Crowdfunding has become the defacto means to get games in our hobby funded, when they are not being published by the larger publishers. It is also a great way to find new unreleased products going to market that are unavailable anywhere else. Unlike some of the vaporware that has been released, and has become synonymous with crowd funding, many projects go forward, and provide great value for lower costs than later available.
We regularly use crowdfunding, to the extent that we are considered a SuperBacker on Kickstarter. The downside, however is real, and can be very troubling.
Pros of Crowdfunding
- Products that are available no where else.
- Products that will NEVER be available anywhere else.
- Reduced cost for product, as middle-man distribution is cut out.
- Cool Factor
- Getting product before it is available on open market.
- This we call the geek chic factor of the Me First Market
Cons of Crowdfunding
- This is where an item has been funded, and never produces a product
- There are enough occurrences of this that rehashing the theme, will not necessarily add any value to the conversation.
- Missed production schedule
- VAT and TAXES that were never revealed during campaign
- in all fairness, many times the campaign has no idea what will be charged for either
- POOR customer service
- Product quality issues
CHUWI Surbook - A Case Study
At MeepleGamers our primary focus is news and reviews of board games, and we also make sure to have a vending presence on Amazon. We have to be self-sufficient to keep the lights on. As we grow, we invest in new technologies, some of which are pretty cool, the Rigiet gimbal is great for trade shows.
We generally would not comment on things other than our primary focus. However, sometimes, a company will make a showing that is so darn cool, or so poor, that we will tell you about our experience. Part of reporting on games, is having the necessary hardware, to do that adequately. We have several products on backorder, as we want to continue that growth.
One item has garnered our interest, due to previous experience with the Microsoft Surface Series of tablet computers. This is the CHUWI Surbook. The idea was sound. They decided to make a tablet that could compete with the Surface, that would have most of the bells and whistles, without the great expenditure. I was immediately attracted to this product for MeepleGamers, as it would allow text, audio, and video editing at conventions.
The device looks sleek. The build quality, was initially impeccable visually. I still like the way it looks, out of the box.
The problem became quickly noticeable, upon closer inspection. The tablet simply would not turn on without a power cable connected. So, I contacted support, as I believe anyone would. They asked me to reset the tablet to factory settings, which I did. They asked me to download different drivers, which I did. This is where things get wonky.
Apparently during shipping many of the devices power connection to the battery came unseated. CHUWI support asked me to open the tablet, stating I would not void the warranty by opening it. To do this, I had to order special screwdrivers. Okay, I tried. I opened the thing, which I was VERY reticent to do, as I am not trained in opening such devices. I used to build computers, but never so small. The cable they believed had become unseated, was not in fact unseated. However, the cable that was supposed to be connected to the battery, was not, it was not even unsheathed (meaning no copper wire was showing). I told the customer service person this.
They told me I was untrained in dealing with this issue, and should send it to their tech support, and after negotiation, they said they would pay for the shipping, and any import costs to China. I have the email correspondence to back up this statement.
Now, the product was finally after nearly two months of having a computer that was functionally a paperweight, sent. It took over a month to get there and back. When the product returned, in poor packaging, it was dented.
Now, I know that a small dent by some might be considered nitpicky. However, if your new iPhone came dented, would you be happy? If your new iPhone took nearly three months after payment to be usable, I am sure you would also be less than excited.
We are not big enough yet, to simply throw the device away, after the bad taste CHUWI has left us with. We should have considered a better known brand. This is not because the item is not good, it could be great. It is because they entirely lack adequate customer service to remedy a device that was defective at the date of manufacture, and harmed in shipping to get the defect remedied.
Despite it all, we will use the device. However, the money for the shipping that was supposed to be reimbursed, never was. Initially the post office told me it would cost nearly 45$, instead upon shipment, I was informed it would be nearly 20$ more. When I submitted the receipt, the receipt was viewed with incredulity. Regardless, at either price point, we were NEVER reimbursed. This was an oversight at best, a blatant lie in the middle, or fraud at the worst.
MeepleGamers will never do business with CHUWI again, and unless you love dealing with customer service that takes days to get back to you, neither should you.
We will likely use crowdfunding in the future. In this field, it is generally necessary. We will however pay more attention to comments from companies previous endeavors, and how they respond to customer service complaints. Sadly in the case of CHUWI, how they respond to customer issues is to put the customer on the defensive. I hope they remedy this in the future, but they will not likely every be a provider for MeepleGamers again.