Standing Behind Your Products: Why I Bought My Laptop Bag from Timbuk2

My Timbuk2 Bag? I Wish! {Eventually}

Timbuk2 is having a sale the next few days. I am not a shill for Timbuk2: I have received no compensation in any form for this unsolicited positive story about the company and its employees. The following story is why you might want to head on over to their site if you are looking for a durable bag or case for anything including laptops and tablets made by a company that stands behind their products with employees that treat people like people and not sales targets.

Prolog

About a month ago my sigo and I were talking and she brought up getting her Timbuk2 bag fixed. I asked if she would be interested in several competitor’s bag. She declined, stating that her bag had lost a piece, but it had a lifetime warranty: it would be no problem to walk into the store to drop it off to be repaired. She added that while we were there she could look at larger bags. Her current Timbuk2 bag could no longer accommodate the things she sometimes needed to carry with her.

In parallel to this, my current backpack was failing on me. I was considering buying a new bag, even though my backpack has a lifetime warranty. The reason why I was considering a switch is because even though I loved my backpack, I felt as if I had to jump through hoops to get it even considered for replacement.*

The Custom Bag Configuration Tool

About a week before we went to the store, I stopped by the site and custom configured a bag. It used the diamond textured fabric on all outside panels because I thought it looked pretty cool.  It was black on the 2 outer panels and blue in the center. The wanted a dark red center panel, but the red on the website looks way too bright. But the red inside lining would rock for looks as well as being able to see all my black cords and devices inside, I figured. Unfortunately, the bag weighed in at over $200, but I saved the link to it in case I could save up enough over the next few months to cover the custom bag.

In Store Experience Part One Point Five

About a week later, my girlfriend and I stopped into the local store with her old bag that needed a minor repair. Timbuk2 employees were cool enough to swap it out—no questions asked, with the sales people explaining that Timbuk2 no longer does repairs because of several issues with repairing old bags. (Doing Needs Assessment for years taught me to look for opportunities to improve something. So, I quickly thought of the following:) Since she needed a larger bag, and they were going to swap it out anyway, I politely asked if it might be possible to also trade up a size as well and pay the difference. The employee checked, and a minute or two later, told me that it would be possible.

The Debate

In those brief minutes waiting to see if it was possible, my sigo told me she had reservations about trading-up. (My “talking my CFO into approving purchases quickly” training taught me to handle this as well:) I quickly convinced her that (A) she needed a larger bag anyway, and (B) the price differential would save a lot of money over a new bag, (B.2) there’s no sense in having two 2 bags because she could carry two at a time and less money.  If I had to, I would pay for it, because I reminded her on my axiom: “friends don’t let friends buy inferior technology [including products that do not meet their needs].”

She countered with: (Br1) she was planning on giving the smaller bag away when she purchased a larger one, and (Br2)she would feel guilty if I paid for another item. I countered with: (Br1r1)the person you plan on giving it to wouldn’t appreciate it, and (Br2r1)she could chalk up the expense as [part of] an anniversary gift, so she wouldn’t feel guilty about letting me buy it for her. At that point, she realized there was not wise to upset a Wookie, nor try to argue using logic against me (usually, I am wrong in some cases), and I won the argument. Sure, my wallet felt lighter, but it also allowed our spirits to rises.

The Actual Trade

The employee went in the back for a minute to see if they had a larger bag of that model in stock with a laptop pouch, and we looked around the store a bit more. She came back confirming one was in stock. I handed her my card and she ran it. Second later, she retreived the bag and took it out of its protective plastic bag, and we transferred a ton of things from the old bag to the new one. It was so easy for her to trade-in and trade-up her old bag with no receipt—not like anyone would try to make a timbuk2 bag after all—that I seriously started considering Timbuk2. (I still hadn’t found my Backpack’s sales receipt from 5 years ago yet at that time.) I would have liked the custom bag mentioned above with the phony strap or the deluxe strap that you can add pouches to, but I cannot really afford it at this time.

I hope it was okay that the employees let her trade up: I would hate for anyone to get in trouble. (Actually, you should commend the employee because that’s a big reason I decided to buy a bag from your company. But if that wasn’t cool, then the employee was “a one armed man!” ;)

The In Store Experience Part Duex

We were in the store for quite a while, and the employees made us feel at home. They readily displayed products and explained the each product’s benefits. They made no excuses for not having enough pockets to rival my backpack which I had brought with me to compare. They chatted with us about other things as if we were hanging out, and never tried to sell us anything. While I was there I noticed the red diamond patterned sample was much darker than on the site: that center panel in that dark red would be acceptable. That got us chatting about the site, and their products.

My “Idea Hamster” Side Revealed

I mentioned in the store that I wished there was a special pocket with a sealable power supply pass-through (for low temperature operating power supplies such as the one in my MacBook Pro 13″) on the laptop bags. Also, the iPad stand case could also benefit from having a small square pass-through pocket for the iPad. The employees said they do not do custom bags like that, and adding features is a lot of work and can take years. One of the employees did give me the name of a shop across the bay that does custom modifications though.

Sadly, the best product testers are not the always most thoughtful and articulate. After years of product evaluation being integral to various positions, it is rare that is there a product I like, and can’t think of a way to improve it.

I also plan on pestering Timbuk2 about the audio quality in the product demonstration videos next time I am in the market for another bag. :) {I wonder if I could do some work on audio in exchange for the custom bag, hehe. But I’ll probably just buy it once I can afford it.}

Epilogue

I ordered a Command Messenger Bag that will fit my next MBP purchase. (Hopefully a 4-core Ivy Bridge 3820QM MBP15 that AppleInsider has the occasional rumor about if it can accommodate 2 separate drives and 32GB DRAM.)

I got the email that my backpack would be replaced about 2 hours after I ordered the Timbuk2 bag. I got the email mentioning the “up to 60% off” sale when I woke up, so it was a “first email check wins” sort of thing. I could have cancelled the bag, but I think I’ll give the replaced backpack to someone that might appreciate it, or keep it as a backup. You can never discount the value of a good backup.

I keep my weapons plentiful and loaded for just such an emergency!

Full Disclosure (in compliance with FTC Rules)

I haven’t received anything in exchange nor have I been offered any future compensation for this article, nor for any future articles. This is just my honest opinion and true story—that I manage to greatly elaborate on because I like to write sometimes. (And for fun I mispell words on porpoise. Although, he is a stickler for grammar and feels a bit uncomfortable with the sharpie marks all over his belly as he swims with his {grammar} school.*)

*Yup: I chose a bad joke to end this one. You gotta problem with that?

UPDATE: after many months with the Command, I am a big fan of the underside pocket and wish the Deluxe Messenger had this feature. I did end up going to Tap Plastics for a $8 sheet of semi-rigid plastic  to reinforce the laptop compartment. The sheet (that I cut myself to shape) works very well to distribute the weight pushing against the laptop from the main compartment. No more keyboard imprints on my laptop. Also, I decided to place items in different pouches in the main compartment.

By using Nite Ize S-Biners for each device with a loop attachment or carrying strap, I can quickly pull everything out of the main compartment, while still attached to the S-biners in the internal nylon straps. I use #1 through #3 S-Biners (depending on the size of the item), in combination with everything from discounted Nintendo DS cases (found at Target for abouty $4) to SD card holders (also $4 at Target). The S-Biners run about $4 per pair of #1s, but you can find them online for less.

As a side effect of using a pouch system, things no longer bunch up on the bottom and center of the bag, making it that much better. It works very well. So well in fact that, if I were a Timbuk2 executive, I would include one (of any size) to each bag with an internal nylon frame*, with an option of these sorts of pouches and quick disconnect S-Biners to each order, at a discount at time of purchase. Given my inherent frugalness, I would price them at $5–$10 each (depending on the pouch size) at time of order or $10–$20 after purchase.

*I figure the first one would be a teaser to get people hooked on this concept. (This is why I would either make a company broke by siding with customers on price-performance or make it a juggernaut since no one would be able to touch my frugal yet flexible and utilitarian approach to product design. )

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6 thoughts on “Standing Behind Your Products: Why I Bought My Laptop Bag from Timbuk2

  1. Pingback: What I Learn From Timbuk2? | Lee Tuck Sing's Weblog

  2. what is the name of the shop across the bay that does modifications, i really want to change a few things about my new D-lux

    • It might be somewhere in my long list of notes…. (this is what Databases are for!)
      After a brief but futile search, I ended up calling Timbuk2’s customer service line for you (and me since I would also like to customize the bag) to find out. If you are local to the Bay Area, Narain’s is the place where they can modify out your bag. I haven’t called to check how much it would cost, but perhaps you could do the leg work and comment with what you find out. Thanks for reading.

  3. Looks like 2012 was a good year for Timbuk2, but sadly that’s no longer the case. I’ve had a long back and forth with their customer service folks and unfortunately they’re unwilling to make even minor repairs without charging me a large fraction of the original purchase price of the bag. Anyone else have any luck talking them into this sort of thing recently?

    • I talked with the store personnel a few years ago. They said they no longer repair bags due to health hazards that could come with a contaminated bag. The reason and tone seemed genuine, and I have no reason to doubt them. From their concerned tone, I figure they must have had an issue like this, and I don’t have any problem with a company looking after the health of its employees first and foremost.

      Instead what they did when my GF had to get her bag repaired a few years ago, was give her full credit for a new one. They even allowed her to trade up a size to medium and pay only the difference. She simply gave them her old small dirty/torn messenger bag, she paid ~$20 and they handed her a brand new messenger bag. She simply removed all her stuff that was in the torn bag in the store and we walked out with her t hings in a new clean bag. She was very happy.

      So, I would suggest asking if they would do that for you as well. I realize you might have formed an attachment to your trusty bag (or maybe it’s custom), but as far as rectifying the situation, this IMO goes a very long way and why I still consider them.

      The only reason why I haven’t bought another one is that their designs could be much better — organization-wise. If they put as much thought in designing the organization system as they do cosmetic features, they would be my go to bag supplier and get 5stars from most travelers. I made recommendations to how to make a truly killer and flexible laptop bag based on my travels, but they fell of deaf ears, sadly. But no company is perfect, and they don’t know me (who has experience designing efficient systems and actually making time saving gizmos) from a joe schmo that doesn’t know the first thing about design.

      BTW: My blog is now at http://blog.noivad.net/

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