I did not see an answer to my question that I posted on this evening's Jerry Calabrese/Lionel Chat session, so I'll post it publicly hoping to see an answer:
I purchased a Lionel train set for my boys for Christmas for $350 (part #: 6-31962). The RailSounds and Caboose were dead on arrival and weren't discovered until Christmas morning. As of this day (Feb. 16,2005) that is almost 2 months since Christmas, we still don't have the train set because it has been bouncing between a Lionel Service Station in NJ and the Lionel Service Center in Chesterfield. This was my first purchase of a serious train set. My first experience with Lionel tells me that you have major problems in quality control off of the assembly line, customer service issues, dealer Service Station training issues, dealer Service Station part stocking issues, and Lionel Repair Center service times. (1) What is being done to address the issues of quality control, customer service, Dealer Service Station training, Dealer Service Station parts stocking, and Lionel Repair Center turn around times? (2) Will my boys see their train back by St. Patrick's Day? If you need some recommendations of what to do, please see the letter that I sent you dated January 8, 2005. Please see the detailed summary of my experience with Lionel below.
Nov. 30, 2004 - I decide to purchase a serious train set for my boys. I have never purchased a serious train set in my life. I decided on a Lionel because I knew the name. It was a Nickel Plate Road Super Freight train set (part #: 6-31962) that I purchased via phone order from Charles Ro of Malden, Ma. I'm excited!!!!
Dec. first week, 2004 - Received the set, checked for shipping damage, and placed in storage for Christmas. I'm very excited!!!
Dec. 25, 2004 - We Set up the train set for first time. The sound didn't work, nor did the caboose emit smoke. Everything was setup as specified in both the video and manual. I'm not happy.
Dec 26, 2004 - Sent email to email@example.com asking for recommended course of action to correct the situation. I'm trying to stay positive.
Dec 28, 2004 - firstname.lastname@example.org responded to my email inquirery dated Dec 26, 2004 telling me to call Lionel for an RMA number. There was no name of a specific person in the signature of the email from email@example.com I called the number, and I was told that you don't give RMA's over the phone. I was informed that Lionel would mail me an RMA number. I was also informed that RMA turnaround time was 4 weeks at the time. I was also informed that Lionel won't reimburse me for shipping the RMA to Lionel. I'm still trying to stay positive.
Dec. 30, 2004 - The Lionel RMA would have taken 6-7 weeks total time from Dec 30, 2004, so I decided to take my train set to Larry's Model Trains in Midland Park, NJ for warranty repair. Larry's is a few miles from my house. Larry's is a certified Lionel Service Station. I'm trying to stay positive hoping that Larry will fix the train sooner than Lionel can.
Jan. 7, 2005 - Received the RMA number from Lionel Customer Service. I'm holding onto the faith that Larry will return my train any day. Trying to stay positive with my faith in Larry.
Jan. 8, 2005 - I sent Jerry Calabrese a letter to the Lionel Chesterfield location describing my first experience with Lionel, my dissatisfaction, and my recommended corrections for Lionel to take. Jerry never responds, nor does he have customer service attempt to contacting me. This does not surprise me. This is typical CEO behavior.
Jan 15, 2005 - Larry's Model Trains returns my train set to me. He claims that it is fixed. He claims that the reason why it took so long to repair my train was because he didn't have the parts in stock. He returns the train to me in worse condition than what I sent it to him in. Not only does he not fix the RailSounds, nor Caboose smoke, he adds a new "feature" to the engine. After the engine has been traveling forward in forward only mode, it sometimes decides to go backwards. The only way for me to correct the situation is to remove the engine from the track, place the forward/normal switch to normal, place it back to forward only mode, and return the engine to the rails. You wouldn't believe how angry I am at this point.
Jan. 18, 2005 - I decide to use the RMA number that Lionel supplied me. I send my engine, tender, caboose, transformer, sales receipt, letter describing the problem & dissatisfaction, and Larry's repair ticket to Lionel in Chesterfield, MI via FedEx.
Jan. 20, 2005 - My shipment is signed for by R. Stroker of Lionel in Chesterfield, MI at 9:51 am.
Feb 7, 2005 - I send a status inquirery to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. I called Customer service. Constance Duey gives me the attitude that she's heard it a million times. She tells me that the service department is currently working on RMA's received the first week of January, and that I will have to wait my turn. She doesn't care to hear my story. Her only interest is to get me off of the phone. Without me knowing, she takes my RMA out of the repairs queue because she doesn't like my attitude.
Feb. 8, 2005 - I receive about 10 email messages from both firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com . They conflict in information as to what is being done. One says that my train is being returned, and the other says that there is no record of my train being repaired and returned. I am asked to call Customer service to get this straightened out. I call customer service back, and they refuse to talk to me. After about 10 calls to customer service, I learn that Constance Duey took my train set out of the repair queue. She refers me to her supervisor Mike Brugan (spelling?) for all future discussion on this RMA. Mike Brugan is out for the day. I called Jerry Calabrese's office to talk with him about this issue. His receptionist blocks me and takes a message. Jerry never returns my call.
Feb. 9, 2005 - Mike Brugan of Customer service calls me to inform me that he has returned my train set to the repair queue. No ETR.
Feb. 15, 2005 - I still don't have my train set back. I have no idea if or when or what kind of condition it will return to me in. I see that Jerry Calabrese is hosting a chat session, so I decide to put this together for him. I doubt that he will read it, nor do I think that he cares. Lionel has made me feel like one of P.T. Barnum's "Suckers".
Feb. 16, 2005 - My boys still don't have their train.