The Away Experience

This post is by Om Malik from On my Om

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After a decade of service, it is time for my good old 29-inch Rimowa suitcase to go in for a much needed retrofit. It will be a while before it comes back from Germany, and it will also set me back a pretty penny. I don’t mind paying the price to get another decade of use out of it.

The repairs made me wonder if I should get a new large check-in suitcase, one that can carry a lot more of my cold weather gear, and other non-camera but photography peripherals. The Rimowa trunk is pretty attractive, though the price is high enough to cause a nosebleed. Ever since LVMH bought the brand, the prices have crept up, and the lifetime warranty has gone the way of the dodo. And what’s more, the suitcases sold in the US are no longer made in Germany, and instead, are made in Canada.

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I am on the fence about buying the trunk suitcase.

I don’t think about other brands as much, but everyone keeps talking about Away, though I haven’t taken them seriously, because I have always been a Rimowa man. Yesterday, I ended up at Away store in Hayes Valley and spent time looking at their luggage — beautiful, but polycarbonate is not for me. However, the Away aluminum suitcase looked pretty attractive. I was poking around the suitcase when not one but two sales representatives asked me if I needed help.

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They spent about 15 minutes extolling the virtues of the suitcase — they talked about where it was made, the quiet wheels and the massive capacity. Their polycarbonate luggage is made in China, so I am not sure if I believe their claim that the Aluminum luggage was made in Germany. But if it is, then more of a reason for me to consider Away.

They talked about a life time guarantee. Given that Away is a venture-backed company, I didn’t take the whole lifetime guarantee too seriously. We talked about the importance of patina that comes from nicks and dents. And there was the price — about a third of what a new Rimowa would cost — and that got my attention. I liked what I saw, but when I came home, I didn’t remember much, except for the great conversation, warmth and charming behavior of the two sales representatives who didn’t push me to buy something.

It is the exact opposite of the Rimowa store experience. The sales push starts the minute you feign interest. But that’s pretty much all big brands, where salespeople are compensated by what they can close. The Away sales duo made the first Away experience so good, that when it comes to pulling the trigger, the customer service will rank very high on my decision matrix. Also, if you have had a chance to try out Away, do let me know what you think via Twitter.