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No Full Payment Until Dolls are Done

Sep 6, 2011

    1. Hello, fellow DoA'ers

      I have been a member of the community for years; as much as I tried to adapt myself to the pros and cons of the hobby, there are things that seems not to ever change, and after 7 years enduring them, I think today I've reached a point where I honestly can't stand it any longer. Let me explain myself:

      We all, as a community, have been acting as a really naive collective, trusting always in the maker's reputations and feedbacks. Even if most of our experiences could be overall rated as ''good'', we all have experienced several cases of abuse, lack of communication, broken contract terms and several, basically unacceptable practices in this business, that we give for granted, and we've just assumed as normal. Honestly; since when is normal to pay the amounts of money that we invest on dolls, having only sales reference pictures... and then waiting and waiting, with nothing but our good faith in the maker's good will?

      We are an extremely supportive collective towards the artists involved on it; I'm afraid to say that our supportiveness sometimes can turn into fanaticism, and we tend to override our own rights as consumers. But, as any person buying something in this world, we have rights that we should stand for. Events like those that took place with Charles Creature Cabinet, Custom House, Dollfair international, Felixdoll... how many times have we seen people ripped of their money, and having nothing in the end? The waiting times are so long, that most of the payment protections expire, like paypal's. We are given excuses -lack of supplies, sudden sicknesses, personal issues- that would be frankly intolerable in any other business. Yet still, we suffer from the rules we've placed ourselves and we've all accepted in a docile, patient manner because of our love and supportiveness towards makers. I say, it is time to stop that.

      As much as I support the makers myself, I think it could be time of a change of attitude in the business, both from makers, and from us, as generally mistreated, but surprisingly sheepish customers. And I say:

      NO to buying and paying inmense prices for air; Enough of full paid ''preorders''. Sell actual items.

      Be responsible with your own business, and be prepared to take the risk. Investment is a part of any business, and you need to be responsible as well. Stop these unberable waiting times that make a lot of people loose motivation in the dolls themselves, stop the practices of abuse and the excuses towards that. We all take risks when buying and selling online.

      I honestly think that, when you have payed 700$ on something, you need more warrantee than a maker's ''word'' of the item to be delivered and done properly. And most of all, delivered within a reasonable time. These 9 month waiting times are totally unexcusable, no matter how much decoration makers want to put onto them. I think it is more or less right to be sure of how much quantity of something you will sell, but this needs to be treated with responsibility as well. So this is my suggestion:


      We should ask the makers for partially paid preorders only. When the prototype doll is announced and advertised, and the preorder times start, people should preorder, and pay only a resonable percet of the item, that might cover the costs of manufacture (from 10% to a maximum of 30% of the item's price). The rest of the payment should come when the maker's have finished the production of the item, and it is ready to be shipped. Then is when the profit comes, not earlier.

      The deposit payment should be the maker's warrantee for a full sales, and in the case of a payment not fulfilled in time, the item will be free to be sold again. I am pretty sure that this would reduce the waiting times for everyone, and will turn the sales practice into a trust exercise for both sides, not just for the clients and customers. These are hard days for bussiness, and makers need to learn to be competitive. A proper client service is something that makes you competitive as well.

      I am sorry of my english sounds fractured or messy, I hope I could explain my point! And I would love to hear what you people have to say about the matter!

      Thanks for your time!
       
    2. I sometimes buy stuff wholesale as I work part time at a regional wholesale market, and basically, that's how it works there. I place my order, give the merchant my credit card number, and I'm charged for the item when it is ready to be shipped. I don't know how the current doll business plan came to be the way it is, but I think they're unlikely to change now that the "rules" have been long established.
       
    3. For what is worth, I doubt the average doll maker gets a 70%-90% markup on fabrication costs (and I would really like to see what those percentages come from:)). Besides, most small-size studios don't usually have the financial overhead and infrastructure to manufacture huge batches of dolls without a substantial initial payment. I frankly don't see that business model being feasible for most of the smaller companies, and bigger studios can set their own terms: they are big *because* they are popular and people really *want* to buy their products.

      Funny enough, the two biggest examples of dolls made in batches and ready for being bought immediately I can think of are Volks' dolpa limiteds and Alchemic Labo's lotteries, and that's because they are 100% sure that they are going to sell every doll they make. It has to be made-to-order for the rest.
       
    4. oh ho ho yes the markup is definately that high, if not higher just look at the the dollshe reproduction costs. Based on that, they have a markup of at least 94% on their 74cm full dolls.
      heres the link to there reproduction information page:
      http://dollshecraft.com/infodesk/banner.php?number=61
       
    5. You're forgetting the design and sculpting process there, which takes a lot of man-hours (very few people, many hours). Mr. Dollshe in particular has *engineered* doll bodies that look like arthropods for maximum poseability, for goodness' sake. When a preorder is announced, a lot of work and time has already been sunk.
       
    6. Artists should charge for their design and skills in making that design and casting it...otherwise artists would be selling their own skills short and selling their products at cost! Not everyone goes into a career as an artist to make a ton of money, but they do expect to be paid for their time and skill and I don't think this is an unreasonable expectation.

      Production costs aren't the only factor that goes into a doll's retail price. Artists are charging for the time it takes to produce the initial design, the time it takes to make the moulds, the time it takes to cast from those moulds, the time it takes to string the doll together...they also need to pay for their premises as well as make a living wage on top of that and pay their employees a living wage.

      The other part of this is...if you don't like the prices, don't pay them ;) And if you don't like companies' business practices, don't buy from them. There are companies who have ordering periods because they're selling ready-made dolls in that time, I think Ariadoll actually does this, so it's not completely unheard of.

      It would be a very risky business for Soom, for example, to pre-cast all their LEs before they go on sale. Not all Monthly Dolls have been popular, and having boxes of fully made LE dolls lying around unsold is a complete waste of materials - not to mention if they had a sale and sold an LE doll at a discounted rate, they'd get all sorts of hate mail from people who paid full price.

      Nanyalin, I think the companies offering what you're after are more likely to be the ones offering layaway. I think Souldoll has a practice like this - production of the doll will begin after the first or second payment, but the doll won't be shipped until completion and if the customer doesn't complete the layaway the doll can be sold on...but this would only work with standard edition dolls, I think.

      As for unbearable waiting times...I think, with the obvious exception of a few companies, things have actually got a lot better. Companies are more upfront about how long you will have to wait, and the waiting rooms here are a good place to go and see how quickly things are progressing. It does put things into perspective when you see just how many other people are waiting for the same doll - and that's just on DoA! Not all BJD collectors have an account here, so the actual amount of people waiting for the same doll to be produced from one company is likely to be higher. When you realise that you're not the only one waiting, I think your patience increases as does your awareness of others. I bought an MNF Rheia when she first came out and not only was I waiting with a whole crowd of people for Rheia, there were crowds of people waiting for other MNFs too. My Rheia took around 35 days to ship - I find that amazing considering Fairyland had so many other orders, not just for MNFs, as well. The organisation at their factory must be amazing!
       
    7. Yes, I totally agree. As our community and hobby grows and our buying power increases, we need to demand the same service and operation practices that any other viable business in any country would have to incur. Those of us that have experience working as fine artists or know people that do, can validate that no one would stay in business if they demanded that customers pay for commissions in full up front before the work is done and the final product is deemed acceptable by the buyer.

      Word of mouth is always a vital part of any marketing strategy, but unfortunately some doll companies don't seem to realize that not fulfilling their part of the deal by slow turnaround of orders, poor quality, or deceptive marketing photos, will come back to bite them in the end. Bottom line is if doll companies want the market to grow, they need to be more user friendly by not forcing people to trust them by making them pay in full for merchandise that technically is not available, thus allowing them to take advantage of us by making us comply with their production schedules and whims. Labor costs for the company is not an issue. They will get paid when the product is finished and ready for shipping, like the rest of the businesses in the world.

      Thanks for bringing this up. Power is in numbers and if we stand up against some of the larger, more popular companies by signing a petitions and letting them know what their market wants, that could be a way to facilitate change.
       
    8. Isn't this the responsibility of the community to leave accurate feedback about their experiences with the company though? Companies who do have poor practices won't have anything to come back and bite them if members of the community don't inform each other accurately, rationally and calmly about what is going on.

      Bad practices, and I'm talking about genuine bad practice here - companies producing awful quality products and/or disappearing with the money and not fulfilling orders, not being a few days overdue with sending your doll out - are consistently going to be rewarded and will not be improved if honest feedback isn't left about them. I feel there is a tendency to gloss over negative experiences because there's utter relief when you actually get your doll, and people are only comfortable leaving negative feedback in the most extreme circumstances, like not getting the doll at all or getting a pile of crushed resin in the post. If the company tells you your doll is due in 40 days, it should be due in 40 days, not 90, not 180...unless of course, there is a natural disaster involved - I'm sure all of us have the heart to appreciate that if there's a fire at the factory that has to be taken care of first and our dolls second provided that the company can keep us informed that they're alright and still trading.

      There's no need to start a boycott or a witch hunt if people were more honest in their feedback and willing to admit that their experiences were not acceptable. People can be very precious about their favourite companies, starting a boycott and having a masterlist of 'bad' companies can be more divisive and damaging to the community as a whole - especially when the first cries of elitism crop up ;)
       
    9. Nanyalin--I agree with everything you said... But I don't think there's any way to change the business practices, especially considering most BJD companies are in countries that don't exactly have an established high standard of business practice. I think the best we can do is support local BJD artists and companies and hope that some day Western BJDs will be just as popular and beautiful as those elsewhere--though I supposed that didn't stop Dollfair/CCC from dancing off with everyone's money either >.>

      So yes, just one of the things we BJD collectors have to suffer to participate in this hobby.
       
    10. I guess I'm a little confused. People do this kind of business all the time in the normal world. I can pre-order a custom car (paying for "air"), and have to wait several months before the car arrives. Does that mean Ford should keep every option available/in-stock just in case somebody wants it? What happens if that particular combination of options never sells? Ford is out all the production costs.

      Dropping a large amount of cash on anything is risky. Last year a local bridal shop disappeared overnight. All those brides were out thousands of dollars for their gowns. The police are still looking for the dealers. And that's within the US! Think of all the red tape involved when you're dealing with a company on the other side of the planet. I'm certainly not condoning the actions of companies like Charles Creature Cabinet. What they did was horrible, and I feel so bad for everybody involved. I'm just saying "buyer beware".

      I've never heard of personal excuses (like a sudden sickness) from a company. But what about the weather? When monsoon season hits the ability to cast dolls drops to zero. I would rather have a company wait out the weather so they can produce quality dolls. I'll accept the extra wait time.
       
    11. Exactly. I'm not saying the dolls are not worth that much, but just that there is indeed a significant mark-up.
       
    12. I can think of several hobbies where almost all buying is, in fact, for what are essentially paid in full preorders. The anime PVC figure hobby in particular. Some stores don't require payment until the item ships, but many others do. You then wait however many months for the figure to be released and sent to you. You only have the production prototype pictures to go of off generally, unless you are lucky enough to go a figure festival like Wonderfest and see the protos in person.

      If a company has wait times that you find excessive, the incredibly easy solution to this problem is simply do not buy from the company. They won't get your business and you don't have to deal with a company whose policies you don't agree with. I don't understand why people have such an issue with this concept.

      I don't like waiting for dolls and really will only buy direct from companies who I know have very short and very consistent wait times. Volks manages this by having their own factory they manage themselves and being able to have lots of their dolls premade. Bluefairy has almost no wait time for their standard dolls because they keep a small number in stock at any given time, but their LE's do have a waiting period.

      For a lot of the smaller companies, where it's the artist and maybe one other person working, I don't think most of them would have the capital upfront to be able to precast a large number of dolls that potentially won't sell. We wouldn't have the variety available we do now.

      Thank you for bringing up cars. I hadn't thought of that example. Also, now that I think about it, computers operate under the same way. You have to pay in full for any custom build computer that I know of and then wait for said computer to be manufactured and sent to you.
       
    13. That's not markup, because it's the sculptor's salary, which is inside the manufacturing costs. The artists' work *has* to be paid before you can talk about benefits.
       
    14. Theres alot of cost involve in production. For dolls, there is also the warehouse and artist fee. Add in the time and work involved, the workers (if any) that are needed and paid. The base material for dolls are really cheap. But if you add in full production cost it will be high.

      Preordering is a very common thing in many collectors item. And to say what bjd companies do in collecting full deposit then making the doll is relatively common. Many other collectibles like car action figure or things people regularly dont buy are often the case of full deposit. Theres is just too much risk in producing a set amount and if they dont sell, what happens? The reason why volks can pre produce is pretty much they have confident that they will sell out which I believe is usually the case.

      I have to say though maybe 100% is sometime a little too high. Maybe 50% or 60% will be better. However if there are people who are willing to put 100%, why will the doll companies not take that 100%? Considering they are small companies usually, breaking even early is probably of greater importance as such the 100% preorder cost.
       
    15. Computers are slightly different. Most/all companies keep a set amount of components in stock. When you order your computer they pull parts A, D and F, throw them in a case and ship it to you. To parallel it with dolls, that's like asking Soom to keep a stock of several head sculpts and bodies around. They would put head T with body H and send it to you.

      While this would decrease the wait time, you'd still be unhappy with your doll. Resin colors can vary quite a bit. Anybody remember the Chrom fiasco? Even a single sculpt, theoretically produced all at once, had NS resin differences.

      And let's not forget that a percentage of your $700 goes into Research & Development. You're paying the artists to work on future projects: new sculpts, different body engineering, story lines/themes, etc.
       
    16. Maybe we misunderstood eachother, but I was just thinking of production costs vs final sales price. I understand the artistic process in itself need to be compensated as well.
       
    17. I think this is a very good topic. I'm new to Doa and just ordered my first BJD about 2 weeks ago and was nervous about paying in advance but it appears that is what the norm is. Is there a list anywhere of the companies that do allow partial payment pre-orders or layaways? And is there a list of the companies that have items in stock for immediate shipping? I would personally feel much more comfortable buying that way, beside the fact that I like instant gratificiation!
       
    18. It's entirely possible. I was assuming you meant that everything other than, say, Dollshe's casting prices that you linked was "markup", when that "markup" would still have to account for workers' salaries, workshop, materials, and so on.
       
    19. 1) This is probably a topic better suited to the Newbie section. :)
      2) All these things depend on the company. You might be happier going through a dealer. Denver Doll lets you use layaway and will state when an item is in stock.
       
    20. Well, yes, but it is still something you are paying for completely up front and still waiting to be put together and mailed to you. I had a month waiting time for my last computer, which I was fine with because I knew about it before hand.

      The issue of resin matching is a very persuasive argument against keeping random parts of dolls in stock for any amount of time to be ready shipped to customers as they buy them, or even entire dolls. Sure you may have no wait for your doll, but you risk the chance of getting a doll that has been unsold and sitting around for months, or a doll whose pieces do not all match each other. I could see this leading to a lot more junk, unusable parts for the companies and increases in prices.