Still unimpressed with Smartpak

I’ve tried really hard to like SmartPak, I swear I have. I’ve actually had SmartPak’s themselves at a couple points in time for different horses, I’ve placed orders for random items through them on occasion, and I tried like hell to convince myself I liked their Piper breeches. At this point in my horse life there is zero to entice me to use actual SmartPak’s… if there’s a supplement I need a) they usually don’t have it, or b) it’s considerably more expensive. That said, my horse isn’t on any feed through supplements anyway. There were a couple of times years ago when I emailed requests for certain products (not supplements) and never heard back, but I wasn’t really surprised by that from a big company. To give them credit, they have good customer service from what I’ve personally experienced. Returning the greatly disappointing Piper’s was pretty painless and I got my money back in a timely manner.

you broke my heart, merlot Pipers

I guess I’m just super spoiled by my favorite “big time” online retailer Riding Warehouse. They offer free shipping on all orders over $50, plus their prices are some of the lowest already, plus there’s almost always a $10 off coupon code or a 20% sale going on, plus I get things crazy fast. Like two or three days after I order it. Often it’s boxed up and on it’s way the same day I order, even though I didn’t pay a dime for shipping. I emailed once to ask if they could order an item for me in a color they didn’t offer online and they were on it immediately, made it happen for me, and I still got my free shipping and coupon code. So for me personally, RW has Smartpak beat on every count. Even PS of Sweden, who are located in SWEDEN, have always gotten my orders to me in a week or less (it’s usually on it’s way within a day or two and at my house 3 days later) and they’ve been great with communication.

That’s really far, plus they’re 7 hours ahead of us.

Still, I decided to order a nameplate for Henry with a SmartPak gift card I had, and barn buddy Brandy got in on the order to get herself some spurs and a nameplate for her horse too. Luckily with all 3 things combined we eeked over the $75 minimum for free shipping. It’s cool that USEF members get 5% off, but since I’m a low level eventer I only have to be a USEA member, not a USEF member (thank god) so that helps me none.

I knew that since we ordered nameplates it could take a while to ship, so I placed the order on 1/6 and promptly forgot about it. When I got a shipping notification on 1/10 I was like “awesome, 4 days is a great turnaround time for plates”. Sadly when the package arrived via USPS (started out as UPS then transferred to USPS)  on 1/15 I realized it was only the spurs that had shipped. Nine days to get some spurs? Four days of which were processing? That’s a bit excessive IMO. To make matters more mediocre, the spurs obviously looked like a return of some sort. They were no longer attached to the cardboard backing, but instead were in a plastic baggie with the cardboard backing and the cut zip ties that had originally held the spurs to said backing. They were still in new condition, but that was cheesy. At least zip tie them back on so we never know the difference.

My free RW hat (add it to your cart if your order is over $100) is my favorite hat.
My free RW hat (add it to your cart if your order is over $100) is my favorite hat.

But ah well, whatever. The next day I got another shipping notification and I thought “Oh good, there’s the plates!”. This time the package was carried all the way by UPS and arrived on 1/19. Alas – it was only one plate. Okaaaaay then. I went back to the SmartPak website (which to their credit is very easy to use), and realized the other nameplate shipped on 1/13 via UPS then was transferred to USPS. It was finally delivered yesterday. Weird.

I get that SmartPak is outsourcing the nameplates from elsewhere but that was such a weird shipping/delivery process. Now I see why their prices are higher – they must spend a boatload on shipping! Each thing came packaged in a box, so it definitely could not have been super cheap for 3 boxes.

RWssticker
and I have this sticker, which was 25 cents. Because I’m a fan girl, and because RW are marketing geniuses for putting their logo on really cheap gear. I don’t want your $20 hat, SmartPak!

 

There’s no actual complaint here and SmartPak definitely didn’t do anything wrong, they just yet again haven’t done anything to wow me. They do say that they price match (although I’ve heard someone say they didn’t have luck with that with Tailored Sportsmans) and they have free returns (but so does Riding Warehouse). The turnaround time on the plates was decent, although IMO the spurs were really slow. I guess I just assumed it would all ship together so I didn’t think twice about the spurs taking so long to ship until they actually arrived. Also annoying – the emails. Especially the one I got this morning titled “Amanda – You’re About To Have An Ah-Ha Moment” in which they tried to give me the hard sell on SmartPaks. The only emails I get from Riding Warehouse are about sales and giveaways I think Riding Warehouse will be keeping my business whenever possible. Sorry SmartPak. I tried, I promise. But Riding Warehouse has set the bar way too high! Tell me, SmartPak lovers – what am I missing, because I just don’t get it?

ridingwarehouse
Not only do they have regular giveaway items, but when you enter the giveaway you get a coupon code!

 

44 thoughts on “Still unimpressed with Smartpak

  1. I’ve never had an issue with Smartpak. Maybe it’s my location in the US and I am benefiting from from being on the East Coast where they are based. I love them for their excellent customer service and their sales, I stalk their sales page to snag things on super markdown.

    I sometimes wish they had more variety of items in stock. For instance, I need the “oversize” dressage saddle pads for the draft cross I ride. They had them in black and white, like their regular size pads but then the black ones just disappeared from the website. No explanation and I’m bummed. Haven’t had much luck locating them elsewhere either.

    That being said, you’ve piqued my interest in Riding Warehouse. I’ve never shopped with them before and I love coupons! Going to go check them out now!

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      1. Riding Warehouse has my beloved SSG hybrid gloves!!! Up until now I’ve only seen them at Dover and now I won’t have to pay Dover Saddlery to ship them to me!!! This could be dangerous….

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  2. I’ve also never had a problem with Smartpak, but I only ever use them for supplements right now. To be honest, they don’t carry a lot of things that I care to purchase, and even when they do, I usually find it for cheaper at Riding Warehouse. I’m with you – Riding Warehouse gets all my money, all the time. Love them!

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  3. In my experience, SmartPak has really slipped in both customer service and shipping time recently. I had noticed it myself, then ran across a long thread on CotH (http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?457133-Smartpak-issues-resolved) that corroborated my opinion. It’s really unfortunate, because I feel like they really helped push the other big equestrian online stores to offer faster, cheaper shipping, better returns, and better customer service. And now Smartpak itself is falling to pre-Smartpak levels :/

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    1. Seems like you’re right. I haven’t ordered from them regularly enough to notice a “then vs now” trend, but my experiences in the past year or two have really left me super unimpressed.

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  4. I have my horse on Smartpaks just for the Colicare. I have no real complaint about those, but otherwise they’ve really gone downhill for me over the years. Free returns on sized items? Cool. Free shipping over $75? That’s fine. Half of the time I only want to buy one item and I don’t want to pay to ship it, so I find it elsewhere with cheaper shipping (VTO saddlery has $4.95 shipping and they ship very fast). Smartpak also doesn’t have that great of a selection. Plus, I’m with you on the Piper breeches. I had like 6″ of fabric hanging down below my crotch. Not impressed.

    As far as price matching, I’ve heard they don’t do that anymore. I believe I read it on COTH. I also miss the days when the had codes for free shipping. They used to ship the same day if you ordered before 2pm eastern, but lately I haven’t experienced that. I think as they’ve grown, they haven’t been able to keep that small company feel very well.

    However, I’d pick them any day over Dover Saddlery. I like Dover, but I hate ordering from them. High shipping costs and slow shipping times. Not my favorite.

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  5. I am currently using Smartpaks for both of our horses and haven’t had an issue until lately. The shipping. I don;t know what has happened for Smartpak but my stuff is shipping at weird intervals like you mentioned. I have Smartpaks for two horses that processed on the same day but shipped three days apart. Now one horse will be out of his supplements for a few days. I thought the auto-ship was suppose to avoid that?! I also ordered a monogrammed saddle pad before Christmas- like 10 days before. Did;t make it under the tree and shipped 10 days AFTER Christmas- 2nd day air. It was suppose to ship for free with my Dec Smartpaks. I’m starting to feel discouraged and annoyed.

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    1. THIS! I have SmartPaks for both horses (to make my barn manager’s life easier- and so I can easily tell that the horses are, indeed, getting their supplements), and I get dog food from them (so easy when someone house sits, and comparable in price to what we were buying before).

      Instead of shipping this stuff all at once, it ships in 2, 3, or 4 different shipments. I will receive one horse’s supplements one day, the dogs’ food the next, and the last of the supplements two days later. I haven’t had a problem with running out of anything, but it’s really annoying.

      I also get billed on a different day every both. This isn’t a huge deal, but it would be easier for me to do my budget if I knew that every month on the 15th, I’d get billed for my SmartPaks. Instead, some months it’s the 11th, some months it’s the 25th.

      I don’t order much from them outside of the supplements and dog food, but that’s mostly a function of working at a tack store.

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      1. Hmmm, that’s interesting how they show up on different days like that. It makes me wonder what their process is like behind the scenes. I totally agree about the ease of having supplements and dog food pre-packaged though, they win on that count.

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  6. Smartpak sells a supplement that has fixed the slight lameness issue I have with my horse. They also sell a dog calming supplement, that even with shipping, is less then I can purchase locally at a pet store. Both of these items are excellent and their service has been fantastic.

    Shipping however, sucks.

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  7. Hmm, I’ve never really had trouble with SmartPak either. I’m sorry that you did. They were great when the stitching on the back pocket of my Piper breeches came out after 7 months and replaced them, even let me swap the size! (As a side note, I might be the only person who doesn’t think that the Piper breeches run big. Maybe I’m kidding myself about my breeches size because I have put on some weight, but I ordered my regular size and felt like a sausage in them! The next size up is super comfy and I love them.) Here’s hoping the stitching holds up longer than 6 months though.

    Great to know about Riding Warehouse! I find SmartPak and Dover on the pricey side a lot of the time. And Dover’s shipping is expensive, not to mention shipping is up to you on any returns.

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    1. I felt like a sausage in my regular size in the Pipers too. Well… in the thighs at least, but the waist was super gappy. My main complaint was the material and that they just looked cheap and cheaply made to me. :/ Hope your new pair holds up better!

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      1. Mine were slightly tight in the waist but squeezing the crap out of my thighs and calves. I felt claustrophobic in them. The next size up is a little gappy in the waist, but super comfy everywhere else. Since I use them for schooling, I don’t mind the fabric. Super excited to check out Riding Warehouse, thanks for the tip!

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  8. I can get huuuuuuuge quantities (like a 300 day supply) of the supplements I use (primarily magnesium, but also vitamin e/selenium, and omega horse shine) for cheaper than my local tack stores and Dover, if you count shipping. Also, when I reviewed Quiessence saying it made my horse crazier than when he was on straight magnesium, they emailed me within two days to say “wait! we need more information for the good of all horses!” and I filled out a survey about supplements and behavioral changes. So that made me like them. Oh, and I did get a great blanket deal.

    However, you are correct on slow shipping, not the greatest prices, and not always the products you want. I figure I can’t get everything from any ONE website, so I just shop around all the online retailers for the best prices on what I need and have very little loyalty.

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    1. When I was feeding magnesium they only had products with magnesium oxide, which isn’t my preference due to it’s bio-availability (I prefer magnesium malate), so I ended up going with MagRestore instead. The other supplements I’ve fed (MSM, DMG) I’ve gotten much cheaper online from other supplement stores. But I tend to not really do feed-throughs very much in general… I can see how a service like SmartPak would be beneficial to those that do.

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      1. Unrelated to SmartPak: yeah, it’s interesting how the not-most-bio-available form is actually the best for my horse. I’ve tried basically every magnesium supplement out there, in varying quantities, and I really like the MgO best. So weird.

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  9. With all due respect, it seems to me that you are trying to compare apples and oranges in this post. SmartPak’s target demographic isn’t people looking to save money on shipping or get the best deal on products. It seems that would be Riding Warehouse’s demographic. SmartPak, as the name suggests, started out offering supplements in an easy to dispense package system. Barn managers love SmartPak for that reason. Easy to feed the high maintenance horse their supplements at feed time. Less mess and zero fuss. SmartPak also aims it’s products at the high maintenance horse owner who doesn’t want to sit there once a week and pre-mix all their supplements into plastic bags, because the barn management will only feed supplements, not mix them. Everything else you see on SmartPak today, evolved because their customers wanted more products, in addition to their SmartPaks.

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    1. I disagree. They started out with the SmartPak thing sure, and that might be one of their main pushes, but carrying a lot of other products, offering free shipping, offering free returns – those things all point to expansion into another market. IMO there are two sides of SmartPak, the supplement side and the tack shop side. Me comparing Riding Warehouse to the supplements side of SmartPak would absolutely be apples to oranges. But me comparing Riding Warehouse’s shipping time, processing time and communication to another company that sells a pretty similar collection of products – that seems totally fair to me. Nothing in my order was supplement based. It was just a straight-up order of products from an online tack shop, just like my past several orders from them have been. I don’t understand why my order should process slower, ship slower, and communication be comparably worse. At they end of the day they are both online tack shops.

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    2. Who isn’t looking to get the best deal on products or save money on shipping? And to that point, if people weren’t looking for that, Smartpak wouldn’t offer a free shipping purchase level or price matching.

      As a SmartPak user for supps (though I’m not sure for how much longer), I will grant they they are good at the supplement game and their delivery invention is brilliant. However, I think they are a classic case of trying to be all things to all riders and sacrificing service and quality as a result.

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  10. Yep. Recently experienced Smartpak’s multiple day handling phenomenon. (Dover and Bit of Britain are guilty of this too)

    And UPS smart-post (when you randomly get switched to postal shipping mid-transaction with no notice) is a deal breaker for me. More days added to already too long shipping. Our post office puts up packages when they feel like it, not necessarily on the day they arrive.

    On the other hand – agree that Riding Warehouse is AWE-some. Their website is so well designed, shipping is crazy fast and customer service – excellent. Spending our hard earned money should be pleasant. We should be satisfied with the end product, AND the experience of purchasing it imho.

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  11. I have my SmartPaks autoshipped, mostly because the coat supplement Miles likes best is one of their house brands and I’m also not on the ball enough to buy supplements each month; it’s so much easier to just have them show up! Plus, I’m a USEF member, so I get my 5% off for that.

    I wonder if the takeover by Henry Schein has had something to do with the changes in shipping time/policies? I haven’t done much through them since it happened…

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  12. SmartPak has been saying for years that shipping to Canada is in the works for the future. I can understand not being able to ship the supplements but there is no reason they can’t ship tack and apparel. Major fail in my book.

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  13. I’m surprised that all your items came separately. In my experience, they ship together and with UPS, but I actually do most of my shopping at Equestrian Collections (which also continues to baffle me as they have been the best to buy from yet there are endless complaints).

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  14. I see the appeal for big barn managers, but we never ventured down that road because Platinum Performance is what we have fed for years and swear by it. As more of a tack store, at the end of the day, I’d rather support a local store (even if it’s not local to me, through ordering via phone or e-mail) than a big company anyways.

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  15. I really like SmartPak. I often order fairly basic supplies through them because I can’t get them locally, or easily. I’m not a big buyer of tack or riding clothes, honestly, but I do like the Piper breeches quite a lot.

    Here’s the key to SmartPak for me: Barn Buddy shipping. If anyone in your barn uses SmartPaks on autoship, and they’re basically doing a weekly shipment to your barn anyway, you can buy anything you want and ship it for free. It will arrive on the date your barn receives its SmartPaks. End of story.

    So if on Tuesday afternoon I discover that I need something that costs $5, I go to SmartPak and it’s at the barn by Friday afternoon at the absolute latest, because Thursday is our barn’s shipping day, every week. Added bonus: I don’t have to bring it to the barn myself.

    The ONLY time that hasn’t worked was when I ordered nameplates for the blogger gift swap. Those took forever, and got delivered weirdly, and what you say about outsourcing them makes sense.

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    1. That would be nice if I was in a big barn that was all on SmartPaks (well not really, because then I’d be forced to use SmartPaks LOL) but that’s not the case. The Barn Buddy thing is a pretty cool option though for those that are able to use it. SmartPak does have a lot of good ideas, I will give them that.

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  16. i’ve been pleased with all my smartpak dealings to date – but ALSO super pleased with riding warehouse (and nice to know about the coupon codes!!). we also have a local dover so i can get whatever shipped to their store for free, which is nice… i guess i’m mostly an opportunist about where i shop?

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  17. I don’t have much to add as I have not been super thrilled with them lately, but at least when I worked there they did all embroidery and nameplate engraving in house. Saw it with my own eyes, but that doesn’t mean things haven’t changed.

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    1. I know that my plate shipped from like WI or something like that, and the other shipped out of the CT location (as did the spurs). Mine was a plastic plate, the other was a metal plate.

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  18. I’ve been using Smartpak for the last 6 years for supplements and have definitely seen the de-evolvement of the company. They’ve done some really strange things with my supplements: I’ve received double shipments on supplements, orders that supposedly shipped and then took a full 7 business days to get to me (and I’m on the East coast), and the whole thing with billing for monthly supplements drives me bonkers. I have my horses on separate orders two weeks apart. Or rather, that’s how I deliberately set it up in the beginning…and now the orders have somehow shifted so that they are being billed on the same day. They still arrive on separate days. I had a wish list with them for Black Friday because they were going to have a “site-wide sale” (I think it was supposed to be 10-15% off “everything”?) Well, I put things in my cart and when I go to check out I realized that the discount had only been applied to one thing. I was able to find the fine print on the sale, and the supposed “site-wide” sale was limited to maybe 3 brands. The list of brands not included in the sale was 3 columns long! I was disgusted and needless to say, did not buy any of the things I had wanted with them. (I found them all on Riding Warehouse for less money to begin with AND 20% off!) I have witnessed their gradual price increases on shipping, merchandise and supplements, to the point where some supplements I simply buy in buckets from Horsetech or the feed store. FYI: for supplements, Horsetech is AMAZING! Free shipping on all of their supplements regardless of weight, orders usually arrive in 2-3 business days, they do a great job packing the supplements (a pet peeve of mine with a lot of other online tack stores, especially since I managed the shipping department of a local tack store down in Tampa) and they always send a bag of Famous Amos cookies in the box with your order. 🙂

    For tack items, I LOVE Riding Warehouse too. I’ve bought most of my endurance gear from them. As you know, their service, sales and shipping are stellar. The $5 2-Day shipping is just AWESOME. I want to add, for anyone else reading, that their processing of returns is *free* and painless: in the past when I’ve had to return something, I’ve had my refund within the week. Not only do they include your free return label with your order so you don’t have to be calling them for an RA number, they will accept returns for up to a year after purchase!

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  19. I thought I was going crazy with the whole weird-shipping thing. I haven’t had any boxes come on separate days, but the delay in shipping has become noticeable. And the hey-we’re-going-to-take-your-money-earlier-and-earlier,-but-ship-later-and-later. I’ve wondered if I could find all the supplements I give the monster cheaper and if I would have the time/energy to bag all that shit up. Also, would my BM kill me? I’ve been using Smartpak for about…. seven years. I think. I appreciate that if my supplements are over $40, I get free shipping and anything I send with it comes free, too. So the fly sprays and randomness are all always free. And if I want something between shipments, my barn is listed as a “barn buddy” or whatever, and I can ship free to it whenever I want. So, I mean, some perks. But it has gotten weird.

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