Neither a Snob Nor an Elitist…

Briggs In response to a series of articles I wrote recently about my laptop bags (What IS your laptop bag) and about my luggage (The Price of Quality) I was recently called an elitist snob.  “Mitch, it is fine that you want to spend hundreds of dollars on your laptop bags, but in all fairness you are given most of your bags, and most of your readers have to buy their own, and investing hundreds of dollars for Briggs and Riley, Ogio, and Brenthaven is just not worth the money to most of us.’

I obviously understand how this reader feels.  I am not ignorant to the costs, and do realize that even $100 is a lot to spend on a laptop bag.  With that being said, shortly after writing those articles I decided to buy two new laptop bags – both Briggs and Riley – for my trip to Japan.  For one thing I knew that I wouldn’t be able to simply switch out my bags as desired here – I didn’t want to bring more that I had to – and also I wanted to come into my client’s office without blatantly advertising for Microsoft – or for anyone else for that matter.

I was not going to respond to comment.  After all, it was said to me by someone in passing, and mostly tongue in cheek.  However this afternoon, as I walked from my hotel the my office, I was reminded why I would rather spend money on a good bag then buy a cheap one.  As I walked through the bus terminal in front of my hotel a gentleman was walking the other way, laptop bag over his shoulder.  When we were about fifteen feet apart when I saw the strap of his shoulder strap snap – more accurately, the clip that connected the bag to the strap did.  The gentleman was walking at a bit of a clip, and try as he might to catch it, we both watched on helplessly as his bag smashed to the pavement and bounced a couple of times.

He picked it up, and just as I would have he opened it up to see what damage was done to his laptop.  As I expected the screen was shattered, and that was even before he could check to see if the hard drive or motherboard were damaged.  I felt bad for the guy, and hoped that a) it was a corporate laptop, and b) that there would not be any severe repercussions to damaging it.  I do know that losing a corporate laptop is a severe offense, but that is primarily because of corporate data.

The deja vu was immediate, strong, in my face.  I was transported back to the day that my customer’s daughter asked me for a favour.

Nearly ten years ago I was still an SMB consultant in Montreal, and I had a client that manufactured suits.  At the time they were one of the most respected names in men’s suits in Canada – although I was glad to have them as a client, I could never have afforded one of their suits.  Michael, one of the two brothers who owned the company had hired me to review their infrastructure.  However on this particular day his daughter was in with her brand new laptop that she had spent the last week infecting with malware.  She was livid that her $3000 laptop was running so slowly.  I couldn’t blame her… except I knew what the problem was. After consulting with her father she asked if I would mind taking it with me to clean up from my office.  No problem.

She packed the laptop away in her carrying case and handed it to me.  I headed to my car because I had another appointment – a meeting with a colleague.  We were going to meet at the Place Vertu Shopping Centre for coffee.  I arrived at the mall early, and decided that I would take the laptop with me, both because I hated leaving anything of value in the car, but also because since I was early I could start working on it while waiting for Adam.  I locked the car and slung the very inexpensive carrying case over my shoulder.  As I was walking through the mall towards the cafe it happened… without warning my shoulder became much lighter as the strap broke and the laptop bag crashed to the floor.

I was mortified.  I knew not only how proud she was of her laptop, but also how much she (read: her father) had spent on it.  They had both made a point of calling attention to the fact when I was in the office, either to show off (more likely) or possibly to remind me to be careful with it (less likely).  I immediately snatched it up and ran to the cafe.  When I opened it up my worst fears were realized… the screen was smashed and shattered.Broken Screen

While they have come down in price since, at the time the replacement cost of a 17” laptop screen was well over $1000.  I know this because after my meeting with Adam I went back to my office and called the manufacturer, who quoted me the price.  It would take me several days to earn back that money, and I was living on a shoestring budget as it was (this was when I was still supporting myself AND my ex-wife).

That afternoon was quite unproductive.  I spent most of the time in my office lamenting the predicament I was in.  But then I realized the dichotomy: Why would someone spend $3000 on a laptop, only to carry it around in a $15 case?  This was a very delicate (and relative to modern laptops heavy) piece of expensive equipment.  Why wouldn’t the owner (who needed all of that horsepower like a fish needs a bicycle) not spend the extra $75-$100 to get a proper case that was meant to support it.

Two phone calls that day saved my bacon.  The first was to the company that imported the bag.  They were a local company, and somehow I got in touch with someone there who had the authority to realize that they might be liable.  They agreed to work with me to cover at least some of the costs.  The second call, once that was done, was to the manufacturer.  I told them what happened, and when I read off the serial number they told me not to worry, the owners had bought the complete care warranty.  In the technician’s words, ‘If someone throws their laptop off their balcony into the swimming pool and then shoots it through with a 12-gauge shotgun, it would still be fixed or replaced at no cost.’  He scheduled a technician to meet me at the client’s offices the next morning.

I was relieved.  I was thrilled.  I was elated!  I also decided, right then and there, that forevermore I would never again skimp on carrying cases for laptops.  I wouldn’t throw them in a gym bag, I wouldn’t buy cheap crap.  I would always make sure that I bought high quality bags, and recommend to others that they do the same.

So to my friend, colleague, and reader I say this: I am not an elitist, nor am I a snob.  I am a pragmatist who knows that spending a little more can save you a lot more in the long run.  For me it has never been about style, fashion, or bragging rights – anyone mildly familiar with my wardrobe would laugh at those options anyways – but rather about practicality – how comfortable and utilitarian the bag is, as well as how well protected, and most importantly how well made.

With that my friends, it is Friday and I want to wish you all a great day, and a wonderful week-end.

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