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I often read horrid tales of customer support, with broken products, refusal to repair products under warranty, and so on. But I have here a happy tale to tell, where I went from good surprise to better.

It all started a little less than 2 years ago, in August 2006. I was going to Philadelphia for a work week, and I decided to do a little shopping there. Among this shopping were what would become the earphones of my dreams: a pair of Shure E2c-n.

I am not going to review them here, I'll just quickly highlight why they work so well for me. I use earphones quite a lot, about one hour each day, and often in noisy environments. For instance, I currently take the bus or the train to go to work, and then I have a 15 minutes walk when I get there. During these trips and in general, I listen almost exclusively to spoken word, typically podcasts, and most of it in foreign language (English or Italian, trying to learn it as concerns the latter). So I want a comfortable listening experience, and I want to avoid cranking the volume up to protect my hearing. Sound isolating earphones seemed the way to go. Shure is a well-known brand, and its product are know to be of very high quality. Their earphones are pricey: I paid $80 for this entry level model, and I got a pretty good deal, but they are definitely worth it. So yes, for me, Shure sound isolating earphones are the way to go.

Most customer support stories start with a problem, and mine does not default. Back in January 2008, when I was in San Francisco (California), I noticed that the wire of one earphone was starting to break, fairly close to the earphone itself. The break was occurring at the point where the wire is most stressed, at the top of the curve behind the ear. As I could start seeing the metallic wire inside, I quickly fixed it with a piece of tape and started to worry. A couple weeks later, in Etretat (Normandie) this time, the wire of the other earphone also started to break, at the same spot. I fixed it the same way and started to think hard as to what to do. As I was planning on visiting the USA in June this year, I thought I could buy a replacement pair. But first I would contact Shure to make sure they were aware of the problem and had fixed it in recent versions. I dutifully wrote this down in my OmniFocus GTD document, and forgot about it until mid-march, still using patched earphones.

It was in March that I realized I should start moving, not knowing how long it would take to get an answer from Shure. So I went to their website, and started to search if they talked about wires breaking. And lo and behold, they do! I did not learn whether the problem was addressed in recent versions, but that it is under warranty, the 2 years long warranty. Suddenly I was not shopping for new earphones, I was trying to find a way to apply a warranty.

Now I was far from out of the woods: I had bought the E2c in the USA, my receipt is stored with our stuff back in France, where I was not planned to return from Italy before September. So here I was, with potentially broken yet under warranty earphones, but without a receipt beyond an confirmation email.

Nevertheless, I contacted Shure, asking them about the procedure. They answered fairly quickly, and forwarded my support request to Sisme, an Italian company that does their support here. Sisme emailed me the necessary documentation to fill, where I would state what the problem was, to mail them along with the earphones... and the (missing) receipt.

Here Christelle got a great idea. She suggested that I contact directly the company where I bought the earphones, Electronics Expo, to ask for a copy of the receipt. And it worked! I had to ask a friend in the USA to forward the fax to me (they could not fax abroad) but that was the only tiny wrinkle.

I then mailed everything to Sisme, who patiently answered my emails, telling me that yes they had received the package, then that yes it was under warranty and would be replaced. Two weeks after sending it, a package arrived, with a brand new pairs of Shure SE110. I've been using them for the last couple weeks, and I find they are even nicer than the E2c (for instance when running).

This is the happy end of my tale, that went much butter than I thought it could. I now realize that the steep price of the earphones did not only buy me good quality, but also good service. I thank Shure, Electronics Expo, and Sisme for their great help and support. Great job!

Oh, and about the problem with the wires? Two reasons lead me to believe the problem will not occur again. First, the wire is much more flexible, mainly because it is thinner, so it should stand better the curvature when the earphone is worn with the wire behind the ear. Second, another potential cause of the wear may have been the carrying box itself, which includes inside a cylinder with a gap to let the earphones sit in the middle. The location of the wire that broke seems to be fairly close to where the wire was going through this gap, and the problem may be related. The new carrying box is a simple soft pouch, that comfortably holds the earphones and the accessories. In any case, I'll let you know if I have to change them before 2 years go by!

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