The Bazaar #47: Titan Robotics Kickstarter Campaign
Like many of you, I've been waiting for my order from the Titan Robotics Kickstarter. I reviewed my initial impressions in The Bazaar #37: Titan Robotics Kickstarter Campaign, and discussed the issues surrounding Kickstarter in general, essentially explaining my due diligence. This was an exciting project for Palladium Books and the fandom. I believe it was also one of the first projects Sean Roberson was the “lead” for, or certainly appeared this way in much of the publications. The initial hype for the product and the extra add-ons were very well done, and I was happy to back the project at the Titanium Club level. Knowing this was not an immediate order-to-sale dynamic, I simply waited for the transactions to be compiled and wait for the shipping announcements.
Efficiency Vice Effectiveness. No doubt, anyone in Canada who backed the Titan Robotics Kickstarter certainly took pause on shipping timings. As part of the campaign, it was clearly broadcast that a third-party shipper would be handling anything outside CONUS (continental United States). Shipping to from USA to Canada is a weird problem space. Many companies have negotiated free shipping contracts, but these are ones that work on a massive scale (e.g. Amazon, Wayfair), well outside Palladium Books’ influence. Calculating the approximate shipping for a similar sized “direct from PB order,” quoted reductions were a welcome surprise! Cost efficiency was something I was willing to trade-off. To clarify, the effective shipping orders from Palladium Books were completed well within expectations (just expensive).
Canada Post Delivery Cards. As news trickled in across the social media about overseas orders seeing fulfillment, I’ve been checking the mail with some anticipation; one of my daughters accused me of being a little juvenile - hey, kid, go do your homework! Expecting a key to the local mailboxes (where they normally arrive), I was surprised to see the Canada Post claim tags. Heading to the local post office, the clerk placed the two boxes on the counter, scanned the cards. Then she hit me with the following short exchange:
“How would you like to pay for that?”
Pausing to collect myself, “I’m sorry, shipping was already paid to a third party, a FedEx kind of thing. There should not be any additional charges.”
The clerk examined the copious stickers adorning the boxes. Both packages sat less than a foot away, so tantalizingly still out of reach. “I’m sorry, but there is a combined Cash on Delivery charge of $104.30.”
Well, I know enough about international logistics to know that the young woman behind the counter isn’t to blame, nor able to solve my problem. She is clearly able to read my frustration, but no sense in auditioning for the role of a Darren (male Karen) and become a star on Youtube for all the wrong reasons. I reclaim my delivery cards and vow to make a few phone calls.
Research. International logistics are wonky to begin with. Border duties are also a hit-and-miss thing. This is further complicated by the tired yet continuous excuses blaming Covid-19. Hot takes are typically wrong on several points, so before I get too worked up, a list of phone calls and internet searches are in order:
Canada Post. Since their sticker was the top one, it made sense to start there. A very productive call. Leveraging what I know and what questions to ask, I confirmed this was not Canada Border Services Agency hitting me with duties or taxes. This made sense, since both collectively would not have reached half the charges I was faced. Several targeted questions later, I confirm it’s in the logistics chain.
Spiral Galaxies. Checking the emails I received from Spiral, I check the online tracking numbers, which redirected me to their website. Curiously, it also listed another shipping partner. Failing to find a phone number from the websites of either shipping company is frustrating (my Google-fu is typically very strong), and something of a red flag. Taking the advice from Canada Post, I decide to hit up Palladium Books.
Calling Palladium Books. A quick search and I’m dialing up Michigan. The phone rings several times and gives me that auto-redirect click. After about 8 rings, I’m talking to a real-life person. Huzzah! Wait a second, I know this voice….. Funnily enough we both ask each other for names at the exact same moment. So, yeah, I’m now on the phone with Kevin Siembieda. Wasn’t expecting that! LOL. I'm happy to say the details of the solution space for this problem took maybe all of 10 minutes. I then got to hang out with Kevin on the phone for another 90 minutes or so, which was a treat! I like to think we had an adult conversation (if somewhat geek/nerd oriented) about PB-related business, the TTRPG market, and gaming in general. Out of respect for him and PB, we’ll leave the details at that.
BAD Timing. It should surprise nobody to think that this kind of a hiccup is *absolutely horrible* timing. With an imminent Palladium Books Kickstarter planned for general consumption soon, I could write an MBA case study on the scenario. As frustrating as this is for me, a few points to highlight:
Palladium Is Aware. As indicated by Sean’s update to the Kickstarter, they are aware, and this is as unwelcome to them as it is to us.
NOT Palladium Books’ Fault. Without getting into the gritty details, and leveraging what I know about international logisitcs, every indication is that this is entirely a third-party issue. This was not a duty/taxation issue, and to the book-end parties involved, expectations were that shipping was handled – a done deal.
Spiral Galaxies. For those not in the know, these guys ship lots of board games (I mean LOTS). As Kevin explained, the points of contact just happen to be subsumed with their involvement in the Spiel Essen convention in Germany (think GenCon for board games). So, double whammy. Without this party’s involvement in the discussion, we’re speculating.
Way Forward. For anyone else in Canada, frankly elsewhere in the world as well, if this is something you experience as well, a couple of pointers:
Cool Your Jets. Is it annoying? Yeah. Does a verbal encounter with a counter clerk solve your problems? Nope. Neither do aimless internet rants, so for the keyboard warriors out there: Put. The. Pitchforks. Down.
Documentation. Take pictures of the package and keep your receipts. Typically, the package has a sticker denoting the amount owed. Photograph the package along with any receipt (cover/scratch/marker as you see fit for privacy).
Contacting Palladium. Sean Roberson released an Update to the Kickstarter last around 8:30 PM (EST). Not typical business hours for any company. Contact them via the Backerkit. From Kevin’s own mouth, they will make every effort to make you whole. I’ll excuse Sean for not having a good hockey analogy to put in the update, but he could have asked. LOL.
A slightly rough and tumble kind of way to continue the story of the Titan Robotics Kickstarter campaign. I’ll preface my thoughts with the following: this is not a post to rant, not a call-to-arms. As a status update, it is simply meant to be an informative and supportive post for others that may be facing the same unforeseen circumstances. I’m not saying contract violations or bad faith negotiations don’t exist, but Palladium Books and Spiral Galaxies have yet to discuss the issue. Kevin was, if nothing else, effusively up-front with me about their position and the unacceptability of it all. He immediately offered several solutions to make me whole, and I profoundly appreciate that, as well as the 90-minute chat!
There is a way forward, which is simple and easy enough to accomplish. Contact Sean through Backerkit, via either the Kickstarter page of your emails. As far as I’m concerned, given the problem space, I’m satisfied with the solution. Would I have done the same again knowing what I know now? Absolutely. Not ideal, but acceptable. This will be demonstrated by the glee I will have doing the unboxing post and enjoying the contents of my orders.
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