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Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by webbie, Mar 2, 2008.
Lucas invented darkness.
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Well, (George) Lucas did invent the dark side after all...
Had an Austin America (or something like that) for two weeks until the tranny fell out. Had to scrap it. Not sexy at all.
Downeast is right in that if you give the customer the time of day, they will likely excuse a lot! For many years after VC first sold out.....say, 1991 to 1996, they still maintained a high level of customer service to the dealer and the customer. Much of this was because they still had a lot of long term employees. Also, there is a good work force of "caring" types in VT - VT being VT, and all. You know, the Ben and Jerrys crowd.
Back in those days the company almost never said NO when we needed a warranty item.
When CFM entered the pic, they fired virtually 100% of the old crowd. They told their reps to forget about the existing dealers (cause they were in the bag) and open as many new dealers as possible. As a result, the strong existing dealers who made them started slowly paying less and less attention to the line. Hedging their bets, so to speak. Truth is, the legend was more important than the stoves, but the legend was the feeling that the dealers and employees had about the operation.
Once that was gone.....everything was gone! A foundry is just a foundry.
You got that right I am living proof. Being ***** for parts, dealer lack of knowledge and interest, and unapproachable customer/tech support group... 18 hours of my own time and over $500 and I am still not comfortable with the behavior of my VC (albeit it is much better than when I first started my threads this year). Bet this could have been taken care of in a few hours with a knowledgeable and confident dealer/manufacturer. Too bad for the folks at VC, I love(d) my Encore...
Funny thing about customer service- ANY answer, sometimes even the wrong one (as long as not dangerous) is better than none at all. I don't blame the current employees or management...they were handed a bad egg. The normal course of business would not be enough. They would have to, as I said, start from scratch with a visionary CEO or team and wipe the slate clean. Make some promises and keep them. Build the trust back up. But it is hard today to do, because one disease that some companies have is that they only care about the next quarter or year. This one is gonna take a lot longer.
You don't know how many problems I've solved by saying "that is the nature of the stove".
"It isn't a defect, it is a feature."
When my dealer's tech effectively said, "That is the nature of the stove..." after I had been operating it for seven years, that is when I realized that he was full of @$*&#! Back in my "old" days living in NY, there was a retailer by the name of Sy Syms who ran a Men's Clothing empire. His motto was "An Educated Consumer Is Our Best Customer." That is how I try to live my life and that is how I would run a company. I would empower my staff with knowledge so that any question would be answered intelligently based on quality information -- whether it is direct to the customer or via a network of "professionals." Good customer service is nearly impossible to find today and we (all of us) should not stand for anything less. I have been able to fix my stove (to some degree thus far) by tenacity, knowledge and information gleaned from this site, my own logical reasoning, and the inability to write off a $1600 investment that should last at least 10 years if not 25+. I know few people who could invest the time and effort that I have put into this just to get by. That is why many of us buy fireplaces and wood stoves from reputable manufacturers and dealers and not Home Depot or mail order. The manufacturer and dealer will rely on word of mouth, quality service and support, and industry reputation to continue to grow their bottom line otherwise, they should languish and die on the vine. Like everyone has been saying, it's a niche industry that does not have a great deal of repeat business like Proctor and Gamble. Funny thing, every year someone asks me if I have ever had or used or bought a <fill in the blank>. This year, when asked about fireplaces or wood stoves, the words Vermont Castings and my dealer's name never came out of my mouth in a positive light since this mess started. I see us as part of the solution in order to correct a horrible horrible problem.
I have a "$120 Level Of Tolerance." I will buy anything that I need if it costs me $50 or less. At $120, it had better do the trick or I am going to be po'd. At $500 for my VC parts, "service," and 18 hours of my time and still no assistance other than the fine folks here, I can only hope for complete and utter failure of the company. With a 100%+ increase in price for parts and the inability to find them readily available, it's a message to me that in the future, my Encore may very well become a boat anchor and I should no longer invest in it's well being other than for normal care and parts that cost $50 or less. Time value of money. Simple economics.
I think the bottom line is, VC needs to get back to the stoves. We know that they have been in trouble in the past. They need to get back to the basics. Customer service is very important in any industry. If you have an irate customer, you do everything in your power to fix it. VC was coming out with some bad stoves. Number one in my opinion the Cat Encore and Winterwarm. Tell the dealer when you know there is a problem with a stove. You use to be able to just drive to Vermont and pick up a stove, those days are long gone. As a customer if you even want to talk to them now, you have to sit on the phone on hold for 2 hours. And dont think just because your a dealer you get through that much easier. I want to see some new product come out from VC. I think it is a start with the line of non-cat inserts they are coming out with. The customer wants more than a 3 year warranty on a stove they just spent $2,000+ on. Dont get me wrong, I do like VC. But they need to be more in tune with the consumer.
StoveGuy -- So what is/was so bad with the Encore 2550? I am truly interested in your opinion?
The 2550 is an improvement on the original which you would get to the catalyst though the back of the stove. The problem with the Encore is like dominoes. Once one thing goes wrong, you see alot more problems. Mainly the catalyst. Once the cat fails, the stove burns too hot mostly because you can not control the heat out put. Usually then the hood warps, then the firebacks, along with the refractory package crumbles to nothing. What it comes down to alot of the time is the consumer though.(Not to say everyone does this) A cat is something that needs to be taken out of the stove Once or twice a season and cleaned along with the refractory package. If this is done you get more life out of the stove. I have customers who tell me there stoves burn to hot(all stoves, not just Encores). When asked about gaskets, they say they have not changed them in 10 years. If operated properly and maintained, I think the Encore is a good efficient burner! Although, I think alot of people are not up to the challenge to keep there stoves burning properly.
Thanks. I am a "tweener." I have cared for my 2550 quite well. Not a 24x7 burner so cleaned everything once a season and nothing more than normal use concerns. No problems. Then on Christmas Day, I did everything like I have been doing for seven years (still using the original CAT because it worked fine) and then on that day, I had an out of control fire. From that point forward, it has been a struggle controlling the fire under 750 until recently. My primary air still doesn't have the same affect as it used to have and it closes (goes "dink" quite soundly).
This is what I have done in exact order and tested after each event with limited to no success (until the end of the paragraph). I regasked everything that I could regasket. I called for Service -- "it is acting like it should.... nothing wrong, gaskets are fine..." I have a new Secondary Air Probe -- after pulling the original it looked perfectly fine. I did the light test in a dark room -- nothing coming from the seams. A new CAT (actually two because the first OEM that I installed didn't seem to work right but was probably not a problem). A smoke test that I performed because the dealer would charge me another service call -- I did get smoke coming from slight gaps in the new gasket at the griddle top but that is going to need to seat over time because it is wire wrapped and very stiff and a little smoke that seems to come from what might be through bolts in the stove bottom holding the ash pan assembly -- I wouldn't think that that would be enough to keep a fire roaring. A new refractory assembly (my other may have been OK or marginal depending on one's opinion -- you can see my other threads with photos)... Now I have much better success but something is still not correct in my book.
As a layman, I can't tell if my lower or upper fireback is warped. It's not like it's bowed and no one can tell me what to expect. My damper (I regasked it when I replaced the refractory) functions as well as it did earlier. So, how does one tell if one has parts problems if one is an IT Professional?
Gulland made a good point in one of the podcast where he stated that some stoves (the VCs) often insulate the user from what is actually happening - with the thermostats and high tuning, etc. - While this may make for a good stove when everything is 100% perfect, when things start to degrade it becomes very difficult to properly troubleshoot. It just is not simple enough. Call it "tactile feedback" like what a keyboard does (click) to let you know exactly what is happening. Maybe the stove of the future will have Dans (forum member) electronic draft control and thermocouples on it so that it really DOES know exactly what is happening at every point in the fire - and so does the user. I don't think we are anywhere near the end of stove evolution. As I said before, wood stoves today are extremely similar to those of 15-20 years ago.
Ever see those specials about how they design airplanes? I think the next stove VC makes...they should call the engineers back in after the stove is planned and say "now I want the same performance, but with 1/2 the parts".
I like that "tactical feedback" idea. Your right, when the stoves are working, they work great. But once something goes wrong you start to see the dominoes fall.
As far as what to look for with parts can be tricky as it sounds like you have had some trouble. I have read some of your other threads. And yes once many things have gone wrong, it is harder to pinpoint the problem. If the cast iron seems bowed, or red, then it is most likely warped. You have replaced alot of parts, and I hope that is the end of it for you. You said your still having a little trouble with the air control, and Im sure you know that it is attached to a chain that runs down the side wall to the bottom of the stove. The chain then attaches to a flap that opens and closes for air. There is a flat white gasket on the frame of that flap. Just a thought I might be totally wrong, but maybe take a look there.
Tactile feel. Yes. That is how I know where my primary air is set. I have some General Aviation experience and used to travel quite a bit for work. As a freak for flying, I loved talking to older pilots who miss the 727 because it was the last plane that pilots flew. As a note, when the Airbus 300 series was first rolled out, the thrust reversers were tied to a landing gear sensor that indicated a pressure threshold. When the plane was on the ground, a huge force is excerted on the front nose gear telling the sensor that the plane was on the ground and thrust reversers are allowed to be engaged. Well, a LOT (Polish Airline) crew found out that when the sensor fails, the plane is not on the ground and therefore, you can't use your thrust reversers. They were quite sure that they were on the ground when the smashed thorugh the perimeter fence at the end of the runway and came to a stop in a roadway. Too much technology is not good.
Stoveguy - Not knowing what "normal" is the problem. To me, it doesn't seem bowed therefore it isn't. The "red" issue is interesting. What is "Red?" The back of my lower fireback is ribbed and those are rust colored-ish. I assume that is normal. Having taken the inner sides off a dozen times since Christmas I am familiar with the primary air control. The white gasket I have looked at 1000 times but have done nothing with it since no one has told me to do anything with it. Should I take off the metal cover plate and look for something in particular? When I do a little fire or smoke around there it is always drawn in with the primary closed but I expect that there will always be a bit of a draft and it can't be sealed completely. I always suspected that I am hearing more of a "whosh" from that area than I remembered but I can't go back in time -- or if I could, I would go back, not lose my hair at 19, and would invest every penny I every had or made in Bershire Hathaway...
Again, thanks for the input. Back to VC... You are giving me more ideas than my VC dealer. Where are you in CT?
Not quite the color of rust, darker than that. You usually notice cracking too, by that point in my experience. Im in a small town Guilford, its on the shoreline.
Hey Old Age,
I got rid of that Neverburn piece of shxx after two months of hell. Perhaps, you should feel lucky that you got such a long time from the Encore and move on. No matter what, VC is a lame duck and I'd say that there are so many good lookers out there that you would be well served by just moving on versus letting it get to you any more than it has.
VC does not have leadership that understands anything about its own situation. They can't even see that they are the problem.
Thanks Swestall. I know that I am facing the inevitable but I am a fairly practical guy. Since I have sunk so much of my time and quite a bit of money into this -- and I am not sinking another dime into it unless it is a very obvious issue that can be remedied (like a cracked fireback) -- I want to see if I can make it work for me. Your help and encouragement to "get a good fire going..." has gotten me to believe that I am around 75% of the way there. I think this weekend will give me all the data I need -- Can I leave my house with a full load in the firebox... Of course, the heating season will be ending in the next six weeks for us which will then give me the time (if I can find it) to scrub and recement every seam possible and in the next few days, take a look at the primary air by taking off the plate and inspecting as Stoveguy recommend. If I can get a few more seasons out of her comfortably, it will give me the opportunity to save my pennies for the next stove.
I can guarantee that it will be something less complex and the time will allow me to research more... I have already informed a local Jotul dealer that I am on the hunt and they have to prove to me that they will stand behind the product if I chose to go that route. I will also be asking them to do a teardown with me in their show room. I want to see what I can do as a "homeowner" and at what cost and when. VC is dead to me. My dealer is dead to me. I am on my own (with you guys beside me).
But, if there is someone out there who wants to buy a mostly rebuilt 2000 VC CAT Encore 2550, I am all ears. I can provide details and pictures.
We could make them a good deal on yours and my two Defiants.
How about a bulleted summary of what you've done, parts replaced, results from each replacement or repair AGE ? I'll be doing a partial replacement and rebuild for our 2000 Encore this spring. It's had 3 cats so far, but we burn it hard -particularly this winter.
The "official" Encore Service manual seemed to help you out; looked well done. Bail me out when the Mounties come ?
Are you saying you are an IT Pro? We should definitely hook up sometime then.... I *should* be in the IT field but here I am stuck fixing fireplaces .
In case anyone is wondering oldAGE and I discusses via PM previously and he is just a stones throw away from me.
Just like in the 70's, every welding shop in the country will pick up the slack. When it is heat, not furniture.
This is all very discouraging. I've been a VC user since the days of owner picnics and the free newsletter. Just opened my early Encore to check/clean the cat and found a total meltdown inside. Figured maybe time to look into non-Cat stove rather than throw in another fireback kit.
The non-Cat Encore and Defiant look interesting (I am a big fan of top loading, and like VC styling), but I'll be damned if I am going to spend another $2000+ on a company that may go under any minute. Any suggestions for a good alternative, most be traditional looking, iron, and top loading, would be welcome.
Harman Oakwood, Lopi Leyden and Avalon Arbor fit that bill exactly. Jotul fits it sans toplaoding. I'm between a Jotul and the Avalon when I get my stove.
Another to consider would be the Quadrafire Isle Royale with 3cu ft capacity, top loading, updraft, cast iron and a decent track record.