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Aug 12, 2002
Aug 12, 2002
West Marine: Not Just for Boat Owners
These guys call themselves Americas Best Boating Supply Source were they right?
I had no idea what West Marine was before someone purchased a gift for me from their online catalog. However, I consider myself lucky to have been introduced to this company. Being a native Long Islander, West Marine has several locations throughout the island, and now comes in handy to me both as an online and offline store.
I love sushi. Im a vegetarian, so I make my own vegetable sushi. What does this have to do with West Marine? This store sells such a variety of items; even non-boaters can find something that they like, which is exactly the case with me. So, when I expressed to my aunt how much drudgery I feel there is in making sushi rice, she decided to send me a microwave rice cooker as a surprise.
Just a few days after my aunt left my house, a microwave rice cooker was delivered! I couldnt understand why this came from West Marine, as it doesnt seem like a typical product that a boating store sells. But apparently she got her rice cooker from there, loved it, and wanted to pass one on to me.
I decided to try out the item, but soon discovered that the handle of the rice cooker was broken (probably in shipment). I called the 1-800 number on the West Marine invoice. The customer service representative was friendly and accommodating. Even though I was not the one who had ordered the item, he worked to come up with a solution. Instead of me having to spend almost as much money as the rice cooker to send it back to the catalog factory, I was able to drop it off at a location just a few miles from where I live. Of course I live on the coastline, so this was incredibly convenient.
When I showed up in person, the staff at the West Marine store were a little confused at first, but then were happy to take the item once I described the situation. The catalog simply sent out a new rice cooker before they even received the old one. Therefore there was just a tiny gap of time before FedEx showed up on my doorstep with a new item.
I was extremely pleased with West Marine customer service. They were willing to accommodate me in bringing the item back to a store, even though it was purchased via the internet. The customer service representative spent time looking up information my closest store location.
West Marine did not hesitate to send out a new product before receiving the old. Although not as relevant to this review, the folks in the store were friendly, and even make copies of the invoice so that I would have the information, should I need it again. They had never had a situation like it before, but took the item for return.
One of the ways that we guaranteed our customer's satisfaction was to institute what has become the industry's best guarantee of satisfaction - our famous "No Hassle" guarantee. We decided that if a customer wanted to return an item, regardless of the time involved, that we would replace it or refund his money. We believe that the No Hassle guarantee has been responsible for much of our customer loyalty, and of our success, as it has been for other successful retailers.
Although I did not personally order the item myself, you receive an order confirmation via e-mail, and can track your package. (That is how my aunt knew just when I had received my rice cooker). Although I was the one who spoke with customer service about a replacement item, my aunt was given new information as though it were a new order.
The item was shipped FedEx, but you can also choose from a variety of other shipping methods, including Ground Service, Two-Day Service, Overnight Service, Canadian Delivery, Non Continental US Delivery, International Delivery (which includes FedEx, DHL or Air Parcel Post), and Saturday Delivery. My item arrived on time and was packaged appropriately. Even the replacement item was shipped promptly using FedEx. Apparently the Federal Express employee who delivered the packages thinks Im the proud owner of some awesome boat!
The Web site
After this experience, I took a look at the West Marine web site. Probably the first misconception is that it is just for boating needs. I think if people knew else wise, they might have another nice store to shop at. People other than boaters can use many of these supplies without having to otherwise search for them.
The shopping categories that youll find at West Marine are:
Electrical & Ventilation
Electronics & Navigation
Interior & Books
Seating & Covers
These categories are easy to navigate, especially since they are broken into subcategories which makes things simpler. Of course you can also use their Search feature, which makes life a little easier.
There is a West Marine Store locator on the website, just for people like me who might want to browse online and then pick up an item at the store itself, rather than purchasing it online. You simply type in a zip code and voila! Store locations pop up.
Item Prices, Selection, Stock & Variety
As someone fresh out of graduate school (in other words, a financial mess!), who doesnt own a boat, I would never expect to find myself shopping at West Marine, of all places! Yet here I am, raving about an awesome rice cooker and browsing their website with quite a bit of curiosity. There is definitely more variety and stocked items on the website than you will find in the store. I was not able to pick up my new rice cooker in the store, because the customer service representative I spoke to knew right off the bat that the store wouldnt have the item in stock. But thats fine, because you cant expect them to have the thousands of items on the website to be available in person! The more popular and common items are the ones youll find in person.
The item was reasonably priced, and its value was a large motivation for my aunt to buy it on somewhat of a whim. The items that I browsed through seemed to be sensibly priced.
If you are a boat owner, I would of course suggest checking out the West Marine website. They really seem to have just about anything you could need, even services beyond products. A few months ago I went on a family trip where we chartered our own catamaran, and even for short-term boating needs, I think this online merchant would have been useful. Even if you are just around boats, you might find use for things like deck shoes or other marine-related items.
Lastly, West Marine does not sell boats. Actually they do. They sell things like dinghies and kayaks!
Although I cant say Im the proud owner of an expensive party boat (although I wish I could!!), I find West Marine to be a useful place to shop. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that I currently live on Long Island and sometimes find myself on boats or whatnot, but there is such a breadth of supplies well. I would recommend this website (and store) to those who have or spend time on boats (obviously!), for people looking for gifts for a boater, or someone looking for specific supplies. For example, there are deck materials, containers, and storage that may be useful in other situations than just on a boat.
I found customer service to be very helpful and informative. The re-ordering process involved no hassling whatsoever. I now have an interest in this store, and Im definitely keeping it in mind for any kind of marine-related need that might come up in the future.