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Buyer beware: My Experience with the Harbolt Company

New iPhone

I bought a new iPhone15 Pro Max back in September. I bought it because I am a blind user, the pro model of iPhone has a camera system that allows me to get lots of information about my visual surroundings like how far away people are or if people are even in the room with me and I wanted to take advantage of it. I got the new phone and the camera did not disappoint. In addition to the built-in accessibility features I just mentioned, my results with Be My Eyes, particularly Be My AI gave me more information than I strictly knew what to do with. There was just one problem—I had to hold my phone in my hands the whole time I was using it. Since I was using the camera system to navigate unfamiliar environments and troubleshoot computers where the screen reader wasn’t functioning, I needed a hands-free solution yesterday.

Enter the Harbolt Company

I started looking into equipment that would let me use the iPhone’s camera hands-free. Most of the options I found had two unacceptable problems:

First, the product was a body harness with a holster in the front. You can find any number of these on Amazon and other shopping sites. This would not work for me because I need something that at least tries to look professional for when I’m using the camera at my job. The harnesses are more suited to some kind of sport you want to video from your point of view.

Second, the product looked reasonably unobtrusive, but required the use of an adhesive to stick to the phone and hold it in place. I found this solution unacceptable because adhesives were out over time. Also, it’s hard to get that crap off of hard surfaces, meaning the trade-in value of my phone would automatically go down. There’s also the issue of the adhesive pad possibly blocking access to MagSafe and regular wireless charging, a sacrifice I was unwilling to make as the price of a hands-free camera system.

I eventually found a lanyard that appeared to be just what I was looking for. It attached to the phone through MagSafe meaning no sticky residue and the lanyard could be detached and attached at will. It also was a lanyard similar to the kind used for hold ID badges, so it would be fairly unobtrusive in a professional setting. For those of you who want to view the product firsthand, here is the link to the product:

https://harboltcompany.com/products/universal-adjustable-nylon-phone-lanyard-for-neck-or-crossbody-with-adhesive-patch-or-magnetic-attachment-for-carrying-your-phone-hands-free-traveling-with-gps-or-using-aira-or-be-my-eyes?_pos=1&_sid=b31a88081&_ss=r&variant=47241970483479

The first thing you might notice upon clicking this link is that there are no pictures of the product at all. You also notice all the features I’ve listed here, as long as a 40+ minute description of the product.

I purchased the product in the middle of last week and it was here by Saturday. I’ve spent two days with it.

The First Problem

The first problem is there were no directions in the box. Along with the lanyard and MagSafe attachment, I got a random USBC cable with two loose end pieces and two Harbolt Company business cards. Self, I said, No problem. I’ll just listen to the audio description of the product.

The Second Problem

This lanyard also is available with an adhesive patch for phones that don’t support MagSafe. The majority of the product description talked solely about this aspect. By the time the description got to the Magsafe portion of the description, it was not as detailed suggesting the Magsafe and adhesive patch work the same way. There just wasn’t sufficient guidance on how to properly use the MagSafe feature.

The Third Problem

I couldn’t get the phone to stay upright. I tried over and over again to position the phone on the lanyard with the back camera facing out. When I would magnetically attach the phone to the lanyard and let go, the phone would rotate and end up upside down. I spent an hour dealing with this before asking a friend who bought the product not long before I purchased it. The friend said they had sighted assistance setting up the lanyard.

Thought I could Get Sighted Assistance

This isn’t my first time needing sighted assistance to set up a new purchase. Since nobody was going to be in my immediate area in the foreseeable future, I posted the link to the product to social media asking for assistance on how to set it up. It didn’t take long for me to receive the feedback that the seller had only lightning bolts in place of product pictures. Aside from having a conversation about how unhelpful that was there wasn’t much else to do.

The Support Experience

After a total of three hours with this product and not being able to successfully set it up, I decided to return it for a refund and use the money towards a product that would better suit my purpose. I found the seller’s contact form and sent a message asking for information on how to return the product, then I got some dinner. When I returned from dinner, I had two phone calls, two voicemails and a text message from the seller saying it would be easy for me to be told what I was doing wrong if I called for support. There was a lot of back and forth, and the short of it was that I felt like something was wrong with the product and I felt the best thing to do was return it for a refund.

Upon reading the return policies earlier today, I discovered I had to actually call for support before I would be permitted to move forward with the return. At this point, I’d been trying the product for two days and discovered the following:

  • the magnet is extremely easy to pull off. I dropped my phone three times, stepping on it once.
  • Even when I managed to get the camera to point outward, it was at such an angle that what was mostly in view was the ceiling.

I called for support just before sitting down to write this. More back and forth before the seller agreed to take the product back for a full refund minus a 15% restocking fee. I was left wondering what it would take for me to feel this issue is resolved.

What Do I Want?

The simplest answer would be a refund minus the restocking fee and a lesson learned about making sure a site selling a product has enough information to make sure I can get the support I need before purchasing. I’ve never really been good at keeping it simple, so what do I want?

I want the same experience the other buyers of this product are getting, according to the product description. I want a hands-free solution for this incredible camera system. What can the seller do to give me that?

This post has been heavily edited at the suggestion of a friend, and what I’m left with is this: The information about this product needs to be clearer. It doesn’t seem too terrible an inconvenience to me that there could be two sets of directions for the adhesive patch and Magsafe connector respectively.

The other important thing would be to include pictures of the product in use. Yes, this product seems to be intended for blind users, but sighted family and friends might not buy this without being able to look at the product before purchasing. The lack of pictures also hindered my ability to get sighted assistance from online communities, a resource I find invaluable and was incredibly frustrated not to be able to utilize.

What Can You Do?

There’s not much, I’m afraid. I mainly wrote this so you could be aware of the experience and base your own purchasing decisions on it.Maybe word of this review will get back to the seller and the directions will be updated. Things like that happen.

If you really want to do something, though, you can share this post on whatever social media you find it. I’ll be tagging the name of the business as part of this post and that should be enough to get it into the stream of Internet consciousness. Please do not @ mention them when you share. There’s a difference between communicating a subpar experience and harassing someone off the internet entirely.heInternet as a whole doesn’t leave a lot of room for self-improvement or redemption as it is.

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  1. Avatar Steve says:

    This is very surprising. I’ve always have had good dealings with the Harbolt company and have always found Brent to be very willing and fair when dealing with any issues. Hopefully you’ll eventually find what you’re looking for, I wish you luck though as I’m hard pressed to think of many other sites that even attempt to provide accessible instructions.

  2. Avatar Haylie says:

    Yep, I don’t do business with him any longer either. Buyer beware! He jacks his prices up and the same things can be found on Amazon or sometimes newer versions from AT Guys!

  3. Setting the record straight with truths from Harbolt Company

    By Harbolt Company. I don’t normally do this, but I feel like I need to jump in here and comment on some of the things that Mr. Reed is saying. First of all, The Harbolt Company has been in business for almost 10 years and we haven’t and could not be in business that long if we provided horrible customer service! That is why we have thousands of satisfied customers because we bend over backwards to have great customer service. Mr. Reed ordered this lanyard from us on October 17 and on October 21 he reached out to us to ask for a refund. I responded very quickly and asked him to please give me a call so we could talk about what the problem was. He initially did not want to talk to me over the phone And I went ahead and agreed on the return and sent him the return address. A day later he did end up calling me and we spoke about the problems he was having. I explained to him that we are unable to test out the thousands of cases that are out there for phones and that we have sold about 50 of these and he is the only one that has had any kind of an issue. I told him that I had sent him the email with the return address and as soon as I received it back, I would issue him the refund. On October 24 I emailed Mr. Reed again and informed him That I would be waiving the restocking fee because this problem he was having was no fault of his own. He is telling everyone that I am insisting on charging him the restocking fee and this is simply not true. Our goal here is not to cause people pain but to make things easier for the blind community. I am visually impaired myself and the products that I sell on the store are the products that I use personally. I want to set the record straight here and this is the last thing I’m going to say on this. We have always bent over backwards for our customers. I even went out and purchased an iPhone 15 Pro Max just so I could do testing after Mr. Reed informed me of the problems he was having with his phone. NO, we don’t include instructions in our packages that is why we include an audio description on our website. Most blind people do not want to mess with printed instructions and so therefore we are one of the very few companies and one of the first companies to include audio descriptions of every product we sell. I understand that sometimes people want pictures for their products, are inventory changes so frequently that it is hard for me to keep up with the pictures and being that I am blind myself, I am unable to make sure that the pictures turn out well. I will try and get some pictures up for the products that we plan on carrying in stock on a regular basis. Please see my email below and you will see everything that I sent to Mr. Reed on October 24 . So all of these claims that we were going to hold his money, are completely unfounded. Also, I want to mention that it is November 7 , and we have still not received the product back to us. I would also like to mention I have sent Mr. Reed about three different emails and have never gotten a single response. As far as the cable with the magnetic tips. We like to do nice things for our customers and from time to time we will put free items in the package for our customers. That is a magnetic cable charging kit that is USB on one side and you get three tips for the other side which is micro USB, USB type C, and Apple lightning. I am unsure as to why people don’t reach out and just ask me through a quick email what these things are and why they would rather post this on a public list? Is it so wrong to want to do nice things for our customers? It’s just something that we like to do as an extra bonus. Thank you for letting me speak the truth to everyone. I hope everyone checks out our website as we do have some great products!
    10/24/23
    Just a quick thank you

    Hi Randy. I just wanted to say thank you very much for taking a few minutes to speak with me today. We do our best to help out everyone in the blind community with product that we think we know they would like. We’ve been doing this now for almost 10 years. It’s impossible for us to test out every case and every phone with this lanyard system, but I wanted to say that I appreciate you visiting with me because you have inspired me to go purchase an iPhone 15 Pro Max to test it out. If possible and you have the time, and you can find out for me, it would greatly benefit me to know What model of OtterBox case that is that you are using. We want this lanyard system to be the best for all of our customers, and it will do that if we can get the proper information out to people about it. That’s why it will help me a great deal if you are able to get me the model of the OtterBox case. And I also wanted to let you know I’m going to be refunding you all of your money and not keeping the 15% restocking fee. The lanyard issue you are having is not an issue with you at all and I just want this to be the best it can be. I myself and Aira Explorer and have been since day one. I’m always looking out for the best option to be able to use Aira when I am out and about and I always look forward to finding something that I can share with the community. Thank you in advance for any help you can give me on this as I look forward to doing some more testing so I can better inform other customers down the line like yourself. Thank you for giving us a chance with this product and I’m sorry that it did not work out better for you. It’s like just one of those things where one thing is not going to work for everyone out there. That’s what makes the world go round with different options and different choices. I hope you understand.

    Brent Harbolt
    The Harbolt Company
    A Little Something For Everyone!

  4. Avatar White Cane Solutions says:

    White Cane Solutions is not impressed with The Harbolt Company, and their opinion is below.
    Normally I would not do this, but this has to be said at this point. Do not purchase from the Harbolt Company!! Problem number one is he overcharges for older versions of products. Ffor example, he is selling a Smart Bluetooth Air Card for about $50. I found the exact same thing on Amazon, but in this case with a replaceable battery, for $40. This has been the case with other products he sells as well. Problem number two goes right along with problem number one. There are often newer versions of the same products out there and sometimes cheaper than what he has such as the Sleep Headphones he has. Go to AT Guys instead. They have a better version of this that has much better battery life! Grant it they are more expensive, but then again 12 hours of battery life instead of 4 to 5 hours. There are even ones on the market better than 12 hours from the quick search I did.
    The ABSOLUTE and FINAL straw with the Harbolt Company was yesterday. I went to order using the pay in four option, and the resulting page kept coming back up instead of taking me to the payment plan page. There was nothing to tell me where or what the error was, and even though I explained the problem to him, his responce was it works fine for me. I explained exactly what the issue was and that there should be notification given of what the error is and how to fix it, and he blew me off just like I previously stated. So, in my infinite wisdom, I ran a full accessibility check of his entire website. Being that he is blind, he should be focused on having an accessible website, and the long story short is that it failed the accessibility test.

    • Avatar Brent Harbolt says:

      I guess Haylie that you forgot to mention that I called you on the phone to try and work through this problem and your phone disconnected and you never called me back. I also guessed that you failed to mention that I tried messaging you to call me and you never did. And I guess you also forgot to mention That in tech-support if you can’t duplicate the problem, you can’t fix the problem. I use a Shopify website and therefore I don’t have any control over the payment part of it. And also, I guess you forgot to mention that I told you several people have already used the installment payments without any problems. And yes I tested it myself and it worked fine for me. So what else can I do here? Maybe next time when you want to post something like this, you should mention all of the facts?

  5. Avatar White Cane Solutions says:

    What Brent is failing to mention is that it was my business that contacted him about accessibility issues. The fact here is that Brent is not taking responcibility for his entire site including the checkout and payments sections. He is absolutely clueless about the WCAG 2.2 guidelines, and it is clear he does not care about making sure everything is accessible. It does not matter that the pay in 4 option appears to take one somewhere else. What matters is if everything works as it should. The fact is that there is no error message given when the page keeps returning you to the same page after hitting the payment plans button when doing the pay in 4 plan. That problem alone fails Section 3.3 of WCAG Errors and Error Prevention. Accessibility is what White Cane Solutions does for a living, and just on the surface alone, there are a total of 57 focusable element problems on just the two pages I looked at. You know what Brent, White Cane Solutions has a duty to advise people to stay away from companies who do not care about accessibility, and we will do just that. Also, one of our clients, who is an attorney, has been made aware of your website and the fact that you clearly do not care about accessibility. Blowing me off and saying it works for me is not a valid legal defense by the way, and saying it works for others is not a valid legal defense either. The fact here is what was stated earlier where there is nothing to tell me what the error is which fails the WCAG Section 3.3, and the other facts are that there are other accessibility issues that have only been barely touched on.

  6. Avatar Haylie says:

    Just another product to prove my point that he is ripping people off. The Tower of Power, which is a great product, Brent sells for $80. I found the same and/or better products on Amazon that are still towers just like he sells for between $30 and $40. I even found one that is a surge protector not just a power strip that has 16 plugs, 3 USB A ports, and 2 USB C ports. This was just about $34.

  7. Avatar Haylie says:

    It is definitely a shame that Brent even though he is blind himself thinks that it is perfectly fine to not have an accessible site and checkout process if doing the pay in four option and also overcharging and ripping off others who are blind. Most blind individuals are on a fixed income, and what he is doing is not okay!! That is for sure!