Survey of Polysail Customers - 2004
What We Did
In February 2004 PolySail International conducted
a third customer survey, this time of 50 randomly selected customers
from our 2002-2003 database of about 160 customers. For comparison
purposes, we used the same survey form that we used in our last
survey of approximately the same number of customers in 2001.
As in past years, the response rate was excellent. Of the 50
surveys mailed, 26 were returned by customers and 1 envelope
was returned as undeliverable for a response rate of 53% as
compared to our 2001 response rate of 35%.
What We Learned
Stewart Elkin’s Sprit PolySail
The information from this year’s survey
was probably more useful than that received in previous years
when the responses were almost universally short, positive responses
to all questions. Many of this year’s respondents took
the time to add notes, make recommendations, or submit pictures
with their surveys. These more complete responses helped us
gain more depth of understanding about why some people responded
as they did to certain questions.
The number and types of sails made from white
polytarp continues to expand by about 20% each year. Customers
are generally very positive about all aspects of PolySails ranging
from ordering, to ease of sail construction, to appearance and
performance, to their own price/value estimations. We continue
to be encouraged by the successful use of PolySails on high
performance catamarans and larger sailing boats with no reports
of material failure.
Among the more interesting notes, we found:
One lateen PolySail
had survived a tornado on the spars. The customer reported
some fraying on one side, but he had patched it with tape
and expected the sail to last another season.
All kinds of sails
were constructed for a variety of boats, including a “maxed-out
marconi” for an unspecified 22’ boat, a high-aspect
battened marconi for a 14’ catamaran, gaffs and jibs
for Weekenders, a sleeved sail for a Zuma, a number of 59
sq. ft. leg o’ mutton sprits for Bolger dinghies, lugs
for Michalak designs, a hand-held ice-skate sail, as well
as lateens and loose-footed sprits for assorted skiffs and
prams. One older gentleman even rigged up a sail for his jonboat.
Completed sails that
had been stitched around the edges outnumbered sails that
had been finished with tape alone by a ratio of over 2-1.
About 15% of the customers
used the kits or components for other applications, including
boat covers, a tent floor, a kayak spray skirt (not recommended,
according to the spray skirt customer), and tape for a hospital
case. Three customers said that they hadn’t finished
their sails yet.
After helping his
grandfather construct a PolySail, one customer’s grandson
subsequently found employment with Halsey Lidgard Sailmakers
in Mystic, CT. (Halsel Lidgard furnished the sails for Cheyenne
which recently set a new around the world sailing record of
58 days, 9 hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds.)
We found that we had
mistakenly recommended the wrong sized kit for one customer’s
Piccup Pram, thinking he was using the 55 sq. ft. sail from
Michalak’s original plan instead of the 70 sq. ft. version.
We sent the customer a new, larger kit as a free replacement.
From a business perspective, we were pleased to find that
our customers were still nearly 100% satisfied with our ordering
process, shipping times, and the condition of the materials
upon arrival. Except for one person who did not enter a response
to the first question under the ORDERING/SHIPPING/ HANDLING/PACKAGING
section, everyone responded positively to all three questions
in this section.
We were also pleased to note that nearly all customers responded
positively to the first two questions under the PRICE/VALUE
section indicating that our kits are fairly priced and accurately
advertised. (There were no negative responses to these first
two questions in this section, but two customers failed to enter
a response.) All but two customers would also recommend us to
others; and one of those two nays had more to do with the customer’s
application—attempting to make a kayak spray skirt from
the kit—rather than being disappointed with the kit’s
intended use. (Three customers volunteered that they had already
recommended us to others.)
In response to the fourth question in this section, most customers
(17) said they would consider purchasing another kit if the
need arose. Another would buy the polytarp only, and two others
would use the kit materials and what they had learned to purchase
materials locally for another polytarp sail. One person decided
that he preferred Dacron for his next sail, and four more were
in the “maybe” category.
Under the section on INSTRUCTIONS/CONSTRUCTION,
we asked customers six different questions related to the quality
of the instructions and ease and method of construction (see
attached survey). Only 19 customers had both used the kits for
sails and actually finished construction. In addition, customers
were not asked to respond to all questions, so not all customers
responded to all questions in this section.
Asked if they had encountered any major problems in following
the step-by-step instructions, 18 respondents replied “no”
and 1 person said “yes. In terms of time for construction,
only 4 customers of the 13 who responded to this question said
they were able to finish their sails in 4 hours or less. Six
indicated that their sails were finished in 5-7 hours, and 3
required 8 hours or more. However, when asked if the time for
construction was about what our ads had led them to expect,
9 customers said “yes” and only 4 said “no”
with two persons adding that they had constructed two sails,
instead of just one. (One customer, though, complained that
it took two people an afternoon to make a sail when he expected
that it would only take one person that long to complete the
task.) Stitched construction might also have added to expected
construction time for 13 of the customers who used this method
of construction vs. the 6 who reported using tape only.
In response to two specific questions about the uses of kit
components, over 15 customers reported using both the vinyl
tape and the rope reinforcement for all edges and corners.
Finally, we received a few suggestions for improving the instructions,
including two requests for more photos and illustrations. One
person suggested that our instructions were too simple and recommended
that we add details on types of sails, cuts, and optional technical
instructions. Seven others indicated that the instructions were
okay as written.
We paid particular attention to the responses to the eight
questions on the section on PERFORMANCE/APPEARANCE to judge
how customers see our product in relation to “real”
sails. Again, the customer answers on this section were dependent
upon whether they had completed sail construction. The first
two questions in this section asked about the kind and size
of the sail constructed and the size and kind of boat powered.
As mentioned earlier, all kinds of sails and boats were represented.
In response to the question, “Did the sail perform as
well as you expected?” 14 customers responded positively
and none responded negatively. However, there were a couple
of caveats. One cat sailor said that the main was excellent,
but the jib must be sewn; and the “maxed-out Marconi”
that powered the 22’ boat was described as “a little
heavy.” On the other hand, one brave soul who sailed a
CLC kayak with outrigger said, “The sails worked pretty
well, I had one kayak out in 25 gusting to 30 knot winds, and
the sail held up without damage.” Another customer simply
said, “It performed as a sail should. It went.”
We received only four responses to the question about how well
our sails compared to commercially made sails on the same boats.
Two described the PolySails as comparable, and two customers
did not think that they measured up. A fifth customer weighed
in by saying that it was hard to compare his inexpensive PolySail
to a $950 commercially made sail.
We also received few responses to the question about whether
the tapes stayed in place about as well as expected when the
sails were not stitched. Four customers reported that the tapes
stayed in place with one person reporting, “All tape okay.”
Another worried that the tape was not sticky enough, and one
person said that the tape had not stayed in place “as
long as hoped.” Three customers split on which tapes failed
to adhere well. One placed the blame on the double-faced tape,
while two blamed the vinyl. Another customer observed that “Not
sewing [the sail is] okay if [the sail] is not in the sun very
long.” Taking the recommendation in the instructions,
most customers indicated that they had stitched their sails
at the outset. The mixed responses on tapes might have been
related to the lengths of time the sails had been in use since
both 2002 and 2003 customers were included in the survey.
We asked if the sail was as durable and long lasting as expected
and received 14 positive responses and no negative responses.
However, it was apparent that several customers hadn’t
tested their sails for any length of time yet with two customers
saying, “so far” and another saying, “wait
A final question in this section asked if the sail appearance
met customer expectations and whether customers had received
comments from others. Again, nearly all responses were generally
positive except for the customer who constructed the kayak spray
skirt and reported, “Not recommended for spray skirts–looked
bad, performed worse.” Other customers were more enthusiastic.
Following are some of the comments received:
product–great service, thanks.” Tom Traband
nice appearance–good comments.” Jim Isleib
They’re impressed.” Bill Chaney
nice.” George Daleiden
enough. I would do this again for inexpensive sails.”
material looks very attractive–I will never hesitate
to use PolySail again or recommend your product to others.
You guys are doing a great job making sails affordable to
the average person.” Zach Garrett
good, I think. Great product, a real service to small-boat
building.” Gene Sampson
We also asked for customer’s ADDITIONAL COMMENTS. Here
are the responses we received:
buyers to try sewing the taped edges–it’s not
that hard, even for a total amateur “tailor” like
me. I had excellent (& strong) results with a 30-year-old
Singer machine, & some thread & needle recommended
by the local fabric store. Sewing with the proper needle &
thread does not tax the machine at all–it zips right
along. PS. My main is a hi-aspect catamaran sail, approx.
14’ x 6’–requires battens & pockets.”
“I was very happy with
the tarp. I covered a 17’ day sailer with it. I no longer
have the boat, but the tarp was still like new after sitting
outside in the Florida sun for a year. And I have recommended
your company to others. Thanks–the country is running
out of honest guys like you.” George Jacobs
“Why not use 3M Mylar
tape? I know it is $$, but it’s a superior product &
lighter than the duct tape in the kit.” Tom Dooley
“My grandson who helped
me with my sail has been hired since by Halsey Lidgard in
Mystic, CT” Melvin Wolpert
enclosed picture. I made the boat for my grandson and sail
it on a local lake. You have permission to reprint the picture
if you want.” Stewart Elkin
The hints of pride in these last two comments point to a phenomenon
that has become increasingly clear to us over the past seven
years of talking with customers–people who have undertaken
the challenge of building their own boats often want to build
the sails too as an integral part of finishing their unique
creations. While cost might be a consideration for many builders,
it’s not always the primary reason for choosing our product.
Perhaps this explains why so many professionals who could easily
afford commercially made sails also order our inexpensive sail-making
kits. In any event, we’re pledged to keep improving our
product and happy to be partners in the creative process with
so many boatbuilders and sailors.
We are conducting a random survey of 50 customers who ordered
PolySail Kits in the year 2002 and 2003. Completion of this
survey helps us improve our product for other boat builders
and sailors and also lets us know how we can improve the quality
of our customer service. Please use the following questions
to guide your responses in any of the following areas where
you think they would be helpful. You don't need to answer all
of the questions, but we greatly appreciate any answers. A postage
paid envelope is provided for your responses.
Did we handle your questions and order courteously and in
a businesslike fashion?
Was the product shipped promptly after your order was placed?
Did you receive the order within the expected time frame and
in good condition?
Did you encounter any major problems following the generic
step-by-step instructions or using the kit materials?
How long did it take you to construct a sail that met your
expectations on your first effort with this kit? Was this construction
time about what our ads led you to expect?
Did you apply the vinyl tape to all edges and corners?
Did you use the rope to reinforce all edges and corners?
Did you reinforce all edges and corners with stitching?
How could the instructions be improved?
What kind and size of sail(s) did you make? What kind and
size of boat does/do the sail(s) power?
Did the sail perform as well as you expected?
If you have previously used other commercially made sails on
your boat, was the performance comparable to the commercially
If you did not stitch the sail, has the tape stayed in place
about as well as you expected? (If there were problems with
tapes, please let us know the nature of the problems and whether
the problems affected the double-faced tape, the vinyl tape,
Is the sail as durable and long lasting as you expected?
Did the sail appearance meet your expectations? Any comments
Did you feel the kit was fairly priced?
Do you feel the kit was advertised accurately and fairly?
Would you recommend our products to others?
Would you consider purchasing another of our kits if the need
arose for a new sail?
Were there other sail related products we could offer that
you found you needed to fully rig your sail once it was completed?
May we have permission to use your responses on our website
or in ads? Yes No
If you do grant us permission to use your responses, please
print and sign your name below (or we won’t know who you
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