since it wasn't my defect that caused me to return it. But, they did send me a bubble mailer (without postage, of course) pre-addressed to them that I could put the old charger in and send it back.

The new charger quit working within a week. Two chargers failed. What are the chances?

Had I sent the old one off before the new one quit working, not only would I have been totally unable to charge my e-cig, and I'd have had to pay return postage on two separate chargers. As it is, I might be able to combine postage and get both of them back for one price, since I didn't mail the old one out immediately. I'm still nursing it along.

I talked to that representative and ordered a new charger on or around the first week in November. It didn't arrive at my house until November 14.

Here's the kicker...they told me if I didn't return the old one, they would go ahead and charge my credit card for the new charger!  I was kind of amazed.  

As you can tell, the charger fiasco is a headache. I figured since I'd been through the wringer twice, and I was going to have to pay to get it fixed, that V2 would be nice enough to comp me a 5 pack of cartridges. I mentioned this to the CSR I spoke with, and they would not. I even got a little pushy about it, telling them how many of my friends that I recommended this to, and how I was a loyal customer, etc. No dice.

Surprising, especially since they hand out cartridges left and right for people who pimp their product. Now, when they screw up, they're unwilling to go that extra mile to make it right.  Not only that, they'll penalize ME if I don't respond quickly to their mistake.

I'm reminded of another company that I've dealt with on this blog...Hi-Point. If you have a problem with one of their products, not only will they fix it for free, they'll send you an extra mag as a way of repaying you for your trouble. As a result, even though I don't like all of their products, I do recommend their better stuff to my friends. Part of that recommendation is assuring them that excellent customer service is behind everything they make.

It is asking a lot in this day and age to expect a customer to pony up extra money to continue using your product without getting something directly in return. This isn't eBay after all. Maybe it would be better if it was...I ordered a keyboard from my laptop from eBay a while back. It was defective, and the seller just sent me a new one, no questions asked, and didn't require that I send the old one back. In other words, I got a replacement product with NO ADDITIONAL CHARGES. That cost a lot more than a 5 pack of cartridges, too. If eBay sellers can do it, why not V2?. If V2 has the money to give away cartridges hand over fist for pimping their product, they certainly have the money to make things right with their customers when their products fail on multiple occasions.

I never understood this philosophy. V2 could have had a happy customer for a few bucks out of their own pocket. I could be here blogging about how great their products are AND how generous their customer service is. But, it appears that they are hell bent on sacrificing their own reputation to keep every last penny in their pocket. Is this the kind of business you want to deal with? I'm not so sure I do. I'm just left with a bad taste in my mouth, no pun intended. In fact, I'm trying another brand of eCig that I purchased locally. While not as high quality as the V2, the charger has been flawless, and at half the price, I don't care so much if something goes wrong with it.

V2 has forgotten that one of the tenets of capitalism is that consumers can make choices.


Anonymous said...

nice idea.. thanks for posting.

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jimi said...
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