Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) is a company owned by Ron Bell in Virginia (in the United States). They make lightweight backpacking gear (backpacks, shelters, and accessories). They (and more specifically, Ron) have the worst customer service I have ever encountered (and I used to be a client of both Comcast and Bank of America). They are not deserving of your business.
Here’s what happened.
I decided to buy a bivy from Mountain Laurel Designs. On the MLD website, it stated that there were 8-10 week lead times.
I placed my order on December 28 with the following note included in the order:
“Need product delivered by Friday, February 23. Please cancel the order if this will not be possible. Thank you!”
My payment was processed and I heard nothing back (not that I expected to); to me, this meant my bivy would be delivered by the requested date.
The reason for this request? I was in New Zealand when I made the order and would be in Nepal (where I don’t trust the mail) as of February 27. I was taking two weeks in Australia between New Zealand and Nepal so I requested to have the bivy sent to a friend in Sydney where I could pick it up before Nepal.
Weeks passed and in February I got in touch with my friend in Australia to see if my bivy had arrived. It had not. Since we were growing closer to when I would be leaving Australia for Nepal, I sent the following email to MLD ten days before the delivery deadline:
I wanted to confirm that this order was going to be delivered by Friday, February 23 as per the note in the order.
The response I received?
Chief Happiness Officer / Design Minister
A bit curt, but no worries, Ron is probably a busy man and doesn’t want to waste time with formalities.
By February 19 (four days before my requested delivery date and seven days before my departure from Sydney), I hadn’t received a shipment confirmation and was starting to worry. However, Ron said the bivy would be delivered in time so I supposed that either a) MLD had neglected to send a shipping confirmation or b) the order would be shipping with expedited delivery.
Then, on February 22, I got a shipment confirmation – one day before the bivy was requested to be delivered.
This worried me. I was leaving Sydney in four days and two of those days were the weekend. I called Mountain Laurel Designs.
Ron, the owner, answered the phone and I asked if this shipment had been sent out with expedited or one-day shipping. He told me no. When I explained my situation and that I would not be in the country where the bivy would be received when it arrived his response was, “Oh.”
“Oh”? Really? I waited for more and Ron remained silent.
I explained again in case he hadn’t understood the first time. Ron responded with more monosyllabic answers and by this time I was very unhappy. The owner of this company, a man who has given himself the title of “Chief Happiness Officer” was offering nothing in the way of explanations, solutions, or apologies.
Ron then said to me, “Well it didn’t sound like you were going to be out of the country.”
Frankly, where I am going to be is irrelevant, the fact is that I was led to believe that this order would be delivered on time and it was not.
After once more emphasizing the fact that I would not be present to receive the package and that I would be returning it to him since I had no way of receiving it in Nepal, his response to me was, “Well you can only return it if it falls within our return guidelines.”
Now excuse me, dear reader, but this was unacceptable. “If it falls within [your] return guidelines”? I tell you that an unopened/unused product is going to be returned to you because of your own fault and you have the gall to say something like that?
The phonecall ended shortly thereafter.
When the package arrived in Australia, I had my friend mail it back to Mountain Laurel Designs.
He mailed it on March 16.
On April 3, I still had not received a refund and I sent an email inquiring as to the refund status.
On April 10, I received a response:
Transaction Date Apr 09 2018
To me, this looks like my order had not been refunded until I inquired about it, but maybe I’m reading too much into this.
The thing of it is, I really wanted to like MLD. I had never used any of their products before and was excited to give their bivy a try. And so instead of going on hating Ron and MLD, I decided to give them one more chance.
I wrote and sent an email detailing, politely, exactly what happened with my order and why I was unhappy/disappointed with MLD. I ended the email with the following:
I didn’t and don’t want to have the impression of MLD that I do now, so this is your chance to make things right. Otherwise, I cannot see myself doing business with or promoting MLD in the future.”
It’s not the fact that I didn’t receive the bivy in time that upsets me, it’s not the fact that I’m out $60 US for shipping to and from Australia either, it’s the way that Ron handled the situation. This was me trying to keep faith with MLD by offering one last opportunity to simply apologize (or at the very least, acknowledge) what happened.
What did I receive in reply to my email? Crickets.
My peace offering was ignored.
But who knows? Maybe Ron’s entire family had just perished in a bus accident in Guatemala. Maybe he had a beloved guinea pig that he had to eat on a backpacking trip after being caught out in a storm. Maybe he’s just a prick.
I suppose there could still be some explanation for everything that I’m overlooking, but I’m finding the odds of that to be less and less.
Needless to say, I will most certainly not be purchasing anything from MLD in the future and I encourage you to think twice before giving your business to a company that finds it acceptable to treat customers this way.