What a way start the new year. Talking about something as mundane as the monthly cleaning of the HVAC sea strainer.
The story I'm going to share is almost funny until you get into the details which involve incompetence of the strainer manufacturer, Groco, and the inventory practices of West Marine, the nation's largest marine supply store chain.
Cleaning the HVAC sea strainer is a monthly task that usually takes 30 to 40 minutes. Today it took six and a half hours.
|Groco SA 1500 Sea Strainer - note the basket inside and the center post|
|Sea Strainer Basket. Note the hole in the base|
Cleaning the basket is also simple. Dump the marine life and blast the screen with water to remove the stuff that is stuck to the sides.
So at 11:30 AM I started the process. As I removed the basket I discovered that the plastic base had separated from the stainless steel mesh. This is actually not a big problem since it can be reinserted and secured by bending the mesh into four slots on the plastic base. But it is an annoyance as it is a poor design.
As I was blasting the screen with water it flew out of my hand, sailed 30 feet through the air, landed in the water and promptly sank. Oops, a simple task just got complicated.
Now I needed to source a new basket and that's where the frustration began. A call to the West Marine Store in Sarasota proved frustrating. The clerk barely knew what I was talking about even thought I had the model number of the sea strainer. After much confusion I realized I need the model number of the basket.
So I called Groco, the manufacturer, to get the model number of the basket. The person I talked with said it was a BS-6 but they had none in stock. Let me say that again. The manufacturer (i.e., the entity the makes the basket), had none in stock. Unbelievable.
I called West Marine with the basket model number only to learn they had none in stock. The clerk said we can get it for you tomorrow, which is their standard response. Has anybody noticed that West Marine barely has anything in stock anymore (except clothing and shoes)?
Then I called Groco again, spoke with a different person and learned that they had changed the part number from BS-6 to SS-85-G. Yes, we have those in stock. We can send one FedEx overnight.
Did I mention that my AC is shut off and that the temperature in Sarasota is 80 plus degrees. The boat is getting warmer and warmers as I sit their wasting time trying to source a basket.
While talking with Groco, I had the presence of mind to get the basket's dimension (3" diameter, 10" height) so that I could ABSOLUTELY verify with West Marine that they had the correct part.
So I called West Marine again and gave them the new part number. "Oh yes, we have four of them in the Fort Myers store." That store is 85 miles south of Sarasota. Before hopping in the car I decided to call Fort Myers and verify that they actually had the correct basket. You guessed it, they did not. However, the clerk said that had one in Punta Gorda, which is only 60 miles south of Sarasota. Punta Gorda actually had a SS-86-G basket and I verified the dimensions.
The drive to Punta Gorda took an hour each way. Now I had the basket in my hot little hands.
Arriving back at the boat, now 80 degrees inside, I proceeded to install my brand new basket, which simply involves sliding it down the center post. Oop, It only went down one inch.
|Basket and center post|
Unbelievable. The part number, SS-85-G, GIVEN TO ME BY GROCO, THE MANUFACTURER, AFTER I GAVE THEM THE CORRECT PART NUMBER OF SEA STRAINER (SA 1500), WAS INCORRECT.
|Old base next to the new base|
Time to improvise. I removed the mesh basket from the incorrect base and installed the old base (that I had retained to make sure I got the correct part).
Total time 6.5 hours. The only good news is that once the system was activated, the boat immediately cooled down. Thank you Outer Reef for installing a system with adequate cooling capacity.
Written by Les.
Post Script: I called Groco to complain and had the "pleasure" of speaking to Dan Phelan, who introduced himself a Vice President. I'm not sure he enjoyed talking to me as a I proceeded to describe his company's lousy engineering and incompetent handling of my calls to get a new basket.
To his credit, he sent me part numbers for the range of baskets (yes there is more than one) for all of my Groco sea strainers and also as a gesture of good will gave me a credit for the strainer basket I ordered.
EXCERPT FROM DAN'S EMAIL
I had a discussion with customer service and after a brief review the cross reference sheet they have is misleading. Not in identifying the new basket part #'s which are correct, but in how it shows the old parts #'s. In your case the 'SS-85-G'. They were not wrong in how they went about providing you the size but the information they had to give was wrong.
That being said your trip to West Marine was 100% unnecessary and was a result of our mistake. We'll be issuing a credit for the part we shipped so your card will not be charged. I am not doing this in a way to attempt to keep you from expressing your negative experiences on your blog. As discussed on the phone arguably the best thing about this country is freedom of speech. The credit will be issued because we made a mistake and it's the correct thing to do. Please let me know directly if you have any further questions.
Gross Mechanical Laboratories, Inc.
450 Marion Quimby Drive
Stevensville, MD 21666