Compromising quality to meet demand?

Dec 26, 2007

    1. First off I would like to state that this is a topic meant for intelligent and civil debate. This is not meant to bash any companies, and any examples I, or anyone else, uses should be taken as an example and nothing more. Just because I, or anyone else, can only recall clearly one or two examples does not mean we are singling anybody out. Please, nobody means any harm, nor do they wish to bash anyone elses favorite company.

      Now, to the 'beef'.
      I have read a lot lately of larger companies starting to send out less than perfect works, sanded shoddily, face-upped amatuerly (or not worth the hefty company fee by far), or in some worse cases, broken or miscast.
      Two notable instances are from Luts, one where DoA user Bread117 recieved a wholly miscast shushu special leg, and another is the gradual but noticable 'lightening' or their dolls, weight wise.
      There are also such issues with Volks, sending out bad quality Zoukeimura eyes or faceup work not as requested on FCS dolls.

      In most cases, many doll companies will simply refuse to admit they are wrong. In the Luts case they insisted the miscast leg part was normal quality, and in the Volks, they insisted that it was done as requested. None of these problems showed up, at least not as frequently or as severely, until the doll fandom got 'bigger', as in Luts having probably hundreds of orders a month or more, and Volks having more limiteds than I can count on the combined digits of a set of twins.

      So, what do you think? Are companies really losing some much-needed (for this price) QC or is it just a case of people being more astute as the hobby grows? Do you have experience with any incidents such as this? How can this be remedied if it is indeed a problem?
      The discussion should certainly not be limited to these questions- but these should give a nice start.
       
    2. Well if they are going to decrease the quality, they should decrease the cost to the consumer. I think that companies should always try to be honest and kind to thier customers. This rarely ever happens though but it would be nice.
       
    3. I'd just like to say that for the price, to give us anything other than the best would be unacceptable. My SDF Cian, lovely as he is, was sanded rather shoddily and is quite gritty. I was a little disappointed, but it's the least thing I would be worried about.
      I don't think it's right.
      If they need to lower the quality to meet demands, I say allow a set number of orders a month, or lower the price!
       
    4. I completely agree. The quality of a product should afect its pice. If a company decides to cast their dolls thiner (or what ever may have you) then they should also decrease the price.

      One SMALL thing I noticed, my beautifull Le Xi's bottom eyelashes are...how do I put it...a littel off? One of them kinda looks like they just trimed it up and slaped it on. The other was half in his eye socket. I fixed these issues so it was realy no big deal but I think when companys are in a rush, the do tend to let their work become a littel less then perfect. I say in a rush because with all the new dolls(LE's and the promo pets) one can only asume this was a bizy season. <- not saying thats an excuse.Also let it be noted that DZ is one of my fav. companys.

      EDIT:
      sry, I rembered that my recently recived DZ petdoll bunny was sanded rather poorly and has 2 chips in him! I would also like to add that the box I recived him in was in perfect shape so I know it did not hapen in shiping. (also yes I know the petdoll buny was intended to be a girl)

      -Kira
       
    5. Some times I wonder why the quality suffers when the company gets larger and their profits. The logical thing to do would be to hire more hands, but I suppose in such a specialized area like dealing with dolls that it may be hard to find help that is knowledgeable on the subject. More workers also means more paychecks to fill, and less earnings in the end. In a perfect world, a company's staff would grow along with its popularity but that clearly isn't the case.

      I also think it has a bit to do with the doll having to pass through many hands before it finally gets sent away for shipping. Most doll companies start off very small and in the beginning a doll may be completely cast, sanded, strung, painted and packaged all by one person. The creator got to see the project from start to finish and would personally fill orders. However, I suspect that when a company gets larger they need to turn to a sort of &#8220;conveyor belt&#8221; system where they assign certain people certain jobs in order to get everything moving more quickly. If a defected doll makes it down the line and ends up in the packaging department the workers there probably are not even trained to spot flaws that collectors would notice right off the bat. Not to mention that they may not even care since it isn't their department and thus not their problem.

      This probably explains why the smaller doll companies are generally known for their outstanding customer service. When you have fewer people to process an order, less can go wrong. Too many departments and too many workers can cause misunderstandings and confusion because complaints can get sent to the wrong people and problems may arise in an area where no one is trained to handle them.

      I agree that it is completely unacceptable. If the quality has to suffer because the company can not keep up with its demand, the prices should reflect this or they should step up and get better hired help or better facilities. Instead, with popularity and demand often come higher prices because customers still want their goods, regardless of the flaws.
       
    6. I'm guessing that most of the problems stem from a company's demand being higher than their production capacity. It's all well and good to say that they should lower prices to make up for it or limit orders... but I know people would also complain if orders were limited or if the prices were lowered as a way of making lower quality dolls now "Acceptable". What about a rise in the price of the dolls to stay at the previous "good quality" level? I know that would upset people but it's probably the most productive solution.

      Most of the work that is done on dolls IS highly skilled work. It takes time and that time costs the company money. Faceups are highly skilled work, and less-skilled work like seam-sanding take enough hours that they end up quite expensive as well. I assume that most companies do have a "quality control" before the dolls are sent out, but imagine if only one or two people are checking doll after doll after doll... and one gets through in bad condition from time to time.

      Things like increases in minimum wage and cost of living, and inflation, are just facts of life. Most things get more expensive as time goes on (not talking about everything- things like technology get cheaper, but even go look at the price of a Barbie doll versus a similar doll 10 years ago!), some of the doll manufacturers are probably paying their employees more than they used to but still charging the same price for the dolls. And it seems that finding reliable and skilled staff is probably pretty difficult (not to mention the fact that some companies are very tight-knit and may not want to hire new unknowns).
       
    7. For some companies that have trouble on a more regular basis, it could very well be growing pains. While the word "company" conjours up images of a large enterprise, bjd companies are usually very small--just a few people, so a sudden steady increase in orders could be difficult at first to deal with. Given time, I would think these sorts of issues will be worked out.

      Sometimes, it's simply that crap happens. No matter how hard a company may try to have good quality control, they are only human and at some point there will be mistakes made. It's inevitable. It sucks to be the person with the problem doll, but 100&#37; perfect dollies all the time is nice to shoot for, but it's pretty much impossible to get. Especially when you take in to consideration how they're made--they aren't mass produced and all done by machine, and resin can be touchy to work with.

      I think the key is really in how the company handles things when something does go wrong. If there is a fault on their end, then they should do their best to take care of it as promptly as possible. This to me is the real test of customer service. It's easy to be pleasant with customers when there isn't a problem, but when things go wrong...

      Another thing to remember besides increased demand, is that with more and more people involved not only in the hobby but on boards like DoA, we're going to hear about problems more often, simply because there are more oppurtunities for things to happen, and there's more people who need advice or want to commiserate with fellow hobbyists. It's possible that percentage wise, quality is around where it normally is, but there's just an increase in the number of dolls being sold. I don't know.

      Of all the dolls I've purchased, I've only had one issue. However, it was a problem with a dealer rather than the company itself, and the company stepped in and fixed the problem very prompty when I went to them for help.
       
    8. I have to agree with Taco on this one.

      Expecting perfection all the time is simply a pipe dream. Anything which involves a human at point of the process (or even a machine for that matter) means that errors are going to happen.

      What happens after the error is brought to the attention of the company and what they do about it is what will make or break my opinion of them.
       
    9. I've had a few issues of bad QC or errors in my orders - for a couple months, it seemed like everytime I ordered something, something was either late, missing, broken, or just the wrong item. Lati sent me the wrong gendered body, Luts sent me a Senior Delf with a broken ankle after a 2 month wait, etc... problems that would have been easy to avoid if they had just looked in the box before shipping it out. Is it a result of trying to fill demand? Quite possibly!

      In all cases, the companies have taken care of the problems.... like Moggie, the way the company deals with a problem is what ultimately determines my overall view of their quality. However, I do have to admit that a company that sends out a flawed product does drop immediately in my estimation, regardless of how it ends up being resolved. There's nothing quite like that disappointment of opening the box to see the wrong doll, or the sinking feeling of realizing that the reason your boy doesn't stand is because he's got a big ol' chunk out of his ankle... and even replacements and little apology gifts don't really make up for the initial frustration and the hassle of shipping things back.
       
    10. I agree with Moggie and Armeleia. A couple things slipping every now and then is expected to me cause yes it's humans making these pretty things for us. So while it totally sucks that it happens, the companies if it is their fault that the doll is substandard quality they should try to fix it. They have to understand that with a community negative things are going to be said and negative word of mouth gets around much faster than good and stays in people's minds a lot longer.

      If they can fix it, great, but like Armeleia said they already did wrong and that is a point against them. Although with Volks messing up on FCS order face ups that is beyond wrong in my book. They are a larger company and part of the reason why people do FCS is to get custom make up and if they are going to mess up they should only offer basic make up and not bother with custom, especially if they messed up when pictures were provided!

      I think the companies just have to grow into their popularity and just take their time in sending things out. I would rather have to wait an extra amount of time to get a good quality doll than to have it rushed to me and there be a major flaw.
       
    11. As others have said, mistakes are bound to happen from time to time. It's just a fact of life. What I would really love to see though is companies taking far more responsibility for these mistakes, especially those that are easily fixable i.e. miscasts and so on. More often than not you hear examples of people simply been blown off when they complain, which simply is not on.

      If you consider how much money we pay for our dolls you would expect some form of after care to be available, even if it is as little as having spare parts available for purchase. While I realise that doll companies are for the most part very small operations, a little customer care does go a long way.
       
    12. I think the importance of "saving face" in Asia contributes to many of these problems. Not only are companies very extremely reluctant to admit mistakes to outsiders, I think "face" hampers the whole concept of quality control.

      Here is a very interesting article I found that discusses the same thing:

      Excerpt:
      "In the West, companies want to put on a good face for customers, even if it means having to admit mistakes. Righting wrongs is a big part of a good public image, and a good internal image as well.

      In the East, particularly at traditional companies, saving face is important. Saving face means that you don't admit your own mistakes and you don't publicly humiliate co-workers by exposing their mistakes."

      Link:
      http://www.pcwelt.de/index.cfm?pid=829&pk=136835


      I used to work for a large American computer company. When the president of Engineering knew I was interviewing people for a position in my software development and developer support group, he asked me to keep an eye out for someone who would be really good at quality assurance. He told me "I want him to be a real b****d, someone who'll get right in my face when something isn't right".

      I have a feeling this is exactly the opposite of how things work in Asia. I think workers never want to tell anyone at or above their level that something is not being done right.

      And I also think it can backfire when people who have received shoddy Asian products immediately launch a Western-style accusation at Asians.

      Carolyn
       
    13. Carolyn S., that reminds me of what happened with me and Bambicrony.

      I've had two mishaps from doll companies (one actually very funny-my friend and I ordered two Lati Blue girls, and mine had two left upper arms, while hers had two right. We fixed that quickly). Bambicrony was the only one that truly made me mad.

      I was doing a dual order with someone else on the board, and the 30 day period that the website said came and went. I started emailing them, and they kept denying any blame. First the molds were messed up, then the faceup artist was slow, then excuse after excuse. They refused to admit that they seem to have taken on way more orders than they could handle (it was during an event). I even got a PM here from a friend of the artist, saying that Bambicrony was blaming the artist entirely on the slow-downs, when they weren't getting heads to the artist very quickly; when they did, she finished them quickly.

      In short, rather than saying "Yes, we made a mistake" they were blaming a third-party that they assumed wouldn't find out.
      They ended up offering a faceup on the other girl's doll and gave us two wigs, so I ended up getting a total of one wig for the over two-month delay.

      They took on more than they could handle, and their customer service suffered horribly.

      I've heard of awful, awful quality issues, and yet we are still paying huge amounts for these dolls. I think that the doll companies need to understand that this is not okay, but unless there is a strike against them, I don't think that they will care enough.

      Wow, that was a rant. XD
       
    14. I don't know if it's fair to say they don't care enough. Unless you're working in the company or are good friends with the people who run the company andcan see what's actually going, I think an assumption like that is a bit unfair to them. They're probably running around more stressed than any of the customers, but trying not to project an image of panic, saving face like Carolyn.S mentioned. That's what makes it so hard to tell what's really going on. ^^; That said, I think BC is only... 3 people? And they've said they won't be doing any more coloured resin dolls (I assume that's what you had ordered?) because of all the problems, so at the very least.... they've learned from the experience. I'd say Luts discontinuing their tan doll is probably another example of a company learning that their product is just too tricky to continue with (the Bambicrony coloured resin dolls took a very long time and the dolls faded quickly and inconsistently, the Luts tan resin was very susceptible to cracks and breaks, and had all the normal tan problems, etc).

      This reminds me of another thread somewhere where people were saying that companies should be more upfront with flaws and such, but really they are a business trying to project a good image. Imagine if you bought a car that had a warning that the brake system would start to go bad after 2 years, or pants that had a tag saying the stitching is likely to come undone and the zipper will probably jam. XD That's when secondhand knowledge is really good to have. Of course it doesn't apply to some things like individual broken or miscast parts, but some things like Luts makeup service or tan resin are known to be a bit hit or miss. : /
       
    15. Suuchan's problems with delays reminds me of one other thing I heard from our head of Engineering. He said that one difficulty with going to Asia to work out a manufacturing contract for cases or circuit boards was that no matter our side wanted manufactured or what date they wanted it by, the Asian representatives at the table would always say Yes they could do that. Can you make this? Yes. Can you have 100.000 ready in 2-weeks? Yes. Always Yes regardless of what the real answer might be.

      I have become used to delays and I think Westerners need to not expect things from Asia by a promised date. There are also unique issues with manufacturing BJD's. One is that some of the BJD companies are very small and cannot work around the absence of one person. Another is that there are some long holidays in Asia that do not fall at times we think of as holiday seasons. There are holidays where everyone visits their birthplace for a week, etc. And one big cause of delays is weather. The West is very used to factories being large climate-controlled places. Asia has very long rainy seasons that seem to have gotten worse in recent years. I know Korea's rainy season takes up much of the summer. And I would bet that only the largest BJD's factories might be climate controlled. So the moisture gets into everything - it affects the resin, the casting, the sealing, and the painting. I know this summer one BJD company had to wipe the faceups from a whole bunch of dolls and do them over because of the weather. So I think you have to take their dates with a grain of salt and hope everything runs smoothly.

      I think the problem that needs to be addressed is shoddy quality.

      Carolyn
       
    16. For one, what I was trying to say not was that they don't care-but that unless that there is a strike against them, they won't know that we feel strongly about it, or they might not care enough to change extremely. After all, that's a few customers they might lose, when they can pump out tons of dolls!

      Also, there is a reason you shouldn't assume. I got my doll for their very first event. It was the Charity head, when they had 5-6 molds total. It was shortly after they opened, I believe.

      Though the colored resin issue does pop up, too. After all, I've heard horror stories about the resin being COMPLETELY the wrong color, or visibly changing color over a tiny amount of time and very little sunlight, then Bambicrony saying that there was nothing wrong with their product and that the person must be either not telling the truth or doing something wrong.


      From what I've heard and experienced, Bambicrony is one of the worst for a sometimes shoddy product. They obviously didn't learn from their first set of bad errors, and made worse ones.
       
    17. I wish there was a way to set up an automated poll every quarter where BJD buyers could rate all of the companies they received BJD's from that quarter. The companies would be rated from 1(worst) to 10 (best) (or n.a. for doesn't apply to your order) on a number of points such as:

      Delivering by stated date
      Order complete as requested
      Fit and finish
      Customer support
      etc.

      And the companies' monthly ratings would be available for anyone to see.

      Carolyn
       
    18. Ahh, sorry for guessing the wrong event- their coloured elves are BY FAR the thing I hear most complaints about with BC. I think they did admit, eventually, that the coloured resin yellows and that they will not produce any more coloured dolls for that reason, but it did take them a while. They had a period of really iffy quality (hands coming with bubbles and uneven surfaces, mismatched resin, etc) but they seem to be recovering in the last few months- maybe they've hired more staff or changed something in their formula with the new skin colours or something. I have an elf from their last event (the somewhat controversial re-release of elf Kumi and Roko) and she has no problems at all.

      Particular company's problems aside, I do think it's important to remember that a lot of times when a BJD company decides to do something "new" it may be the first time they, or even any company, has tried to do it. It's such a small and changing industry, and we still don't really know how well the dolls will survive and what faults will appear with age- the OLDEST ABJDs are only less than 10 years old, and most are probably about 3-4 years old or less, since that seems to be when a lot of companies started sprouting up. As far as I know, there is only one BJD "school" and various short classes/workshops and books out there, so a lot of the things that companies make are somewhat experimental. It's something that's cool about the hobby but also a pitfall at times. Sure, some companies update their sculpts, resin quality, etc. when there are problems (like Volks' knees for example) but... what do you do when you're the one that gets stuck with the body that turned out to be not so good? : / Even sculpts aside, when a company has a special promotion like a free head or a discount on a pair or what have you for the first time, it often seems like they don't realize how much the rate of orders will increase. Most companies that have done multiple special events seem to improve as they do more and find ways to streamline their production (for example, Luts shutting down some less popular doll lines for the latest event so that they could focus on the popular dolls and the event heads, or Alchemic Labo pre-casting a supply of Unoa dolls to reduce the amount that have to be made after the pre-order and shorten wait times), though some of those tactics upset customers as well.

      Mostly, the companies are run by a couple of artists who just want to make a cool doll and probably have very little business experience. When they have to focus a lot on the business side, the artistic side may suffer; when they have to focus on the artistic side, the business side may suffer. We get to support small companies started by artists that make hand-made, small-run products, and sometimes they just can't provide the level of service that Americans (and other westerners) have come to expect from large corporations.
       
    19. That would actually be a really good idea! I know a lot of times it's hard to tell what info is actually recent and what is out of date- some companies have had problems in the past and improved since then but still have a bad reputation, and I'm sure the opposite is true as well.
       
    20. I should have called fit and finish Resin fit and finish, and added Quality of faceup. Also it may be easier for people to rate on a 1-5 scale where it is clearing Poor, Fair, Average, Good, and Great

      I think it would require a non-free software package or web service to do it properly.

      Carolyn