Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bitz Site Review: BitsandKits.co.uk

As nearly every one of my projects involves a lot of conversion work, I tend to buy a lot of bits.  A lot of bits.  As in, I spend more on bits than I'd care to think about and far more than I'm comfortable admitting to my wife.

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?

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.


Pleasant enough, right?

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.

None came.

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:
Following up.

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'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.

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.

None comes.

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.

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?

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.

On March 13th, I follow up with:

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.

Friday, March 16th came and passed. Can you guess what happened?

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.


Anonymous said...

I have had similar experiences with mark Howard. I ordered about 15 orders from hi between March - June 2012. I all received them, but in three threre were parts missing, wrong or otherwise incomplete.

I contacted him about all these orders, multiple times, follwoing up, etc. Even escalated it through PayPal. No response.

Mark Howard has a great site which indeed offers the best bits for the lowest price. The downside is that he just does not respond to anything. I consider that to be bad form, and Mark Howard a rude seller. I would even go so far as to call him an @$$#013.

I live abroad, but I hope the British gaming community gathers up with pitchforks and go to his house.


Anonymous said...

I was surprised to see two comments like this, i have been ordering consistently from Bitsandkits.co.uk since 2010, and for the most not had a problem, a couple of orders had some parts missing but these were refunded in due course, though i admit the refunds did take a little longer than i expected to be actioned. I would say that despite some issues i would rather have the site and the facility to order bitz even if the service and communication is a it off, Games workshop have really tried to kill the bitz market lately and im happy some companies like Bitsandkits are still around.
Maybe we should just count our blessings and accept that small one man companies dont always have the resources to provide superb service as well as provide a reasonably priced fast bitz service?

Laurent from Belgium said...

I came across your blog, because I have new problem, with bits and kits. Already two problems with them, the first was resolved by a Paypal dispute, I gave a second chance to bits and kits, result I think I'm still scammed by them.
Hoard'o bits of the same species is visibly.
Shops like Bits and Kits Hoard'obits are really very poor quality, no consideration, no response without threat.

I found a shop at a good price and with whom you can discuss with any questions, and especially to is a nice lady who answers. :) The shop is http://www.bitzstore.com/en

Rusty said...

He responds very quickly on adverts he places on facebook in the trading forums. Head over there or comment on his page.

That said, he does seem to be a one man band so on those occasions he takes a week or two to ship I'd say hang off from emailing and just give him a while to send. That said Jacin's experience sounds pretty crap.

catharsix said...

I am having this exact problem right now - but I am think my Paypal transaction may be slightly beyond the time limit (it was more than 30 days...)

Redsunz2000 said...

I've had exactly the same problem with this supplier, Bits and Kits, which I only tried once, to my regret. It had to be resolved via a Paypal refund, as they just would not respond promptly. Effectively unreliable rude and inefficient. I would never try them again. I tried Bitzbox at the same time and found them to be absolutely fine - quick and reliable.

Anonymous said...

I am having a PayPal dispute with Bits and Kits now, I ordered something from them I received an email saying it was shipped. One month later the order hasn't arrived, I attempted to contact them on their website no response tried several times more nothing.
I came across your review and filed a dispute with Paypal and what do you know now they responded. I simply asked for a tracking number this is the response from B&K : Shipping numbers are for our use only, you do not need to track your own parcel.
Now they did offer a refund if the package didn't arrive soon. Why not give a tracking number unless there is some shadiness going on and if you sent it and don't want to give me the number why not check it and at least tell me the status?

thegreatchimp said...

I had almost the exact same experience Jacin. As soon as I escelated it to a dispute he paid up. Not so much as a word of explanation or apology. Rude as hell.

I'll continue to order off the site because it has an unbeatable selection and reasonable prices, but next time it happens I'll just send one token message and then escelate it to a dispute.

I wouldn't have any inhibitions about spreading the word about bad buying experiences. If a seller doesn't play fair for whatever reason, then buyers need to be warned, and the seller deserves the backlash they get. Imho.