Saturday, July 27, 2013

In Response to the Latest Backers-Only Update for Brave Halfling's Appendix N Kickstarter

First, read this if you are a backer of said project:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1778492214/appendix-n-adventure-toolkits-dcc-rpg-modules/posts/551554

I posted the following comment/rant:

Wait. You've only shipped print product to people in the $200 and $100 category? That's what . . .23 total shipments, according to the handy backers sidebar over there on the right of the screen. 23 print packages. In a year. So 549 of us are still sitting here twiddling our thumbs, listening to you dig yourself another hole with more promises.

Why do those who pledged more get first dibs? They might get MORE in their shipments, but why are they getting firsts? Especially when those of us who ponied up extra shipping back in October still have nothing but PDFs to show for it?

Nothing in the reward descriptions says anything about getting priority fulfillment over the rest of us shlubs down in the $5 to $51 categories--which make up the bulk of the backers of the project.

You know, I've been rah-rahing this Kickstarter for a long time, biding my time with atta-boys and saving criticism and hoping that promises previously made ("six modules ready to go!", "pay a $10 extra and get your stuff in three shipments!", "first shipment in November 2012!") would be fulfilled.

While I understand and empathize and prayed for you and your family during the series of personal issues that have plagued you during the course of this project (job loss, moving into a parent's basement for time, moving, ill health, fried computer, late term miscarriage), I find my patience wearing thin. It gets to the point where, as a customer, I feel I have been taken advantage of -- not monetarily, but in terms of my good will and patience.

Now we are told that things will NOT be in three shipments, that we will be receiving monthly packages instead. Given the track record of previous promises, I do not trust this promised course of action.

I am also tired of the mea culpas. Stop making excuses. Stop making empty promises. Put up or shut up. Ship the damn products.

The problem with this Kickstarter is that the goal posts keep moving when it should have been cancelled once it was clear the previous promises could not be fulfilled.

It's pretty clear you got caught up in Kickstarter euphoria and went overboard on the number of rewards without accurately estimating the production costs and time necessary to fulfill them. The moment this Kickstarter was funded, Brave Halfling went from a hobby business to a legitimate side business, and you failed to make the needed business changes to handle the new customers and the demand for the new products created in those customers.

You knew from the outset how many people backed this Kickstarter when the Kickstarter ended. It was up to you to plan accordingly a method to fulfill the orders and the rewards you promised as quickly as possible. You did not do so.

You said that you had things "ready to go.' You did not.

When artists couldn't meet deadlines, instead of hiring new artists you over-empathized and acted like a pastor instead of businessman. Yes, your empathy is well placed, but business is business.

Instead of trying to do things on the cheap (using index cards to track customers instead of a database + mail merge; shrink-wrapping and shipping product yourself), you needed to hire a fulfillment company to finish the job. You didn't.

You are trying to do everything yourself and failing miserably at meeting your own publicly declared self-imposed deadlines again and again (and yes, we know you hired an assistant who flaked out and that your wife and kids are now pitching in to assemble & ship the products). And of course, failing to meet publicly imposed deadlines further tarnished your reputation and tests your customers' patience even more.

In short, you have over promised and under delivered. If you were a contractor for a company and behaved in this manner, you would have been fired long ago.

As it sits, we are a little over a year out of the end of funding and all we've gotten are empty promises in regards to the print products and bonus rewards. Now, the PDFs are gorgeous and I very much appreciate them, but I am still without my print versions--for modules that we were told were "ready to go!". If you are still doing layout a year later, it is clear these were NOT "ready to go!".

Any reasonable businessman facing the avalanche of personal setbacks you faced this past year would have cut his losses. He would have said "Guys, can't do it, here's your money back."

Now, I admire that you have not pulled a Grognardia and disappeared in silence for months on end. But it is pretty clear that you do not want to declare that you are unable to fulfill this project and cancel it, as then you would owe everyone a full refund, as per the Kickstarter Terms of Service. My guess is you can't financially do this. My guess is that the money for this Kickstarter was spent long ago. This is pure speculation on my part, of course. I'm not asking for an accounting or an audit. We aren't owed one. I'm asking you to fulfill your PREVIOUS promises as quickly as possible.

Let me be clear: I DO NOT want a refund. I have already received part of what I ordered plus some bonus rewards, all in PDF. Now I want the print versions of what I ordered. I want you to STOP making promises. STOP changing the way the Kickstarter will be fulfilled every time it is inconvenient for you. In short, STOP PULLING A NYSTUL.

All in all, this Kickstarter has tarnished whatever good will Brave Halfling had with me. I'm not saying you've lost a customer, but this while whole debacle made me pledge to stop and think thrice about buying anything Brave Halfling might offer in the future. That saddens me.

I'm sorry if I come across as angry. I'm not. I'm disappointed. I'm only in at the $20 level. I was excited at all the extra bonus rewards that I would get when the Kickstarter made each of its new funding goals. I kicked in an extra $10 when you asked nicely and made promises of a November ship date. And now after delay after delay after delay, I've given up hope of you ever fulfilling a promise you make in regards to this Kickstarter. Simply put, I don't trust Brave Halfling anymore.

Again, I DON'T want a refund. I REALLY DO simply want was what was promised to us at the end of the funding drive. I’m looking forward to PDFs and print versions of my backer level, all five bonus goals, the final goal, and the extra bonus goal.

I know you are doing your best. But your best isn't cutting it. Sometimes we need to admit that our best isn't enough and seek the assistance we need to finish a job, even if that ends up costing us more out of pocket than we expect. Because sometimes, damage control is worth it. Because sometimes, our reputations are worth it. Because sometimes, it is the right thing to do.