Thursday, 1 December 2016

Up On A Soapbox - Is it the free market, or is it me?

Back up on the soapbox today but less in the vein of a rant and more in the vein of introspection.

When it comes to the gaming hobby I've always been a proponent of the idea of being financially supportive (ie being a paying customer) of businesses that I liked and not only enjoyed their products but aligned with their ways of doing business rather than being negative and outwardly expressive about companies I don't like or don't align with.  Truthfully I've never understood why people invest time and energy into expressing their negative opinions about things they don't "need" to buy or going on a company's forums or Facebook page to broadcast their status as non-customers.  The analogy I've always used is that as someone living in the middle-class I certainly can't afford a new car as often as I'd like but I don't go on car companies' social media sites and complain that their vehicles are too expensive or not for me.  It's always just seemed weird to me.

But in the last couple of months something has changed.  I'm honestly not sure if it's my perception, the industry or just that I'm officially entering 'crusty old man' territory but things don't feel as black and white as they used to.
First up I am NOT going to change gears and start complaining about companies with whom I don't align.  Having said that I now feel I have a third category of companies which makes me understand some of the things I've seen in the past.  Before I was very binary, there were two options:
1.  I like you and therefore I will buy your stuff
2.  I don't like you, therefore I will not buy your stuff
In the past couple of months a third category has wormed its way into the mix:
3.  I don't like you, but I like your stuff enough that I'm willing to overlook that
And this is where the problem comes in for me.  The issue isn't whether or not I should or shouldn't be buying things from manufacturers that I'm not enthusiastic about, the issue is that I have a finite amount of hobby money to spend so anytime I buy from a company I don't care for those are dollars I don't have to support companies I do believe in.

Its a real ethical question for me.  Not because any company rises or falls based on the spending of one hobbyist, but because I feel that the companies that are most likely to get the short end of the stick in these situations are the mom & pops where every sale counts.  I've never been a big fan of living in the grey and  the truth is it actually makes me uncomfortable.  I've been faced with two decisions in the past couple of weeks and to be transparent about it I feel like I made the 'right' choice in one case and the 'wrong' choice in the other.

Tell me what you think?
First situation:
A long-time established company is running yet another Kickstarter to release a product that has already been fully developed and requires NO additional work beyond the actual manufacture of the units they will sell.  This company has been around for 30+ years and this is at least the third time they've done this exact same thing (pre-ordering masquerading as crowd funding) in the last two years.  Every time they do this they almost completely cut their wholesale and retail partners out of the loop in spite of the fact they they wouldn't be where they are today without those partners.  Having said that I REALLY want the stuff they're Kickstarting.  In spite of that my decision was to not order and wait until I can get it through brick-and-mortar retail.
Second situation:
A company that's been operation for 4-5 years and has always made terrific high quality  products that I enjoy I recently purchased a set from and found one of the pieces to be defective.  Defects happen all the time and no one should feel bad about it (lets be fair).  But in spite of that I know based both mine and other people's history with this company that any communication I send them will be completely ignored and my issue will not be resolved.  I can and should be angry about that.  But in spite of that I've just decided to work around it and continue to be positive and enthusiastic about their products.  So am I part of the problem now?

These are two recent examples but things like this happen all the time and we make value decisions about these things all the time.

I've always been a proponent of "put your money where your mouth is" and I'm just not sure I'm as consistent about that as I have been in the past.



  1. Jay-
    I think you are talking about KM in the second example but maybe I am wrong. I had an issue with a couple models (one miscast and one missing parts) and they were great when I contacted them. They resolved the issue no problem. If I am correct you should at least try.

    1. I have contacted the manufacturer and am hoping for resolution.
      The truth is as I expressed I do like the company that I had the bad piece with but they have never been responsive in the past.
      Who it is and what the product is really isn't the issue (its just one example chosen because it was recent not because it was severe) its more just the internal question of whether my actions are matching my words :)

  2. It's definitely a dilemma sometimes. I am deeply conflicted about established companies doing Kickstarters, but sometimes the small ones are less capable of delivering and it's a much higher risk to the backer.

    I have a hard time recommending companies with bad service, but you can be honest and tell people the product is great but the service maybe not so good.

    I generally recommend Hasslefree Miniatures above all others; their metals are cheap, their resin masters are amazing and worth the extra cost, and the staff are great. Orders always have candy, freebies and god knows what stuffed in the box. That's one small business I can't stop recommending.

    1. I can't honestly say my problem is just that its an established company, my issue is that there is literally nothing to 'fund', there are just orders to take and materials to produce.
      In my mind its akin to a clothing manufacturer crowd funding a plain t-shirt. Maybe it isn't produced yet but they wouldn't be testing market viability or funding the design process, they would just be eliminating inventory risk and retail partnership from the equation.
      There are a lot of established but more recent companies that have built their foundation on direct sales and crowdfunding and I have no issue with that, but when a company's life blood was retail and wholesale through their lean years it seems pretty amoral to just turn your back on those distributors and retailers just to add a small percentage on to your bottom line.