Gear4Music’s Studio Rack Cabinet has the potential to be a really great item that’s very desirable for a select audience.
It’s both a presentable “wooden” piece of furniture as well as having the perfect internal width of 19 inches and includes rackmount fittings – which means you can attach either standard musical rackmount devices or as I’d intended, standard IT networking rackmount devices.
What this means is that it perfectly serves the niche of fitting into a small home office as a piece of “wooden” furniture and does away with the need for a big ugly metal rackmount cabinet.
….well that’s what it’s meant to do!
OK so in truth, I haven’t concluded my experience with this device and its vendor yet, but wanted to review what I have experienced so far.
The item itself is pretty unique and appears to only be sold by Gear4Music either directly through their own website or through Amazon. There’s nothing else quite like it so your only other options are to balance a metal rackmount cabinet on top of a wooden cupboard, or get a big ugly metal (or very expensive wooden!) network cabinet – both of which are far from ideal and not best suited for a small home office/studio
Both the Amazon and Gear4Music website call it “Studio Rack Cabinet by Gear4music, Wood” which is a bit naughty as it’s not wood, in fact, it’s seen less wood than a… (insert innuendo gag here!). But to be fair if you read the small print it does say “High density fiber board with PVC cover” (read “laminated chipboard”)
It’s also worth noting that each of the eight “U’s” (units) of rackmount only have mounting holes at the top and the bottom of the position, rather than the three (top/middle/bottom) you find in some other racks. Although the middle holes are rarely used unless you have something like Patchbox’s setup.exe installation tool or a 1.5U rackmount case. Then again, it’s sold as a musical device rackmount so it might be that music device people have got their heads together and sensibly agreed on only using whole units of height – unlike us awkward IT networking bods!
Take note that this piece of furniture is hefty – what it doesn’t say on the website is that the packaging weighs in at an impressively beefy 21 kilos – and comes flat packed for self-assembly in large cardboard packaging at 57x11x 98cm. So make sure when it arrives there are ideally two of you and you’re not moving it too much further!
All credit to Gear4Music, this packaging protected the contents well during transit and it must have cost them a pretty penny more than the £4.99 they charged to deliver as came in one day, even on a bank holiday by DPD.
DPD do send a lot of emails and notifications relating to a shipment – some people might find this useful, but for others, it can be a bit excessive.
Be aware that as well as not actually being wood, the item does differ slightly from the images on their own website and Amazon’s, in that it actually has four rather unsightly holes on the top panel – I thought at first I’d built it wrong, but checking the setup guide these holes are clearly marked, so it looks like either the item has changed or somebody’s taken some creative license in the photography post-production.
But given that there’s nothing else quite like this out there, it’s something you can probably learn to tolerate, despite these holes serving literally no purpose other than to make what could have been a lovely smooth finished top into a cratered one.
Gear4Music Customer Service
Sadly, here’s where things take a bit of a downturn
Despite their current TrustPilot 4.8 score, Gear4Music really let the whole experience down badly, here’s why:
Whilst the item came flat packed for self assembly and the construction from start to finish took about two hours (oh and another nine days – but more on that later!)
I can’t really be enthusiastic about the quality – things didn’t align well and the overall build quality is much lower than Ikea’s flat packs. Some holes are just a millimetre or so off which means that edges don’t quite line up nicely so some things end up being just not quite square and that can leave the odd gap or just not being aligned enough to satisfy my OCD – but maybe that’s just me!
One of the final steps in the 8 page setup guide is to put the door onto its hinges and Gear4Music had shipped two hinges.
But critically they’d shipped two top hinges and no bottom one
This is where you need to know that if you have a problem like this with a Gear4Music product, you probably need to very carefully weigh up whether you can just live with the dissatisfaction, or if you’re prepared to invest an unreasonable chunk of your own time to try and get it sorted, in the knowledge that you might not reach a conclusion that justifies what you have to put into it. Indeed other TrustPilot reviews suggest similar issues.
Timeline (So far!)
Day 1 Sun
Day 2 Mon
Delivered on a bank holiday, great job, woohoo!
Day 4 Wed
Emailed explaining the problem
Day 5 Thur
Rang up to chase up email, told they were checking
They left a message to say they needed the whole thing back
Wrote back to say that was madness – got an auto response to try again tomorrow
Wrote an email to Andrew explaining the issue
Day 6 Fri
Voicemail that they’d ship the hinges to me and would call later to confirm
Then got an email to say they couldn’t send they couldn’t send the hinges
Sent another email to Andrew to get clarification
Got a phone call and email from Junior to say they were shipping the hinges and would offer a partial refund.
Day 9 Mon
Correct replacement hinges arrived
….but no refund
Still no refund!
Day 14 Sat
Still no refund!!
Published this blog & shared with Andrew
Day 16 Mon
Refund processed and arrived back in my bank today, and DPD are on the way to collect the incorrect hinges.
You had one job!
OK so long story long, the top and bottom hinges are subtly different, with hinge pins on the left and right – this isn’t obvious and isn’t pointed out in the setup guide, so easily missed as you check the parts.
Now I can accept that problems happen, even during a global pandemic, but how they’re tackled is critical.
Having followed their suggestion of emailing customer service, got no response in a reasonable timescale, followed up with a phone call with Gear4Music’s customer service, they confirmed they had my email (great but not great they’d not got round to responding to it yet!)
Their initial response was that they’d check and after another wait, they came back again just before closing time to say that the spares department didn’t have any hinges (this is despite the website showing 20+ of these products being in stock) and no doubt several display items being out at their showrooms.
As a result, they wanted me to spend another couple of hours taking the whole thing back apart again, trying to somehow jenga-style put all the parts back into the original flat packaging, wait two working days for collection and then ship all 21 kilos back to York, followed by another 5-10 working days to get another 21 kilo replacement shipped back across the country to me, and another couple of hours for me to build the replacement item to end up back where I started, but hopefully now with two correct hinges to be able to finish the job.
After pointing out it’d be a lot quicker, cheaper and make a lot more sense for them to open up one of their 20 items in stock, take out the hinges, pop them in a jiffy bag and post that to me, then I could send the incorrect ones back to them and they’d have a complete faulty set to resolve however they need to internally, whilst I had a complete full set. Sadly, this seemed to be way too sensible and fell on deaf ears.
So, I used the awesome website CEO Email to find the email address of Andrew Wass, CEO of Gear4Music to drop him a note to explain the unreasonable experience I was going through as a customer.
Now, no doubt Andrew is a busy man, which is probably why he didn’t have time to reply personally, but the following morning I did at least get a voicemail to tell me it was all sorted and the correct hinge (weighing just a few grammes!) would be sent out to me in the post.
….followed by an email five hours later, to tell me that no, I needed to return the whole 21kg pack to them.
Which I followed up with another email to Andrew to explain that things seemed to be getting worse
Which again he didn’t have time to reply to personally.
But it was at least followed up with a phone call from a nice chap called Junior who was really good at being a customer service person and appeared to know how to seem to be empathetic and reasonable, and said he’d try to get the hinges in the post today (being a Friday) and that he’d offer a partial refund and arrange return of the incorrect hinges.
I did point out that if I’d invoiced Gear4Music for the amount of time I’d actually spent to resolve their problem, it should be more than a full refund, but that in the spirit of cooperation, I’d be willing to accept their offer of a partial refund if they could just now do what they said they were going to do.
(guess what, they didn’t!)
A Partial Conclusion
To give Gear4Music some credit at least, two (correct) hinges arrived the following Monday by DPD courier
However, yet another week after that and the promised partial refund still hasn’t arrived!
So, after Gear4Music packed the wrong part; thirteen emails, three phone calls, two couriers, at least 4 members of Gear4Music staff including the CEO and after eight days and an unknown, but significant amount of my own time invested into this, I’ve finally got what I originally ordered.
But I haven’t heard anything about a return of the incorrect hinges, that (bizarrely!) I’m still willing to invest even more time into returning to them – so this means that they’ve got an incomplete item out there that they can’t sell, but they’re seemingly not bothered about the value of that!
It’s nice that they finally managed to sort out the first problem they created for me without shipping 21 kilos back and forth across the country unnecessarily or dragging things as long as they originally suggested at least.
But it’s really not so great that the whole experience has been such a mess, used up so much of their own time and resource and needed their CEO to get involved and after all that and another week, they’ve still not resolved the second problem that they’ve created of delivering the rather pitiful partial refund – which sadly just doesn’t show consideration for the unnecessary amount of time, effort and pain I’ve had to go through to solve the problem that they created. Or the third problem that they still haven’t arranged the promised return of the incorrect hinges.
Given the time and effort I’ve invested into this already and just how many steps backwards Gear4Music have taken before beginning to go in the right direction again, I really don’t know if I want to invest any more time and effort starting off yet another series of emails and phone calls with Gear4Music just to chase up the refund they promised, a week after it was promised, especially as they’re only offering such a small amount that doesn’t in any way match the unnecessary time they’ve consumed.
Hence this blogpost needed to be written, so that at least my own investment in time isn’t completely wasted and hopefully I can help prevent other people from having to go through the same painful experience with Gear4Music (including the poor person out there somewhere who has the other two bottom hinges!)
What I’ve learnt from this is that as companies get bigger, (my own included) they need to put processes in place to deal with things regularly – but those processes don’t always work for every situation, and companies that are poor at customer service rely too heavily on their processes and stick too rigidly to them at the expense of anything else – and seemingly, consumers have grown to accept this is what to expect of big companies.
So, as long as I’m running my own company and it has processes, I’m going to make sure that we have regular “sanity checks” and when our processes fail, just like Gear4Music’s have done here, we put something in place to identify and improve things and critically, to actually look at it from the individual customer’s perspective, rather than just being good at pretending to empathise with a customer and reply with the stock “that’s how we’ve always done things” or “our accounts department takes x days to pay” and expect them to just accept that.
That’s the subtle but incredibly valuable difference between a company that has become faceless to the detriment of the customer and one that chooses to remain personal for the benefit of the customer.
In the interest of being open and reasonable, what I’ll also do is send yet another email to Andrew with a link to this post and offer Gear4Music an opportunity to reply with a comment that I’ll publish if they want.
Strangely enough, shortly after this blog and the email to Andrew, I got a phone call to explain that they’d “forgotten” about the refund and return and would process them straight away. And sure enough they did, I re-offered the opportunity to respond to this blog but nobody’s taken up that option yet!