Canon Can!

My new Canon has arrived, repaired, re-cased, re-screened, re-serial numbered and sitting on my desk next to my MacBook Pro!

The Canon on my desk in the autumnal sunlight – along with a fuel bill, a calculator (I never was any good with fuel bills), the few pence I have left now I’ve paid it  – and a micropore camping towel? Ah, well.

A new camera then? Probably.  It looks beautiful in red, though has none of those battle scars the one I sent them had – ‘in a Good Way’, as Claudia Winkleman would say on Strictly Takes Two. And yes, I’ll look after this one a bit better, now I realise it is not quite so bullet-proof as the older models.

Congratulations again to Canon’s Customer Service. My letter to them is reprinted below…

Dear Mr Iwarsson  (He is the big boss at Canon and looked after me as he said he would)

This camera has done the rounds:  I bought it in Thesaloniki in Greece in July 2011 when my other identical one fell off my motorbike in the midst of nowhere. (It did 23 countries in 20 days on a BMW1200GS, camping wild, without missing a beat so it was doing well.) That one replaced one of the classic IXUS 70s, which still works but isn’t quite so high definition.  And this one has just come back from the Arctic. 4,500 mile round trip. Brilliant.

I love ‘em!  However for some reason this one hasn’t seemed so strong and hasn’t done so well. Same treatment as the others, but more vulnerable somehow. I straightened out the zoom lens cover with my Leatherman, and wasn’t that fussed about the back glass breaking – it still worked – but now it has finally given up. The press button assembly fell apart this week, just as I was taking a photo of the vicar … no, honestly!!

Ah, I thought, Superglue.  But that didn’t work either. I was VERY careful to make sure no glue got anywhere it shouldn’t but I couldn’t get the zoom lever to work. 

I KNOW I’m supposed to send it off somewhere else, but I live out in the sticks and getting to a camera shop is a hassle. Getting to the local post office is easier – and besides, I thought you’d like to hear its story! (And be entertained for a few minutes. I bet you’ve smiled!)

More seriously, your cameras are brilliant. I’ve had three and also bought one for my longsuffering wife so she can take even closer up pictures of babies, and I recommend Canon to all my friends.The  best bit is the quality of the lens and how reliable they are. I KNOW this one has been knocked about a bit, and is out of warranty but it was still as good as gold and worked fine – until the button fell off.  I just thought you might be able to authorise one of your talented staff to repair it for me, so I can use it on my next trip – pushbiking in the Shetlands is the plan.  (Yes, camping wild of course. Its legal in Scotland at least!)

And if you CAN fix it, I’ll be a devoted Canon fan for LIFE. LIFE!

With best wishes and happy smiles,

 Andrew Sercombe.

PS. I’m an executive coach who loves adventures: and

PPS. Got an iPhone? My little gift to you is the app ‘PowerchangeMe’.  It’s free. Enjoy.

 It is really great when people deliver exceptional service.  Canon can – and did. 

The Big Trip. Stockholm to Finland to Varna.

I will never forget the moment I peered through the hills approaching the Black Sea and saw my first glimpse. The heat was burning down and I had travelled 3,159 miles (5,083km) to get here. I rode down into Varna, Bulgaria’s beautiful coastal town, and stopped at a ‘private’ car park. No local currency again. The jovial car park attendant smiled and suggested I park by the gate at no charge. He would keep an eye on the bike for me. I rewarded him as I usually do on these occasions with a warm handshake, lots of smiles and expressions of gratitude galore. Genuine ones too. I’m truly grateful when people are kind. I’ve found that in general, the poorer the country – in Europe at least – the less mean the people. It was Mother Theresa of Calcutta who once commented that the more we have the less we can give. Within 48 hours I was to have many expressions of kindness shown.
I found the town centre and walked down towards the Black Sea, framed by trees at the end of the tasteful shopping precinct of this respectable town.
The beach curved beautifully, revealing a beach full of bathers and sunbathers who were, in turn, curved beautifully. This is Bulgaria’s high season with people coming from all over Bulgaria to this limited Black Sea coastline and everyone seemed determined to be as brown all over as possible. Not a hint of the smell of sun-tan cream either. I prevailed upon a couple of other tourists to take my picture standing in the sea, and retreated to a restaurant for something to eat. This is a good place to be, I thought, perfect for a day or so to rest. I returned to my bike and as I did so passed a gentleman overseeing the removal of a tree from his roof – the result of the previous nights storm. Did he know of anywhere I could stay that was reasonably priced? Yes, with him, at his small hotel just round the corner! I did, and relaxed for a couple of days.

Relaxed is a comparative word.  I found that I had run over a nail and the tyre was virtually flat. The kind hotel proprietor helped me find a guy to plug the tyre, carting me and the wheel across this dusty town at no charge – and I stayed an extra night.

But let’s backtrack for a bit. Stockholm a thousand miles north of Varna – the classic Scandinavian town, clean, tidy, well kept. And raining. I drove through it, a few times (none of these places are the size of a big UK town) and loved the neat architecture, etc.  I visited the Museum in the centre of the town and got a parking ticket. Ah, well. The museum left a memory of being a monument to guilt, with the Swedes repenting of their racist treatment of the Sami people in the 19th and 20th centuries. It seems every nation has history it would rather forget. we’ve all treated people badly at some time or other haven’t we?   I slipped the ticket into a nearby bin (I’d not parked illegally as far as I could see and couldn’t read the Swedish instructions on it) and made my way towards the next ferry – from here to Turku on the west coast of Finland. This was as far north as I was I’m going to be on this trip.

The less expensive ferry for Finland leaves Sweden from Kapellskar, 90 kilometres up the E18 and ploughs its way through myriad islands to Turku.  I rode through typically Swedish forest (pretty much like everybody else’s forest roads, gravel and millions of evergreen trees!) and arrived that afternoon to just miss the ferry. The next would be tomorrow morning, but the bonus was meeting Klaus and Heinzi, two Germans heading to Nord Kapp on ancient Heinkel(?)scooters.

Klaus(left), me, and Heinzi chatting bikes. They were heading north through Sweden and I was heading south via Helsinki.

These guys, like so many road travellers, were great. There is a sense of joy from such people.  They were camping in an official campsite.  I camped in the middle of a little square of grass on the ferry terminal, just outside Customs! Turned a few heads, but no one cared!

The next morning I spent an hour trying to get my ticket from three different offices at the terminal, and eventually made it onto the ferry for the cruise to Finland.

Turku was a quiet, dead town in the late evening. There were no obvious places to bed down, so I rode through the countryside to a ‘proper’ site some kilometres to the west, and set off the next morning – having witnessed a helicopter evacuation of an injured lady. Noisy!

A convenient, though slightly public little square of grass for my overnight stay in Kapellskar, Sweden, ready for the (very) early ferry to Turku!

Canon excel themselves in customer service

Remember my post “For the want of 5p“? Well, I’ve another story to tell you.
On my Big Trip around Europe I lost my camera. It fell off the bike somewhere in the north west of Greece, up by the Bulgarian border, and I had to get another one in Thessalonikii. I chose Canon again – a red IXUS – and loved it, snapping away merrily for a year. I took it to the Arctic too. Somehow it didn’t quite take the strain and stress of my adventure lifestyle at the time, and passed away finally when I got back and was taking some photos in church. The zoom feature was damaged and I repaired it with my Leatherman, the glass of the LCD screen cracked, the casing had seen better days and eventually the shutter button fell off as I was framing the vicar (so to speak).

It was months out of warranty, but I decided to send it back, not least so Canon knew that their little cameras go to interesting places and they could evaluate the wear and tear. I sent it to the MD of course, (customer service departments rarely have the flexibility to be generous) with an entertaining description of its short life, and with the ready acceptance that it had not been looked after very well and they were not obliged to be kind to me. I also said it didn’t seem so strong as my other Canon cameras (I’m on my 4th) which was true.

Guess what? The short story is that Canon are mending it free of charge! The lovely lady in Customer Care sent me a warm and fun letter, entering into the spirit of the entertaining exchange, and Canon went onto my list of companies who know how to treat customers well. The camera hasn’t arrived yet but it will, and comes with another six months warranty – and a wise little warning not to try it again! Now THAT is up to Apple standards of customer care. Well done Canon. You’ve won my heart and go to the top of the class.

How do you look after the people in your life? Canon overlooked my humanity and were kind. They’ll be remembered for it.

Bilbo camper conversions won’t. The sad and uppity lady at the huge NEC mobile homes exhibition told me off for photographing her camper vans to get ideas for my own conversion. How silly! All the others were complimented by my interest, pointing out the features, chatting happily away and wishing me well. One guy said how people came back having converted their own camper and often bought a brand new one from them because they loved camper van life so much – for £32,000! Needless to say he WANTED me to take photos to remind me of how good his vans are.

And Canon didn’t expect the blog in their honour either. Want a good camera? Buy a Canon. The service is great and they love their customers. I really like being loved, don’t you?

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