Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Chess Equipment Mafia is the Real Power

"At least it is smaller than the last 12-inch tall chess lamp they sent me."
Something has got to give. Somebody has got to come along and do it right. Somebody has got to put the customer first in the chess equipment industry.

What is the deal with chess equipment manufacturers and retailers? Do they simply not care? Are the profit margins so incredibly large – or small - that spending a little extra time, money and effort on quality - will just result in a little less profit, instead of a lot more profit?

All my training and experience in my life’s work as a Quality Assurance professional tells me that a focus on the customer and the quality of your products and services – always INCREASES profit. Why is the chess industry – at nearly every facet of it – completely ignoring the satisfaction of their customers and the quality of their duties to their customers?

There has to be a reason why the products made - for lack of a better phrase…all stink! And it does not matter which manufacturer or retailer you go to. They are all the same.

It’s like the old US automotive industry in the 70’s when the Big Three all could not have cared less about their customer. Why? The money still rolled in. That has to be the situation with today’s chess industry.

It starts with the manufacturer. If they produced a quality product, the retailers would not be on the hot seat in the first place. But the manufacturers are ….in a word ….pathetic. And their arrogance and lack of desire to face the public or improve their produces speaks volumes.

Ever try and determine who the manufacturer is of your chess set? It is nearly impossible. Even if they accidentally put their name on a box their product came in, they don’t have a website, email or phone number for you to call. And the retailers protect their wholesalers like a mob hit man protects the Don. You can’t get to the wholesaler or manufacturer – so fa-getabouwtit.

Maybe there is a Chess Equipment Mafia – that must be more ruthless and crooked than ……even….dare I say it…..the Democrat Party!

Let’s say you order a higher end wood chess set - on line – (retailer completely irrelevant), with a clock and a bag and wait anxiously for your package to arrive.

Let’s face it – it’s a lot like Christmas! You can’t wait to tear into the package. As you open it, you mentally see the picture of this beautiful set you saw in the on-line catalogue, the state-of-the-art clock with all the bells and whistles, and that nice bag to carry it all proudly to the tournament or club. You are in a word…..giddy with excitement.

Here is the experience you will encounter 9 times out of 10 – in some fashion – or as I recently had – all of these at once!

You open the box, and pull out the carrying bag. You immediately notice the stitching is weak and unraveling on one side. Oh well, my aunt can sew that corner or I’ll put a safety pin in it. No big deal. I’ll live with it. I can’t wait to carry this set to the club!

Then you pull out that box with the chess pieces and you notice the advertised four pound chess set you ordered seems a lot closer to 2 pounds as you hold it. A postal scale will later verify that the set is over a pound lighter than the ad said it would be.

That’s ok. You ordered it for its beauty. Then you open the box. Your ebony set is spray-painted brown or - if “ebony-like” - a purplish off black color – and is it even real wood or a fake composite wood?

And if you ordered rosewood or a dark-wood set, the grains are all mismatched - or some have very sharp grains and the other dark pieces are almost a solid brown with very little grain showing – and no match at all to the other dark pieces.

Then you look at the “white” boxwood pieces. There are cracks in some of the bases in some of the pieces; some pawns have flat spots on the heads (also on the dark pieces but not as noticeable). The one bishop seems to have a dark stained dot (brown stain?) on its collar…..and one knight is almost blonde – while the other is a caramel color….and glossy. Anyway, the “white” knights don’t match.

Oh well, at least I now own the finest chess clock on the market! I put the batteries in it and test it out. Wait a minute… of the buttons seems to stick. Sometimes it works….sometimes it doesn’t.

I start to read the clock directions and in order to change the settings I need a Master’s degree in video game thumb dexterity and have to be able to program an IBM mainframe.

Well let me just scroll thru the different standard clock settings. I’ll just use those.

Wait a minute…….the clock just froze up and I can’t get it to do anything! I have to pull the batteries out of it ……or destroy a paper clip to use it as a plunger to hit the tiny reset button (which they should have made bigger and on the front of the clock since I use it as much as the “sticky” timer button!).

So I call or email my retailer and they cheerfully tell me they will replace the clock and bag merchandize - “and let us know if those replacements we send you - are any good”.

As far as the chess set, “we just changed suppliers. If you want to exchange it or try your luck with another set…..feel free to spin the lottery wheel with us. You see we are making so much money we can afford to trade chess sets with you and keep our investment stock in UPS and Fed-EX going up, up up!”

Ok, only the first two sentences really happened (replacements and changed suppliers), but you get my point.

The retailer has suppliers that are truly awful and the retailer doesn’t care that they are awful. And what is the retailer’s response? “Send it back and try your luck again. You will get something you will live with….eventually. If not, whatever.”

There is no “receiving inspection” or “supplier quality control” going on at the wholesaler or retailer level. Like I said, I think the Chess Equipment Mafia is so controlling and dangerous, that they must be the ones who really know what happened to Hoffa.

Jimmy must of complained a little too loudly that the 4 inch king chess set he ordered had only a 3 inch king. After all, he was told before to……”fa-getabouwtit!”

1 comment:

  1. The last three clocks I have purchased (from three different manufacturers and three different retailers) have all been defective!
    The Saitek Comp. Pro freezes up.
    The DGT - 960 has a button that will not activate unless hit on a certain half of the button - and with some force! A simple touch may not activate the opponents clock.
    The Excalibur had one button that failed to work at all.
    Three brand new clocks - shipped defective to the retailer - who dutifully shipped them to their customer.
    Shameful disrespect for their customers.