I was gutted the other week when I went to zip up my North Face fleece as I went into the garden, and instead the zipper just came off in my hand. Closer inspection suggested that a small bit of metal within the zipper had actually broken off meaning that it no longer held the teeth of the zip properly.
I'd owned the fleece for a good six years or so, and in that time it had travelled the world with me – keeping me warm on a chilly Los Angeles evening, as part of layers as we treked in New Zealand and to snuggle up in as I waited for a delayed plane in Hong Kong. The coat seemed to be in very good condition apart from the zipper and there's no way that I wanted to throw it out. Replacing the whole zip would have been one option, but that would have been a complete faff and unnecessary as the rest of it was intact.
Unsure about how to proceed I started as I often do in situations like this by looking up the company on Twitter. The North Face have a very active international Twitter account with an astounding 124,000 followers. A quick tweet asking if there was anything they could do about a broken zipper resulted in a reply with a UK phone number for me to call to talk to their customer services team. I phoned later that day, but only to discover that they're based in Belgium and I'd managed to call them on a random mid-week bank holiday there. I was given a direct dial number to call back the following day and when I did got to speak to a very helpful woman to whom I explained my problem.
"No problem" the lovely lady said. If possible they'd help me to fix my coat. She went through a series of questions and then took my email address so that she could email me and ask me to respond with some specific photographs so that the team there could identify the zipper and work out how it could be fixed.
I did this and was pleased to receive a response about 24 hours later saying that they'd worked out which zipper it was and that I'd be able to fix it with just a replacement zipper part easily. I sent them my postal address and was warned that it would be posted out from Belgium and, as they covered the P&P costs, it would be coming snail mail. Ten days later it appeared in the post. Now to try to fit it.
This is where it got a little bit harder. The top of the zip on the side of the coat where the zipper should be attached has a little plastic stopper bit at the top meaning that you can't just slide the new zipper straight on. The stopper was part of the moulded zip and I couldn't work out how to take it off or avoid it so instead out came a big pair of pliers and I just broke it off. I figured that whilst the stopper originally stopped the zipper from flying off the top of the zip when unzipped, it doesn't really serve a purpose when the zip is fastened.
With the stopper removed it's easy to just slide the new zipper on and hey presto – one fixed North Face fleece for the cost of a tweet, a couple of phone calls and an email. Far cheaper than over £100 for a new fleece.