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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains

Thanks, Bachmann Customer Service

Would it make sense to you that a company whose products are not all that robust (compared to other manufacturers) would stand behind them better than most companies that make better products?

I have too many trains. Frankly, I don't always remember which product I got from where, much less keep track of the paperwork. And I DO occasionally buy a second-hand top-of-the-line unit in good condition - a practice I carried over from my experiences in other areas of interest. After all - a used - even abused - Les Paul guitar or John Deer tractor that is still usable will last ten times longer for me than a brand-new department-store-brand equivalent. But when I apply the same principle to my trains, I wind up with a "collection" of locomotives from a wide range of mostly undocumented sources. If one of them develops a problem and it really is a manufacturing defect, not just an issue of abuse, I may or may not remember where I got it, but having the paperwork onhand, even for legitimate dealer purchases, is not very likely.

Another problem with owning more trains than I really need is that when one locomotive starts acting up, I may just put it away to look at "later" and put another one on the track for the rest of the running session. And when you run trains as infrequently as I do, those sessions can get pretty far apart, so "later" can turn into "years later." Then I find myself cleaning up the train shed or getting ready for a big open house, and coming across three or four locomotives that I really should do something about . . . . This just happened to me, which is what started a recent series of encounters with certain manufacturers' parts and repair departments.

I quite understand that manufacturers shouldn't have to fix trains under warranty (for a nominal fee that includes shipping) that may have been abused or have "murky" histories with no documentation. Manufacturers have every right to protect themselves from the dozens, if not hundreds of scammers who would abuse the system, say buying a non-working model for a few dollars, getting it fixed for the nominal fee, and reselling it on eBay for 60% of list. This not only "rips off" the repair department's time and parts supply - it also "cannibalizes" sales of new product and creates a "grey market" that undermines legitimate, service-providing dealers.

But one company ignores that risk and fixes anything with their name on it, whether you have the receipt or not, whether you can even remember where you bought it or not, or even if it's obviously been abused.

This has been demonstrated both by occasional experiences of my readers and the less frequent experiences of my own family (including an obviously well-used train-show purchase that recently started running rough and which Bachmann replaced for the "nominal fee," no questions asked).

To be fair, the other companies have been flexible about providing service when I couldn't remember for sure where I bought a particular unit that I own several of or had other issues of "murky product history." (Maybe they know me by now, for the same reason that the emergency room personnel on "Home Improvement" all knew Tim Taylor on a first name basis.)

In other words, I quite understand and sympathize with the manufacturers' need to protect themselves from obvious and habitual scammers.

But at the same time, I do have to say it's almost a pleasure to send a "flakey" locomotive back to a manufacturer who treats me like a valued consumer of their products from the outset.

A friend who sells Large Scale trains recently asked me why I recommend Bachmann Big Hauler starter sets alongside the more expensive, more rugged brands. He said he was nervous about selling anything but the Spectrum line, because the Big Hauler stuff seemed so much more lightweight and even "flimsy" compared to the other brands. I said, because, in spite of the obvious "out-of-the-box" differences, Bachmann stands behind their trains better than just about anyone else.

This doesn't mean I'm going to run Bachmann trains exclusively - for one thing they don't model the prototypes I want to run, and for me it is more fun to run bigger, heavier, and (generally) more reliable trains. But I do want to express my thanks for Bachmann's over-the-top commitment to the customer.

Kudos, Bachmann, and thanks to ALL the folks who fix trains.

Best of luck, all, and (if you're reading this in December), have a VERY merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Enjoy your trains, and especially enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks.

Best of luck,

Paul Race

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