International shipping, broken parts and disappointments

Let me start with saying that I really appreciate a forum with such a polite level of conversations. I like that its not just angry people venting all the time. But there has got to be room for critique.

I just installed a new lid cord in my glowforge since the old one didn’t work. It works now, I’m happy with that. When I compared the old to the new, I released they’ve adjusted the length of one “arm” quite a lot. Probably because it was too tight so that a lot of them broke. If the guarantee is a year, i missed it by 6 months if you count it from when we got it.

I AM happy that glowforge by logs can see what is wrong and ship me a spare part to replace myself. This saves environment, time and money.

The cord was only about 20 dollars, I would not get so worked up about it if it wasn’t for the shipping cost which ended up at 68 dollars. It IS cheaper than if I as someone without account want to send it, (I tried, it costs about double) but when we send with DHL to the US it costs about 30-50 dollars for 7 days delivery. And top that up that we are unable to use the credits of 200 dollars we got when glowforge was delayed because they are unable to deliver to international customers. Not even for this replacement cable. And that we 4 years later still don’t have the filter we ordered.

I get that it takes time before you have a system up for everything in a company. But in our company that also calls for the need to be flexible and make exceptions in order to show that you want to do better. All I get from glowforge is standard replies and something I reed as condescending replies. I also think it would be good to have customer service in an additional timezone since the whole conversation drags out in time (not only caused by a bit slow replies.)

What I would like from glowforge is better shipping deals, international shops, better customer service and also an apology for the badly manufactured cord. And also our air filter. Please.


I don’t disagree with your points. I would like to offer some perspective from my own experience as a customer support rep for a company based in the UK. I perform all the US based support, so I have had to learn from the support side.

International shipping is expensive. The only way you are going to get cheaper shipping deals is by bulk shipping to a distributor closer to the customer. Those shipping costs aren’t always uniform either. It may be higher going out of the US than coming in. I have to support customers in Mexico and in Canada and the shipping charges you have quoted are pretty normal. I have shipped parts that cost the customer 2.50 USD and the shipping fee ended up being over 12.00 USD. There isn’t anything that GF can do at this point based on their setup. DHL isn’t easy to work with in the US and they are known for extremely poor service here. I have literally had DHL lie to me outright about my shipments in multiple occasions.

The lid cable is an interesting occurrence. I have had my GF for about two years now and haven’t had any issues with the cable. Mine doesn’t even touch the frame unless I push the lid all the way to its stops. I think that the whole issue here is a change that was made at the factory that wasn’t communicated to the design team. This isn’t a Glowforge design issue, it is the manufacturer of one specific part that isn’t making the part to the design consistently. It may also be a poor component choice, but again, they aren’t consistent. Not every cable is failing and not every user sees this failure, so it isn’t a design issue. It could even be something like a bad batch of cables that were not made to spec, but didn’t get found. This is again something that happens, and as you have seen GF has made a change to reduce or eliminate the issue once they were able to find a common denominator. I also find it hard to assume that GF hasn’t apologized to you already for the lid cable. I have seen them do so to other users. I do not expect a blanket apology based on the data we have so far. I haven’t seen a condescending reply from Support in the four years I have been active on the forums, so I am guessing if you received a reply like that it wasn’t on purpose. Customer support agents are human and it is extremely hard to find a way to convey information to a frustrated customer without coming across as condescending or patronizing, especially when the customer doesn’t want to hear what we have to say. Please give them the benefit of the doubt; assume it wasn’t on purpose.

If you haven’t been reading the air filter updates, you won’t be getting the air filter that was originally designed. They found it wasn’t possible to make it work as they intended given the time and budget available and they have changed the design. This means you will be getting something more like the compact filter. From what users have reported on the compact filter, it is expensive to use, so you should be planning for that also. Initial reports are something like $250.00 for a replacement filter set and with certain materials the filter will last a very short time. I have seen reports of 40 hours of use for one filter set. You have the option to cancel the filter and most users who vent have found that venting is the better choice. Personally I don’t use a lot of wood in my GF so I will probably use the filter and get acceptable life from it, but I will still vent when possible.

I am confident that Glowforge is working on their customer service. I agree that it would be good for customers out of the US to have more local support, but it isn’t going to happen anytime soon. GF is a very small company relative to the amount of business and customer base they have developed and it is very hard to grow effectively without a lot of money. They have a lot of investors to keep happy and that will need to be their focus, even if customer support lags a little. If those investors get unhappy they can pull all the funding and shut Glowforge down. Then it doesn’t matter if we have customer service since we will all have some very large bricks without the GF servers running. I understand the frustration, but we as owners should be aware that Glowforge isn’t a large company and they are very, very young. They need time to stabilize and to grow intelligently. Overextension at this point can lead to very bad things for us as customers.

I know this isn’t an official answer but I hope maybe it helps you understand why things are the way they are and it may help alleviate some of your frustration.


Hi Ben, it’s nice of you taking a lot of time to write such a long answer. Below is the email about the replacement. I can’t see anywhere something like an apology or that they’ve had manufacturing problems in some cases. It wasn’t until I installed it and compared it and read the thorough instructions about what was important that I could see what was different. I thought I probably did something wrong.

“ Thank you for sending those photos over. Since everything is connected properly, it’s likely that the black cable on the lid has a problem. I’d like to send you a replacement for that cable, along with some instructions on how to replace it so we can get you back to printing as quickly as possible.

Can you please provide me your shipping address and phone number? Because your warranty has ended, we will send you an invoice for the cost of the cable ($19.13) and shipping, the cost of which we will calculate once we receive your address.

Once the invoice is paid, we will ship the lid cable and we’ll follow up with tracking information and installation instructions.”

I didn’t know about shipping from the US sometimes is more expensive. And I would say in Sweden that fedex reputation is a lot worse than dhl and fedex so I didn’t see a difference there. We send about 5 packages a year to that cost.

Regarding condescending answers, of course. If you are bound by your employer not to say certain things it is all very stiff and awkward. I guess “ I’m sorry the shipping costs were higher than you were expecting.“ falls under that category.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my machine. We call it our third child, the daughter I never got. (It even has the name, Ingrid, we would have given a daughter if we had one) I’ve spend so much time talking about her and chatted with an Italian potential customer for an hour convincing her to buy one. And sure, what you say about them being small and without a lot of money might be true. (I thought they got much more money than they asked for in the pre order face). But you can say that about everything. Every business and department. You still have to try to meet customers at least half way? (At least in our business, that is what we do) Maybe they never should have given international customers credits in the first place? What I read and see is more of a “Next!” Feel. What YOU do, give a long answer of thought is feeling seen and heard.

I knew some of the things about the filter from what we read online. (not sure why we havent gotten any emails about it) but did not know it was so expensive to use. Thank you for that info. If you cancel, how much do you get back?

It’s nice that you answer for a company you obviously believe in. So do I. But there must be things you’ve been frustrated about as well? Every relationship has their weaknesses. I think it makes the connection even stronger when handled in a good way.

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I was a little frustrated early on with the communication on the project. I am coming from a different place than most people, however, as I do product development for a living, and I understand what you can say, what you can’t say, and what you can and can’t do in the time. I would have handled the communication in a different manner, but I also understand why they did what they did, so it was easy to get over that frustration.

As I am not working for GF and am currently looking for work I have the time to answer, and again I hope that you can give the paid support techs the benefit of the doubt. They are currently working very hard to meet the needs of a lot of customers. Their answer was exactly what they needed from you with no additional information. At that point in the conversation, it is probably how I would have handled it also. The apology would have been early on, probably the start of one of the first responses, but that is just the way I do things. I have been yelled at a lot by customers who feel I am alternately a robot, condescending, patronizing, etc. All the while keeping one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the company I work with. The point is that the tone isn’t personal. They are trying to do their job for a huge variety of people and the omission of an apology is an oversight and not a slight.

Overseas shipping is really almost a racket. I know that DHL in the EU is much better than in the US. I personally prefer FedEx after five years of working with shipping companies, but even they have their problems. We just have to deal with it.

My statements about manufacturing issues are my own opinion based on having seen the reports of this problem and my own experience with manufacturing. A GF employee will not tell you there is a defect or a problem. What I am seeing may not be exactly right either, it is an educated guess.

The other thing that I like to remind people is that even if everything is inspected and made to the best abilities of the people working on it, there are always undetectable defects. You may have received a cable with an air bubble in the copper wire that lead to a failure, or you may be regularly opening the lid far more than they were anticipating, or maybe there was a kink in part of the cable your machine shipped with. There are so many variables for a failure like this one can’t really assign a root cause until a lot of work is done. That work is in progress, but we may never hear more about the details. One of the things about working with investors is they will and do limit what you can release publicly as Dan has said many times.

The email you copied is extremely polite and courteous in tone per my standards. It is exactly what I would hope to hear at that point in the process. As a customer I would like to see the shipping cost before shipment, but I don’t see any promises set, and it looks like they sent the invoice before taking payment. Most shipping companies will allow an account holder to pay for an incoming shipment, so this may have been an option for you, but it may also have caused extra delays with paperwork.

As far as meeting half-way I don’t think there is much leeway for that. Once you are out of warranty parts orders become a retail sale and unless there are extenuating circumstances most companies like GF won’t be able to afford to cover shipping for retail orders.

Yes, GF got a lot of money and they are making more, but all of that money has to be paid back. It is debt. Until that is paid, their expansion is limited. They also have money tied up in other places, which limits expansion and further investment. Five years isn’t a long time to develop two product lines and a full support infrastructure on an international scale. It will get better, but we have to be patient.

I don’t have an opinion on the credits as I don’t know the details. I hope you can end up using them eventually.

I hope that I have helped out a little. I am guessing that if Support replies they will be providing an apology based on what I have seen in the past.


I tried to order a part for my carvewright from Texas a few years ago. The $5 part was going to cost $45 shipping. I declined and did a work around.


I think it is mostly the feeling of “is my GF gonna start to break down now when the warranty is over and is it gonna cost a lot in shipping every time?” A one time cost of 90 dollars is ok for the company but you realize how vulnerable u are when there is no other place to go. How many times a year do I need to expect this?

And investors too can read on the forum and see bad publicity in case they are not resolved in a good way. I have no particular person in mind in my frustration.


While I was reflecting on this whole project during that first year after the launch, one of my takeaways was that launching a product and not making a distinction between domestic and international customers seems a bit off in some way. Yes, we are a global economy, but for this product, the international reach out has to taste a little bitter for lots of folks. I would imagine that many of those who ordered actually have experience in ordering products that are shipped between borders and expect complications.

So there is this big disconnect to what gets communicated in marketing and the gotchas that lurk around this product.

If my Glowforge suffered a catastrophic failure now, I would buy a new one without blinking an eye. It is just so useful for so many things. But I had three warranty exchanges before I got the current one. It’s on 14 months now. That isn’t long for such an expensive product. I read too many posts about issues folks have with their Glowforges. And from my experience, I am a bit gun shy. But I still would at least recommend a Basic to anyone who does any type of crafting or making.

And if mine keeps plugging away until the tube gives out, I might instead spring for a new one instead of a replacement.

It’s been so long since I lived in Italy. I don’t recall shipping being that expensive back then. But that was 35 years ago. Seems kind of much for a small cable.


I wish GF would have a European based distribution centre. They could bulk ship on the spare parts and then dropship from there at much reduced cost.

I did volunteer to do this for free, but nothing came of it.


There is a reason that new technology is referred as the “Bleeding Edge” and the first Glowforges delivered were certainly that. You can test all you want but customers will do things you never considered doing.

That black ribbon is an excellent example. If it never occurs to you to open the lid 90 degrees (or more?) the black ribbon never had a problem. It is only in the wild that some folk do that regularly, and by that time they have delivered thousands of them. So now they have folks needing them all over. No matter what they actually say I cannot but feel that sinking feeling of “Oh No! another one” running in their head as they read of your case which for you is very singular and involving a single machine.

The delay in getting the details worked out to each international customer is a benefit in that the folks in Australia are getting better machines just because many possible issues are fixed before their machines were built, even as they were so put off by the delay that was longer than most even among international customers.

With my never having or likely having the problem, and 20-20 hindsight thrown in I would have forestalled international or at least overseas shipping for the first year or several, and then as they found good European manufacturers had those machines built there, But I know that from the start the sales far exceeded expectations and Dan has been playing catch-up ever since. If he had known all the future I am pretty sure he might have done things differently also.


Regards the Filter I would get what refund you could and look for European manufacture of such filters just because the international issues would be less. You would need probably a starting volume of 1000 M3/hr to get much life from the filter but generic industrial filters have to be widely available for many purposes beyond our needs.

If you could vent outdoors that would make the problem not exist, but your situation will differ.


I know some of what you’re feeling, my cable was limping along (working with a weird workaround), but has just now totally died. I have had several interactions with the support team, some of which took weeks for responses, then after that I had to send my machine in, overall it was about 6 weeks before I could use my Glowforge again, but that has been the worst case scenario. My best case was having a new machine within days of sending my broken one off (I’ve had three machines, with the third needing refurbishment). I can imagine how being an international customer magnifies all of these types of things. I ordered two cables in the event of this happening again, which I can’t be sure of, but in the anticipation of CS being overwhelmed by its increasing customer base, as well as holiday fervor, I’d rather be able to fix a problem myself if I can.

Shipping is a strange thing, I am currently in the process of obtaining a used Glowforge from someone, and while we compared shipping prices we couldn’t get the same numbers, although we were using the same shipper. Apparently I get a geographical discount when shipping things from where I live, whereas shipping them to me sees no such discount. Keep in mind, this is the same shipping service. Glowforge is only using the people they can get the best discounts from, that they are comfortable working with. Machines used to be delivered via UPS in the beginning, but they’ve since switched to FedEx. This means that the company is willing to change tactics if need be, and since international customers have been receiving their machines later than us in the US, I’m sure the team is working on trying to get shipping fees down for you, but that will take trial and effort.

I guess what I’m getting at is, that you’re seeing the effects of a company that is still relatively new. Like you mentioned, you’re aware of that, but the issue isn’t making exceptions, it’s training staff to be able to understand and make those types of judgement calls, and the only people I would trust in doing that, would be people who were trained with the basics, or a Senior Rep in other words. I don’t see things being consistently better for at least another several years, and that’s on account of having new reps come in to deal with the growing customer base, but that means they will eventually become senior reps. I don’t mean to trivialize your issues, in fact, I’m totally with you in wanting Support to be better, but I know that it will take time. As an original backer I waited for two years not knowing if I was actually going to get my machine or my air filter, when the machine came, I had to send it back after a couple of months for issues, but my faith in the company has done nothing but increase since then, and it’s because they are getting better, and I can forgive them for the hiccups they may have.

The only way they can improve is through the faith of their customer base, and those same customers letting them know what they want. You’ve done a great job showing your faith in them, and now you’re letting know your expectations of them, which again, is great. There are plenty of international customers in the same boat as you, and I’m sure GF is doing what they can to help.


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