Pete at Superfly Circus relates a troubling story about quality and service from Seth Hiatt at MayDay Games. MayDay Games sells popular card sleeves, animeeples, a few original games, and a cheapish (still over $100) Crokinole board. It is problems with a Crokinole board that begin Pete’s story.
The summary: Pete received a bad board (bumps, protruding screws, bad lacquer, etc). He asked for a refund but was willing to accept a replacement.
MayDay then had some other guy (David) ship his board It turns out that MayDay had had some other guy (David) ship his board – a board that MayDay already knew was bad and should have been returned – to Pete, and asked Pete to ship his board to Jacki, who was expecting a good board. When Pete asked why he was shipping a board known to be bad to someone else, he was told that he recipient had asked for a free board, and therefore was not expecting a good one.
Pete published this on his blog and on BGG; the story also appears on Fortress: Ameritrash and undoubtedly other sites. Before I read the BGG responses, I contacted MayDay to find out what happened.
MayDay maintains that they did, indeed, error in
four three ways: 1) The board shipped to David was faulty. 2) The board shipped to Pete was faulty. 2) They had mis-marked the reason that David was returning the board – they had written that it was being returned, but somehow not due to quality issues – and therefore they were expecting David to ship a perfectly good board to Pete. And 3) They sent Pete the wrong recipient to ship to; in fact, they had already shipped a board to Jacki. Pete was actually supposed to ship to someone else.
That’s a whole lot of “accidents” in one story.
Turns out that Seth Hiatt has been raked over the coals on BGG; his poor reputation primarily stems from a now defunct business sphiatt.com (and related sites). I trawled through 15 multi-page threads to get the details, and I counted over 30 first-hand complaints about sphiatt.com regarding long-delayed shipments, money returned only after filing complaints, lack of response to emails, and so on. Among these complaints, there were only two quality complaints; nearly all (but not all) complainants admitted that they finally received the items or a refund.
The complaints then continue onto two other businesses with a relation to Seth. The first is MayDay Games, noted above, and also run by Seth.
And yet, other than Superfly’s postings, and the occasional quality control issue that is dealt with quickly and professionally, I only counted five complaints, all about delays longer than expected (BGGers are not known for their patience or self-control) . This is in comparison to more than 25 posts about good service from MayDay. Now, 1 in 6 delayed shipments isn’t anything to brag about; but these numbers are probably skewed. I’m sure the complainers are far more vocal than the people who received fine service. MayDay, and Seth, maintain that the complaint rate is actually only 1-1.5%.
The second is Empire Board Games. EBG is apparently run by former employees of Seth’s; but it’s hard to figure out the exact relationship they still have with Seth. EBG claims to have no real relation with Seth, and even have a FAQ on their site denouncing Seth and his reputation. Yet they use Seth’s domain registration, some part of his fulfillment system, and I’m not sure what else. Both companies exist physically within a few miles of each other. The reason it is hard to tell is that Seth appears to change his story about the relationship from post to post on BGG.
Regardless, among all the posts denouncing Seth and anything associated with him, EBG has only three people on BGG who complained about them, each of which received refunds and apologies. Meanwhile, dozens of people said that they had no problems with them.
The consensus of many appears to be that Seth runs an honest business but fails at certain business aspects: shipping on time, communicating, managing inventory and customer lists, and communicating professionally when he responds in a public forum. In nearly every case – and in every case since founding MayDay – he has offered refunds or replacement products. He’s even offered these for this little fiasco reported by Superfly. And he has cheap prices.
A few of corrections:
Pete received his original board from David and has only ever received that one board.
Pete was told it was okay to send his less than good quality board to Jacki because she knew it was substandard and had received a better price accordingly.
The second person Pete was supposed to send his less than good quality board to, the one it was changed to after the incorrect shipping label to Jacki was dealt with, was the one that was supposedly getting a free or reduced price board.
Seth Hiatt claimed that the second person was a rep for a charity, when in fact it was a reviewer who was also expecting his purchase to be a new board.
You got it wrong.
1) I got a bad board from Mayday. It was obviously damaged. I had bought it through Tanga.com, and they assured me that these boards were not supposed to be reject/damaged boards.
2) I called and talked to Seth about and exchange, he told me I was to ship the bad board to someone who “ordered a returned board from us (described as slightly damaged)”.
3) Pete bought a crokinole board through Tanga. Pete got that board directly from me.
4) Pete wanted to exchange the board and was told to ship the bad board to someone who ordered a slightly damaged board.
5) Pete noticed that the original FedEx Shipping label he received had MY name/address in the “From” field. He got suspicious.
6) Pete contacted me, Pete contacted the lady who he was supposed to ship the bad board to (she also bought a crokinole board through Tanga), Pete put 2 and 2 together.
(And, obviously, none of us ever wanted to purchase a bad board.)
7) Tanga refunded their customers their monies and has now taken this issue up with Mayday (Seth Hiatt).
The discussions go on at BGG because Mayday has apparently not been honest, and their stories are not holding up.
Try following the story on BGG better. Other people have now reported having taken part in similar board “returning” incidents through Mayday. Other people have reported simply giving up after getting bad crokinole boards.
This has nothing to do with “BGGers are not known for their patience or self-control”. I have not read any comments from the people who ordered their boards through Tanga about slow or delayed shipping times.
You might want to check out the lengths to which Seth went to lie about his relation to a second business registered under his name: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/336745/stone-age-in-stock-s22-50-and-jamaica-for-s36-fr.
Or his absolutely shoddy dealings here: http://home.comcast.net/~jt.stocks/hardtoplease/index.html.
Or note the numerous people in BGG threads, both at Superfly’s original thread and in threads linked to from it, who have tried to take advantage of Seth’s 1-year return policy, only to never hear from him again.
Or read how many customers only received their ordered products, or their money back, after initiating PayPal disputes with him.
Or how he ceased being a registered eBay seller, or how he was suspended from PayPal.
Or you might ask him why he lied to Superfly and told him that he thought Dave (owner 1) was returning a perfectly good board, and lied to Dave and told him Superfly (owner 2) had ordered a damaged board.
And the list goes on.
Wind Lane, That Dave: Thank you for the correction; I’ve corrected the post.
Wind Lane: I didn’t see the post where the person (not Jacki, the other guy) expecting a board from Pete actually expects a new free board in perfect condition, rather than a flawed demo board. Source?
That Dave, Fimlis: Other than the correction about one/two boards, everything else appears in the article.
I read all the BGG threads, and, while doing so, make a spreadsheet of every person complaining, what the complaint was, and whether it was eventually resolved (according to the complainant). Turns out that the same complaints by the same people appear in multiple threads, giving the idea that these events happened repeatedly, when they didn’t.
Furthermore, as I noted, all of the egregious complaints, and nearly all the complaints period, happened during the incarnation of sphiatt.com, and not for empire board games or mayday games. That includes all the threads you’ve pointed to. Unless I’ve misread it again, which is always possible. I noted a few scattered complaints for the latter two companies, but most of these were in the nature of delays and were resolved. Specific links to unresolved problems with the latter two companies are welcome.
As far as whether Seth is lying to Dave/Pete/etc regarding this particular issue, it’s possible, and it’s possibly simply an egregious screw up as he claims (which is not much better). I don’t have evidence for either as of now.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6443940#6443940 – Gives Seth’s original statement that the board was supposed to go to someone free, and that that someone would be using it to show 5th graders how to play.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6444606#6444606 – Seth gives the free board person a name, Scott.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6446250#6446250 – Seth clearly states the board was for charity.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6446656#6446656 – Pete posts at length, included is the information that Scott isn’t with a charity, but works for Prima Games and was requesting a demo copy.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6446711#6446711 – Seth posting what he says Scott had originally told them. It is clearly a reviewer asking for a review copy.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6449214#6449214 – Pete gives a link and a quote of another customer that was told to send their defective board along to someone else.
All of this is from the same thread. If you doubt the voracity of Pete or Seth in any of their posts you just simply need to do the proper reporter thing to do and research. I doubt it would be hard to verify who Scott is given everything.
Thanks for the links. I read these, but I’m still hesitant to see ill intent in them.
When MDG writes “for charity”, it’s possible to interpret that as a shorthand way of saying “for free”. In any case, all posts support that Scott wanted a free board: for review, for teaching, for whatever.
None of the posts indicate that Scott had insisted on a “perfect” board for free, though he may well have expected it since he was planning to review it.
That MDG would agree to send a poor board to Scott, simply because Scott wants a free board, was a pretty dumb move; a poor board is going to look bad on the company, even if it was sent for free. But that’s MDG’s decision to make.
I would advise MDG to a) not ask customers to ship products to each other: this is bad for inventory, bad for branding, and bad for quality control; b) ensure that all big ticket items, including Crokinole boards, are inspected by hand at MDG before being sent to a customer, and not shipped directly from wherever to the customer: that they are cheaper than full priced boards is not an excuse, they still cost $100+; c) answer all emails and phones promptly and courteously; d) refrain from arguing or trying to prove your case on forums not on your site: you are too belligerent and your story tends to change from post to post; instead, create an FAQ on your site and point to it; e) never ship bad boards for free to anyone, except to hospitals and day care centers.
What made me call MDG’s doings into question with that is the early claims by Seth that the board was for a guy looking to teach the game to kids.
That certainly paints his giving of a free board in a favorable light.
But when compared with what Scott’s message to Seth actually said – it doesn’t match up. In fact, it’s completely different.
I just find it too hard to believe that he got “looking to teach the game to fifth graders” from “looking for a review copy”.
And the thing is, both those pieces of information come directly from Seth himself, so it’s not like it’s somebody else coloring things against the guy.
As a completely side matter – I found it interesting that doing what Seth did (giving the address of who to send the board to next) is completely illegal in Canada as it violates privacy laws. It’s got me questioning whether or not there are such laws here, stateside.
What bothers me here is that Mayday has asked multiple customers to ship stuff to other customers for them instead of having the customer return the defective product. That is just bizarre. When I make a purchase from a company I don’t expect them to furnish my name and address to another customer.
I know I will be staying away from Mayday Games.
I think you are overlooking some pretty clear facts.
And the important people making comments are not people bringing up old gripes from the past: people have come forth with similar stories (mainly the Tanga customers who are discussing current transactions – all within the few weeks), and other recent customers who have been left hanging with no-response experiences from Mayday, are reporting that these are not isolated incidents. That’s why this is big; people are coming together with the revelation that they are not alone in their bad experiences.
To be clear in one fundamental thing: The board I got was horrible. It is, in my honest opinion, worse than what Pete Ruth described. Maybe that’s because he waxed the surface really well before using it, but he was not as meticulous in his critique of it as I was. It was a horrible board, very clearly damaged; this was not an issue of a finicky customer being overly picky about minor cosmetic issues.
My initial complaint was to Tanga, I thought they failed to disclose the fact that these boards were flawed/damaged factory rejects/returns, but Tanga stated that these boards were supposed to be new. So I opted to exchange the board through Mayday, but I think my initial impression (even from how the cardboard inserts were packed) of it being a damaged board returned to the factory was very accurate.
● I called Mayday and spoke with Seth.
● I then emailed Seth (as per his instructions), where I gave him my info and reiterated the details of the damaged board and the exchange discussion.
He was very responsive and cooperative; resolution for this, from the time of the call to when I got the FedEx shipping label from him, took about 3 hours. It really could not have gone any smoother or faster as far as I was concerned. And at NO time was there any mention of “I’m sorry, you were sent a refurb board by mistake”.
– Finding another buyer for a damaged board that fast did seem odd. (And it was not a board to forward to anyone for any sort of demo that involved using it for crokinole play; I was very clear about the board’s flaws.)
– For me to ship the damaged board directly to this person seemed odd as well. (And remember, of all the packing slips for customer to customer shipping incidents that have surfaced, mine was the only one that did not have Mayday Games in the sender field.)
– For him to ship me a “new” board before I had even a chance to put the one I had into FedEx’s hands also seemed odd.
But nothing of this, all these complaints that you seem to want to gloss over, is based on oddities.
We know what Pete thought of, and did with, the board. Pete also wanted to exchange the board.
● Pete contacted Seth and went through the same experience I did. But Pete stopped when he looked at who sent him this board in the first place, and he became suspicious.
● Pete then contacted me (without revealing any specific details about why) and I told Pete what I went through and what I was told, which was exactly what Pete was being told to do.
● Pete then contacted Seth and informed him that he was uncomfortable handling things in that manner.
● Seth reiterated his instructions to him, and stressed that the person receiving this board knew it was damaged (stressed as “KNOW”).
● Pete then contacted Jacki, the person that supposedly knew they were getting a damaged demo board, and asked her about it. She, of course, did not.
You can make whatever you want of Seth’s 2 or 3 varying stories about how it happened, or who it was going to or why. People have already pointed out glaring inconsistencies and oddities in them.
● At least two other people have come forth with similar stories to this experience, and they are not connected to any of us in any way (except that they might be Tanga customers).
If you were really as impartial as you want to claim to be, then you should try to stick to just the facts that are in front of you. But you are hedging in defense of Mayday, with no facts to support it.
The story you got straight from Mayday was inaccurate (check the date of people’s shipments). You try to sympathize with Seth Hiatt’s “poor reputation”, and comment on how there seems to be some sort of secret conspiracy to denounce Seth and anything associated with him, and you casually disregard the people coming forth with several similar stories. (Do you seriously believe that Pete, myself, Jacki, and whomever, are in some secret cabal to discredit Seth Hiatt/Mayday out of some purely random vindictiveness?)
Stop trying to bring in other business’ issues, and Seth’s past issues, to dilute this issue at hand. We are talking about just the people who are getting, and being told to forward, bad crokinole boards. This is the issue, nothing else.
You mention that people have received refunds and apologies, and dozens of people who have had no problems with Mayday at all (most of them referring to card sleeves), but ignore the several other people who complain about not getting refunds, or exchanges, and seem to have their email address on Seth’s junk mail list. He has offered refunds or replacement products to people who were caught up in this little fiasco (and I did get a bad replacement board for my bad replacement board), but Seth is also developing a new reputation for his lack of follow-through in these crokinole board matters – and people are reporting this.
“The consensus of many appears to be that Seth runs an honest business”, but you fail to mention the “many” who assert otherwise.
I haven’t seen one posting from someone who was happy to finally get their damaged board, or someone point out a site selling these damaged boards. The whole premise from Mayday, clearly telling people to send damaged boards to people who have bought, or are expecting, damaged boards is pretty sketchy.
If you have some evidence that backs-up Mayday’s story, I would like to see it. Lots of people would. If you did that, you would then have something to really write about.
You say that people on bgg complain about not getting refunds or products that they ordered, yet they only receive them after they’ve complained on a public forum that Seth is known to troll around on. That doesn’t seem strange to you?
I think this is the real issue: Seth is very good at damage control, but not so hot at business ethics or customer satisfaction. I had an incident involving some sleeves, where it seemed pretty clear to me that they had pulled a bait-and-switch. I had called and emailed with no result. But when I posted on BGG, and when that post got some attention, then Seth called me personally and fixed everything. Interestingly, Seth mentioned the thread, its popularity, and his need to address it, in his call to me. He told me how the issue was basically my fault, and since I was not certain that it was not my fault, I conceded, thanked him, and followed up on the message board.
All of this happened, BTW, without ANY prior knowledge on my part that there had been any question about Seth’s ethics in the past. Reading over the long litany of dissatisfied customers, unresolved issues, and improbable explanations, I would be very cautious about ordering from Mayday again. It would probably be fine, but then again, it might not be. You never know. There are just way too many other retailers with excellent reputations for honesty and openness to warrant the risk.