THE phrase that “you’re only as good as your last whatever” is a well used saying, and it popped into my head the other day after I had to return a winter jacket due to bad workmanship and an healthy over-estimation of its capabilities.
I’m not going to name the manufacturer because you’re only as good as your last coat, and I’m assuming that since returning the jacket they’ve sewn together plenty more that are well made and live up to expectations.
All I will say is that anonymous company makes very high end ie, expensive down clothing.
Early in December I saw a post on Facebook from anonymous company announcing a clearance sale; perfect timing because I was about to buy a Mountain Equipment Vega jacket.
Anonymous company had one that looked to be a great rival and with about £100 off the retail price, and what’s more anonymous company makes everything in the UK; in Manchester to be precise, although its headquarters are in Harrogate – more of that later.
I ordered the coat on 6 December knowing that it was unlikely to arrive before Christmas as they didn’t hold stock. I know this because I telephoned the office near Harrogate to see if I could pop over and try one on for size.
When I say pop over, I really do mean pop over, because the office is only 11.5 miles the other side of a large moorland area known as Blubberhouses, in North Yorkshire, from my home in Otley.
I was told that it was just an office and they don’t hold stock as everything was made to order. I explained that I’d looked at their sizing chart and could work out if I was a small or a medium; this is often the case for me.
So I took a gamble on a medium size; at £230; and ordered it through their website; and what I noticed was that it took a day or so to get an email confirming my order, and the money didn’t come out of my account for several days.
Nothing arrived before Christmas and just after the New Year I phoned the office (only 11.5 miles from my home) to ask where it was and found out that it was scheduled to be made within the week.
It arrived on the second Thursday in January, but it was too large so on the Monday I returned it – to the office near Harrogate that doesn’t hold any stock. At a cost to me of £8.55.
The replacement arrived on Friday 3 February. It was a good fit but I decided to leave it hung up over the weekend for the feathers to plump up.
The following Tuesday I had to go to Wetherby, so I wore it for 32-mile round trip; and three days later I popped it on for a meeting I had to go to at the University of Leeds.
I caught the bus from Otley to Hyde Park Corner, which is the last stop before the university. On the way there I’d noticed through the bus window that it was sleeting on and off; a good way to test my coat, I thought, as I’d been walking across a park called Woodhouse Moor to get to the uni.
As I crossed Woodhouse Moor in light sleet I didn’t feel very “toasty”, and it was the same on the way back. Other my new jacket, which was sold as having a “typical operating temperature of -15, I was wearing a cotton T-shirt, cotton shirt and a wool jumper.
That evening I walked a mile across Otley to a friend’s house for dinner (or supper, as “they” say in London). Aware that it was going to be about 2-3 degrees I wore a thermal long sleeve T-shirt and a fleece on the top of that topped off with my new coat. I was a bit warmer but still not exactly toasty.
My friend saw my coat, she liked it. She had a closer look, “it doesn’t seem very thick” she said; which is what I’d been thinking despite letting it plump up over the weekend.
And then she noticed that the stitching holding the zip that connected the hood to the coat was coming away.
Over the weekend I emailed the office near Harrogate with my concerns and said I wanted a refund; emphasising that it was about two months since I’d ordered the coat and I’d only worn it twice.
Okay, the first jacket being the wrong size was partly my fault but then again the woman on the phone in the office over the hill from me wasn’t exactly forthcoming in helping me with my small/medium conundrum.
The office over the hill from where I live emailed me back on Monday and asked me to return it and said they’d refund my money. Yes return it to the office, again; the office that didn’t hold any stock.
I’d said in my email that I’d drive over that Wednesday and drop it off apparently; “we do not have an office in Dacre Banks so please do not turn up there on Wednesday”.
So the next day (Tuesday 14 February) I took it to the Post Office and paid another £8.55.
Just before writing this I looked online at a few outdoors forums to see what was being said about nameless company. It was very mixed.
It was a good looking coat although it wasn’t exactly a head turner, unlike the Mountain Equipment Vega; and I was keen to support an independent British company; the underdog, but all I got was two months of dealing with a bunch of amateurs.
The winter is now pretty much over so there’s no point in buying the Vega, I’ll wait until the end of the year and until then I’ll carry on wearing my trusty Montane Flux jacket.