I've been carrying a laptop and associated paraphrenalia to and from work daily for the past 15 years. I was completely happy with the bag I carried for 13 of those years, a made-in-America Targus, until a train door closed on it and ripped the shoulder straps off the bag. Since then I've had multiple bags, each with its own design flaw, that rendered the bag useless in as little as two weeks. While it's true that my commute, which involves two trains and a mile walk each way, places certain demands on a bag, it's not unreasonable to expect that paying $70 for a bag entitles one to use it for more than 10 work days.
A co-worker told me about Tom Bihn. I spent a great deal of time on the web site looking at alternatives and even asked for a recommendation. I began to realize the kind of company I was dealing with when the recommendation came, within a day, from a company vice president. Darcy recommended a Zephyr. I spent further days comparing the Zephyr to the Empire Builder, and finally ignored Darcy's recommendation and bought the Empire Builder. I'm sure I would have been equally happy with the Zephyr because it probably is not possible to make a wrong choice with a Tom Bihn bag.
But the Empire Builder has exceeded my wildest expectations. Start with the shipping box -- it's sturdy far past the need, and taped all around the bottom to ensure that no matter what abuses the box may endure during shipping, the contents will be protected. Open the box and you find...exactly what you ordered! No 'sorry but... is on back order. No marketing brochures. No exhortations to purchase Gevaila coffee, Reader's Digest books, or any 'maybe you'd also like this...' offers. And unlike the $70, 10-workday wonder I last bought, there also was no gratuitous certificate and thank-you letter for purchasing 'a bag of fine quality you'll carry with pride for years.'
The product itself delivers a message of quality, craftsmanship and pride.
The bag itself is a wonder. High quality materials. Higher quality construction. Design that is intelligent and inspired. my two adult children have seen and handled the bag, and I think I'm going to have to put it in my will. I'm confident I'll have it for years, no matter what my commute does to it. I have a Dell laptop, charger, Blackberry and charger, personal cell phone and charger, DayTimer notebook, assorted keys, cables, books, magazines, train schedules, lunch, bills and other mail I haven't gotten to and more. And the bag isn't even half full, even with the number 4 horizontal brain cell I also bought. I think my laptop actually sighed with relief when I slid it in to the brain cell.
Despite all the weight, the Absolute Shoulder Strap makes it a joy to carry. The strap is made of a material that gives a little with each bounce, so IT DOESN'T MOVE! If you've ever had a bag slide around on your shoulder with every step you take so that you wished for a stapler to secure it to your clavicle, you'll appreciate the way the bag stays comfortably put no matter how much you put into it.
The bottom line? Simply this: Tom Bihn provides a quality product that exceeds expectations at a reasonable price, and provides a customer experience that in my experience is unequalled.