I mentioned Oldwin nearly a year ago in my roundup of small European pen makers. This small French manufacturer, the in-house brand of Paris-based store Mora Stylos, has been on my radar for a while, but in recent months it’s been all over my Instagram feed.
I gave up on getting one of its torpedo-shaped Classics in the wonderful Arco materials (I emailed Mora Stylos about it and received no reply), and instead finally pulled the trigger on a beautiful one-off lacquered model in the flat-top Art Deco range, decorated by French artist Morgan Wisser. It’s called Rouge Sang Pareil (blood red), and it’s a spectacular red and gold pattern with beautiful depth and shimmer to it.
The pen is… rustic. The finish to the lacquer at the edges is not perfect. The threads are… crunchy. It’s a 900 euro cartridge-converter filler. But for the price you get a truly huge pen, that is very light and comfortable, as well as being unique both as a model and as an individual pen. I’m excited to have this Oldwin in my collection.
Unfortunately — and it may be here simply that I’m spoiled or getting grumpy in my old age — I’ve been pretty soured on the pen by the experience of getting it.
I placed the order on the website on 2nd January. I get a dispatch email on the 3rd with tracking number — so far so good. French La Poste is terrible at tracking, and the pen arrives out of the blue on the 8th January. (Here’s where I feel spoiled by the likes of Iguanasell and Izods — I’m used to 24-hour delivery on pens of this kind of value, even internationally).
Unfortunately, in the engraving of the Oldwin logo, a hole has been cut in the nib. I can see daylight through.
Not good enough. I email Andre Mora with photos and get a brief reply in a couple of hours. To his credit Andre apologises, and says that he forgot to check the nib before sending. On a 900 euro pen, I would expect better quality control, and I would expect a new screw-in nib unit to be rushed to me post haste, with me to return the defective unit at my leisure. I ask for that. But Andre asks me to send the nib unit back and says he will refund shipping. Fine.
Incidentally: I had inked the pen and it was an absolute firehose, a double-broad beast. I ask if I can have a finer nib for the replacement, and he says no problem.
I post the nib on the 9th, I see confirmation of delivery on the 11th. I chase on the 14th and get a tracking number. The replacement nib arrives on the 17th, with a 10 euro note included to cover shipping. It’s now two weeks since I placed my order and I just want to write with my new pen, damnit.
Unfortunately, after inking I discover a problem with the new nib: it runs dry after the initial load of ink in the feed is gone, whether using cartridge or converter. (On the plus side, it’s a true fine, as I asked).
Looking closely, there’s a huge gap between nib and feed, and I wonder whether that’s the problem, but I don’t want to muck about and ruin the #8 nib unit.
I email Andre on the morning of the 18th January, including photos. No apology in the response this time (in fact, he says this has never happened before in all the pens he’s sold, which to me is a backhanded way of saying that the problem is user error), but he asks me to send the whole pen to him for investigation and again volunteers that he will pay shipping costs. So I take another trip to the post office and send the package (at this value, it’s £73 shipping).
The pen arrives back in France on the 22nd, and on the 23rd I get a brief email saying that Andre has replaced the feed and all is now working fine, and it’s on its way back to me with more euros cash included for shipping. No explanation of what the problem was, what the solution was, an apology for the inconvenience, or anything.
I’m not sure how to feel about this.
On one hand, I paid 900 euros for a unique pen and 24 days later I still haven’t had a proper chance to write with it. I’ve had two big problems that should have been discovered during testing, had to make two trips to the post office, have had to ship my pen back instead of getting an advance replacement nib unit, and during all that over a handful of one-line emails Mora Stylos has used the word ‘sorry’ precisely once, as well as refunding my postage in a cash currency I can’t use (and ignoring my initial email question before I made the purchase).
I can’t help but compare this to the amazing communications experience I’ve had in the past with Iguanasell in Spain (most recently as this week, with a special order to my hotel in Barcelona next week), with small operations in the US like Franklin-Christoph and Chatterley, and with the friendly, helpful folks at Write Here, Izods and other UK retailers. And this week too the guys at Conid emailed me to get detailed feedback after my review of the Minimalistica — now that’s customer service. For the amount of money I’m spending, I expected a bit more service from Mora Stylos.
But looking from the other perspective, Mora has responded same-day to my emails, has covered my shipping costs without complaint, and has accepted responsibility for fixing the problem. Andre is French and is communicating in English, and so I can’t really expect profuse apologies in his non-native tongue. It’s also not his fault that the French La Poste is slower than Parcelforce (although I’d recommend he open an account with a proper courier company).
I’m about to fly out on a trip for a week, and my Oldwin should be waiting for me when I get back — if La Poste cooperates. Will the new nib work? I hope it’s third time lucky. Would I recommend that you order an Oldwin pen from Mora Stylos? After this combination of poor QC and poor communications, I’m afraid I probably wouldn’t.