Jackie and I were putting up clothing for display in the clothing room at Red Rock. We have lots of it with all brands including Striker, Ice Armor, Polar Fire, Arctic Shield, Wild Fowler, Vexilar, Frabill and a few others that I can’t recall. When I got to the Frabill I5 bibs, I decided to do a quick run through them to see what makes them so special because customers are going to ask. So, I unzipped all the zippers, saw the removable insulating liner, the boot gators, the handwarmer pockets, the cargo pockets, the chest pockets, and the complete lack of a fly zipper.
WHAT! These $450 bibs must be defective. I promptly opened another bag and found the same thing. I literally thought “WTF”! Who would make men’s bibs for ice fishing and open water fishing WITHOUT a fly? How frikkin’ insane is that? After pointing it out to assistant manager Jackie, we were perplexed and the hanging Frabill process stopped dead in its tracks. We did NOT want to “get stuck” with a product that had a flaw in it that we would then have to figure out how to sell as our distributor would want the money regardless. We’ve been there, done that and “getting hosed again” in difficult economic times is not on our business bucket list. After much discussion, I called my rep from the distributor and left a voice mail message, that he STILL has not returned. (John – is your phone broken?)
I was “irked” about this flyless pile of clothes that made no sense. After thinking about it some more and how we’re going to get screwed again, I decided to call customer service at Frabill which turns out to be Plano Molding, the new owner of Frabill. I got a hold of a guy named Mark and asked him point blank what kind of an idiot would build men’s bibs with no fly & how the heck are we gonna sell these & and what are they gonna do about it. Mark said that I was not the first to ask these same questions, and he explained about pulling the bibs down, and doing “one’s business” over the top. That seemed ridiculous to me and I countered as such. Mark suggested that I send him an email voicing my concerns and that he’d get it to the right people to address this. I agreed, hung up the phone, put on a more professional-but-blunt attitude and composed this email:
Dear Clothing Designers from Frabill –
What on Earth were you thinking when you designed insulated bibs for ice fishing with NO FLY? Obviously, you’ve either never been ice fishing or you are a woman or group of women. I can’t help the challenges women are presented with for relieving themselves, but I certainly am able to address what men who fish in real outdoor conditions need.
Here I was, hanging $450, I5 Series suits that are supposedly “bullet-proof” regarding water. I checked them over and noticed the lack of any sort of access and a double zipper that serves no purpose. I can kind of understand why you somehow believe that stopping rain to the “nth” degree is important, but how important will that be on expensive bibs that don’t let water out? Also, I get that there are crazies out there who think that “more is better” when it comes to waterproofing, but it’s not like anyone who buys these suits will be standing in an automatic car wash with the $9 wash & wax.
So, here I am touting these “great” Frabil clothes on my blog and it is getting TONS of visits. https://redrockstore.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/update-frabill-i5-parka/
What do I do now? At customer service, the man told me that there was (by the opinion of the design team) enough “stretch” in the front flap to allow “the unit” to hang over the edge and let fly. Maybe the design team at Frabill is unaware, but I’m pretty certain that not everyone is a porn star who will be stuffing themselves into these bibs. I also know that older customers (those who can actually afford this expensive stuff) may not be quite as agile. They are going to go ballistic when this fails for them. All the ballistic nylon and water-stopping properties of the I5 will be meaningless. And, on top of that, how hygienic is that going to be? Remind me to put on rubber gloves before I handle I Series bibs from somebody else. I realize that we are not performing surgery on the ice, but there are some fluids that I would simply prefer to not share.
When word makes the ice that there is no fly in these bibs, we are done. Just imagine the jokes after the frantic struggling on the ice after riding a snowmobile for 15 miles, or getting undressed on the ice -in the wind at -15 below- with one’s bibs flopping around. I’m not a clothing designer, but I can’t fathom that this one detail was left behind by either gender.
So, either we are going to have to give a box of Depends with each I suit or I guess we are not going to sell them. Full knowing that your competition made it a point to extend the fly zipper two inches “lower” to aid in ice fishermens’ access, they are going to chew you up once winter gets underway as this has been just one of their many selling points for THREE SOLID YEARS. I have no choice but to call my rep and have him take the I Series back.
I just felt you needed to know this.
Red Rock Wilderness Store – Ely, MN
Well, that got everybody’s attention at Frabill. Their big cheese, Chris Leonard, Product Manager of Frabill’s Technical Apparel called me up at 9:05 AM the very next morning. He was a pleasant fellow and was actually laughing about my email. He said that it was handed around the office a bunch before it made his inbox and everybody there had a good laugh. He said that he is an ice fisherman, and he knows the importance of the topic I presented. He then pointed out all the features and design concerns they considered when building the I Series line and in having interviewed many, inclement-weather fishermen who go out in cold conditions on open water, they found that the biggest problem is having a wet crotch (my words) from pooling rain while seated in a boat. It tends to run down one’s jacket and makes a lake above one’s nether regions whereupon it leaks through a fly zipper, thus making “the boys” uncomfortable. This is also a problem in wet snow so Chris and team, came up with a design that addresses that problem – because “wet” is not desirable with premium clothing. They considered many different options. After his calm, rational explanation of the “flyless” bib design, I thanked him, hung up the phone, and ran upstairs to try on a Frabill I5 Series bib. I tried it out – going through the motions of course, as the morning coffee had not yet kicked in, (plus, I’m in a nice building),- and LO & BEHOLD!, you don’t have to be a porn star to whip it out when you gotta go. (This is a truly crazy topic.) I even made a video about it. So, if you want to see how to properly and quickly urinate with a pair of Frabill I Series Bibs on, you can see it here FIRST at Red Rock Outdoors Blog: