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Subject: Response from Zev on things rss

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Zev Shlasinger
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Folks,

Been reading many disturbing things posted about Z-Man Games so I'd like to jump in here with some information.

The main issues I have heard are:
customer service
games quickly going out of stock
games not appearing fast enough (especially Essen games)

So I'll address these as best as possible - I know it won't be to everyone's satisfaction but I hope it shows a glimmer of what goes on
in the background that most are not aware of.

Customer Service:
Basically the person handling customer service got overwhelmed. Many of the requests are for pieces missing/damaged that went missing/damaged _after_ being played and therefore not as part of the assembly or production. Yet we were expected to fill those requests free of charge. Coupled with other, legitimate requests it was an overwhelming number of requests. To catch up, the office shut down for a day and everyone in the office filled up the outstanding requests (as long as the components in question were readily available).

Steps are being taken to shorten request fulfillment times and hopefully that will pan out smoothly.

Out of Stock:
First of all, for anyone able to predict what will be a hit or not I invite you to Las Vegas and gamble with me. No one can predict what will be successful and how many times have we seen Essen-hype crumble in a few short weeks?

Yet we gambled on some titles based on hype and based on orders received (the latter being the true measure of what an order should reflect, with anything else being a gamble). Yet we did gamble. However, it is not our fault that we get one set of numbers for preorders, then produce a higher number just in case (the gambling part) and then in between the preorders and the print order, we get a larger amount of games added to the original order: we can't change the print order - the components have been ordered, press time engaged. The best we can do is decide whether to reprint as soon as we know we need more - and we have. You'd be waiting for months more if we waited on getting in the first order, selling it out, then deciding there is demand for more.

This has happened with Robinson Crusoe and with Terra Mystica.

And by the way, our reorders were more than double our initial order (a big gamble), so that we would not have the out of stock issues and yet, the numbers came back even bigger than before, causing the same issues as we had in the initial order. So we can only respond by pulling the trigger earlier on another reorder.


One other thing is Palaces of Carrara that keeps getting mentioned. Due
to a miscommunication between HiG and Z-Man Games, we received only 1,000 copies after Essen last year. Demand cooled down strongly until it was mentioned in the Spiel de Jahres and all of a sudden demand was up for it and people clamored to see the game in print. Well, we tried to do that but due to an international co-production situation, a reprint would cause us to lose money on every copy we would ship. So while I apologize for not reprinting it at this time, I hope you understand the reason why. Should this situation change in the future, we will let you know.

Essen Games not appearing fast enough:
When dealing with partners, who are dealing with other partners, things just do not get out as quickly as we want. Add to that production issues, which are not completely in our control, things can and will get late. With Robinson, for example, we had production issues with the dice that delayed production for way too long. We try workarounds wherever possible to expedite matters, but most of the time we have to sit and wait like everyone else.

Anyway, I hope this helps in the understanding of the situation a little better.

Zev Shlasinger, Consultant
Z-Man Games
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Andy Andersen
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Thanks, Zev. There are always two sides to every story.
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Nice to know. Any news on Ora et Labora reprint?
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Evan Dunn
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I'm sure I'm wrong, but it seems like recently Z-man has had more troublesome issues with supply of popular titles than other companies. Are other companies games not as unexpectedly popular after the initial print estimate, or is there some other factor?
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Chris Whitpan
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Thanks for the update Zev, all if my experience has been great, and I thank you and your team.

On the reprint front I am eagerly awaiting terra Mystica but I would love a new copy of Endeavor
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James Derbyshire
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quietcorn wrote:
I'm sure I'm wrong, but it seems like recently Z-man has had more troublesome issues with supply of popular titles than other companies. Are other companies games not as unexpectedly popular after the initial print estimate, or is there some other factor?


They've had some huge hits on their hands.
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Curt Carpenter
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First of all, really appreciate the openness.

Zman wrote:
One other thing is Palaces of Carrara that keeps getting mentioned. Due to a miscommunication between HiG and Z-Man Games, we received only 1,000 copies after Essen last year. Demand cooled down strongly until it was mentioned in the Spiel de Jahres and all of a sudden demand was up for it and people clamored to see the game in print.

That doesn't square with my experience. I (and many others) pre-ordered it from reputable large online shops since last December (as soon as it went up for pre-order). It never became available. I never saw any reports from BGG users who saw the game actually available for sale in online or b&m shops. How is that anything like "demand cooled"?

Zman wrote:
Well, we tried to do that but due to an international co-production situation, a reprint would cause us to lose money on every copy we would ship.

Obviously no one would expect a company to provide a product at a loss. But how that could possibly be seems pretty bizarre, at least to lay bystanders.

But whatever. I can and did order it from amazon.de, and others who really want it can do the same, so no great loss. The only beef I have is communication. Why was there never any communication about this? The last ZMan said about it was when some copies were brought to GenCon (or whatever it was). Then nothing for along time, when gamers all were led to believe it was coming. Multiple posts were made on the FB page asking about it. Nothing. A couple weeks ago I posted explicitly asking about it. No answer. I then posted a comment in every one of the the near-daily updates to the ZM page, politely requesting a response. Nothing. That's very disappointing, and not very engendering of trust. If we knew it wasn't coming, we could have ordered our imports a long time ago. One of the reasons I didn't originally was specifically to support domestic publishers!
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David B
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I would personally like to thank Z-Man for bringing the reprint of Goa back to the US.

I enjoy all of my Z-Man games and I have quite a few.


Thanks for your hard work Z!
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Dave K
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Thanks for the info Zev. It's unfortunate that Palaces ended up the way it did but that's the way things go sometimes.

Looking forward to more of your games in the future and hope to see you and the company at a convention soon.
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Bryan Lane
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I've had two (unfortunately sequential) purchases that required customer service due to missing/damaged parts in a new game. While I may have wanted to see the turn-around a little faster, I wouldn't call it particularly slow, either. I'd say I received my components in a reasonable amount of time, and the representative was polite, helpful and responsive. I think the resolution was performed about as well as can reasonably be expected.

Other than those 2 purchases, I've never had an issue with any of my Z-Man games. Now if they could just get Christophe Boelinger to produce an Earth Reborn expansion...
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Glenn Martin
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quietcorn wrote:
I'm sure I'm wrong, but it seems like recently Z-man has had more troublesome issues with supply of popular titles than other companies. Are other companies games not as unexpectedly popular after the initial print estimate, or is there some other factor?


I'm sure this is a problem most game companies would like to have!
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Jonathan Franklin
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Zev,

Thanks a ton for the post. I totally get that these things happen. Can you give us an update on upcoming titles and expected dates, knowing that things can always change due to unexpected circumstances?
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Brent Wilson
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Thanks for the insight. It's really appreciated.

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Daniel Kearns
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I'm not sure the customer service explanation sits comfortably with me.

Why would one attribute overload to inappropriate customer claims and not the ginormous and totally unnecessary cock-up surrounding the mass market release of Pandemic?
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Sophie Gravel
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If i may add a thing or two...

We are working to solve this issue of answering hundreds of questions regarding the availability of games and reprints via our website. In a few weeks time, our site will give you an 'as acurate as we can be' status on incoming new titles and reprints. This way, the information will always be available and updated for you.

As for now, I can tell you, as i have written on that game title forum, that Terra Mystica is scheduled to arrive mid to end of October at distributor level (depending on the country).

Robinson Crusoe will be November for reprint number 2 and December for reprint number 3.

Carcassonne is back in stock at distributor level and so is Le Havre.

All Essen releases: we are doing everything possible (we are putting a lot of pressure on our partners on this issue so that we can serve you better) to get the games at distributor level worlwide between November and December.

Thanks,

Sophie
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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louper wrote:
Seems like putting the blame for some of the customer service problems on those damn customers always wanting replacements is perhaps not the best idea.

And not having the staff to answer these requests leading to all kinds of foul-ups in communication and otherwise, well, that's not my problem. It's like the waiter who says to me, "Sorry I didn't get around to taking your order for 20 minutes - we're really understaffed." You know what? The fact you're understaffed is not my problem.

Basically, Zev's post read like:

Customer Service: Not our problem. Blame it on customers who want replacements.

Out of Stock: "It is not our fault..." (a direct quote)

Essen: "When dealing with partners, who are dealing with other partners, things just do not get out as quickly as we want. Add to that production issues, which are not completely in our control..." (emphasis mine)

I'll do my bit to help out, at least with the troubles with customer service - I'll make sure not to buy any Z-Man games and inconvenience them by any requests I might have.

I don't get why everyone is falling all over themselves to thank Zev for passing the buck to everyone.


Um, these games are not made here. These games are not made in China. These games are actually published by other publishers who are in control of the print runs for the games. How hard is that to understand? Geez I'd like to see you run a publishing operation where you don't and can't control the product getting to your customer.

Would you rather them just get out of the German/Euro game business entirely? Then you could pay huge amounts of shipping so you could get your games in two weeks to a month. In fact, really, you can do that now with Amazon.de, Milan Spiele and other German/European retailers. Oh you can't speak German? And don't want to pay the shipping costs outside of Amazon.de? Too bad I guess.

I don't know why they don't do as Rio Grande Games does....if you need a missing part that was damaged/missing because of your actions, Rio Grande charges $2.50. This is totally reasonable and at least they could recover their mailing costs.

The only thing that was upsetting to me in the message is that they allowed the customer service issue to get out of control. There's no real excuse for that. Either get more customer service or change the policies and don't wait for a crisis.

Now should they have been more honest about the Palaces situation? Perhaps, but we don't know how long the retail situation was known for. Did they just find out that in fact shipping Palaces to OLGS's was going to cost them more than they had agreed to charge? Now if they've known that for months and not told us, then yes, the lack of Palaces is not their fault but failing to tell us is.

So all in all this may be a little late but I don't see why we should hate on them for the message. Hopefully they will iron out their customer service problems and be more open with us about availability. The lack of truthful communication is by far my biggest complaint.

Frankly right now I'm pre-ordering from Funagain or getting directly from Essen many titles that will be published by Zman. But I don't know what's going to happen with these titles. Will I be looking at a year to get Bremerhaven for example like what happened to Vinhos? Or looking at never for Glass Road? Who knows? I wish that Hanno/Sophie/Zev would be more communicative as to what's happening with the 2013 Essen titles but I am hedging my bets as I particularly want the Lookout stuff.

And by open, I mean open and HONEST. Don't promise what's not coming. If negative things are happening out of your control, fine, but SAY SO. Be kind to us gamers and suggest alternatives if you know of them. Otherwise us early adopters are not going to rely on Zman anymore, and just go with the original publishers.
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W. Eric Martin
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jschlickbernd wrote:
Frankly right now I'm pre-ordering from Funagain or getting directly from Essen many titles that will be published by Zman. But I don't know what's going to happen with these titles. Will I be looking at a year to get Bremerhaven for example like what happened to Vinhos? Or looking at never for Glass Road? Who knows? I wish that Hanno/Sophie/Zev would be more communicative as to what's happening with the 2013 Essen titles but I am hedging my bets as I particularly want the Lookout stuff.

Jennifer, Lookout Games is doing its own English editions this year, either producing games with multiple languages in the box or producing separate English and German editions. As for how Lookout Games plans to distribute its titles in the U.S. and elsewhere, that's an open question for now.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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W Eric Martin wrote:
jschlickbernd wrote:
Frankly right now I'm pre-ordering from Funagain or getting directly from Essen many titles that will be published by Zman. But I don't know what's going to happen with these titles. Will I be looking at a year to get Bremerhaven for example like what happened to Vinhos? Or looking at never for Glass Road? Who knows? I wish that Hanno/Sophie/Zev would be more communicative as to what's happening with the 2013 Essen titles but I am hedging my bets as I particularly want the Lookout stuff.

Jennifer, Lookout Games is doing its own English editions this year, either producing games with multiple languages in the box or producing separate English and German editions. As for how Lookout Games plans to distribute its titles in the U.S. and elsewhere, that's an open question for now.


Well the entries all say Zman. Here is the entry for Glass Road for example:

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/143693/glass-road

And Bremerhaven, and Caverna say the same. So what you are saying contradicts the information there. That doesn't mean you are wrong, at the same time I'd appreciate knowing what's actually going on.
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David Hoffman
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For whatever it's worth, I emailed to obtain a replacement card for Robinson Crusoe. A single card, Predator Is Near. Based on the stuff I'd been reading on BGG, I figured it would be a while, if ever, before I got the card.

Nope. Took about two and a half weeks. That's not quite Remember-When-Thaadd-Was-At-FFG fast, but it's pretty damned fast. Shipped from overseas, too.

I'm not saying there haven't been issues, but I, personally, feel like the folks handling replacements are getting it done. My $0.02.
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Scott Everts
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I curious about the huge problem with the oozing yellow figures in Clash of Cultures. I've sent countless emails and finally got a response that basically said "we're looking into it". But I've read reports of people that have gotten replacements, or some that got replacements with the oozing problem still plaguing them.

I realize its a huge mess to fix and not something that can be easily dealt with overnight, but it would be nice if someone would post on the various threads discussing the issue to tell us what's going on and what we need to do to be sure of a spot on the replacement list.
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W. Eric Martin
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jschlickbernd wrote:
W Eric Martin wrote:
jschlickbernd wrote:
Frankly right now I'm pre-ordering from Funagain or getting directly from Essen many titles that will be published by Zman. But I don't know what's going to happen with these titles. Will I be looking at a year to get Bremerhaven for example like what happened to Vinhos? Or looking at never for Glass Road? Who knows? I wish that Hanno/Sophie/Zev would be more communicative as to what's happening with the 2013 Essen titles but I am hedging my bets as I particularly want the Lookout stuff.

Jennifer, Lookout Games is doing its own English editions this year, either producing games with multiple languages in the box or producing separate English and German editions. As for how Lookout Games plans to distribute its titles in the U.S. and elsewhere, that's an open question for now.

Well the entries all say Zman. Here is the entry for Glass Road for example:

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/143693/glass-road

And Bremerhaven, and Caverna say the same. So what you are saying contradicts the information there. That doesn't mean you are wrong, at the same time I'd appreciate knowing what's actually going on.

Glass Road originates from German publisher Feuerland Spiele (publisher of Terra Mystica), and Z-Man Games has announced that it will sell the English-language edition of the game. Caverna and Bremerhaven are from Lookout, and Z-Man has not announced that it's releasing them unless I missed something, but Lookout's Hanno Girke has told me directly what I stated above. Note this comment by Girke about Bremerhaven in the Spiel 2013 Preview. If you can point me to where Z-Man or Lookout has stated that Z-Man is releasing Bremerhaven or Caverna, I'd appreciate it.
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Steve Duff
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louper wrote:
Seems like putting the blame for some of the customer service problems on those damn customers always wanting replacements is perhaps not the best idea.


He blamed those who lost or damaged their own components and didn't deserve replacements. Big difference.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Ok I went back and while I could swear a month ago Zman was listed as a publisher, clearly I was wrong. Apologies. Although with no named US distributor, I'm even more concerned about getting solid pre-orders for those games. Thanks for the correction.
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Jonathan
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Whilst I appreciate the post I see nothing in there that implies leasons learnt from these mistakes. Only reasons. Passing the buck in many cases.

Does this mean that these recent issues are likely to become a common occurance?

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Jonathan Franklin
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Zev and Sophie,

How about creating a mechanism for those of us with lost/missing/damaged parts to pay for their part.

I have paid Jay for parts in the past and would be happy to pay Z-Man for missing parts that are not your fault.
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