Poe’s Point > To save the sub, Mattel needs to address Digital River concerns

First off, I’ll admit my site poll is anything but scientific. But I do think it, along with plenty of anecdotal evidence, suggests that one of the main, if not the main, reason many former Club Eternia subscribers are not re-subscribing next year is due to Mattycollector’s customer service.

Regular readers will know all about my Wind Raider mess, so let me give a more recent example of how poorly run the Mattycollector website is. My wife and I moved into a new house in early July. The day after we moved, I went to Mattycollector and changed my address in the “Personal Information” area. From previous experience, I also knew I had to go find my original Club Eternia 2013 subscription order and change the address on that one. Unfortunately, I forgot to change the address on my Club Infinite Earths sub. Fortunately, my order was forwarded by the USPS.

(Oh, and as I was typing the previous paragraph, I realized I’d forgotten to update my address on the 30th Anniversary sub. Fortunately there was no 30th Anniversary figure last month. I went and looked and sure enough, there’s the old shipping address, right below the new billing address – they may not ship it to the right place, but at least they made sure they’ll get their money.)

The ability to change one’s billing and shipping addresses in one place for all current and future orders should be part of any commerce website, period. I realize the subscription made things a bit trickier, but once Mattel and Digital River introduced the subscription model, they should have made sure the subscriptions worked more or less flawlessly – certainly after three years. The subscription model isn’t substantially different from the pre-orders that every other retailer offers. I order toys from Japanese retailers whose secondary English sites operate far more efficiently and reliably than Mattycollector.

For four years now, we have dealt with an endless string of problems from Digital River. Server crashes. Cart errors. The Red/White Screen of Doom. Shipping errors. Inventory errors. Subscription errors. Billing errors. Customer service representatives who are at best clueless and at worst, flat-out rude. Digital River was clearly unprepared for what they were contracted for and four years later, things have scarcely improved, and in some ways they’ve gotten worse. A year (or more?) after we were told there would be a special subscription management section on Mattycollector, it’s still MIA.

In his July 19 note on the subscriptions, Scott Neitlich wrote:

 And to address the big elephant in the room: we know the buying experience has not been perfect. In the past few months we have made great strides to improve this with initiatives such as our new US-based Customer Service team and a soon to be launched revamped “My Subscription” page letting customers control things like their shipping address and payment options. We are 100% committed to continuing to improve the buying and shipping process until it is perfect. You have my word on that.

Clearly, Neitlich’s word is not enough. Fans not only need to hear some specifics on improvements, they need to see some. I suspect it would help the 2013 Club Eternia subscription if the My Subscription section of Mattycollector became operational before the August 6 deadline. Give us something positive, something we can point out to the fence-sitters and show Mattel is actually committed to improving the customer service experience.

But that may not be enough. I believe Mattel needs to fully acknowledge and address the problems that have occurred with Mattycollector over the past year – the wrongly declined credit cards, the Fisto fiasco, the frequently uninformed customer service, the entire “escalation” mess one has to go through to get anything done. They need to do more than a blanket statement that “the buying experience has not been perfect.” We need to know they understand exactly what the problems have been (especially the problems with the person-to-person customer service).

And then, Mattel needs to make it very clear that all of that will be minimal to nonexistent for 2013…with the understanding that if the problems continue, the 2014 sub’s death is a foregone conclusion, and his MOTUC cap-feather will be tarnished.

We need a single phone number, open 9-5 Pacific Time, and a single email address where we be assured of reaching a customer service representative who is both completely knowledgeable of how the website works and is empowered from the beginning to correct our problem, without any of this “escalation” garbage.

I’m not surprised the subscription numbers tanked this year. With the obvious exception of Ram Man, almost all the heavy hitters are out of the way by the end of 2012. I suspect the more casual MOTUC collectors who have had any sort of negative experience with Mattycollector – and it’s a sure bet there are plenty of people in that category – are skipping 2013. But a note (not a video, please) from Mattel addressing, at length, the ongoing issues with Mattycollector and what they will do to correct them in 2013 could go a long way toward getting the remaining 36% of subscriptions needed to hit the minimum.

A final note: I still love the Masters of the Universe Classics toys. I don’t think MOTUC is a greedy cash grab (though I do think part of the reason for its continued existence is Mattel’s management wanting to keep the brand alive for a possible movie venture). I don’t hold Scott Neitlich personally responsible for all the problems with the line or Mattycollector. I don’t hate the guy, at all. The few times I’ve met him in person he was quite nice to me and my fellow collectors. I suspect he gets buffeted between the pressures of the fan community and the realities of Mattel’s business constantly. He took on the role of the “face” of MOTUC because there was no one else to do it, so he takes the brunt of the criticism as well as the credit, and there are definitely times that he’s treated unfairly. Nonetheless, in calling upon Mattel to address the Mattycollector issues, I address him in particular because there’s no one else to address.

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  1. For me, it's 100% Digital River that killed my interest in this line.

    I had no problem ordering day of starting with Evil-Lyn and then subbed up for 2011.

    Right away they cancelled my sub in February for reasons I still don't understand. I went through so much malarky just to re-set up my 2011 sub that I decided not to sub up for 2012.

    Later I changed my mind because of Shadow Weaver and because of the strength of early 2012 (I am a big Fisto and Sorceress fan!) and ended up signing up for Club Eternia AND the 30th sub.

    What do you know? Come February I am, of course, among the many who's subs were cancelled for no reason at all. Again, I fought with Digital River and wasted many hours to try and set things right only to get an e-mail that would have allowed me to re-sub up MINUS FISTO.

    It is very hard to continue to give money to a company who, on the same day they are boasting that a subscription is the only way to GUARANTEE YOU WILL GET EVERY FIGURE (Scott's words), is telling me I can re sign up minus one of the best figures of the year.

    I politely declined the sign up and haven't bought another MOTUC figure since.
    It hurts me to look at my shelves now and know that I won't get a Fisto (unless I decide to lay out $50+) for my collection, won't get a Sorceress. But I'd rather have those empty shelves than deal with ordering another product through Digital River.

  2. Enigma_2099

    Just how much pull does this Scott guy have? Because wasn't matty screwing up before he started doing PR?

    Usually when I point the finger at a single person, they're running the show and making all the money.

  3. I keep saying, we (The fandom) has a golden opportunity to make Scott and Matty actually stop and TAKE NOTICE and perhaps fix/address legitimate concerns that are plaguing the line. We'll probably never get this opportunity again; either the line will die, or Subs will sell and no one gets any 'message' about improvement!

  4. Zach

    I ordered the CoIE sub last year. My credit card expired this past April. I changed it on the site and I called DRI twice to change it with them. I got my Jay figure. The next month, the subscription wouldn't go through and my sub was eventually cancelled. I went through hell and back with DRI to try to at least get the Metron figure. They wanted me to reinstate my sub, but I'd had enough. I finally got them to send the Metron figure that I paid for last October, after shipping was charged. Still waiting on it. I will not be getting the sub for next year.

  5. toyman

    Right on Poe, my thoughts exactly. I've been lucky enough to not experience any of the problems with DR (except for the WSOD back before the subs) but if I had I guarantee that I'd rethink signing up for 2013. It's one thing to put up with DR's crap for so long but to completely ignore their incompetence is ridiculous. As far as Scott goes, people are way too hard on the guy. You think he wants to say the things he says or withhold the info that he has to? The suits at Mattel are orchestrating his every move, believe me. I work for a multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 company myself and my supervisors make it very clear what I'm allowed and NOT allowed to say to my customers…..and Mattel is no different. If you have to blame someone, blame the fat cats running the show. Scott's just a peon being ordered around no different than you or I.

  6. muldertp

    I have many reasons for not subscribing. Not in any particular order (they are all equally important to me):

    1. Finances. I have instructions from the wife not to sub again. We simply don’t have the $700 (including shipping) in our budget to spend on these toys next year.
    2. Money/common sense. If graced by Mattel with the privelege to buy these toys day of (as I assumed I would prior to “Early Access”), I would save a lot on shipping. I do plan to continue buying Mattel products, but they have still not figured out combined shipping for sub customers (they say they will look into it but they’ve said that for 3 years). I would likely save over $100 in combined shipping so the sub isn’t worth it.
    3. Dishonesty. Scott, whether at his choice or management’s choice, has made disingenuous statements about all aspects of the line. Even with 4H support, he’s cried wolf too many times.
    4. Digital River. I have had no end of problems with the “new” team. Sadly, the old team was better. If there was a problem, at least I’d get a free toy out of it. I had to go through hell to get my Stay Puft refund because they wouldn’t believe I returned it even though they tracked its receipt. There’s also no point to the current setup because no one can do anything except the escalation team. They also closed out several cases without contacting me, trying to sweep the case under the rug.
    5. Disrespect. This is related to dishonesty, but I simply don’t feel valued as a customer. I don’t feel the need to own these toys outweighs my self-respect. I will pay am increased price for the few I really want, but have no loyalty built up to keep buying from Matty.
    6. Character selection. I’m a Filmation fan first, but I will buy others. I bought last years sub just to get Shadow Weaver. So far, I only really want Ram Man and Fang Man.
    7. Lack of resale value. I had NA figures as a kid. I have no interest now. I’ve been trying to sell Icarius on eBay since I got him at cost (which is lower than cost when you count fees). I can’t. I reduced the price to $18 a month ago with half going to charity and I still can’t sell him. I also can’t sell Slushhead at the same costs. I have interest in the FFM, but I suspect I can get them for a reduced price, like the Star Sisters are selling for. It may offset Ram Man’s cost too. When I first subbed, it was easy to flip these, even with some profit. Not anymore. Even popular characters are barely selling at “cost.”

    The negative experiences have told me it’s not worth it, so I’m out. DR is an issue, but I suspect many, like me, simply can’t take it anymore.

  7. The Other Reach

    I don't hate Scott either, but he really has to come to grips as to the two reasons as to WHY people insult him and make it personal: first, the straight-up *dishonest statements* that Mr. ToyGuru has posted time and time again; second, the nature and tone of his contact with fans, which frequently are insulting, obviously a form-letter macro, or have a hard-sell-used-car-guy nature to them.

    The "lies" (I hesitate to call them outright "lies" as they tend to ride the border between libel and truth, and it's unclear if they are parroted words from an exec or his own choices) are very well documented elsewhere on the net… no need to retype them here.

    The *TONE* of a lot of his contact with folks screams someone with Asperger's Syndrome to me. The lack of sympathy or understanding of others feelings and concerns comes across as money grabbing or insensitivity to most fans, and as an undiagnosed problem to me. The whole "let's pretend ToyGuru is "someone else"" thing in 2007/08; the "Keep reading the bios" and "pretty cool huh?" macros responses in the Q&A as well as the blatant dodges to serious questions over the years; The whole "I have no idea who Poe is" BS last winter; the incredibly insulting way Emiliano of He-Man.org was refered to as if he hadn't ever worked for Mattel or on the He-Man brand; the blowing off of Power & Honor when so many of the products sold totally come from that book… you can go on and on…

    I think that Mattel's policy to not release numbers has completely destroyed Scott's credibility with fans. It's sad because I think he does a good job, and when you hear the guy talk, he comes across SO much better… It's a shame for the last two-three SDCCs he really dodged fans and press pretty hard. It's also a shame more folks don't watch the YouTube vids or listen to RGD more as his appearances on both remind you: he's not evil, or crazy, he's done a bunch for He-Man fans…

    but like many a basement-dwelling fanboy, his online tone is just condescending and combative for no reason other than forum egos. Ok for the MOTU trolls, unbecoming of an executive.

  8. Dead Man Walking

    I look forward to MOTUC's imminent demise, then.

    • Mario

      I don't understand, how does one "look forward" to a toy line dying? Have you hated it the whole time, & wished is would have been a different iteration? Do you not own one MOTUC figure? Man, I just don't get it.

      Anyways, your thoughts are really good on the matter, Poe, & I really believe that this is the main reason we're in the position we're in. DR simply is not up to par, & has been so for far too long. Mattel would do well, & I'd think it'd go a long way with the fans if they simply "bought out" their contract with DR, or just took it over themselves, à la how they run their regular website.

    • I don't get this. Fine You don't want a Subscription to MOTUC. You Hate Mattel, DR, FH, Etc Etc.. But why look forward to the line dying? Just don't by a sub. Don't by MOTUC. But don't wish for it to End. Just because you hate it, doesn't mean everyone else does.

    • TheFunHasBeenDoubled

      Am I the only one who is reading this message as: Since Mattel won't do anything to fix the situation with Digital River and everything else, then the line WILL DIE!!

    • A.J.

      Glad I'm not the only one who got the joke.

  9. Jonathan

    I couldn't agree more! I love the idea of having a single number/email to connect with a person/s who, as you said, are empowered to correct the problem immediately. I have had similar issues with switching over account numbers, returns, etc. While all my issues did get resolved, the hoop jumping is far too similar to an endless maze being lorded over by David Bowie.

    The part that I don't get is the lack of enthusiasm for the 2013 reveals. I do understand that not everyone is a POP fan but it's not like this is something new. We've always known that MOTUC was all inclusive. I agree that the majority of our favorite characters have already been released, but I think there's enough to be excited about to carry this line a bit further. Aside from King He-Man I thought the reveals were pretty solid. Ram Man is the obvious must have, but what about Jitsu? What about Fang Man? Sure, the Fighting Foe Men aren't everyone's cup of tea, but they must be at least a little more popular than the Star Sisters.

    • In terms of enthusiasm for the 2013 figures, I think we have to look at it from the perspective of the more casual collector. For fans that want every part of the MOTU lore, it's great. But what percentage of fans feel that way? And what percentage are just after updates to the vintage figures, etc.? I suspect a large number of people don't care about Neotessa, Fang-Man, King He-Man, etc.

  10. Digital River's service has to be pretty bad for it to be the primary reason so many folks decide to stop obtaining the toys they want. Of course, I think you have a point about character selection playing a part. For the more casual collector, I doubt much of the 2013 line-up revealed thus far enthuses them, outside of Ram-Man. Any many collectors probably figure they'll just buy him outside the sub.

  11. JayT

    Sideshow's website has the same problem where you have to change both your billing and shipping addresses, and they are on two different pages. Luckily, their customer service people are really good, and one email later they had my situation cleared up.

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