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Bodum Santos Electronic - David Black's Review
Posted: April 17, 2007, 8:53pm
review rating: 6.5
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Bodum Santos Electronic
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More About This Product
Arrow The Bodum Santos Electronic has 61 Reviews
Arrow The Bodum Santos Electronic has been rated 6.97 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Bodum Santos Electronic reviews have been viewed 298,101 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Don Paquette 9.25
George Swanson 9.00
Jim Pellegrini 9.00
Scott Boje 8.83
Lin Phillips 8.77

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 3.2
Manufacturer: Bodum Quality: 0
Average Price: $100.00 Usability: 5
Price Paid: $75.00 Cost vs. Value 0
Where Bought: Starbucks Aesthetics 8
Owned for: 4+ years Overall 3
Writer's Expertise: I live coffee Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned:
Bottom Line: A beautiful, entertaining piece of junk that makes great coffee for its unbelievably short lifetime.
Positive Product Points

- Looks great
- Makes excellent coffee (when it works)
- Fun to watch

Negative Product Points

- A good looking machine that appears durable, but is actually a shoddy, short lived,  and potentially dangerous piece of junk
- Difficult to clean
- Disgraceful manufacturer attitude

Detailed Commentary

I just happened on CoffeeGeek and felt I had to share this unbelievable saga.

In mid-2002, I bought a Starbuck's Barista Utopia electric vacuum pot. It was being cleared out after failing to sell at $275 (Canadian). I paid about $100 Canadian and, for a short time, I was a happy guy. This thing put on a show and made really delicious coffee - roughly equivalent to a French press, but without the sludge.

The happiness didn't last long. Starbucks replaced two units over the counter under their two year warranty. The first one didn't brew coffee reliably. The second had electrical malfunctions and gaskets that did not stay in place.

The third unit performed superbly for many months. I then began to experience intermittent problems with the brewing process. While the coffee entered the upper chamber reliably, it frequently failed to drop back down.

I first suspected the filters, since clogged filters could cause this kind of problem. Starbucks claimed this was a "lifetime" filter, but sent me about a dozen more filter assemblies when I explained what was happening. The first few times I replaced the "lifetime" filter, the problem would go away for a while, but it always recurred. Then the filter changes stopped helping. Sometimes the coffee would come down; more often it remained in the upper chamber. This meant I had to pour the hot coffee through a paper filter into a pot or (about 75% of the time) discard the coffee.

Back I went to Starbucks, who told me they were no longer supporting the Utopias because of the extreme volume of problems that users were experiencing. They referred me to Bodum, which was located in Wisconsin at the time.

My first experience with Bodum customer service was exceptional. Although the warranty had expired, they shipped me a new machine, no questions asked. Unfortunately, it arrived with a large oval opening toward the bottom of the jug that exposed the electrical workings to water. This should have been sealed during production, but wasn't. Filling the jug and starting the unit would have immediately shorted out the electronics.

I emailed a scanned photo of the problem to Bodum, who immediately dispatched another new unit. This one was delivered by the courier to the wrong address on my street and kept by a sleazy neighbour. (Not Bodum's fault.) We established from the courier's records that my signature had obviously been forged and Bodum sent me yet another machine.

By now I was extremely impressed by the quality of Bodum customer service. So impressed that I submitted their name as an extraordinary exception when a major local newspaper was running articles about customer service horrors. Needless to say, I was less impressed with the quality of the e-Santos product. We were now on machine number 6.

Anyway, the units kept failing and Bodum kept replacing them. Some were DOA. Every unit that worked initially failed in a different way. Although the model designation never changed, the power bases of the units we received were not all made from the same materials. There were several different types of plastic. There were two different jug designs (by which I mean the actual jug design; not a clear vs. blue jug). The funnel covers of the Bodum units differed from the funnel covers supplied with the Starbucks units (which were made of a noticeably sturdier plastic). Some units came with extra filters (which were no longer described as "lifetime"), but other units didn't. Bodum was now recommending (expensive) monthly filter replacement, but the filters were not available locally. Again Bodum customer service came through and sent me a couple of dozen filters.

We finally got a machine that worked out of the box and kept working. For more than a year, it made great coffee every day. Then water began to leak through the bottom of the pot into the electrical workings, making its continued use dangerous.

I tried to reach the woman who had been my contact at Bodum, where I found that they had moved from Wisconsin to New York City and now had a totally different staff. I was referred to their "flagship" store and spoke to the manager.

I explained the history and he seemed sympathetic. He said that they stood behind their products and that my experience had been extremely unusual. He told me that he could not access the Wisconsin email records (which would have documented their commitment to stand behind the product for as long as it was being sold). He explained that production had moved to China and stock had not yet been received, but to send him my leaking unit and it would be replaced when stock was available. I was impressed again, but this time it would not last.

I sent the unit via Canada Post, using a traceable service. About a week or so later, the Canada Post website showed that the unit had been delivered. By this time, between telephone calls and shipping costs, I had spent more than half the cost of a new machine.

For several months, Bodum's website showed the e-Santos as unavailable, so I wasn't immediately concerned. When the unit was again listed as in-stock, I phoned. They claimed that my machine had never arrived, that Canada Post was responsible, and therefore I would not get the promised new unit. I was also made to feel like I was trying to do a con job on Bodum.

Ironically, they could quite reasonably have invoked the expired warranty and, after about 4 years and perhaps a dozen different machines, I wouldn't really have had grounds to complain. Instead, I had no Santos and was out the cost of shipping. Now I was really mad.

The manager referred me to the president of Bodum USA, who did respond. He told me curtly to, in essence, get lost. But he also mentioned a whole litany of problems related to their move from Wisconsin to New York. I suggested that the fate of my returned Santos seemed most likely the result of disorganization, if not actual chaos, at their end. Largely to get me off his back, he agreed to send another new machine, which I agreed would be the last.

It arrived, though it was from Germany (like the earlier units) rather than from China. A Chinese unit couldn't have been worse. It worked for four months. Then the buttons on the switch/timer mechanism stopped working. The Santos was now useless.

That's more than 1000 words in the abridged version of the story. I believe I've said enough. The e-Santos suffers from the worst quality control I've EVER seen in a high-end product, and the once extraordinary Bodum customer service has been reduced to crap.

I can't believe that this product is still being sold -- and with all of its defects unfixed. Incidentally, the president of Bodum USA acknowledged that this machine cannot be repaired. He was also very clear that I should not expect Bodum warranties to be extended in the future. If you are still brave enough to buy an e-Santos, save it for special occasions.

Note that I also experienced problems mentioned in other reviews that I didn't repeat here. All are true.

Buying Experience

From Starbucks in 2002. Great service then. I wouldn't expect it from them today.

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review rating: 6.5
Posted: April 17, 2007, 8:53pm
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
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