From the Shop: Rock beats plastic.

Scissors cut paper.  Paper covers Rock.  Rock breaks plastic.

One of my team paddlers broke a boat recently.  There’s really unusual about that, it’s sort of part of what they do.  They paddle more and harder than most people, so they’re good barometers of how durable the boats are.  If there’s an issue with the boats, they find out long before most people would.  And that was the case here.  This boat was a catastrophic failure.  An explosion.  Utter destruction.  While it was a high-speed-slide-into-sharp-rock sort of impact, it wasn’t the way a boat should break even after heavy use.  It was ugly.  It might seem odd that I’m saying this, but it happened, and I’ll own it.  Something went wrong somewhere along the line with this boat.

Early on, I built Blackfly on a reputation for a durable product.  That importance of that is obvious, and I feel that I built that reputation simply by building a durable product; the product speaks for itself.  I didn’t do it by talking it up, or by talking down my competitors.  Sure, I’ve made some snarky comments around the campfire among friends and others.  Guilty as charged.  But to be honest, I hate seeing boats break, whether they’re boats I made or not.  I know the work and passion that goes into them, I know the people who are doing it are doing the best damn job they can.  I know things can go wrong any number of places along the way.  I know first hand the frustration and dread and sense of failure that comes when they do.  It literally keeps me up at night more than I care to admit.  And I know what goes around comes around.  Material issues happen.  I’d rather not kick a man when he’s down, because I’d rather not get kicked when I’m down.  I’d rather just put something out there and say “Here, I made this.  See if you like it.”  And let that speak for itself.

But I’ve noticed that there are people who think and act differently; generally people with other agendas.  Because I have no control over that, all I’ll say about that is it disappoints me to see.

So what am I going to do?  First, I’ve already been working with the good, hardworking, knowledgeable folks who mold these boats to identify and correct any issues.  Because of their size, the Condors are being molded at a different facility and using a different material from the other boats, and there have been a limited number of issues- mostly with team boats.  A few bumps along the way.  We’re on it, and I’m confident my reputation for making a durable product to continue.  I won’t sleep (well) until and unless it does.  And if there are issues, I’ll stand behind the boat and work to resolve them to the best of my ability.  I’ve never had a written “warranty policy” because that’s not really the way I like to work.  I want my customers to be satisfied- after all, I’ll probably see you on the river at some point.  If there’s a problem with a boat because of something I (or my suppliers) screwed up, I need to work to make it right.  Putting a timeframe and stipulations on that seems like a cop out to me.  Now, if you do something foolish, or you just wear out your boat, you’re on your own.  And, by the nature of smashing plastic into rocks, there’s a lot of gray area, but believe it or not, I’ve found that the majority of people are actually reasonable, so when an issue falls in that gray area, I’ll work with you to find a solution that satisfies both of us.

Progress is made by pushing through the bumps and past the mistakes and learning from them, and I’m ever grateful for the people that choose to come along while I do that.