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A Warm Jacket in a Storm

Long-time readers know about my photography habit, and may remember that I spend a fair amount of time shooting high school sports.

When I’m on the sideline at a high school football or soccer game in the fall, it’s not unusual to be rained or snowed on. Likewise, when I’m laying on the pool deck at the edge of the water during summer swim league, there’s plenty of opportunity to be splashed.

When you’re carrying around a couple grand worth of camera gear, water is not your friend. I use something called a Storm Jacket to protect mine. I use a yellow one like the one shown here, but that isn’t me in the photo.

Recently, the Storm Jacket folks found out that some black Storm Jackets were not waterproof.

They could have ignored it, and likely would have gotten away with only replacing the ones that people complained about. Instead, they did the right thing and sent out an email to their customers – and only to the customers who purchased black Storm Jackets (can you segment your emails like that?). I know this because a friend of mine has a black Storm Jacket.

The email read as follows:

Dear Vortex Media Customer,

The highest priority at Vortex Media is to provide you, our valued customer, with excellent training DVDs and quality accessories for the video, television, and photographic industries.

I am writing to inform you, that we have discovered that some of the black Storm Jacket Camera Covers manufactured earlier this year are defective and do not have the level of waterproofing that we require for our products. Please note that ONLY BLACK Storm Jackets are affected.  Red, Yellow, and Camouflage Storm Jackets are not affected.

Although the total number of affected black Storm Jackets is small, we cannot determine whether the Storm Jacket(s) that were shipped to you were part this defective lot so, as a precaution, we want to test (and replace if necessary) any black Storm Jacket(s) that you purchased this year. We apologize for this manufacturing defect and assure you that steps have been taken to prevent it from happening again.

In order to make sure that no defective Storm Jackets are being used, we need you to do one of two things:

Option 1)
Test your black Storm Jacket(s) yourself.  This is easy to do by placing the Storm Jacket on a table with the logo facing down.  Place an empty bowl inside the cover.  Press the Storm Jacket down so it conforms to the inner shape of the bowl.  Pour a cup of water on the cover and let it sit.   After about 20 minutes, check the inside of the bowl.   Has water seeped through? If so, it needs to be mailed to us so that we can replace it with a new one. However, if no water has seeped through, your Storm Jacket is good and you don’t have to do anything at all.

Option 2)
If you do not want to test your black Storm Jacket(s) yourself, please return it to Vortex Media. We will then test it and return it if it passes. If it does not pass, it will be replaced with a new one. Our goal is to have your Storm Jacket tested (and exchanged if necessary) within 1-2 business days.

If you decide to return your Storm Jacket for testing and/or replacement, please complete the attached STORM JACKET RETURN FORM and include it with your shipment to:

Vortex Media
RMA: SJ Recall
5600 Post Road #114-335
East Greenwich, RI 02818

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience that this recall has caused you.  However our efforts are intended to make certain that your Storm Jacket provides the high-level of protection that you require and to ensure your continued satisfaction with Vortex Media products.

If you have any questions, please contact the Customer Service department at

Mark Williams, Customer Service
Vortex Media

I was asked what I thought of their effort in handling this situation. While I didn’t comment on the “Dear Vortex Media customer” (knowing full well that they know their customers’ names and should be using them), I said: “If I was them, Id handle this a little differently” and left it at that.

Naturally I was asked to elaborate, so I said that I would have just sent a new Storm Jacket to the customers who ordered the potentially faulty black Storm Jackets and ask the customer to send the questionable one back, and that I would include a prepaid envelope in the package.

I also said I’d then retest each of them, toss the bad ones and resell the good ones as “experienced”, or give them to a photography school, University newspaper, etc. And I’d make a little bit of a fuss about what I’d done, as hard as that might be to believe.

This episode was forgotten for a few days, until the guy with the black Storm Jacket remarked that when he returned his black Storm Jacket, he had enclosed a little note remarking that he wished he had bought the large model rather than the medium one.

Upon receiving the returned Storm Jacket, Sally at Vortex Media followed up with this email:

Dear xxxxx,

We received the medium Storm Jacket that you returned and noticed your note wishing that you had purchased the larger size Storm Jacket.   We can exchange your medium for a large if you would like at no additional charge.

Please let me know if you would like us to ship you a large instead of a medium and I will take care of it right away.

Thank you,

You might think that the price difference of $2 between the medium and large sizes makes this no big deal. The $2 isn’t important.

Assuring that the customer has what they want and need is. Handling this with ease is the key. Doing what you don’t have to do is what your clientele will remember, and even better, share with their friends.

They might even blog about it. PR that you can’t purchase at any price.