Victorinox: the way a company SHOULD treat it’s customers

In praise of the Swiss Army Knife…and what Sony could learn from this old Swiss company

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The refurbished Swiss Army knife with the returned broken scale.

I can’t remember exactly when I bought this Swiss Army Knife, but I think Richard Nixon was probably the President then…so I’ve had it for around 40 years. I’ve always needed the flat screwdriver tool for tightening the mount on camera tripods, so I’ve used it daily on photo and video shoots for decades.

I’ve also taken it on countless backpacking trips over the years. I remember when I broke the tip off of the smaller blade on the Appalachian trail in Washington County, MD in the late 70′s. It’s opened many a can of beef stew and bottles of wine on the trail. It was once briefly taken away from me by a Secret Service agent when I photographed Ronald Reagan at Andrews Air Force base for Maryland Magazine. It has been to three Kentucky Derbies when I worked for an equine publisher. It was with me when I photographed Jimmy Carter at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, Cab Calloway at Arlington Park racetrack near Chicago, and Richard Pryor at Santa Anita in California. In fact, if I was traveling with a camera, it was with me, so it’s been all over the world.

“When I purchased this knife, the only computers were at places like NASA or MIT.”

Recently, however, it had become nearly unusable from decades of wear. The ubiquitous red exterior scale was cracked, the scissors had lost the spring, there were a few rust spots, and, like most SAKs, the little tweezers and toothpick that are contained in the scale were long ago misplaced. Plus, there was that blade tip that was broken in decades past. I should mention that none of this was a result of flaws in the original workmanship. Rather, it was mistreatment and neglect on my part.

I looked up Victorinox repairs on the web (something that I couldn’t do back when I bought it. Think about it…when I purchased this knife, the only computers were at places like NASA or MIT), and found that they are guaranteed for life…that is, the life of knife, not the owner. In theory, I guess it could be handed down in perpetuity through generations with an occasional refurbishing from Victorinox.

All that it would cost me was shipping it to them, plus $5 to ship it back to me. The repair page on their website said that they will repair it, or at their discretion, they will replace it with a new one. I, however, didn’t want a new one. I wanted the one that was 10 feet from Cab Calloway when he sang Minnie the Moocher  (“hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho”) to open the Budweiser Arlington Million horserace in the mid-80′s. I wanted a functioning multi-tool, but I also wanted the dings and scratches that represented a lifetime of adventures (and occasional misadventures). There was a box that you could check on their repair form that designated it as “sentimental,” which I assumed meant that they would attempt to repair it, rather than replace it.

I sent it to Victorinox’s US repair center in Connecticut and yesterday, 4 weeks later, I got it back via FedEx. They had cleaned it, replaced the broken smaller blade, replaced the red scale with a new one, taken off the rust, fixed the scissors, replaced the missing tweezers and toothpick, and sharpened & oiled it.  Fixed. No receipt from me. No questions. They just fixed it…for only a $5 shipping fee. Plus, they sent back the old scales. A nice touch.

It must have taken a bit of time to restore it to it’s original useful condition. I read that they manufacture about 60,000 Swiss Army knives per day at their factory in Ibach, Switzerland. Yet they spent at least several hours fixing the one that I bought some 40 years ago. While they don’t make this specific model any longer, a similar new SAK model costs less than $30 on Amazon, so I probably paid about 10 bucks for this one back in the early 70′s.

So how does Sony figure into this story? As it happens, around the same time, I was dealing with Sony to get a lost part for my digital video camera, which was over $6K when I purchased it less than a year ago. By contrast, their service was both indifferent and rude. It’s been over two months, and I still haven’t gotten all the correct parts that I need. On one call to their parts department, I got a bit snarky over their lack of service, and they actually hung up on me. I was halfway through the sentence “You know, this is not some $100 consumer product. I paid a lot of money for pro gear and I should expect pro support” when I heard the click of the phone hanging up on their end.

Sony, take a cue from Victorinox on how to treat your customers. It says a lot about each company’s particular organizational culture when I get better service on a 40-year old, $10 retail item than I can on an 8 month-old $6,000+ piece of pro-grade technology with an expensive up-graded maintenance contract. That’s what this post is really about.


Homeschooling on a boat in Dubai

One of the great features of K12 International Academy’s private online school is it’s ability to adapt to the family’s lifestyle. A case in point is Marielle Speetjens’ family, who live on a boat in the Dubai Marina. Her 3 children all study online through the International Academy curriculum. Aside from being a convenience to their world travels, the school provides a rigorous award-winning international education for her kids. In this video clip, Ms. Speetjens talks about online learning aboard their sailboat.


International Day/ Dubai Knowledge Village, UAE

Encountering an unexpected global dance party

FINJAN KIRFEE (SYRIAN SPICE DRINK) VENDOR

FINJAN KIRFEE (SYRIAN SPICE DRINK) VENDOR

Today I was on a video shoot at the Dubai Knowledge Village campus. When I went to lunch, I walked into an international day celebration that one of the universities there was staging. There was food, traditional dress and, best of all, music from all over the region: Africa, Middle East, India, and Pakistan.

It occurred to me how unintimidating an iPhone camera is. If I had tried to use my pro video gear, I don’t think people would have played to the camera like some of them do in this video.


DWC High School students paint a picture of empowerment & national pride

Originally posted on Dubai Women's College High School:

Congratulations to Dubai for being picked as the host city for Expo 2020!

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CAFFÈ VERGNANO 1882/ Dubai Mall, UAE

I’ve never seen this before…and I’ve had coffee all over the world…the name of the place is spelled out in chocolate. IMG_1632I have to say, this is one of the best cappuccinos that I’ve ever had. The big Italian expresso maker is not just for decoration. They actually make your coffee with it. Coffe eccellente!

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Apple strudel at 10,132 ft (3,089 M) Gornergrat, Switzerland

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Last Saturday morning, I took a walk in the mountains…

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Gornergrat is on the ridge of the Pennine Alps above the town of Zermatt. The Matterhorn (far right in the panorama photo below) attracts climbers from all over the world. Over 500 climbers have perished while attempting to climb it.IMG_1448


Einstein Kaffee/ Bern, Switzerland

This coffee shop is in the building where Herr Doktor Einstein lived in Bern. It’s a trendy place with exposed brick and a chi-chi crowd. The best part is it’s tagline: “relatively the best.”

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