iSkin

I hold the protective cases made by iSkin in very high esteem. I’ve had them on my last two iPods, and they’ve performed admirably. The same, however, cannot be said of the company’s online store and shipping department.

My first purchase of an iSkin (and evo1, i believe) was through a third party online store and overall the process was tolerable (not perfect… the shipment was a bit late, but they contacted me and it was fine). For my next purchase, I when directly to iSkin.com and ordered up an evo2 case. This go round, however, was marred by (you’ll be hearing this a lot) shipping delays and the wrong colour being sent. After a few irrate emails, however, things got straightened out and i got my case, which was great.

Well, I recently got a new video iPod at our new Apple Store. However, iSkin had not yet released a case for the new players. I signed up for the notification list, and bided my time.

A few weeks later (8 December), iSkin announced their evo3 case, and I promptly ordered a black evo3 for my 60GB iPod. They said the cases would ship the following monday. However, monday rolled around, and no shipping notification email. Tuesday. Nothing. Wednesday brought a global form letter informing all that had ordered the case that there was a much larger response than they had expected, and that orders would be delayed 2-3 days. Okay, I figured… that happens. I work for an online reseller, so I understand back orders and rushes happen.

iSkin also mentioned their online order tracking system in the same email. I figured (erroniously) that my order, since it was placed early in the announcement day, would be among the first to ship. Not even close.

Fast forward to the beginning of this week (waaay past the expected arrival date): the tracking system has been telling me that the case is “Ready to ship” for several days now. Okay… so ship the damn thing already! Over the past week, I’ve fired off some irrate/desperate emails to their sales dept, to no avail. Zero response. Not even a big “piss off!” email. Nada.

At wit’s end, i decided to check out what people on iLounge (a popular iPod community site) were saying about the shipping issues. I soon discovered that somehow, people who had ordered after I had (such as nearly a week later in one case) had already received their evo3 cases! One such had ordered the exact same case as I had (the black size “B”), but roughly 5 days after I had, and had received their case in about 4 days!

Think that’s frustrating? It gets worse. I checked my status tonight, only to discover that my case was “out of stock.” Ummm.. EXCUSE ME!!!?!! I had seen “Ready to Ship” for over a week… which would generally cause one to think “Hey, they’re packing my case up and it’s just in line to get sent out.” But noooo… apparently that is just iSkin’s way of saying “there are cases in our warehouse… but you may or may not get one this time, Chester.”

My suggestions…

For iSkin:

  1. Talk to your customers. Many people will be surprisingly pacified by an email telling them what’s up. Err in the side of “too much contact” rather than the opposite.
  2. Upgrade the shipping status system. There is something inherently wrong with something being “Queued to ship” or “Ready to ship” for a period of longer than a day or two. Especially when it doesn’t mean a thing.
  3. Order more product for a launch then you might ever expect to sell. Being out of stock immediately after announcement may sound like a nice thing to tell investors, it’s HORRIBLE to tell the people who’ve ordered.
  4. Upgrade your shipping department. You certainly charge enough for your cases… go ahead. Go nuts. Hire a few more people!
  5. Follow my shipping rule of three:
    1. If you have the product in stock, stick it in a box and ship it.
    2. If you don’t have it in stock, either you or your inventory control system MUST send out an email to the customer telling them so.
    3. If you can’t handle condition one or two, you need to hire some more people, retrain the ones you have or get a better inventory system.

For consumers:

  1. If you consider buying an iSkin (which, despite the problems, you should. They are very well made), then, unless some serious changes are made with regard to their online sales dept, avoid buying it direct. Don’t let the thought cross your mind.
  2. Try to find it in person. A lot can be said for online shopping, but any online shop has the potential of running out of stock and thus requiring an order to… you guessed it… iSkin to replenish their supply. Go to the local shops. Call around. See if you can find it somewhere and simply go pick it up. No waiting. Very little hassle.

As for me, I’ll never buy from them again. Their cases are top notch, but no customer deserves to be ignored and abused, regardless of the situations at the company.