The expansive booth was replete with samples of every kind of glove and mitt displayed on the wall. Neatly set up, the gloves looked almost like a museum display.

I couldn’t wait to get a closer look.

A young man (we’ll call him Dan) blocked me at the entrance and asked if he could help.

Let’s set the stage. The Hestra booth was one of hundreds at the January 23rd-28th first-ever Denver version of the Outdoor Retailer show. I’d paid to attend, I’m an industry pro and I am in search of new gear to solve a number of problems I keep running into on my adventure trips. Problems that have nearly cost me my hands, for example.

As an athlete who suffers from Reynaud’s Syndrome, a weird but nasty condition that dogs many more women than men, and which can cost  fingers, toes and limbs in the elements if we aren’t properly warmed at the extremities, I have forever been in search of The Perfect Glove. Reynaud’s, in general, causes the body to lose blood at certain temperatures, causing our digits to turn purple, then white, as they are drained of circulation. Gangrene is a very real possibility. For some, they can lose entire limbs. Those folks live near Mexico.

The website says to stay inside when it’s cold.

Um, NO. I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, the Everest Base Camp. I do NOT stay inside, nor do any of the other athletes who love sports like I do. We are always comparing gear notes on line, as we seek what works for those of us whose hands run cold.

I have a dresser drawer with easily $2500 worth of very high-end gloves from Arcteryx ($350) to the Dakine gloves ($90) that failed so miserably in a rain storm and nearly cost me my hands. Goretex they said. Waterproof, they said.

Nonsense. And I have the photos from the mountain top in Kazakhstan to prove it.

Based on a breathless referral from a fellow woman athlete, I had invested about $150 in a pair of Hestra mitts. The problem with mitts is that they are useless for horseback riding. Besides, even when I went out for a run in the deep Denver cold, my thumbs froze. Another failure.

So as I was being blocked at the entrance to the Hestra booth by Dan, I explained to him what I was after. Interestingly, rather than take an interest in solving my problem (which other retailers were eager to do in order to get gear reviews), Dan had every excuse for why he couldn’t show me the gloves. Why it was too much trouble to take them. It just would take too much time. His time, in other words.

Fine.

Here’s what customer service looks like: Serius is sending me free samples. One of their salespeople is a rider from Wyoming. She is my age. She gets precisely what I need and the fact that there is a crying need for a glove that isn’t battery operated (no plugs in the trees where I travel)and we hate carrying and disposing of those hand warmers. They’re environmental trash.

In a statement of true problem solving, the folks at LevelGloves/Scheuling Sport AG (http://www.levelgloves.com) had their glove designer from Switzerland sit down with me and map out a potential glove design. We’ll be in touch with him as this progresses. Mauro was delighted at the challenge. I was delighted that he wanted to take it on.

That is what real service looks like. Hestra isn’t going to get a good review not only because their expensive mittens fail but also because of how they handle inquiries at their show booth.

I don’t expect free products. Not at all. I’ve been willing to spend a great deal of money on good gear. I do admire companies and people who are intrigued by a problem and want to solve it. Rather than get barred at the gate, I ended up finding smart, focused people who are interested in solving a problem. My challenge is hardly limited to riding- it affects every aspect of my adventure travel. The right glove- along with other gear-  keeps me in the game longer, more safely, and I can have a lot more fun out there.

So will all those who end up buying those products based on a positive review and referral.

Hestra doesn’t seem to understand that each person who approaches the booth doesn’t need to be a retail buyer or a looky-loo. While I’m not going to place a multi-million dollar order, sometimes some of the other benefits visitors to a booth can bring are just as important.

Such as a new customer base or inspiring a creative glove design.

Poor customer service and arrogance are surefire ways to ruin a reputation. Whatever your storied history may be, you’re only as good as your most recent customer interaction. Because these days, we all talk to each other all the time, and one unpleasant interaction can become a viral story.

 

 

Photo credit: Rick Bowmer, Associated Press file