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WarStages Update #43: Bye 2020, you won't be missed

January 18, 2021 11 min read 2 Comments

WarStages Update #43: Bye 2020, you won't be missed

Dear WarStagers,

Once again we left you without news for a long time and you must be wondering what is happening. 

I understand that some of you do believe that we don’t care about WarStages, that we've given up on you and that we are no good at anything. If that is your case, I can totally understand where that comes from. If I were in your shoes, I might think exactly the same thing.

The truth is that we’ve been pushing very hard all that time to keep the WarStages adventure moving forward, even if we’ve been facing totally surreal challenges since the last update. Every day we keep on pushing to get your rewards delivered to your door.

“But that is impossible”, you may be thinking. “If they were really working on it, it would have been done a long time ago”.
Once again, if I was in your place, I would probably think the same right now. What can possibly make this SO long???

Well, welcome into the most surreal times around the WarStages adventure…

But first, know that everything is fine and now back to normal and that the first parcels will be sent your way this month.

Everything is now back to normal and ready to go

Ok, first, before going any further, here is a status report of the delivery plans:

  • All backers who have paid for their shipping and who live in the UK, North America and Pacific countries should have their parcels shipped in January
  • For EU countries, because of the crazy Brexit situation and all the new documentation required, we are not sure exactly when shipping will start, but it should be sometime in January.

The hubs in the US and UK have all your parcels, everything is ready to go but it has been totally crazy before they all got there. 

Read on if you want to know what happened.

Why such a long silence?

So why didn’t we give you some news earlier? Because everyday, it seemed like things were about to get resolved but as we were waiting for a missing piece of information, something new turned up or the info we were waiting for turned out to be completely different than what it should have been. 

It got so surreal that it really didn’t make sense to give you some information because at some point, nothing made sense… 

So we felt that telling you things at that time would just make you more frustrated or dubitative or just plain angry because one day we would tell: “Ok, things are going this way” and the next day we would be “Well… no, in fact it won’t be like that and it will go that way”.

So we thought, well, let’s just clench our teeth, move forward, and tell you everything after things start to make sense again.

Yet, we are now at a place where we have come out of the rabbit hole and we can finally tell you what happened. 

The dog ate my homework!

We are all frustrated and angry because of this situation, so might as well try to make it an entertaining tale...

So, if I was to tell you that, on a moonless night, as a storm was raging, our container chock-a-block full of WarStages products got loose on the deck of a massive freighter boat and fell overboard to sink at the bottom of the ocean… you would probably not believe me. 

The truth is that this is not what happened to us. 

But this crazy story just happened to one of our friends! 

You might have heard about this Kickstarter project. We know a bit more about it because the company who is manufacturing his game is also our manufacturer and we have people in our team who also worked on that project. And thank god for them, it’s going to be solved!

The reason I’m telling you about it is because when our friend told this to his backers, it felt a lot like a “the dog ate my homework” story. And yet this kind of crazy thing happens for real. And we can understand how people can feel like “yeah, this is all bullshit, they are just a bunch of incompetent lazy bastards”. 

But in real life, projects are like that… things go wrong all the time. And when the product finally comes out, it feels like it was dreamt by a brilliant mind who sent it to his magical farm where beautiful unicorns just pooped shiny plastic wrapped boxes that Santa Claus came to collect so they would be ready for Christmas.

The truth is WAY MORE dirty than unicorn poop…

Let’s dig in...

Has everybody lost their mind?

So what happened on our end ?

Well if you remember our last update, things were looking pretty good, we were just starting to set up fast transportation of the missing cathedral parts that had just been re-printed. 

Everything was looking A-Ok. 

We wanted to make sure that you would get your WarStages products for Christmas and were about to pay a BIG transport fee to UPS so that the trip from China to the US and UK hubs would take 2 to 4 days max. Yes, we’re talking air shipment.

And then…

Can we keep that story short? I fear we can’t...

In summary, 

  • Massive screw up by UPS who turned a 2-4 days shipment into a 2 months mess!
  • UPS hub went completely out of it for a while.
  • New Covid variant + Brexit = massive fuck up at the UK border.

So here are the juicy details…

Does UPS know how to send a parcel?

We have an account at UPS for all our regular shipments. We’ve been working with them every week for many years now, so we were confident it would take just a few emails to set this up. 

Oh boy, how wrong we were…

It took us more than 2 weeks to get the right-ish person at UPS to set up the pick up form China!
It was so crazy and everybody at UPS was telling us “oh, no, it’s not my department” that in the end Mireille went on Linkedin to look for ANYONE at UPS that could help. She ended up finding a man who was NOT WORKING THERE ANYMORE who was able to unlock the situation for us!

You may wonder why we didn’t switch vendors and give up on UPS while things were taking so long to happen. The first is that we’ve been working with UPS for years and never had such issues. So at the beginning, we thought it was probably some misunderstanding and a bit of bad luck. The other reason is that as we are regular customers, we can get better deals than doing a one-off shipment. Considering the high cost of air shipping, this was a key consideration at the time. 

When you’re in that type of situation, when you need a service that is so simple and basic to the partners you are working with, it seems totally impossible that the problem you’re facing won’t be resolved the next day. And that’s how you fall into the rabbit hole...

Houston, we’ve got a problem.

In the meantime, the hub in the US was not answering our messages anymore… We would contact them everyday, send email, leave messages on their phones… no answers.

 
In this message, Remi who is in contact with the hubs and the shipping companies says that his contact at UPS has just received a good scolding from her boss and also that Remi can't manage to get any feedback from the US hub.

 

And the US hub is not a small company, they are handling some of the biggest Kickstarters around!

In this other message Remi tells us that he is trying to get some feedback from UPS UK and UPS China because UPS France can't manage to get some definitive information on what's going on. 
And in the meantime, still no news from the US hub...

 

Until one day we receive this message telling us that they don’t want to keep our stuff.

Reading this, Mireille, infuriated, dialed the boss of the company non-stop - like, literally non-stop - leaving messages on his voicemail until he would answer his phone. He never answered her calls but in one hour, things were back on track. 

The shipments finally leave China

UK shipment: After much work with UPS (it turned out that, for some very surreal reasons, we could not send the parcel as one big shipment but we had to break it down in 18 parcels to ship together for 3 times the cost; otherwise, we were in for more weeks of delay as everybody at UPS was saying: “it’s not my department”), the UK shipment now left China. 

We are told that while this is expensive, the parcels will be there in 48 to 72 hours… 

Meanwhile, the US shipment: But we were still waiting for the US hub to approve the pick-up of the goods in China and nothing was happening. This approval is essential, otherwise they will refuse the shipment when it reaches their warehouse.

After a few messages… and a few days (people are SO HARD to reach because of Covid right now) we finally found out that they hadn’t understood us and they thought that they had to organize the shipment from China themselves….

For the UK shipment, days were passing… The tracking on the UPS parcels to the UK were showing that the shipping was not at all happening at the pace we had paid for and instead of 2-4 days, they had been in transit for several days, they had been separated and the lot was still not in Europe…

There was nothing we could do on that front, so we focused on the US hub. We decided to work with another shipping company than UPS and things were arranged quickly and soon the remaining prints were on their way to the US. 

While all this was happening, we were also preparing for the Christmas Kickstarter that had been set up to help us cover some of the additional costs that were piling up on WarStages. 

Does UPS know how to read their own files?

Christmas was now very close, and with no firm dates for the arrival of the products in the UK, the UK hub told us that they would not be able to guarantee that they would send the parcels your way before the end of the year. We were really starting to lose it with UPS… 

Despite contacting their people several times a day, we could not get another answer than “we don’t know what’s going on”. 

After really putting the pressure on them we finally learned that “Oh, in fact the parcel has been held at customs in the UK for several days and we don’t know why”.

The thing is that, when you pay a premium with a company like UPS, it is also because THEIR job is to deal with any problem that could happen at customs and keep you informed. That is not what they did here.

After many more strong exchanges on the phone, we learned that “the parcels are detained at the border because it is written that duties are to be collected upon arrival”.

So it was not a customs problem but really UPS not doing its work, not checking our parcels and not checking their files that would have told them that the shipment has already been paid in full, with duties to be charged to our account, as it has been done for years in the past…

 

Shipped on Dec. 3, arrived on Dec 22!

 

Most items travelled via United Arab Emirates, but they got separated along the way with some arriving in Germany a day later than others. Other parcels from that same 18-piece shipment actually travelled through India and Thailand before reaching Germany... Overall, as you can see on the image above, the full shipment was initiated on the 3rd of December and actually arrived on the 22nd! 


Christmas from hell

With that customs issue sorted out, we contacted the UK hub again to tell them that the parcels were coming. They confirmed that it was definitely too late for a Christmas shipment. 

And then… A new Covid variant was detected in England and most EU countries announced that they were closing their borders with the UK… just before Christmas, at the busiest time of the year! You can imagine the mess…

So we tried to book a truck to bring everything back to Germany to send all the EU parcels from a different hub. And we finally found a truck!

Oh, but wait, that is not all… It's the last deadline for the EU and UK to sign the Brexit agreement and nothing is agreed upon yet!

What it means is that NOBODY, not the customs, not the shipping companies, no one knows how shipping is going to be handled after Brexit.

This means that trucks could be held for a very long time at customs. And we also feared that there is going to be a Covid lockdown between the UK and inland Europe. And what do you think will happen to your cardboard Cathedrals if they stay in a truck near the sea, in the middle of winter in England for more than a week…? We feared that moisture might very well ruin them.

Everything is back on track

So at the very last minute, at the risk of keeping you waiting for another few weeks, we cancelled the truck and asked the UK hub to keep our goods a little longer.

As we were cancelling, France closed its borders with the UK for all accompanied freight and many other countries followed suit! So we dodged a bullet on that one.


In this message, Remi explains that only 4 of the 18 parcels have made it to the UK at this time and that this day was the last deadline for the UK hub to be able to put the products on a truck. But since the border has just closed down and that we asked Remi to cancel the truck, he confirms that he just cancelled the road trip and that the hub will keep the parcels in storage

 

In the meantime, the goods arrived in the US through DHL without a single hiccup and everything is now set up for shipment. 

So, after many scares, everything is back on track… once more.

We are waiting for the formal date as to when shipments are happening for both hubs:

  • For the US hub covering North America and Asia, our expectations is that it will be this week, but we are awaiting confirmation.
  • For the UK, it should be the same thing, but we are still waiting for confirmation as to where we stand in their shipping queue.
  • For the rest of Europe, we need the UK hub to tell us how things are going with Brexit requirements and proper documentation. A lot of UK shipments to Europe are currently not happening or delayed throughout all manner of goods, given that the Brexit accord was only finalized during Christmas week.

We’ll share more as we get the info.

Meanwhile, for any questions, contact us directly at RagingHeroesTeam@gmail.com and Ioana will be happy to assist you.

Need to update your address? Contact her immediately, do NOT update it on the Pledge Manager. Address updates on the Pledge Manager do not affect past orders.

In Conclusion

If you’ve read this far, thank you for sticking with us. As you can imagine, our frustration equals yours and this is definitely not the experience any of us wanted for this project. 

During those past months, and as we told you in our previous update, we prepared and ran another crowdfunding campaign called A Wizard’s Christmas, on 3D printable objects. This campaign, if you recall, was specifically set up so that its earnings would cover the additional production and shipping costs of WarStages. A Wizards’ Christmas ran smoothly, and while several hiccups were inevitable, including a last minute forced shift from Kickstarter to MyMiniFactory, the campaign ended and the backers have already received their pledges. 

So while we’ve been left bloodied and battered by WarStages, we’re using all this experience for our upcoming crowdfunding projects. As the Japanese proverb goes, Nana korobi, ya oki, that is, 'Fall 7 times but stand up 8'!


2 Responses

Craig
Craig

January 19, 2021

Working in logistics in Australia, importing products from the US/China and Europe… the above post is very very real.
Great work at not giving up, despite the monumental issues faced.
Logistics in a pandemic are… very difficult!

Andrea Gausman
Andrea Gausman

January 19, 2021

This is insane! Well, I’ve been doing business with you all for a long time, and I know that you’ve always delivered. So no worries, I know you all have been trying your hardest. I’m so sorry to hear about all the problems. Hope you get the EU parcels sorted out soon too.

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