I have mentioned before how much I love my Signature circs. The points are perfect, the needle tips are smaller than many and thus fit my smallish hands perfectly, and the cables are incredibly flexible.
But not indestructible.
When the cable broke I immediately went to the Signature website to see if the needles had a lifetime guarantee. Nope, only a 21-day return policy if a needle appeared to be defective. Still, in my mind a $40 needle ought to have some sort of guarantee, so I emailed the company and got this response:
Thank you for contacting us. I have attached a prepaid shipping label for the return of the defective needle. Please fill out the attached form and include the RMA# in your package. You do not need to fill out the payment information as there is no charge associated with this. Thank you for your continued support of our product and I apologize for any inconvenience.
I wrote back:
Thank you! I will mail the needle back tomorrow.
I have defended the high price of Signature needles on my blog, saying that they are made in the US, probably by union labor, so their manufacturing cost is higher than those made in China or Bangladesh or some other third world country. Was I correct? In any case, I will also blog about your excellent customer service.
What was even better was the email I received this morning from Cathryn Bothe, the president of the company (reprinted here with her permission):
I see all the emails and wanted to personally answer yours.
Signature is the “child” of our 62 year old US manufacturing company. Bothe Associates Inc (www.bothe.com) has been making high tolerance metal products since 1950.
When Signature was starting up we bought samples of many of the cheap “box store” needles and were beyond shocked to see their tolerances were horrible, that is, if you thought you were getting a US 7 needle which is a 4.500 mm size you could be off by a large amount. There were even differences from one in a pair to the 2nd. Then we cut them open to see what metal was being used. That, too, was a real surprise.
We know what the cross section of a bar of aluminum should look like but what we saw was astonishing. We think they threw many scraps of various alloys into a furnace and came up with a mess but one that could be covered with the anodizing. We even found one that was sort of powdery. I had them stop working with that and put the pieces in a Hazmat bag.
We also know that only 1/3 of the zillions of Chinese have good drinking water. Some of that is because they just throw any excess or used chemicals literally, in some cases, out the back door. We have had people here who have traveled to the big manufacturing centers in China who say the air is so bad it looks like heavy fog.
And then..there are the workers: Being a student of history I know that many mill towns in the East in the 1800’s employed young women who came from their poor rural families with the hope of earning hard cash but were exploited along with children. You don’t have to read much to see that is exactly what is happening in China. Even worse is that the “low cost” manufacturers are moving to India or Thailand where they can get even cheaper labor!
Here at Signature we pay US wages and healthcare and unemployment taxes. We provide a clean, well lit, air conditioned factory. I know every person and for many a lot about their families. We even found someone to sew our bags in Milwaukee.
Our processes are controlled by OSHA and EPA. Any water that leaves the plant where the anodizing is done must be cleaner than when it came in the building. We go so far as to collect any “drippings” of coolant and oil (needed for machining metals) from the chips that are made. We then send the barrel when filled for proper disposition (at a cost of almost $1000.00) but we don’t let it soak into the ground. Actually we have the chip hoppers inside and should they have even a pin prick leak we have grates on the floor that collect the drips and pump into that barrel.
Every single needle is hand polished on the point. I know the people who do it and would [not] allow any scrimping. I
I am proud to say that our products are made here. Yes they certainly do cost more but we are making steady, secure jobs for the families of those that work here. I know that the company could make more money if the needles were made abroad but I won’t do it. They know I mean it when I say that I will go out of business before I go to China.
I know it seems like I am rambling but I wanted you to know a bit more of the background.
In this world of often shoddy workmanship and indifferent customer service and help lines staffed by (admittedly hard-working) people who perhaps cannot speak English as well as one might hope, I cannot let this incident go unrecognized. I love a bargain as much as the next person, but products manufactured in such a way as to degrade the earth and abuse its people are not bargains.*
I salute this company, its products, and its people.
Now, to put my money where my mouth is, I shall offer an incentive to y'all. Mention this incident on your own blog and provide a link both to this post and to the Signature site and I will put your name into a hat. Winner will receive the skein of Twisted fingering weight that I got in my mailbox a few days ago. If you have ever attempted to buy Twisted yarn, you know what a sacrifice this is :-)
You can see it on the Twisted site here -- scroll down to Netherfield Self-Striping Yarn. The colors in my photo are more accurate, on my monitor at least.
Deadline is, oh, um, let's see, Sunday, February 11, midnight CST. Blog away, people, and think about buying some Signature needles!
(You might say that this contest is a bit self-serving, in that it will draw people to my blog. To that I say, And your point is...?)
* I did a tiny bit of research. Knitters Review says that Addi needles are made in Germany, Knit Picks are made in India, Crystal Palace in Japan, and Lantern Moon in Vietnam. Hya Hya needles are made in China. Presumably the inexpensive needles found at Wal-Mart and Michael's and Joanne's are the ones Ms. Bothe refers to in her letter and are probably made in China, as well.