Quality? Are we too forgiving or should we start to demand some responsibility?
Due to a recent event, that almost killed all my creativity for scale modelling, I want to voice my opinions regarding quality. The quality of the kits and components we use in scale modelling.
When I started scale modelling the kits were wonky, expensive and the paints were just awful. My kits looked like they’d been painted with a hammer so eventually I gave up. When I rediscovered scale modelling again things had changed, and certainly for the better! In my eyes Tamiya are the golden standard when it comes to 1:35 kits anyway and the over all quality is superb. This includes the box, build instructions, decals and PE. Most other manufacturers of scale model kits are up there but since we’re dealing with thermoplastics and a manufacturing process where costs have to be optimised, there are bound to be unexpected issues every now and then. This I can live with.
Minor things are simple to fix and there’s a reason why putty is an important part of the arsenal, but what do to when a part, or sprue, is beyond a quick fix? Even a complicated fix?
Most brands I know of have some sort of sprue support where you can order certain sprues for when things go wrong by mistake, or – heaven forbid – your kit is broken.
This recently happened to me, with a kit I probably couldn’t afford at the time, but it was such a cool kit that I forked up the $115 it costed and pressed the magic order button on a web shop.
This is not a kit made by some cheap Chinese knock-off eBay vendor, no, this is a kit made by modellers – for modellers, and a premium one for sure! Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that one, possibly two, major hull pieces were badly bent. I mean really bent. 12 mm out of plane.
These pieces are really thick in order to provide adequate support since this is a huge model so just “bending it back” wasn’t as simple as with a small 1:35 tank. Didn’t stop me from trying though… Three attempts in all, with ludicrous amounts of CA glue, and support, but still it snapped every time when trying to sand the huge blobs of putty that was needed to attempt to hide the massive gap, and misalignment. A lot of the plastic on one side had to be shaved off as well to put it in plane with the mating piece, but snapping it did every time. [insert favourite swearword here]
At this point I decided to admit defeat and contact the help desk at this company to tell them about the ordeal and to get replacement parts.
I was super polite in my email and instead of just demanding replacement parts I supplied a photo, described the showstopping issue and offered to PURCHASE replacement parts (hoping they’d send me the parts for free obviously, but still)!
Their response was something like: “This is a normal issue, nothing we can do” and that was it.
This made me both frustrated and angry so I decided not to reply to their response right away because that wouldn’t have ended in a positive way.
After almost two weeks not wanting to touch a scale model again I decided to send my reply, stating I wasn’t happy with their response and I supplied further proof of the fault, and described the issue in even more detail. Nothing happened…
I waited for five days and still no reply. Nothing. By now I decided the gloves were off and posted a negative comment on their Facebook page, and a negative review on scalemates.com
There is still no response from this company. An American company who’s been working with/for scale modellers for many many years.
This has made me think about how we act, and react, when the kits we buy are wonky and not up to par with what we’ve payed? Are we letting them off too easily saying “it’s normal to have to fix their poor quality”? I think so.
I’ve heard about people asking Tamiya and Takom for replacement parts when something’s been wrong and new parts turned up in the post a couple of days later. I’m sure most companies do this, otherwise they’d lose business from bad reviews. This is what makes this story so odd since we’re talking about people who really should know customer support since they are a retailer too?!
Personally I don’t care whether it’s a $10 kit or a $115 kit – the quality should always be high enough so it’s possible to assemble the kit without having to break out the whole toolbox with fancy glues, epoxies and extra strengthening pieces – and let’s not forget the amount of work that’s needed to set things correct, like they should’ve been from the beginning.
I can probably live with a $10 kit being wonky but I refuse to accept that a $115 kit is.
I hope this company does have a change of heart and do the right thing, but my gut feeling is that they won’t. When it’s time to review said scale model here in a week or so it’ll be another place where they are named, and shamed. It will cost them more money in lost sales than if they’d just said “sorry” and sent me working parts. Makes you think why they’re in retail to begin with… sigh.
End of rant.