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Thread: Question about the horizontal brain cell and the brain bag

  1. #31
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    I would hazard a guess that other companies after factoring all their costs can afford to pay for returns because their costs are low enough. And their cost are low enough because the quality of their goods, cust svce, labor, design, manufacturing is so low. Because TB is so high in those areas, they probably can't afford to add return shipping costs to the list.

  2. #32
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    gmanedit.......you raise sound points.

    First, I've no idea if they cover foreign shipping.

    Re my original plan, it was enabled by the fact that these companies allow free return shipping. It's just the nature of the beast these days. If I could go to local stores here in Austin and see and try these various bags in the store, then returns wouldn't be necessary. But when you sell merchandise like this online, where no matter how descriptive you try to be in accurately depicting your product, the customer simply can't tell what they really have until they get it in their hands and try it out. I wish it were different, would've saved me a lot of time and hassle. Bottom line, if the companies didn't have this policy, I would not have felt at liberty to try these bags and review them. I genuinely tried to find "the one" just from online shopping, but that proved impossible. After 2 weeks of trying to visualize what a bag would look and feel like and how my stuff would fit, I finally just realized that I'd have to do online what I would do if these products were available to peruse locally, and that was to get them into my hands and try them out. This was the only way.

    But admittedly, this is a unique circumstance. I'm sure the vast majority of returns such a company receives is from someone who just ordered one product, tried it, didn't like it and sent it back and then got another. Then tried the next one, maybe kept it, maybe sent that one back to try another.

    Re the comments on the flyertalk thread, I must've missed where someone called forum members here "groupies". I don't get that impression at all. I think the comments and discussion here are terrific, very even handed and rational. And for clarification, what I said was that the Brain Bag "has almost a cult-like following", and I stand by that. It was not meant in any kind of pejorative way. In my research, I've yet to come across a laptop backpack that has anywhere close to the passionate fans that this bag has, that this company has. It's absolutely striking how people feel about this bag, and now that I have one in my hands, I can absolutely see why that's the case and the odds are good I'm about to join them!

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmachats View Post
    I would hazard a guess that other companies after factoring all their costs can afford to pay for returns because their costs are low enough. And their cost are low enough because the quality of their goods, cust svce, labor, design, manufacturing is so low. Because TB is so high in those areas, they probably can't afford to add return shipping costs to the list.

    That could absolutely be the case. One thing I really like about their products is that they're manufactured here in the USA. If that necessitates this return policy, then so be it. Like I said, it's a relatively minor thing in the grand scheme of things, but it was a distinction I felt worth mentioning both here and on the flyertalk thread.

    Understand, I'm so impressed with this bag, and the Tom Bihn company overall and their products and commitment to quality, that I told my wife "check out this other bag, I think it might be perfect for you" (the Smart Alec). Our original plan was for me to pick the one of the 5 I liked the best, and then my wife was also going to pick the one she liked the best (and would almost certainly be a different bag because our tastes - and sizes - are different, so we were actually looking to get 5 bags and return 3). She was taking a hard look at the model from eBags, but when I showed her the Smart Alec along with the video for it with Tom taking stuff out of his, that was all she wrote. So between the order I placed for my stuff, and then the order we just placed for her bag, her accessories, and then some additional organizer pouches for the both of us, in the last week I'll have given about $700 to Tom Bihn, and happily.

    These products are absolutely first rate. No question about it, and the folks here just add to a great experience.

  4. #34
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    For convenience and for clarity, I'm copying below the post I wrote at flyertalk this morning reviewing the Brain Bag. In it, I comment on these forums, which I'm highlighting for emphasis. I'm concerned that gmanedit's post above is somehow implying that I was in some way casting aspersions on these forums and the folks who contribute to them. That is absolutely not the case. I feel quite the opposite, as I hope the post below conveys:

    Ok, the latest update:

    First, many thanks to baghoarder for encouraging me to take another look at the Tom Bihn products. The Brain Bag showed up yesterday and it's just an outstanding bag. As I wrote earlier on this thread, when I first visited their site I was put off by all the options. And yes, it DOES take some time to review their site and decide what you need, and that could involve some trial and error. It's definitely not the 'no fuss/no muss' approach of buying another bag that comes as a self contained solution, like the Brenthaven. But there are rewards for taking the time to do such customization.

    Here are my initial thoughts.

    First, the Brain Bag is hands down the bag that does the best job of protecting my laptop and it's not even close. The Brain Cell into which you put your laptop is just terrific. I would literally feel confident that if I droped my bag with my laptop in it from the roof of my house (admittedly, a single story), my laptop would be just fine. The way the Brain Cell hooks into the compartment of the bag so that it's suspended is ingenious, and taking the computer out and putting it back in is simple.

    Second, I like the look of the bag better than the Brenthaven. The Brenthaven is a nice looking bag to my eye, but I like the look of the Brain Bag better.

    Third, the fit and finish, the quality of materials and construction of both bags is first rate, but the Brain Bag just has a more upscale, solid feel. And there are some small touches that might not be so small in the long run. One example is the zippers. On the Brenthaven, they're exposed. On the Brain Bag, they all have a flap covering them. Makes it a tad more cumbersome to find and open the zipper, but the bag will be more secure in inclement weather.

    Both are comparably sized and I would guess can hold about as much stuff, which is saying a lot. Both bags make a great use of space. They don't look huge to my eye, but they can carry an immense amount of stuff. The Brenthaven has a zipper that when unzipped expands the bag's depth by a couple of inches and reveals another storage compartment into which you could put all kinds of stuff. But my guess is once doing so, it would no longer fit under the airline seat in front of you. The Brain Bag is not expandable, per se, but has cinch straps so once you have in it what you're going to put in it, you can cinch it down to narrow the bag up and keep the contents from shifting.

    The Brenthaven excels at organization, it's the prototypical bag with a lot of pockets to stash your stuff, but it also has a lot of space. I was concerned the Brain Bag would not have sufficient organizational features, but the Freudian Slip accessory helps greatly in that regard. I'm also buying a few organizational pouches that will further assist with this. I will have no problem getting all the organization I need from the bag.

    In terms of feel, the Brain Bag is more comfortable on my back. The shoulder straps are a bit more comfortable and I like the feel of the pack on my back. That initially wasn't the case, where I had the laptop compartment positioned was digging into my back. But I've remedied that and it's all good. Both are just fine in this regard, this is not a knock on the Brenthaven, but the Brain Bag fits me just a bit better.

    If anyone has any questions about any of these bags, fire away. At this point, I'm strongly leaning towards the Brain Bag. My wife just ordered another bag from Tom Bihn, the Smart Alec, and I want to wait until it arrives before making my final decision, but right now, the Brain Bag is firmly in the lead.

    So here's kind of a short summary.

    If you're looking for a professional bag that will fit with your suit and not look out of place in meetings, the Briggs & Riley is a nice choice.

    The Victorinox in the size I got is simply too small to be functional.

    The eBags backpack is a terrific value play. If you want decent space, strong organization, a good feature set and a cost under $100 with a lifetime warranty, this is the bag for you as long as you're ok with it looking pretty much like a student backpack.

    The Brenthaven is a great bag. Honestly, if I go with the Brain Bag there will be some features of the Brenthaven that I will miss. I could absolutely make this my new bag and if I hadn't liked the Brain Bag as much as I do, I wouldn't hesitate to go with it. The cost is very reasonable and I highly recommend this bag.

    But if you're ok with the cost (once you add in the requisite accessories) and the look of the Brain Bag, you would absolutely be remiss to make a selection without first trying it out. One caveat, the only thing I've found disappointing about the Brain Bag experience is that if you wish to return something, you have to pay the return shipping costs. All the other vendors provide a prepaid return shipping label on request. Not so with Tom Bihn. But I would absolutely NOT let that keep you from exploring their products. The designs, material and construction are fantastic, the customer support is great, and they have an incredible community of users at their online forum who stand ready to answer questions and make suggestions if needed. Seth Godin writes about Tribes, well, they have one for sure. And the available accessories means you can really tailor the bag to your specific needs. The other thing I like is that as I mentioned above, once I get where I'm going, I can take all that stuff out of the pack and now I have a terrific backpack for day tripping around town, or going on a serious hike. I would have no problem taking this pack out into rugged wilderness, and it would probably look about the same when I got back. Not sure I can say that about the other packs.

    Hope that helps. I'll post more feedback on my final selection once I've had a chance to use it more extensively, and outside of the house in the 'real world'.

  5. #35
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    In my experience shopping online, many companies include a return label but it isn't prepaid: they charge me to use it. In other words, the return shipping cost is deducted from the amount I'm credited.

    The first few times I received something with an included shipping label, I assumed it was "prepaid" (prepaid = free) and that I wouldn't be charged for return shipping. Then, when I compared the amount I was credited to the amount I had been charged, I noticed I wasn't credited the full amount for the item, contacted the company, and was informed that the difference was that return shipping fee. That's ok with me; I think I ignored some literature that came with the stuff I ordered that explained I would be charged for return shipping.

    Some companies do include truly free "prepaid" shipping labels; but of all the companies I've purchased from online, I can only think of one that does that.

    We are working with UPS to add a tool to our website that will allow you to easily create and print out a return shipping label (the cost of the return shipping will be deducted from your credit.) We think this will be more convenient and likely less expensive than going to the UPS store or post office and having them create a label or generate postage for you.
    Current Carry: Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  6. #36
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    I agree, it's hard to order when you can't handle a product or try it on. Once I've found something that suits me (for instance, jeans with a waist-level waistband—hard to find these days—and a comfortable rise), I may order multiples. (I've got half a dozen not-yet-worn pairs of jeans in a drawer. I've got 30 linen T-shirts; I hope that's a lifetime supply. [I regard TB bags as lifetime purchases, too.] I wear the same costume every day.) It's a real problem.

    It was Baghoarder (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/18135074-post4.html: "but did you consider one of the Tom Bihn backpacks? (I have no connection, I just love their bags!") (one of us?) who said (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/18140247-post11.html): ". . . you could post a query on the TB forum over at their site. There are legions of TB groupies there who will be able to share real life experience. . . ." No offense meant, none taken. (Baghoarder, are you out there?) Okay, you said "almost" a cult-like following, so again, no offense. (I don't have to use emoticons to indicate humor, right?)

    Let us know how your wife likes the Smart Alec. That was my first backpack here.* It's sexy (got spontaneous compliments) and holds a lot, but it lacks the compression straps of the Brain Bag. This was the pre-front-lacing version, so maybe the elastic lacing can serve to hold the contents in (please report back on this). The compression straps are the main reason I prefer the Brain Bag to the Smart Alec, although since I've had less to carry, I mostly use the Synapse now. When I had to carry a lot of paper, the Freudian Slip really shone.

    *Ordered by a twist of fate . . . due to shipping! I meant to order another computer backpack from another company, but didn't understand why the shipping charge was based on the item's cost and not its weight, and couldn't get an informed human being at the company to tell me. Incensed, I went looking for another backpack and wound up here.
    Last edited by gmanedit; 03-13-2012 at 01:49 PM. Reason: Moved the exclamation point.

  7. #37
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by conejo23 View Post
    Hope that helps. I'll post more feedback on my final selection once I've had a chance to use it more extensively, and outside of the house in the 'real world'.
    Looking forward to it!
    Current Carry: Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  8. #38
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    Darcy.....thanks for chiming in. With the companies I purchased from, I checked ahead of time and was told that they offered free returns. 2 of the bags were bought from eBags, which makes that process as cheap and easy as can be. Same with Brenthaven. That said, your solution would absolutely mitigate the cost of returns and simplify and expedite that process. If I take my horizontal brain cell to a place to ship, now I have to pay for the box, I have to pay their shipping cost, and both include markup. If I can basically generate a UPS label using your guys' account so the shipping is at cost, and then that cost is deducted from my return refund, that is a decent middle ground.

    gmanedit....naw man, we're good! It's one of the limitations of online medium, can't always accurately discern tone or context. It's funny, it was baghoarder who got me to take a second look at the Brain Bag, and man, am I glad he did. And I was just concerned, didn't want you or anyone else here to think I had anything other then exemplary things to say about these forums. Honestly, this place is remarkable. This may sound dumb, but these forums are a selling point for me and one reason the Brain Bag is more attractive to me than the Brenthaven. Now, with their more limited offerings and options, Brenthaven may not need such a community, but given the customizable nature of Tom Bihn products, these forums are a terrific resource. The idea of being able to come back here with questions about different products, or even things like "hey, what do you guys use for ......" is very appealing. When one buys a Bihn product, they don't just get a product, they get an invitation to become part of a community.

    And that's something most of us could use more of these days.

    And yes, I'll absolutely post our thoughts about the Smart Alec. One reason I'm sure I'll prefer the Brain Bag, besides the styling (not a huge fan of the Smart Alec styling) is that the Smart Alec seems to just have one big compartment instead of the two that the Brain Bag offers. So I'd imagine once you put a brain cell and a freudian slip into it, putting other stuff in and finding it can be more challenging than with the Brain Bag. And yes, the cinch straps rock. Terrific functionality.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by conejo23 View Post
    And yes, the cinch straps rock. Terrific functionality.
    I added a paragraph to my previous comment just about that—and a footnote about shipping and customer service.

    I didn't buy the Brain Bag till I saw (in a review on another site) a photo of it with nothing in it and all cinched up. Seeing it packed full, I had thought it was too much bag. Yay for cinch straps!

    One (I hope) final remark: Darcy's remarkable photographs. They make me happy.
    Darcy likes this.

  10. #40
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    Thanks for the comments on the vertical vs horizontal brain cell! I think that closes the deal for me... Vertical it shall be.

    I saw a question about the snake charmer, thought I would comment on that as well. I have the 'charmer myself, and I find it most useful as a kit bag for travel. It's a good size, and the two sides are very useful for separating your stuff (such as all of your tech accessories on one side and your toiletries on the other). I don't tend to use it on a daily basis, however, because I find that the organizer pouches clipped to the o rings to be an easier way to organize my work stuff. On family trips, however, it's invaluable for carting everyone's assorted chargers and accessories.
    ----------------
    Bob P.
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    Empire Builder (black/steel), Brain Bag (steel), Small Padded Organizer Pouch, Clear Wallet, Soft Cell, Snake Charmer (cayenne) and assorted trimmings.

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by gmanedit View Post

    It was Baghoarder (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/18135074-post4.html: "but did you consider one of the Tom Bihn backpacks? (I have no connection, I just love their bags!") (one of us?) who said (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/18140247-post11.html): ". . . you could post a query on the TB forum over at their site. There are legions of TB groupies there who will be able to share real life experience. . . ." No offense meant, none taken. (Baghoarder, are you out there?) Okay, you said "almost" a cult-like following, so again, no offense. (I don't have to use emoticons to indicate humor, right?)
    I can confirm that baghoarder is one of us and she certainly meant no offense at all. (emoticon added just in case...) She wouldn't have suggested TB in the first place, and then persisted when conejo originally wanted the easiest "turnkey" solution , if she wanted to poke fun at this terrific community.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by gmanedit View Post

    Question: Do the free-return companies cover the costs of foreign shipping, or just in the U.S.?
    I'm about as far away from the TB factory as it's possible to be (Australia) - so I read up on my bag purchases VERY carefully as I know I can't reasonably return a bag if I don't like it (yeah, hard to imagine).

    In general, the only time I've ever seen a return envelope with a product was when I bought from a US online shop and shipped to a US parcel forwarder. As far as the shipper was concerned, it was a "local" sale.

    We have an Australian online store and we do not offer postage paid returns for change-of-mind - although our product (a niche stationery product) is not subject to misconceptions about fit/suitability for use.

    Not sure if it's a regional/cultural thing or if I am odd - but I could count on one hand the number of times I've EVER returned something to a vendor after purchase.
    List under construction ....

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