Thanks Nikon!

I like to share when I have a great customer service experience; they are so rare these days.

I’ve owned a much-used pair of binoculars that were originally bought for the boat, but have also accompanied me on many miles of rainy, dusty and sweaty birding hikes. Unfortunately the adjustable eye cups both broke, making them less than ideal to use. Right when I was going to retire them, I remembered that Nikon has a lifetime warranty on their optic products.

So I looked up how to get a service return authorization, which was easy to do online, then shipped them off. I only had to pay for shipping to Nikon.

It took a little over 3 months, but yesterday I received a brand new replacement pair in the mail (postage-paid)!

It’s nice to know there are still companies out there that follow through on their quality promises.

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Tread lightly.

Last week I was using my treadmill when the motor unexpectedly stopped.   In the days since then, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about the inner workings of my treadmill (a 12 year old, well-loved Schwinn 845P).

The important bits under the cover include the digital display console, a hydraulic incline motor, a DC motor that drives the belt, a sensor that measures the speed at which the treadmill’s belt is turning, and an electronic board that controls all these things.

The symptom:  The motor and belt just stopped abruptly during a workout.    The console still works.  The incline motor works as well.   Any time I subsequently turn the treadmill back on, the console lights up, prompting for the usual inputs.  Then when I press the start button, I hear a “click” after which the motor used to start-up, but now doesn’t.  And after a few seconds the console just displays the message “Err LS” (looks also like “Err L5”) which apparently stands for Loss of Speed, which is an error message related to a number of different failures.   I had to figure out which component had failed, causing that error.

Disclaimer:  I am in no way suggesting you do this at home yourself.   I’m not an expert. 

The patient:

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The diagnostic process in my case:

  • No belt movement at all.
  • The circuit breaker next to the power switch has not tripped.  And, besides, electricity is able to power the console and the incline motor.
  • None of the capacitors on the control board appeared to be swollen or visibly failed.
  • All of the wire harnesses and leads seemed to be seated firmly – no loose connections that I could see.
  • The fuse on the motor control board is not blown.
  • If I move the belt with my hand, I can see the “SPEED” led on the control board flashing as it turns, meaning the speed sensor is not the problem in my case.  It appears to be working and sending a signal to the control board, which is receiving it and flashing the LED as the magnet on the drum passes the speed sensor.
  • I disconnected the (DC) motor (P/N KK 2566) power leads from the control board and hooked them up to the terminals of a 12V car battery to test it by itself, and the motor worked fine.  An inspection of the brushes also showed them to be in good shape.  The motor is just not apparantly getting power from the control board as it should be.
  • I can hear the relay click after pressing the start button, but the board is just not sending power to the motor, or at least not the right amount of power.   A multimeter showed 3 Volts coming from the board to the DC motor.
  • I googled “Err LS” and “treadmill” and read as much as I could find.  There are alot of problems that can cause an Err LS message.  I
  • I called Schwinn to got their take, and even though the treadmill is out of production, I experienced great customer service from Joseph as he talked me through things to check to narrow down the problem.

The consensus diagnosis:   Through process of elimination, the problem appears to be a failed control board (motor control board, actually).   Apparantly this is a very common failure on treadmills of all makes and models.

The fix:  I found a website called FitnessBoardsDirect, that carries such things.  The replacement for my motor control board (P/N QQ 2197) is a new-from-the-manufacturer item, not a refurbished one.   I called them as well.   A guy named Nick answered the phone and was very nice and helpful;  he confirmed the diagnosis and gave me a little more confidence that the item I would order might actually fix my problem.  So, I decided to shell out $225 plus shipping for a replacement motor control board.   Not cheap, but much less expensive than a new treadmill – a comparable new model retails for $800-$1000, depending on who you buy it from.

My replacement board arrived tonight and I installed it, and it worked.  I’m back in business!   🙂

Little buddy.

Last year I went on a girls’ trip to Washington, D.C. and we walked EVERYWHERE!   One of my friends had a fitbit One (electronic fitness / health tracking gadget) which intrigued me, and I ordered one for myself before I even got back home.  I’ve been using it for almost a year now and I love it.

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As you can see, it is small, it clips onto your clothes (bra, waistband, etc) and Along with its dashboard tracks calories expended, distance walked, vertical steps climbed, sleep pattern, food (calories in), weight gain/loss.  I found it to be a good tool to incent, remind, and update me on where I am versus where I want to be.   It doesn’t work magic – when I don’t expend more calories than I take in, I gain weight.   But my experience has been that if i use it that way I’m supposed to (i.e., keep the food tracker updated and actively try to achieve my daily targets, every day) I am a better fit-izen  🙂

My 2 cents on why I love my fitbit:

  • Usability:  It is easy to wear and forget about.  I clip it onto my bra (sports or frilly) and it usually is undetectable.  It is very easy to keep continually on my person 🙂  I’ve even forgotten about it and worn it through a TSA checkpoint at the airport several times – without getting stopped.  I tried using the little wristband it comes with to wear the fitbit at night but gave up and now just clip it to what I’m wearing to bed.  I don’t even know it’s there.
  • Durability:  It’s water-resistant.  It’s definitely not bothered by lots of sweat.  It is not advertised as being water proof.   BUT it did go through the washing machine once and still works.  My washer is a High-Efficiency one wrt how much water it uses – maybe that’s why my fitbit thankfully didn’t drown.  But, you should have seen the number of steps I logged during the spin cycle overnight!
  • Battery life:  I have found that the battery lasts two weeks or more for me on a given charge.  It warns you when it is low.  And to charge it just requires using the short cord in the picture above – USB on one end, and attaching to the end of the fit bit with the adapter on the other end.
  • Ease and flexibility of uploading data from the device:   You can choose to sync the bits of data from the fitbit device to the dashboard for viewing by either (or both) of two methods.  The fitbit One can talk to/sync with the fitbit Connect application (that runs on your laptop) via the smaller USB wireless sync dongle thingie in the picture above.    And/or it can talk to/sync with the fitbit mobile app (that runs on your phone) via a bluetooth-enabled interface with your phone.  I use both.  I like that if i go on a trip where I don’t want to lug my laptop, I can still sync with my phone for the time I am gone and view the dashboard from there.   Syncing is where things might get a little less intuitive, but there are lots of FAQs to explain the ins and outs of syncing.
  • User interface:  The web dashboard can be accessed via either a web browser on a laptop, or through their mobile app.  Both are easy to use, customize, and display lots of info to glean. 
  • Customer service:  I have found most of my questions are easily answered by info found in fitbit’s online help, or the fitbit community forums.   I did have a problem recently where my wireless syncing dongle simply stopped working.  I quickly found the phone number online – it’s posted on their twitter feed(877) 623-4997.  (I’m old fashioned – there are online methods to get support here).  After less than 10 minutes on the phone with the support person I had an email in my inbox documenting that a replacement fitbit wireless sync dongle was on its way to me – free of charge.  I was back in business a few days later.
  • Value:  for me, it’s worth it.  I’ve worn it pretty much every day for almost a year.   I’ve actively used it the way I should for probably 75% of that time.  I fall off the wagon from time to time.   I think I paid a little under $100 dollars for my fitbit One.  But I struggle with my weight, and any tool that helps me stay on the path to fitness is worth it.  And that’s what my fitbit One helps me do.

Oh, one more thing….I did misplace my fitbit once.  I knew it couldn’t have gone far, though.   I googled online for an app that communicates with bluetooth devices nearby… and it was able to pick up the signal from my fitbit One and eventually zero in on its location under the couch about 10 feet away.  The free iphone app I used was called Bluetooth Smart Scanner, but there are others out there that should work as well.

Kudos to The North Face.

I recently posted about Kohler being a great company to work with because of their customer service. Today, I’m posting a shout out for The North Face…. Several years ago I bought rain jackets for both monte and myself.  But recently my jacket’s waterproof lining began tearing at the neck, rendering it no longer waterproof.

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I remembered that The North Face has a lifetime warranty for their togs, so about 6 weeks ago I followed their instructions and sent my ruined jacket to their warranty department requesting a replacement.  Well, today with no other communication or notice, I received a brand new jacket from TNF. Its a slightly different color, but still the great North Face product.
THANK YOU North Face for standing behind your warranty. I’ll be back.

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I ♥ Kohler.

When we remodeled our house 5 years ago, we put in a beautiful Kohler Simplice faucet (model number K-647-VS) at the big kitchen sink.

I love it.  A few months ago, though, it started leaking water from under the single hot/cold control handle.  There was always a puddle around the faucet.  It drove me NUTS.

Google showed me that Kohler has really great documentation on how to fix this on their web pages here and even a short video here.   And I eventually dug out and read the owner’s manual/guide that came with it  – yes… i keep those things 🙂   I read about the Kohler Faucet lifetime warranty.   You can read the fine print here, but Kohler basically says:  “if the Faucet should leak or drip during normal use, Kohler Co. will, free of charge, mail to the purchaser the cartridge necessary to put the Faucet in good working condition.”   Yes, free.   I can’t believe anyone does that anymore.

So, I called Kohler’s customer service line (1-800-4KOHLER) and described the problem to a real and knowledgeable person and they said with all likelihood it was a bad valve.  They sent me a replacement valve in the mail for free.   It arrived over the weekend, and I installed it.   VOILA problem solved!

I just wanted to give a shout out to a company that still provides great customer service!

Read on for a few comments on what was a little more difficult than described in my experience of changing the control valve.  Good Luck!  My DIY photo:

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The documentation and video online are pretty much self-explanatory.   There were 2 steps that took a bit more effort than I anticipated.

1) It took a significant amount of effort to get the Hot/Cold water control handle off (after removing the set screw) – more than I was capable of, so I enlisted Monte for that job.  It took a while, but it did come off with a sustained, firm, upward pull.   The problem was the black, plastic sleeve on the valve was stuck in the handle, creating loads of friction.  The new valve comes with a replacement black sleeve, so I had to remove the old one using needle nose pliers after the handle came off.

2) the decorative “bonnet” under the handle was hard to unscrew.  But, I used one of those rubber, grabber pads that helps unscrew the lids from jars.  And with some perseverence, it did the trick.  After those two steps, everything else went as advertised.

The replacement kit came with a teeny capsule of grease, which I spread around the new valve’s o-ring.  The video doesn’t mention that.

Yay KOHLER!