Anglers express anger, support
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Thursday, January 21, 2010
1/21/10 at 5:40 AM
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IN A TIME when some might say overzealous brand loyalty and commercialism have tainted the fishing industry, amateur and pro competitors as well as ordinary fishermen sent a resounding message to Lowrance and Navico Inc. this week that the service and people behind the product still matter — a lot.
Details of the conflict are not the point here. Those matters are better left to employee and employer. But this widespread outpouring of support is phenomenal. It shows how close are the ties among members of the fishing community across this country. It serves as an example for any business or employee. It shows what a difference one person's customer service can make and how much it can mean to people on a personal level.
So intense was the reaction of bass anglers in Oklahoma and across the country that Navico Chief Operating Officer Louis Chemi was moved to post a response on at least two online message boards regarding the resignation of a woman who apparently was one of the company's top customer service representatives. Linda Colt, a 21-year employee of Lowrance and Navico, left the company early this week after apparent disagreement with her supervisors.
"Customer Service is the top priority for Navico and Linda Colt exemplifies what we want to achieve with our customer support," Chemi wrote on the BassZone and BassBoat Central Web site message boards. "Linda has been a truly valued member of the Customer Service team and we did not wish to see her resign from Navico. We want to assure you that we have heard all of your inputs, and we appreciate all the passion that you have shown in this matter. We are continuing our discussions with Linda."
Chemi's e-mail and phone number were posted on the message boards early in the day. By day's end people were commenting about rejected e-mails and a voicemail box that apparently was full.
Dozens upon dozens commented on a variety of forums from bassresource.com to texasfishingforum.com, bassboatmagazine.com and even ohiogamefishing.com. Stress of the situation affected Colt, who was admitted at St. Johns Hospital with chest pains Tuesday night. She wrote to her supporters Wednesday morning.
" I am totally overwhelmed with the response and support you all have given me from all over the world. I am very humble and appreciate it so much. I hope to return every phone message I have received. I am home from the hospital and hopefully will be fine. I have been through a lot the past few weeks. I have a meeting scheduled with Navico however I understand no one from corporate will be there, nor have they contacted me I certainly hope things can be worked out. I am truly sorry it happened this way."
On BassZone.com, where message board participants are required to use their real names rather than aliases, fishermen threatened to dump their Lowrance products and several discussed organizing a protest at the upcoming Tulsa Boat Show.
"For me there is no such thing as Lowrance without Linda Colt," wrote BASS and FLW tour angler Jason Fox of Bakersfield, Calif. Fox, formerly of Bixby, said over the phone Wednesday that few like Colt remain in an industry that supplies equipment of such importance to competitive anglers. "Usually it's 30 or 40 minutes waiting and then it's like getting a telemarketer on the line," he said. "Linda has helped me over eight years of tournament fishing, helped me tremendously. She actually cared and usually helped me save money in the long run. She was phenomenal and went beyond the call. This thing, it's almost like a slap in the face to anyone who has bought Lowrance products."
Fox said he will remove Lowrance products and promotional stickers from his boat if the situation is not resolved "in a way that restores the dignity that she deserves."
Lowrance, originally based in Joplin, Mo., designed the world's first high frequency transistorized sonar for sport fishing in the late 1950s. It has been a leader in fish-finding and navigation technologies for decades and has been based in Tulsa since 1964. Navico, Inc. purchased the company two years ago.