I agree with scuttle in that we need to be smart about our attitudes toward companies. However, being smart does not mean being angry (nor does it mean being flat out insulting).
Scuttle's response is legally right. But reactions so heavily impassioned also come off as very judgmental. So, too, does eager, unquestioning praise. As to my own comments above, they were not supposed to inflame or suggest I was myself inflamed (sorry if my tone conveyed otherwise). Instead, I wanted to preach thoughtfulness and insight. I value a skeptical mindset, not a cynical attitude - and those two are very different things.
In my view, information presented to us, on any topic and from any source, should be questioned and explored before it is accepted. This includes PR from a major corporation.
Private industry in any form - small or big, technology- or entertainment-focused, providing hard goods or soft services - exists in large part to service and satisfy its customers. We know this much is true. But it is also bound by certain legal and professional obligations. Honoring a warranty is required and enforceable by law. And offering a warranty in the first place is a business tactic, one practiced by just about everyone/everything trying to make a profit, especially in the realm of high-volume commodities. (Even the truly dinky stereo repair shop I use in Chicago offers short-term warranties on its work.) Companies are in the business of trying to survive and trying to make money, and their missions to provide great customer experiences often only complement such imperatives, or are even based on them. The most successful businesses are the ones that provide more than just the thing itself.
In this case, Focal is issuing replacement parts because it must, by law. However, Focal did not issue the letter to Jude to share with the Head-Fi community - and commit to the even greater number of replacements it will be asked to make as a result - because of the law. Like offering a warranty in the first place, their proactive response is a business tactic.
This is the issue at stake in the discussion on this thread: interpreting, and evaluating, how the corporation handled a defect that arose regularly in a product purchased by many.
Focal initiated its public letter on the basis of a calculated (or guessed) risk on how such action would affect the company image. Their marketing department analyzed, forecasted, and strategized what consumers' reactions would be. They knew there would be positive reactions and negative reactions, and in-between, complicated reactions as well. They knew community opinions, through online forums like Head-Fi, professional reviewers, and customers talking to dealers, would evolve over time. And at the end of all their deliberations and calculations, they decided the company would be better off taking this route. (One of the main differences between a larger corporation like Focal/JM Labs is its complex structure with specialists doing things like professional marketing and PR - as compared to that same "function" being managed through the gut instinct and ambitious vision of the lone entrepreneur making those decisions on his own. Speaking of entrepreneur, read Tyll's review of the Spirit One and description of Focal's Powerpoint presentation if you need a hint at the kind of resources and take-no-prisoners strategy Focal/JM exercises.) There may have been some moral code or company value at stake - that part is unknowable to us, whatever their public statements might claim - but what is certain is that at least a few influential chiefs at Focal hoped to secure the future of the company when they did it.
I see a lot of the conversation above based on taking sides - good Focal, bad Focal; do we call this customer service or do we call it something else. The legalistic mentality exemplified by scuttle is one approach to the subject. But Head-Fi, as a whole, is a community, united through an online medium that enables a globally distributed subculture to exchange information, build consensus, and produce a unique identity. As a subculture, it shouldn't be that kind of conversation at all. Certainly, we can and should applaud Focal on their proactive efforts to resolve customer issues, even before they have necessarily arisen. (After all, in this case, what's good for Focal happens also to be good for the consumer, and hopefully its actions will raise standards across the industry - also good for the consumer.) But let's be less enthusiastic and more staid of mind. Let's think our way through all sides of an issue - the successes (like offering replacement parts), the failures (like the self-interested nature of corporations), and the things that just are (like the technical and PR capabilities of a larger business) - before we come to judge. And especially, let's wait to insult our fellow Head-Fiers, at least until after the world ends, and maybe a little bit longer.
In fact, I think, the more thoroughly we assess a given situation, the more patience we show each other, the more likely we are to avoid judging at all. That way, instead of the "good/bad," "right/wrong" argument, we'll all end up carrying on a forward-moving, productive dialogue.
Just my .02