I got a nice response from Ploom about this post where I bitched about the fussy mouthpiece stem on my otherwise wonderful Pax portable vaporizer. I’m not entirely satisfied with Ploom’s policy about the issue, but, hey, it’s not my company, and they are being totally fair about helping customers affected by it, if maybe not as proactive as I might like.
So before I go on at (extreme) length, here’s the most important stuff they said in response to my kvetching:
•Ploom now ships all new Pax units with a starter supply of mouthpiece stem lube.
•If you bought a Pax before they started shipping it with mouthpiece stem lube, they will send you some for $free.99, if you ask nicely. Email Ploom support here.
Yay! (Psst: tell ‘em Richieboy sent you!)
•Regarding my suggestion that AstroGlide is an acceptable substitute for the lube they offer for purchase, Ploom pointed out that if a Pax owner damages her vaporizer by using anything other than their officially approved lubricant, she could void her 10yr. warranty.
Starting with the last point first, they didn’t expressly say AstroGlide is no bueno. And I’d remind you that you only need three tee-ninecey drops to do the job. So, a l’il dab o’ AstroGlide has worked great for me, but caveat emptor, mofo.
Moving up to the second point, I think it’s great that Ploom is offering complimentary lube to Pax buyers who purchased before lube was SOE. But I think they should be more proactive about it. Would it kill them to put a mention of it on their support site? Answer: no.
Now, to the first point: I think this is an interesting case of product refinement, because what’s changing is not the product, but rather the usage and care instructions for the product.
(If you’re still with me, this may be where you want to bail because it’s going to get even nerdier now, if you can believe that’s possible.)
The way a user notices the ganky mouthpiece problem is by turning on the Pax only to have its LED indicator go into the temperature setting display mode, glowing solid yellow, orange or red, instead of going into “I’m heating up, now” mode and glowing a throbbing purple (great band name, I know).
The way my instruction manual—issued in the pre-lube era—reads is that the Pax should only go into temperature display mode when the mouthpiece is off, which is how you get to the little button that toggles through the temperature settings.
So when I started having this issue, I thought, OK, obviously the moutpiece isn’t making contact, otherwise it would be heating up instead of displaying the temp setting.
When I called Pax customer service about this—again, this was in the pre-lube era—I was told this was happening because my mouthpiece stem needed to be cleaned. To me that more or less confirmed that the mouthpiece wasn’t making good contact.
But this is how Ploom explained what’s happening now: “Pax is smart and will let you know when it needs attention. When build-up occurs, Pax prevents the sensor from detecting your mouthpiece to let you know it needs maintenance, to ensure that you protect the investment you’ve made in the device.”
This is lifted straight out of the software marketing playbook: turn an undesired behavior into a feature. Brilliant.
The fact is, this really is probably the simplest solution, both for Ploom and users. Once you clean AND lube your Pax regularly, everything should be peachy. But I believe Ploom had to do a little wandering in the weeds to get here.
When I talked to Ploom customer service originally about getting stuck in temp display mode, the helpful guy I talked to didn’t say, “Oh, yeah, that’s because the Pax is being smart and telling you it’s time to take care of it.” No. He acknowledged (implicitly, at least) that it was a known issue and told me that cleaning it more frequently with isopropyl alcohol was the solution.
But in telling me to clean it more frequently, he was actually telling me how to make the problem worse, because the very first application of alcohol is going to strip away whatever bit of lube the Pax comes with from the factory. And, in fact, I found that once I cleaned my Pax, the balky mouthpiece problem recurred more quickly.
And I’d bet that as Ploom started telling more and more Pax owners to clean their units more often, they started getting repeat calls, because customers were finding their Paxes (sp?) went gankier quicker.
And here is where I’m guessing someone in product support decided to talk to someone in engineering. And they explained the problem to engineering and engineering said, “Well, duh. You tell people to clean it in alcohol, they’re gonna strip the lube right off the mouthpiece stem. Of course it’s going to lose contact, stupid.”
To which the product support person said, “OK, I’m not stupid, and what the hell are you talking about, mouthpiece lube?”
“Gah, douchebrain, we specify that the stem mouthpiece be lubricated at the factory. If you clean the thing, you need to re-lube it.”
“Jesus, why didn’t you guys tell us this before we printed up 50,000 user guides?”
“Why didn’t you ask us, bitchy mcbitchenstein?”
“You’re still mad at me for not going out with you, aren’t you?”
“Maybe. No. I don’t know. Get out of here, hobag. We’re in the middle of a tournament.”
So once Ploom understood the crux of the problem was failing to account for the need for ongoing periodic lubrication, back in customer care someone realized, “Hey, we can explain that the yellow, orange and red LEDs mean different things depending on whether the mouthpiece is on or off.”
“Yeah,” her colleague replied, “it’s the temperature indicator when it’s off, and it’s being smart and letting you know it needs a little TLC when the mouthpiece is on.”
“So really all we need to do is just update our user guide and drop in a little starter lube, along with the starter cleaning kit we already provide.”
“OK, now that that’s taken care of, can I ask you something?”
“Did you tell that creep Gary in engineering that I wouldn’t go out with him?”
This may not have been exactly how it happened, but I think I’m probably pretty close.