Because of that, I tend to look for the best deals and the best dealers.
As lots of small businesses survive on word of mouth, if I find them, I'd like to share them with you. It helps them by keeping them in business and it helps me by having them still in business (no, they don't pay me commission to talk about them or slide me free bits on the side or anything).
As most of my experiences with bits sites have been positive, most of my reviews will be positive.
This is not one of those reviews.
Let me preface this by saying that I've done a lot of business with Bits and Kits. After quickly searching my email inbox, I've got a dozen order confirmation emails from them dating back to 2010. Those orders totalled nearly £150 in business, not including shipping costs.
At current conversion rates, I've spent enough money at their store to purchase three battalion boxes worth of Warhammer figures. Enough to, literally, buy a not-so-small army.
The reason(s) I kept returning to their site is simple: They have a great selection. They keep up to date with the newest releases. Their prices are usually the 'floor' rate. And, unlike some sites, they usually have the bits I'm looking for in stock.
Sounds like this should be a positive review, then, right?
Well, it would have been. But, two months ago, it all went south.
I'm not normally one to air their dirty laundry in the public domain of the internet. If a fast food restaurant misses part of my order, for example, I'm content to simple not return to their establishment without ranting and raving to my friends about the fries they'd forgotten or writing a scathing review on Yelp. Frankly, I've got better things to do and my time is more valuable than that.
However, as the online Warhammer community is a rather close-knit group and I expect that there will be others who may have had, are having, or will have similar experiences with Mark Howard and his site, I've decided to post what happened with my most recent order as a cautionary tale to those who may be considering ordering from him.
I placed my most recent order on February 1st, 2012.
I paid for it via PayPal, and PayPal confirmed that my eCheck payment was deposited into Mark Howard's account on Feb 6, 2012.
And, as I had previously, I waited patiently for my order to arrive.
Only, it didn't arrive.
Three weeks after my payment was deposited and in reply to the order confirmation I'd been sent, on February 27th, I sent Mark Howard the following email:
Can you give me an update on the status of this order?Pleasant enough, right?
It still shows as 'PayPal status: Pending echeck @ 08:08:25 Feb 01, 2012 PST' on your site but, according to PayPal, 'Your eCheck payment was deposited into the recipient's account on Feb 6, 2012.'
I've yet to receive it.
I sent the exact same message through the 'Contact' form on their website.
And then, after waiting patiently for three weeks to receive my bits, I waited patiently for a reply to my email.
On March 2nd, one month after my order was initially placed and five business days after my first email, I again sent Mark Howard an email:
I've tried contacting you via email and via your website. Any update on the status of my order?
Still pleasant, I think, though at this point, I'm starting to get worried about his lack of reply. I also CC'd the address that he uses for accepting PayPal payments on this message and that message bounced.
So, lacking other alternatives and running out of time to file a PayPal dispute should it come to that, I go ahead and file one. It reads:
Your site still shows as 'PayPal status: Pending echeck @ 08:08:25 Feb 01, 2012 PST' on your site but, according to PayPal, 'Your eCheck payment was deposited into the recipient's account on Feb 6, 2012.'I follow up with similar messages again, through both his site and email. And, thinking that, surely, this will kick Mark into gear, I again sit back and wait patiently for a response.
I've yet to receive them, but I would still really, really like to have these bits.
I've tried contacting you via email and via your website to find out the status of my order, but I haven't gotten a response from you so I'm using the only other method I can find.
Please let me know what's going on with my order.
Another week passes and, on March 9th, I send another message through PayPal. It reads:
Mark, I've attempted to contact you, now, four times via email, three times through your website and through PayPal to try to get this resolved.At this point, though I'm still attempting to be pleasant, I've stopped expecting a response even though I'm still hoping for one.
I'd really like to receive these bits, please. I've got a project I really need them for.
Can you please give me the status of this order and when they'll be shipped?
On March 13th, I follow up with:
Mark,Friday, March 16th came and passed. Can you guess what happened?
I hate to escalate this to a dispute because I really want these bits, but you've been entirely unresponsive to all attempts I've made to get in contact with you to get this resolved.
Please contact me by Friday (March 16, 2012) to let me know the status of my bits order, or I'll have to escalate it.
He finally responded.
Well, okay, he finally responded after I followed through and escalated it to a dispute.
Well, okay, he finally responded a week after I followed through and escalated it to a dispute.
Well, okay, he finally responded a week after I followed through and escalated it to a dispute and he claimed that the bits order had been 'lost' somewhere in the post, despite his own site showing that he'd never sent them.
Now, I've been a part of the gaming community for a long, long time. I've bought and traded miniatures ranging from Warhammer to HeroClix and cards of all sorts. I've made these deals through an assortment of sites and online communities, as well as through eBay and independently run online companies.
One experience has been consistent throughout: If the person that you've traded/purchased from stops responding to emails once they've gotten your part of the deal (be it money, miniatures, whatever) and, only after escalation through a third-party, claims that their part of the deal got somehow lost in the mail despite no indication that they ever sent it (they 'forgot' to get a tracking number, their site didn't update, etc.), then they're scamming you.
Mark Howard may have a perfectly reasonable explanation for my order 'going missing.' But, the time for him to have given that explanation would have been after my first email in February, not after I had to press the issue via PayPal four weeks later. His complete lack of response or reply, to me, says everything I'd need to know.
Consider yourselves warned.