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Subject: “I did not tell you to purchase a used game”: There’s customer service, and then there’s _customer service_ rss

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Jonathan Harrison
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Before I start this, I’d like to pre-emptively avoid the objections that some may find they have to what I am, in fact, not actually saying.

I am not entitled to replacement parts for my games, whether for free, at cost, or for purchase, unless the company has contractually obligated itself to provide them to me.

I am not entitled to have any value inhere within a game I purchase beyond its initial advertised intrinsic play and possession potential—nor including future resale value.

I am not entitled to even own wargames, to be a wargamer, or possibly to have opinions.

There. I think we’ve got all the bases covered.


However, there’s good business, and there’s bad business. To my mind, good (profitable, and I realize that’s another discussion) business means accomplishing two things:
1. Make sales.
2. Keep sales.



I was disappointed yesterday and today by the response I got from the head of customer service for a well-known wargames design/publishing house. I may as well say outright that it wasn’t GMT; I’ll be making that point in a minute.


I’ve been considering, because I don’t have enough else to do, getting into a new system.

It’s one I wrote off months ago, and I thought justifiably so. However, I accidentally came across it from another tack about a week ago. I did some reading, put up the customary token fight against making ‘yet another’ purchase, and sat down to scope out the BGG game pages for the various games in the series.

I marked about six standalone releases in the series that looked positively intriguing, and started checking their marketplace pages. Three of them were particularly attractive to me, and right out of the gate, I found a nice, moderately cheap copy of one of these.

So I bought it.


It was used, so of course the first thing I did was inventory the game. Regrettably, the counter manifest was (I kid not) a series of six 1"×¾" (yes, you read that right) blurry ‘scans’ of standard countersheets. Daunted, but not irreparably, I successfully inventoried the entire punched game against these six scans, in process discovering that five of the scans were of the backs of the their respective countersheets, and one of its front. shake

Though I was able to inventory the counters as complete, I found that two items were missing: a sequence of play printout, and three card stock sheets of AFV data cards that I was instructed to cut apart myself, with scissors. These last were cut out, but were only partially complete.


Without all the AFV data cards, not all the game’s scenarios can be played. From the data cards that were present, I could see what they were: each a simple realia of a tank accompanied by a brief table of numbers statting the vehicle out. The card stock was simple everyday card stock of the sort I already buy at Walmart for printing out player aids and similar datasheets. Nothing flashy, nothing colored, simply black ink printer on cheap card stock.


The other cut-out cards were truly missing. I couldn’t get them from the previous owner, and they weren’t anywhere in my box or its packaging. They were just plain missing. And I couldn’t tell what was missing; nothing approaching even the blurry nonscans of the manifest was provided for inventorying the AFV data cards. I knew the number of sheets, and could tell by looking at the cut-out cards that I was missing some cards. Judging by the vehicles called for in the scenarios, I was missing a few of them.


And it’s here that I’d like to reiterate a point I made at the beginning of this post: I am not entitled to replacement parts for my games.

However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t hope for them, and be disappointed, even unhappy, when they are prevented from being provided even when they are available.


I checked the website of the publisher/design company to see whether I could download replacements. (No, though I could download revised scenarios.)

While checking, I found that the game is still in print from the publisher, and purchasable from their website. That was good news, at least—they might have some replacement data cards I could buy.

I wrote the publisher/designing company to ask if there were a way I could get a replacement sequence of play printout (not a particularly big deal) and three replacement AFV card printouts (a very big deal).


In response, I got a single line of reply:
Quote:
“Where did you purchase this game?”

I replied:
Quote:
I purchased it from another player, which is why I'm not sure whether there's a way I can get these. I know if I got it directly from you, there's no question that I can. But since I didn't, I'm hoping I can buy replacement sheets from you. There's supposed to be 3, right, that have a card for each tank listed in the scenarios?

And wow, weekend reply. Thanks!

Jonathan

I got no reply. The next day, I wrote again:
Quote:
Did you get my reply? I'll be happy to do whatever is necessary to get my missing AFV data cards for [game]. Please let me know. I just want to be able to play the game. Whether it's a PDF I have to print myself, or PayPal'ing you the cost of the cards and postage, I'm happy to do it.

Thanks,

Jonathan

Later that day, I did get a reply, which I’ve paraphrased here:
Quote:
Here's the sequence of play sheet. I'm not really supposed to be sending this to you, since you didn't purchase a new copy. But here it is.
Attached was the sequence of play card. I was grateful, though a little bothered by the idea that a sequence of play summary aid wasn’t supposed to be made available, even through purchase, to a player who already owned the full rulebook—if that player hadn’t purchased his game new from the company (ignoring the fact that somebody originally purchased it new).


Again, I’ll reiterate a point I made at the beginning: I am not entitled to have any value inhere within a game I purchase beyond its initial advertised intrinsic play and possession potential—nor including future resale value.

In other words, they do not owe me, a secondary buyer, a playable game. In fact, after the game has been opened and verified to be complete and playable as advertised, they do not afterward owe the primary buyer a perpetually playable game.


I wrote back, thanking the CSR manager for the play aid and asking whether it would indeed be possible (or not) for me to purchase three replacement sheets of card stock. I pointed out four things:

1. If I am unable to purchase the three replacement sheets of card stock even though the game is in print and they are readily available, though not made available, I won’t be able to play the game.

2. If that’s the case, I’ll be going through a rigmarole of trying to get my money back for the game.

3. When I do, if I do, get my money back, I certainly won’t be turning around and spending that money, plus its sum over again, to buy a new-in-shrink copy of the same game from the publisher who decided not to let me buy a replacement printout.

4. I have been seriously considering buying [two more titles in the series] directly from the publisher. But if the publisher’s policy is to not provide, even for purchase, even trivially expensive and available replacement printouts to owners of the game who are not the original owners of the game, then I certainly won’t be buying new copies of games whose value to their publisher decreases with play. In fact, I’ll take a pass on the whole system rather than deal with potential, and permanent, issues of unplayability for myself or others who may be unwilling to buy the games, for this reason, if ever I need to sell them.


In reply, I received an e-mail titled, “was this really necessary?” to which the CSR manager attached a PDF for the three AFV card stock sheets. The e-mail was short, but in excerpt, paraphrased, said:
Quote:
Did you really have to say this-- I just sent you FREE the afv cards which you got for FREE-- Remember this the next time you decide to email me to threaten not to buy anything from us-- because you got this FREE from us.
The wording, as most places elsewhere, is paraphrased out of respect for privacy of verbatim wording; the style is unchanged.

It then ended with this, a direct quote:
Quote:
I did not tell you to purchase a used game--
and reminded me once more that I had received the AFV cutout PDF and sequence of play PDF for free.


I’ll give you a moment to ponder my opening two disclaimers: (1) I am not entitled to replacement parts for my games, and (2) I am not entitled (from the publisher) to have any value inhere within a game I purchase used.


I was surprised by the tone of the CSR’s exchange from beginning to end: from “Where did you purchase this game?” to “I did not tell you to purchase a used game.”

The CSR certainly did not owe me anything, and neither did the company. They did not owe me replacement printouts, regardless of how available (trivially available) those printouts might actually be.


What surprises me is that handling customer service this way seems very backward to me. It very nearly put me off buying any more of this company’s games. After this experience I’ll think twice, and then think twice again, before buying them used. The CSR made it clear that I was very lucky to get replacement parts in this instance; I wouldn’t like to count on getting them again, not even simple printouts such as these were. I can’t imagine trying to purchase a replacement countersheet.

And this feeling—of policies designed to cause me to purchase new from the publisher so that I can be eligible to acquire, whether through purchase or otherwise, available replacement components—leaves a sour enough taste in my mouth that if the publisher’s policies make me shy away from buying used copies of the publisher’s games, I won’t be shying toward buying new copies instead.


If I had been unable to purchase the AFV data printout from the company, I would have written some of the owners here on BGG asking if anyone could provide a scan of the data. Failing that, I would have tried to return the game. Successful or not, I wouldn’t have been playing it. I couldn’t have been playing it.

And that’s where I get really puzzled over these sorts of policies. I was an admitted first-time arrival to this particular wargaming system. I wanted to play—I had hunted down a game and gotten as ready as possible to start playing. And when I lacked a trivially expensive and readily available printout to enable me to actually play and learn the system, and offered to pay to get it, it was a near thing that I eventually ended up getting it at all.


This sort of company behavior isn’t calculated to instill goodwill in the customer, and it certainly isn’t primed to help the company’s bottom line. (For one thing, I offered to pay to cover costs, and found out that my getting a replacement sheet was against policy whether I paid for it or not.)

I understand what can drive a company to attempt to excite primary sales by depressing the secondary (resale) market, but it backfires in the end, especially for luxury products such as wargames. I’m more likely to buy a brand-new game if I know that its resale value will persist; if I’m wrong in my perception of the game and find that it’s not for me, someone else will be ready to buy it from me. But if selling the game to someone else terminates any express or implied offer from the publisher of assisting in sending replacement parts (even for purchase) when they are readily available, then people are going to be less likely to want to buy my previously owned copy.

I’ll say it again: The publisher owes me no resale value to my game. But that doesn’t mean it’s something I don’t look for, or something I don’t take into account. I may not be owed it, but I do take it into account in my buying decisions. I’m more likely to buy on the spur of the moment when I know I can resell in a vibrant reselling market.

That's (one reason) why when a company goes out of their way to support their products (and I'm fine paying for this to be the case), they earn a great deal of goodwill from customers. If a company helps ensure (and I do not say it has a duty to do so) the long-term viability of its individual products, then I'm more likely to buy future such products. If it neglects to help ensure the long-term viability of its individual products even when it would be trivial to do so, then I'm less likely to buy more of its products.


If, as CSR manager or president of a wargames publisher, I learned that a new player was trying to play his first one of my system’s products, but wanted to buy a necessary, and trivially available, component from me so that he could, I would supply it in a heartbeat. It's assumed in a system that each product is a supplement to the others; no one thinks that when you've owned one product, you'll never want another. People who own one, and like it, will likely want to own more from that same system. And I think it's reasonable to assume that the more a player likes the system, the more likely he is to buy new titles in the system when new titles are first made available.

To put it as simply as possible, my owning a used [system] product, and being able to play it, isn't a barrier to my ever buying more [system] products, including new ones. Rather, it's the best gateway to buying more [system] modules and products—not least among them new ones.

But if I can't play a game in the series, I won't like it. If I can't play it, and the publisher could help me, at trivial expense and effort, to play it (and be paid by me for the expense and effort of providing the required printout), but won't do so, then it's a near certainty that I won't like the system. How can I, if I can’t play it? Such a policy is very counterproductive, and surely harmful to a company's purpose and intentions:
1. Make sales.
2. Keep sales.


If I ran a wargaming company, I would jump at the chance, for minimal effort and expense, to give a new player the chance to learn to love one of my game systems or series.

But jumping at that chance wasn't what I saw here. I was very grateful to the CSR personally for making it possible for me to acquire a replacement component, and said so, but that doesn’t change my opinion of the company’s policy: I find it misguided at best. It, not least as reflected in the CSR’s comments about my buying a used game, didn’t improve my likelihood of buying new games in the series.

So. It took some conversation, but I am now able to play my first [system] game. I hope the publisher considers this result, even if it did not arise by my buying brand-new product, to be a beneficial one. I'd like to think it will.

To close out here, I’ll quote the end of my final reply to the CSR:
Quote:
As a closing thought, I'd like to leave you with a comparison. Most people (and companies) don't like being compared with others, but comparison with another company in this instance will, I think, be a beneficial one.

GMT enjoys an incredibly deep current of goodwill with the wargaming community. If I had asked GMT for a replacement component—and I'm talking countersheets, here, not just printouts—I know what their first response to me would have been. And it wouldn't have been, "Where did you purchase the game?"

I don't want to take advantage of GMT. I want to support them. I'll happily pay them for replacement parts. But the difference is that before they know who I am, and where I bought my game, I'm already their customer. To GMT, a customer is someone who owns a GMT game—not someone who bought that game from GMT's website. And that’s why GMT has so many customers of the second kind.

It's an approach I think could only improve ____________'s dealings with requests, such as this one, for readily available and trivially suppliable replacement parts. I wanted to be a customer of ____________. I very nearly wasn't able to be.
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Wei Jen Seah
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I find it a very strange reply from the CSR.

If the company did not in fact have any replacement countersheets, they could simply have told you so straight off.

If they did have replacement countersheets, but did not have a policy to sell them to secondary buyers (which seems really daft to me), they could simply have told you so straight off.

Instead, he appeared to take offence at the fact that you had someone purchased a used game. To add insult to injury, even though you had indicated clearly that you were willing to PAY REAL MONEY for replacement countersheets, he somehow made you feel like a twat for buying a used game.

Personally, I just wouldn't buy any more games from them, knowing that's the kind of bullcrap that I am to expect if I need any form of support at all.
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Jason Doyle
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Wow, that's a short-sighted approach to customer service. Must have missed that particular method when I used to work support.

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Brian Morris
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Here's an sample of the kind of customer service I get from GMT. I have only ever once had a problem where I had to contact GMT about a problem with a GMT. It was my copy of The Three Days of Gettysburg (third edition) which I got in a trade. The game was opened but unpunched and as I went through and inventoried it I found one map was missing.

So I called up GMT and flat out explained that I got the game in a trade. It was unpunched but opened and I asked about purchasing a replacement map. The lady on the other end of the phone goes "Oh shame on us! Let me get your address and we'll send you the map piece". Now I made sure up front that I told her I got the game in a trade but to her it didn't make a difference.

There is more than one reason why my game shelves are stocked with GMT games. Top of the list is they make great games but high up there on the list also is that conversation.

The great thing about a free market economy is anyone with an idea can start their own business. The problem is there is more to a business than filling orders and depositing checks in the bank. One of the big things is customer service and it is something that unfortunately a lot of people who create their own online business lack experience with. I suspect that is the case here. In the end the small business world is literally a case of survival of the fittest. I'll be honest here. Bad customer service is flat out poison for any small business. Especially one that is extremely Internet dependent because word gets around fast online.

The person may think he saved himself a few bucks but the truth is customers are gold to a small business and there are only so many people out there who might want to buy your product. So you do what you need to do to keep the customers happy and feel good about your company. GMT didn't have to send me that map. I would have understood if they didn't. But they did and now when I think of GMT I have good feelings towards them and yes I likely have bought more games from them because I like giving my money to a company that I personally like.
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Jonathan Harrison
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I've never had anything but good experiences with GMT. From their spring and fall sales with their tough economy "specials" (a free game to those who have lost their job and been unable to find another) and P500 specials (half off a number of games tied to your P500 participation) to their community interaction, generosity, and downright classiness, they're on my gold list in just about every category. Pretty much, when I think GMT, I think "customer service" before anything else. Possibly even before "wargames".

For your reading pleasure, here's an actual scan of the tiny countersheet manifest:



And here's the data cards I was asking for. They're literally nothing but black ink–printed card stock.
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Joe Thompson
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The counters in the game weren't original, and you were missing the play aids. So what did you get? Just the map and ruleset? Given the rules for most games are online these days you've had a really bad deal.

I can understand the publishers concerns; how do they know they are not going to get another email from someone saying "I've got the counters and play aids, but am missing the map, please provide".

I think you're being harsh on the publisher here.
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Jenny Nguyen
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I'm finding it strange that he begrudgingly sent you stuff for free and then threw it back in your face later on for that fact. He could have just asked that you pay some arbitrary amount ($5, say) because the missing components was not due to a packing error, and sent you the pdf's.
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Wow, that's a bad experience!

And it is a shame since I'm just getting into the system and I find it brilliant.
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I took the liberty of posting the link to this thread in the consim ATS discussion forums, since I know that the author of the game reads them regularly while he doesn't seem to be on BGG.
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Gorgoneion wrote:
I took the liberty of posting the link to this thread in the consim ATS discussion forums, since I know that the author of the game reads them regularly while he doesn't seem to be on BGG.


Careful! I once posted (quite mildly) in the Critical Hit forum at CSW that I had had a disappointing customer service experience regarding an ATS game. I was promptly and permanently banned from the forum, and Ray Tapio emailed me personally to threaten a lawsuit.

Some companies handle customer service better than others.



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zuludawn wrote:
Gorgoneion wrote:
I took the liberty of posting the link to this thread in the consim ATS discussion forums, since I know that the author of the game reads them regularly while he doesn't seem to be on BGG.


Careful! I once posted (quite mildly) in the Critical Hit forum at CSW that I had had a disappointing customer service experience regarding an ATS game. I was promptly and permanently banned from the forum, and Ray Tapio emailed me personally to threaten a lawsuit.

Some companies handle customer service better than others.



I hope this won't be the case! surprise
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Just curious why did you blurr out the armor factors on the cards?

The game itself looks interesting which game is it?

Also cautionary threads like this where you hide the publishers name kind of makes them pointless in my humble opinion.
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Not trying to be devils advocate here, but....

Your points 1 to 4 that you e-mailed the company do sound rather confrontational and give the impression that you are threatening not to buy their products if they do not sort this out.

Sometimes an e-mail can come across differently to the person reading it from how it sounds in your own head when you actually write it.
I'm not condoning the reply you received from the CSR (although I doubt he/she was a dedicated CSR) but they may have assumed that you were actually assuming all of the things that you said you weren't right at the start of your post.

Just a thought.

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J Fro
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I just want to say, God, on behalf of all of us thank you for all of the good things we do in your name, like charity and forgiveness. That’s an idea we would never come up with. That’s for sure. You know that better than anybody.
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kiraly wrote:
Just reading the OP I knew who you were dealing with.


Truth.
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Tone in text is very hard to decipher at least in my opinion. I agree with some that your email requests could have been misinterpreted as to their tone and as a result as to their meaning. This would have coloured the CSR's view of the situation and his/her responses to you. In the end you did receive what you wanted and in my opinion the company did go beyond their requirements to make you happy.






*edit: I personally don't know the company that you are dealing with and it seems others do, so surprise I could be wrong in my appraisal of the situation.
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Tom
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jfro wrote:
kiraly wrote:
Just reading the OP I knew who you were dealing with.

Truth.

You'd think at this point they wouldn't have any customers left... yuk
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I can tell you from experience with that company and thier products, very little is available online in PDF format. They are very protective of thier stuff. I had bought into this system at one time and then sold off all my stuff. It is a good system, but......
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J Fro
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I just want to say, God, on behalf of all of us thank you for all of the good things we do in your name, like charity and forgiveness. That’s an idea we would never come up with. That’s for sure. You know that better than anybody.
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kiraly wrote:
TwirlingTF wrote:
You'd think at this point they wouldn't have any customers left... :yuk:

It surprises me as well, as they have a long history of treating people like this.


I knew I was not going to get a good response, but I said, "heck I will try." I had the virtual files when I was in my previous life - but then I left that life and the pc they were on was no longer mine. No response to two inquiry for the files. Alas. Was my favorite series. Now I have moved to the other "A" series and lots of other companies.
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Carl Marl
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Where was the part where you, according to the CSR, threatened not to buy games from them? Either the CSR made that up in his head or you left that part out. Clearly he thought that and that's why he was so rude. If you do someone a favor, do so cheerfully.
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fambans wrote:
Where was the part where you, according to the CSR, threatened not to buy games from them? Either the CSR made that up in his head or you left that part out. Clearly he thought that and that's why he was so rude. If you do someone a favor, do so cheerfully.


I believe this is the part you are looking for

HuginnGreiling wrote:

I wrote back, thanking the CSR manager for the play aid and asking whether it would indeed be possible (or not) for me to purchase three replacement sheets of card stock. I pointed out four things:

1. If I am unable to purchase the three replacement sheets of card stock even though the game is in print and they are readily available, though not made available, I won’t be able to play the game.

2. If that’s the case, I’ll be going through a rigmarole of trying to get my money back for the game.

3. When I do, if I do, get my money back, I certainly won’t be turning around and spending that money, plus its sum over again, to buy a new-in-shrink copy of the same game from the publisher who decided not to let me buy a replacement printout.

4. I have been seriously considering buying [two more titles in the series] directly from the publisher. But if the publisher’s policy is to not provide, even for purchase, even trivially expensive and available replacement printouts to owners of the game who are not the original owners of the game, then I certainly won’t be buying new copies of games whose value to their publisher decreases with play. In fact, I’ll take a pass on the whole system rather than deal with potential, and permanent, issues of unplayability for myself or others who may be unwilling to buy the games, for this reason, if ever I need to sell them.


Point 4, is the statement that could be considered a threat not to purchase from them. I would consider it unfair to the CSR to state that such an interpretation would not a least be considered reasonable.
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fambans wrote:
Where was the part where you, according to the CSR, threatened not to buy games from them? Either the CSR made that up in his head or you left that part out. Clearly he thought that and that's why he was so rude. If you do someone a favor, do so cheerfully.


The "threat" was made by the OP here:

Quote:
4. I have been seriously considering buying [two more titles in the series] directly from the publisher. But if the publisher’s policy is to not provide, even for purchase, even trivially expensive and available replacement printouts to owners of the game who are not the original owners of the game, then I certainly won’t be buying new copies of games whose value to their publisher decreases with play. In fact, I’ll take a pass on the whole system rather than deal with potential, and permanent, issues of unplayability for myself or others who may be unwilling to buy the games, for this reason, if ever I need to sell them.


This seems like a pretty reasonable position to take, especially given the fact that there are publishers that adopt a very different position regarding customer service. Some organizations adopt a minimalist approach to customer service others push it as far as they reasonably can. I know where I prefer to do business and a good service relationship is part of what drives my decision to buy or not to buy.

To the OP: sorry for the lousy experience. Thanks for sharing the story.
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ShallowThought wrote:
The counters in the game weren't original, and you were missing the play aids.
geekgeek wrote:
If the company did not in fact have any replacement countersheets, they could simply have told you so straight off.

Ah. A couple people are misreading. Here's what I said:
HuginnGreiling wrote:
Though I was able to inventory the counters as complete, I found that two items were missing: a sequence of play printout, and three card stock sheets of AFV data cards that I was instructed to cut apart myself, with scissors. These last were cut out, but were only partially complete.

The game was entirely complete, except for four sheets of printed cardstock.
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Gorgoneion wrote:
zuludawn wrote:
Gorgoneion wrote:
I took the liberty of posting the link to this thread in the consim ATS discussion forums, since I know that the author of the game reads them regularly while he doesn't seem to be on BGG.


Careful! I once posted (quite mildly) in the Critical Hit forum at CSW that I had had a disappointing customer service experience regarding an ATS game. I was promptly and permanently banned from the forum, and Ray Tapio emailed me personally to threaten a lawsuit.

Some companies handle customer service better than others.

I hope this won't be the case! surprise

So do I!
Luftwaffe Flak wrote:
Just curious why did you blurr out the armor factors on the cards?

Above is why. The tone they took with the highly classified sequence of play had me a little worried about actually posting anything of import.
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Belz wrote:
fambans wrote:
Where was the part where you, according to the CSR, threatened not to buy games from them? Either the CSR made that up in his head or you left that part out. Clearly he thought that and that's why he was so rude. If you do someone a favor, do so cheerfully.


I believe this is the part you are looking for

HuginnGreiling wrote:

I wrote back, thanking the CSR manager for the play aid and asking whether it would indeed be possible (or not) for me to purchase three replacement sheets of card stock. I pointed out four things:

1. If I am unable to purchase the three replacement sheets of card stock even though the game is in print and they are readily available, though not made available, I won’t be able to play the game.

2. If that’s the case, I’ll be going through a rigmarole of trying to get my money back for the game.

3. When I do, if I do, get my money back, I certainly won’t be turning around and spending that money, plus its sum over again, to buy a new-in-shrink copy of the same game from the publisher who decided not to let me buy a replacement printout.

4. I have been seriously considering buying [two more titles in the series] directly from the publisher. But if the publisher’s policy is to not provide, even for purchase, even trivially expensive and available replacement printouts to owners of the game who are not the original owners of the game, then I certainly won’t be buying new copies of games whose value to their publisher decreases with play. In fact, I’ll take a pass on the whole system rather than deal with potential, and permanent, issues of unplayability for myself or others who may be unwilling to buy the games, for this reason, if ever I need to sell them.


Point 4, is the statement that could be considered a threat not to purchase from them. I would consider it unfair to the CSR to state that such an interpretation would not a least be considered reasonable.

Quite right. I did, and I'll say so right out, threaten to not buy new games of theirs if it turned out that I couldn't even try out my old one.

It was a threat, but the word threat has a lot of different meanings in English. For example, if I tell my kids that if we play outside too long, we won't play Legos before supper, then I've just threatened not to play Legos with them if they don't come in before supper. But I've hardly threatened them. I've stated a consequence.

And that's what I did when speaking with the CSR. If Critical Hit's purpose in not allowing me to purchase four sheets of replacement card stock was to get me to buy new games from them instead of trying to play the used, and virtually complete, one I already own, it served both our purposes for me to point out that if they intentionally decided not to allow me to (even) buy the replacement printouts when they're readily available and trivially suppliable, such a decision wasn't going to suddenly cause me to buy into the system brand-new. In fact, it was going to mean that this was going to be my first and last time trying ATS.

They had no obligation to replace the card stock printouts for me. But I equally have no obligation to buy new games of theirs. Yet we both want something from each other.

I pointed out that—though they didn't have to—if they wanted to convince me to be a long-term customer, there was an easy way to do this that put them at absolutely minimal inconvenience, especially when I offered to pay their expenses myself.

And on the flip side, I equally pointed out that if their interest in having me as a customer didn't extend as far as taking one minute to fill a customer purchase request, but taking times longer hewing to policies put in place to have the effect of ultimately bringing about that customer's abandoning of existing product and purchasing of new (boxed, complete) product (not replacement printouts, which I offered to purchase), then I was in no great hurry to become such a customer.

If they were to respond with studied inaction, hoping to push me into buying completely new boxed products, I predicted inaction on my part as well.

Calling this a "threat" isn't a helpful description, I think, though it's the term the CSR used. If hear of someone threatening someone with something, I'm generally thinking of someone going out of their way to do something detrimental to another. For example: "If I can't get this, I'll (sue you | crash your public stock | write hostile and menacing letters to all your staff)". But if I see someone threaten inaction, I take that as an unwillingness to extend goodwill, not a promise to extend bad will.

After all, there's a lot of other publishers from whom, for various reasons mostly involving lack of interest or exposure, I never buy. If it was a threat at all, it was simply a prediction that I wouldn't be moving Critical Hit out of that last list onto my (much smaller) 'buy from' list.
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