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 (and related sites). I trawled through 15 multi-page threads to get the details, and I counted over 30 first-hand complaints about 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.