It probably wasn't so much the product failure (that happens) or the poor customer service (unfortunately one cannot expect excellent customer service 100% of the time) in isolation. It was the two combined with the fact that in the process I was made to feel distinctly second class as Canadian customer of a US company after my call with them.
That said, Garmin sure made right by me!
Since I posted my gripe I got one of the Garmin executives to read the entry. He then immediately emailed me with an apology and a promise to pass this on to someone who can look into this further. I thought that was pretty decent but at that time didn't really expect much more to come from it.
However, a few days later I received a phone call from a lady from Garmin who called to first and foremost apologize again for the service I have received. She then said that they will send me a new HR soft strap and to please email her my address - in Canada. I did and received a package from their Canadian service partner (RayTech in Laval, QC) with a new strap.
Yes, I only got what I should have gotten to begin with: a replacement HR strap. But I am very happy with that! In fact if I had not posted about it and then emailed Garmin about the entry, I wouldn't have gotten anything. But I wasn't out to get all sorts of compensation for my troubles. In fact, I wasn't out to get anything. All I wanted is to voice my frustration and let a US company know that as long as they are happy to sell me their wares in Canada and thus increase their business, they cannot make up all sort of cockamamie reasons for not supporting us here up north as well as they do any of their other customers.
There are a lot of US companies that seem to have extraordinary trouble to see the need to properly serve Canada - frankly, bigwigs like Google are among them! Sure, most of them will find quickly a way to sell up here but too often this is where it stops.
Garmin has a Canadian service centre in Laval, Quebec (Raytech Electronique) and they are quiet good. I had to deal once with them directly and was really impressed with their service! But in the end, they are not Garmin and if Garmin is losing a customer it is not the same as Raytech losing one. But at least it is a start and Garmin does realize that they need to improve their Canadian customer service.
In the end, I am happy that Garmin send me a replacement in the end and hope that next time it will be easier.