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UPDATED! Testing the PonoPlayer/Kickstarter returns process

  • A merchant isn’t judged solely by the product that it sells or by the method with which it is sold. After-sales support and service also matter, particularly when things go wrong. With a high-street dealer there’s a store to revisit whilst click-only operations sit behind email addresses, hopefully with return shipping details at the ready.

    The casual Kickstarter user might think that because they were billed by the crowdfunding project hosting site that returns and refunds would be handled via the same channel. They’re not. Kickstarter sidestep the issue by handing off funds to the would-be manufacturer once the funding minimum is reached and the campaign has ended.


    The upshot? All after-sales issues fall to the manufacturer and not Kickstarter.

    With my PonoPlayer’s middle button slowly moving from intermittent to persistent fault – when pressed it sticks in the ‘ON’ position – I stopped by the Pono website support page for assistance.


    My message immediately saw support ticket confirmation via this auto-reply:



    The return process will be documented via this post so stay tuned for whatever comes next….

    UPDATE 12th Feb:

    Hi John,

    Thank you for your patience.

    We’re sorry to hear that you are running into trouble with your Pono Player. We’d like to offer a repair. In the mean time, we can ship you a Yellow loaner while we make the repair to your Limited Edition unit. Please let us know if you are interested in a loaner.

    Can you please confirm the following?:

    Current Shipping address
    Pono Player Serial Number

    At this time, we are unable to provide you with a prepaid return label to the US. We can approach this in two different ways.

    Our first option is that we can provide you with our UPS account number, so you can take the Player to a UPS location and ship it back under our account at no cost to you.

    Our second option is that we can reimburse you for return shipping if you provide us with a receipt.

    Our return address is as follows:

    Pono Repairs
    1234 Pono Way
    Youngtown, CA 95020*

    Please let us know how you’d like to proceed.

    Kind regards,

    The Pono Support Team

    UPDATE 13th Feb:

    Hey Brandon

    Thanks for the offer of a loaner yellow’un whilst you fix my player – that sounds great.

    How do I located my player’s serial number?

    My shipping address is:

    John Darko
    1 Snake Way
    NSW 2000*

    As you can see, I’m in Australia. Are there UPS drop-off points here? If not, I can mail it back and you can reimburse me for the shipping costs. Do you require the player complete with original packaging and contents or just the player itself?


    UPDATE 16th Feb:

    Hi John,

    Thank you for the update!

    The serial number of your Pono Player is located on the bottom “triangle” of the player, next to the USB port.

    If you cannot find a UPS drop off point close to you, you can call them and they will pick up your package for you.

    If you are not comfortable with this process, feel free to pay for the return shipping charges and keep your receipt. We can then reimburse you by sending you a refund check. (please note that the refund check will be converted into USD)

    Just in case you need it, our UPS account number is as follows:


    All you will need to send is the Pono Player itself. You will not have to send back the charging cable, microSD card, or wall charger.

    Your replacement will be scheduled to ship today, 2/16/2015. Once it ships, we will provide you with a tracking number.

    We hope this helps! Please let us know if you have any further questions.


    The Pono Support Team

    UPDATE 16th Feb:

    Hi John,

    Your loaner Player has been shipped.

    Here is your UPS tracking number:1ZX0482387627862F36644840524

    Kind regards,

    The Pono Support Team

    *Home address, Pono return address, tracking numbers and Pono UPS account number altered here for privacy reasons.

    UPDATE 18th Feb:

    Hi John,

    We’d like to reach out to you to provide you with an update.

    We have a new Clear Pono Player in stock that we’d like to offer as a replacement. We hope to save you time and effort in processing a replacement vs a return for repair since you are not in the US.

    The UPS tracking number of your replacement is as follows: 1ZX048F34751753640443659036

    Feel free to proceed with the same return instructions for your defective player.

    Please let us know if you have any questions!


    The Pono Support Team

    UPDATE 18th Feb:

    Hey Brandon – apologies for the tardiness of my reply. I’ve been out of town for a few days. I will ship you the defective player upon receipt of the replacement. Thank you – this is truly great support service.

    UPDATE 19th Feb:

    Hi John,

    Thank you! We’re glad we could help!

    We will be on the lookout for your return.


    The Pono Support Team


    UPDATE 23rd Feb:

    Hey again Brandon

    Replacement clear PonoPlayer arrived yesterday – thanks. Just transferring my music across from the defective unit to the new one before sending the former on its way to you. Serial number is 14380600.



    UPDATE 2nd Mar:

    Hi Brandon

    I couldn’t get UPS Australia to play ball with pick up so I decided to mail the faulty unit back to the Pono Returns address previously provided. I re-purposed the box used to deliver my replacement unit.


    UPDATE 3rd Mar:

    Hi John,

    Thank you for the update.

    We’d be happy to reimburse you for the return shipping costs. Please attach your receipt to an email and send it to [email protected] We will then send you a reimbursement check.

    Also, can you please send us a return tracking number so we can anticipate the delivery of your return?

    We appreciate your help!


    The Pono Support Team


    UPDATE 4th Mar:

    Hi Brandon

    Here’s proof of postage:

    And here’s a close up of the tracking number:

    AusPost tell me that you’ll be able to track the parcel once it arrives in the USA.

    Rather than refund me the AU$21 shipping, are you guys equipped to donate the money to a charity of your choosing? I sincerely hope so.

    $21 is a small price to pay for a such an accommodating returns/support service. If only all Kickstarter-funded projects were as speedy with support ticket replies as you guys. Hats off to ya! 🙂

    Best regards,

    John Darko

    UPDATE 6th Mar:

    Hi John,

    We’re very happy to inform you that per your request, we’ve made a donation on your behalf to The Bridge School organization.

    This organization supports children with severe speech and physical impairments. Here is a direct link if you’d like to learn more:

    We greatly appreciate your kindness and generosity!

    Thank you again!


    The Pono Support Team

    UPDATE 10th Mar:

    Hi John,

    We’ve successfully received your return on 3/9/2015.

    If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us!


    The Pono Support Team


    And that’s all she wrote. I received a replacement PonoPlayer and the faulty one was returned to California.

    I hope that my detailing this process provides some insight into the standards of service that can be expected from the Pono Support Team – the service in this instance was truly exceptional. Should your Pono Support experiences differ in any way to mine, feel free to expound in the comments section below.

    [For those paying attention and wondering what happened to the yellow loaner, it was called back to base by the Pono Support Team via UPS before it touched down in Australia].

    You can read my full review of the PonoPlayer here.

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Twitter


    1. The fact that your issue has been publicized, Pono (as would any other manufacturer not bent on suicide) will give you special treatment. While the premise for the article is interesting, it might have been more informative were you have waited to publicize your problem until it was resolved (or not resolved, as the case may be).

      • In some ways I hope that they do. That way there’ll be an online yardstick for others to draw upon.

    2. i really like that you’re documenting the process but do you think you’re tainting the experience by making it a live presentation vs. post (ie. i’m sure pono will know you’re doing this and go out of their way to solve your needs which may not be the direct way they handle everyone)?

      • Yup, there’ll be a Heisenberg element to this for sure but I wanted to treat it like an online diary.

    3. I’ll be interested to watch this. I had problems with my Pono when I first received it and wasn’t thrilled with their support. My problems had to do with syncing to the internal memory. I posted a ticket on line the same as you have above and waited…and waited….and waited. After five weeks of waiting with absolutely no contact of any kind I called support on the phone and spoke to a live human being. She was polite and empathetic and promised to elevate my ticket. And then I waited some more. The issue eventually resolved itself through a firmware/software update but I guess the moral is don’t expect any results if you don’t phone them directly and even then you might be disappointed. In fairness to Pono this all happened in December/January when their company was still busy dealing with the shipping of units and so forth. Nevertheless I was disappointed not to receive any contact re: this support ticket. Even an acknowledgement that they were working on it or were backed up with a large number of issues would have been better than nothing. Hopefully they’ve made some improvements in this area. Good luck.

    4. John,
      I think this is an excellent idea for an article. Not only it informs us of the effectiveness of manufacturer’s support, but also makes them think harder about the importance of their Support Dept for the overall image of their company.
      I wish, every manufacturer had this kind of public scrutiny.

    5. A fine idea, indeed. In my opinion, great customer service defines the company. Unfortunately, my experience trying to resolve product issues with audio equipment manufacturers has been pretty dismal. My latest was with Audeze – I won’t bore anyone with the details , but in a nutshell and to be as kind as possible, they need to improve their customer-facing communication and being a small enterprise is no excuse. On the other hand, I have had great customer service from Emotiva, so all is not lost in this little industry. BTW, I too own a Pono and I absolutely love it. I just hope (or is that pray?!) that mine doesn’t break!

    6. You’re officially an “audio reviewer” now. Your experience with customer service is likely to be very different than that of the general public.

      Neil’s probably gonna drop a new Pono off at your crib as soon as he’s not too busy with Daryl Hannah.

    7. Good to see another satisfied PONO customer..I got a black one, and I must confess it’s been giving me great enjoyment, and the recent firmware update that included DSD playback is a great benefit, although I can’t say I’m won over by DSD supposed ‘superiority’..!!

      I”ve been taking the PONO around to HiFi stores around town, test driving it on a variety of systems, and so far it sounds better than the Fiio and Ibasso, but not quite up there with the Anstell and Kerns which are well over $1000. I must confess music sounded utterly superb thru Opp0 PM2’s though I’m not prepared to pay $1000 for some bloody headphones!! Maybe the PM3’s will cut it? Whilst I think the price-point for the PONO will make it hard to survive in the Aussie market, I find the campaign of negative publicity to be really myopic, it really does sound better than an an i-phone and it does so with my Sennheiser MX460 buds. I dont know what the naysayers were listening to?

      • That’s right – to my ears, the Pono Player sounds better than an iPhone and the Sony ZX-1. I also think it pips the A&Ks for cymbal shimmer and mellifluous delivery of voices. I’ll be getting a pair of PM-3 soon and I reckon they’ll make for one sweet match with Pono.

        • Hi John,
          I returned my defective Pono to Gilroy CA (same address as you) after very lengthy costly phone conversations. It was delivered there on the 22nd of February. I hope I will receive a repaired Pono soon. Nice people but they seem to have difficulty in understanding issues and bringing clear answers.

            • Hi John,
              I got my new Pono (it took some time but it came!) and it sounds glorious. So there is some reliable service there.
              Call It Badness (Alex Di Stefano rmx) on Denon AHD 6000 is huge.

    8. Hi John,
      I noticed in the background of one of your photos of the clear replacement PonoPlayer what look to be three of Bob Prangnell’s new ceramic BlackPod footers. I have several of his products, including these, and I like what they do to the sound of my system, I’d be very interested to read your take on them. Any plans for a review?

      • Well spotted! No plans for a review but I will be posting ABOUT them soon enough.

    The sound of business being done

    mp3tag arrives on OS X (sort of)