As part of my goal to put together a complete, high-quality tool kit for my Tundra, I purchased a set of SK 3/8-inch sockets (SK 3/8″ tool set). As handy as sockets can be, combination wrenches are often more practical and it’s easy to have a need for both when away from home. I considered reallocating a big set of Craftsman wrenches from my shop, not finding any made-in-USA wrenches I could afford, when a friend on the Expedition Portal Forum shared a link to a set of surplus combination wrenches from Uncle Sam’s Retail Outlet.
I rarely buy anything surplus, a couple small shovels are the only items in recent memory, but these were new, made-in-USA Armstrong brand ratcheting combination wrenches, both SAE and metric. The surplus USMC Tray (NSN # 5180-01-553-6556) also included a few screwdrivers and a rack of 1/2-inch drive SAE deep sockets, but it was the the reversible combination wrenches I wanted. The kit was only $135, although with tax and shipping from the east to the west, the price jumped $176. When compared to the retail prices for the wrenches alone, $176 was still a very good value.
A week passed, the tools arrived, and I opened the box to inspect them. They were scattered, but everything appeared to be in the box. Looking closer it was appearant there was something missing. The 15 mm combination wrench was there, but was missing all of the guts that make it a box-end wrench. A round hole was not going to turn 15 mm fasteners.
Uncle Sam’s is a surplus retailer, the kit I purchased is not a normal Armstrong kit sold to the general public, and Uncle Sam’s was now “sold out”, so I went straight to Armstrong/Apex Tool Group for warranty service.
I called the customer service number on Armstrong’s site, and explained what I had purchased and from where. The lady’s initial instructions were to return the set to the retailer and have it replaced. I explained how that was not an option, the product was new, but was a special military set from a surplus vendor. We went back-and-forth a few times, the conversation was polite and professional, but it wasn’t looking good…
The customer service representative asked me for a part number on the kit, I gave her something off the Uncle Sam’s invoice that didn’t help, later giving her the NSN number (National/NATO Stock Number) on the box which she could cross reference. I restated that I didn’t need a complete replacement kit, just the 15 mm wrench was missing its ratcheting parts. Then she asked for the part number off the wrench. Easy.
Of course she had that part number in her computer system and said she was going to ask her supervisor’s permission to send out a single 15 mm wrench, she didn’t think it would be a problem. I thanked her!
Although I had to argue a little to get the lady off her regular routine of “return to the retailer”, she was eventually quite helpful. I was very polite (“yes ma’am”) the whole time, but for Armstrong to send me a knew wrench without the old one first was huge. Thanks Armstrong Tools.
Copyright © 2012 James Langan
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