In late 2012 there was a stir among some of the Saddleback Leather owners regarding the introduction of new shoulder strap clasps which, on a relatively small scale, would come unscrewed. This resulted in some heavy bags being unexpectedly dropped, often with very expensive laptops inside and in some reported cases causing some physical injuries when these larger loads shifted.
Disclaimer: I am not a journalist. This was the best information I could gather from my sources and I have done my best to fairly represent Saddleback Leather and its critics. If there is an error here please let me know. Thank you.
SBL’s description of the problem in my conversation with customer service was:
The issue was that a small amount of our screw clasps were damaged when they were delivered from the manufacturer. The main issue on the clasps is that they were coming unscrewed by themselves or not screwing into the barrel properly. There were one or two additional clasps where the finish was cracking and chipping as well although this wasn’t a frequently reported issue.
– SBL Customer Service, via email
The screw clasp in question is shown above. This lovely photo was provided by Mercurio Alvarado Mendez. You can see his site here: http://mercurio.com.au/.
The clasp controversy rose to another level when Saddleback Leather announced they would be continuing the use of these clasps, till the old snaps came in, citing this reason: “Only a small portion of the clasps were faulty.” If SBL ceased production till a new shipment of the older dog snap clasps arrived it would push delivery of order way out and upset customers.
SBL’s reason for not switching the hardware immediately:
Although the issue was known and addressed immediately with customers on an individual and public basis, see below message we posted on Facebook, we had to wait for a replacement for the new hardware to change out to a spring-snap clasp.
– SBL Customer Service, via email
SBL decided to increase inspections of of the screw clasps, in theory culling the defective screw clasps, and continue shipping till the shipment of spring snaps came in. This garnered some vitriol from disenfranchised customers who were upset that their ultra-warrantied and expensive bag had the problem in the first place and that SBL did not respond as forcefully as they expected.
The first public communication from SBL on this issue came from their Facebook Page from Chuck Bowen, the CEO on October, 2012.
Hey guys, Chuck here with a clasp update. We understand that some of you may prefer other hardware over our current screw clasp and that some are having issues with the clasp becoming unscrewed by itself. We’ve been gathering real data on the clasp opening issue and determine that, while it appears to be limited to a very small percentage of the screw clasps, it’s obviously concerning to us even if only a few experience a problem. We have decided to return to the spring-snap clasp (the style some use on dog leads) we’ve used before, but unfortunately our vendor has not yet supplied us with adequate, approved stock for daily production. Therefore, we will continue to use the current screw clasp in production for the next several weeks until we have the spring-snap clasp inventory in stock. In the interim, for any of you are experiencing issues with your screw clasp becoming unscrewed on its own, we have procured a small number of spring-snap clasps so we may offer a free change-out of the screw clasp upon request. If this describes you, please contact Customer Care and we will send you a mailing envelope to return your strap and have your clasps retrofitted at no cost to you.Once we have the spring-snap clasps in stock, we will begin in earnest our process of retrofitting the remaining screw clasps for all finished product in stock. Prior to us completing our finished product retrofitting, anyone who purchases a new product that ships with the current screw clasp who would like a spring-snap clasp will also be able to have it retrofitted for free using the mail-back process.We apologize for any inconvenience or problems the current screw clasp may have caused you. It is our deepest desire to provide you a Saddleback product that you can trust and feel delighted to carry. Thanks in advance for being a beloved, valued customer. We appreciate you.Customer care will be monitoring this post for questions; please contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Saddleback Leather Co | CEO
A few weeks later SBL received the shipment of spring snaps and instead of switching 100% back to the spring snaps they continued to ship some product with the less popular screw clasps, as indicated in this message from SBL on their Facebook page. This made some quite upset as it appeared that SBL was trying to use up their supply of screw clasps, despite the known issues.
Jimi here. We’re had a few questions about the screw clasps on the shoulder strap on many of our bags. We have switched over production to the spring snap clasp (many refer to this as the leash-style clasp used by other bag retailers). Until current inventory runs out of the screw clasp, you may receive either clasp. Photos will be posted on the site in the next day or so. If you own a bag with a screw clasp and want the spring snap clasp, simply contact customer care and we will send you a postage paid envelope to send your strap back by USPS. We will switch out the clasp and mail your strap back, postage paid. There is no cost to you for the switch out. Most switch outs are only taking a day or two, but as shipments increase during our busiest time of year, there may be a slight delay in getting the strap back to you. For those of you who would prefer that your new purchase ships with the spring snap clasp, contact customer service (with order number and relevant info) at the time of your order. We are now prepared to make the switch before your item ships. Just be sure you make your request immediately after ordering so our team can make it happen. Thanks for your patience.
December 4th, 2012
Opinions on the above message fell into three camps. Some thought SBL was offering great service by replacing strap screw clasps for free. Some were upset that SBL was continuing to ship the screw clasps at all. And some were upset that they had to send their strap in to be repaired and therefor losing the use of it for two-ish weeks. That SBL was not offering to ship new clasps and refund the cost of a local replacement upset some. Also, initially SBL was charging for shipping for this repair but quickly changed that due to customer response.
Currently SBL’s official statement regarding the clasps is to replace any hardware that the customer is dissatisfied with, for free. However, it must be shipped to them for the modification. I think this makes sense considering they are warrantying the product.
We apologize for any inconvenience or problems the current screw clasp may have caused you. It is our deepest desire to provide you a Saddleback product that you can trust and feel delighted to carry. Thanks in advance for being a beloved, valued customer. We appreciate you.
Source: Anna, Manager of Product Development Design & Merchandising, via email
At this point SBL is shipping products with the screw clasps. They have not completely switched back to spring snaps. You can request either the spring snap or the screw clasp in the comments of your order. *hat tip to Peter*
Some people remain jaded towards SBL because they see this issue as a continuation of customer services failures at SBL. Some people continue loving SBL products. There are certainly a lot of alternatives if you so desire.
ENOUGH DRAMA! SOLUTIONS!
1. The most obvious and cheapest solution is to send your strap back to SBL to have them fix it for free. You can email them here. You will have to wait a few weeks to get your strap back.
3. Floss on the threads acts similarly to loctite, providing enough resistance that the clasp will not unscrew without deliberate effort.
4. A couple of 3/16″ inside diameter o-rings snugged up against the screw mechanism will hold it secure. It has been reported at 10 months of use that this works well.
5. You can switch out the hardware yourself by asking SBL to send you the original rivets they use and buying your own hardware (if you don’t want SBL’s hardware, some don’t). This is an easy job that any leather shop can do inexpensively. You can buy hardware from somewhere like here, or here. Just double check the sizing as I have not physically handled this hardware. *hat tip to Men*