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Vape Shops Failing Their Customers – Isolated Incident or Widespread?
What you are about to read is a true story. After my experience with the two people on which this story is based I knew this was something that had to be addressed here, in Spinfuel. I’m sure the events that transpired locally do not happen everywhere. So, I am asking you, our readers, to share your experiences after you read this. Positive or negative, we would truly appreciate your input in the comments so that all of us can better understand what’s happening at the local level during the explosive growth of local vape shops.
The Set Up
Last week my wife purchased some furniture and set up delivery date for Saturday afternoon. On this particular Saturday I was home, working on my laptop, in the ‘family room’, where the new furniture was to be placed. I had with me an assortment of vape gear and eLiquids that I would use to assign reviews to the staff. Julia usually does this job, but this time it was me, and frankly, it was mess which is why I’m not the one usually doing it. Four brands of eLiquid and assorted clearomizers, APV’s, and other gear were strewn about, but since we had a 6-hour window for the delivery of the furniture I wasn’t in any rush to get them assigned, clean up, and leave the room. I mean really, since when do deliveries show up early?
As it happens, this delivery was early. When the delivery guys walked in to take a look at what furniture they were going to remove and where the new furniture would go, the men noticed all the vape gear (how could they not) and remarked that I must be a user of electronic cigarettes, just like they were (one had already started vaping, the other was going to start soon).
My wife interjected at this point and remarked that I was ‘with’ Spinfuel eMagazine, an online magazine focused on the Art of Vaping. The men were surprised because they had heard about us from one of the local vape shops (that’s always a nice plus). One of the men had just started vaping a couple of weeks ago, a spur of the moment decision as he walked by a local vape shop. He asked if I knew about eCigarettes because he had questions, lots of questions, and he wanted to know if I might be able to help him. I said sure, I’d love to.
The Short Version
To make a long story short, one of the men recently began vaping and the other was just waiting for time off to stop by the local vape shop to pick something out. He was a little hesitant because the one that did vape was having problems. Anyway, after they visited that local vape shop one of them walked out with a battery, clearomizer, and eLiquid. That electronic cigarette were left behind in the truck, so I had not yet learned what it was that he purchased. Apparently, he didn’t either. When I asked him he had a blank look on his face and said “Uh, a battery with one of those things that you put this liquid in”.
As I probed for more I found out that he could not tell me the type of battery, the name brand of the battery, whether it was a variable voltage battery or not, he had no idea what the ‘mAh’ rating was, or even what that meant, and he could not tell me the name of the device he put the eliquid in, and had no idea how to fill it properly, what to do if it was overfilled, or anything else about the daily operation and maintenance of the vape gear. When I asked what kind of eLiquid he purchased and the nicotine strength the blank stare returned and he mumbled, “Ah, I have a cotton candy flavor…”
Through additional questions I learned that the people at the shop didn’t ask him much about his smoking habit, didn’t ask him much of anything really, and nothing was discussed about what options available to him. What the sales clerk did do was to sell the guy a blister pack eGo battery with USB cable and some eLiquid. Asking nothing about what kind of flavor or nicotine strength he might want or need, the salesman picked out a couple of flavors and said “You’ll love these!”…
Oh, he did remove the drip tip and filled the clearomizer with the ejuice he had purchased, but never told him anything about the process and just assumed that watching him was all he needed to see, or hear.
It Gets Worse
A few days after buying the eGo battery and a CE4 clearomizer the men had an issue with his only clearomizer. After filling the clearomizer he heard a ‘gurgling’ sound and it didn’t produce much, if any vapor. He took it back to the store and the man behind the counter simply told him he needed to buy another clearomizer. Nothing more, no attempt was made to fix it or replace it, and since it was a CE4 there was no way to replace the coils. “Buy a new one”. He didn’t even pretend to study it before declaring it dead.
Spinfuel eMagazine Steps In
Once the two men moved out the old furniture and installed the new, I gave them both a box of various eLiquids, (18mg) a few new batteries (eGo Spinners), and six X.Jet Spiders, (1.8ohm).
I did this because the other guy, the one that wanted to start vaping, had seen how much trouble his friend was going through and was beginning to have reservations about it. He knew he wanted to kick cigarettes, and he had heard nothing but great things about eCigarettes, I guess he was waiting to see if his buddy could get his issues sorted before he made the plunge. I set them up because I wanted to see the other guy get started and I wanted to repair the faith in vaping with the guy that was already disheartened by his experience with the local shop and the cheap equipment he paid for. Since I’m a big fan of the Vision Spinner and they were already used to seeing that size battery, it was a cinch to decide on the Spinner as the battery of choice for both of them.
I instructed both of them on how to use them, how not to overfill the X.Jet’s, and why, how to charge the batteries, what to do if the juice leaks onto the battery connector, and so on. I spent about half an hour going over the process 3 or 4 times until I was confident they knew what to do, and why, and they knew what these items were called. Still, it wasn’t enough time, not really, so I gave them some of my cards, told them to come to the site and read some reviews and some of the Guide to Vaping, and to seek out other resources as well. I told them there was a lot to learn, if they chose to, or they could keep it simple and just maintain their vape gear as long as they could, and replace it when necessary. I also told them they might want to shop somewhere else.
They left feeling great about vaping, and the guy that hadn’t yet started couldn’t wait to get home, charge his battery, load up with X.Jet, and stop smoking.
After they left I began thinking about the three local shops in our town (not the mention the Kiosk in the mall), and the hundreds of other shops across the country, and I wondered how many of them were operating like the one these two guys visited.
I wondered how many people went into these shops to learn about vaping and to learn what they might want to use to kick the smoking habit, only to be sold something they may or may not need, and leave the store not knowing how to troubleshoot anything, or even the understanding of what they just purchased, why they even bought it, or what the parts were called.
Are people being ripped off and mislead, like the old days when personal computers were all the rage and people were sold PC’s at ridiculous prices with no training on how to use it just because everyone thought they needed a computer? Was this just another ‘bubble industry’ where the players get in, make the money, and get out before it all turns to shite?
I wondered about a lot of things, and most of all I wondered how much of a disservice to the vape community some of these shops were being.
I know full well that there are some great shops across the country, I’ve been in a few, and Julia and Keira have been in dozens of them, and most were fantastic operations with knowledgeable sales people and great customer service.
I also know that many of the better eLiquid vendors are moving toward opening local shops and are doing fantastically well, and I know that most of the people we know are in it because they love this business and want to do right by the community in which they live, and the vape community of which they are a part.
Unfortunately, some of vape shops are like the one these two young men visited. Had I not intervened I just know that they would have struggled for weeks, wasted a ton of money until they figured it out on their own, or simply given up and run back to smoking.
So, after a couple of days I decided I would write about what happened, and that I would ask you, our readers, to chime in with your experiences at your local vape shops.
What are they like? How to they treat their customers? Do they try to up-sale you at every turn, or do they follow your lead? Do they educate you, and are they friendly, informative, and willing to bend over backwards to see that you understand how to use what you just laid out good money for? Do they listen to your needs and respond with the right answers and the right products? Or, were you treated like the guy above?
We want to know about your local vape shop experiences, so if you have one use the comment section below and tell us all about it. But here’s the deal; keep the store name out of the comment. If you include the name we can’t approve your comment. By naming the store you are not being fair to that shop or its owners because they can’t respond in real-time. Maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe not. We don’t want to open this up for attacks on local stores that you feel did you wrong; we want to get the feel for what’s happening on the local level. We hope this was an isolated incident. Your input will help us all decide if it was isolated, or if this kind of customer service is widespread. Either way, this is something we should be willing to discuss.