Monday, November 16, 2020

Vendor Warning

I absolutely hate when a vendor I recommended flakes out on a customer.  Meliadhor left this comment on my Treasure! post from last month.  It recounts a very disturbing experience with Alpha Officium, a boutique coin maker I've previously had very good experiences with.

Hi! Does anyone know if the AlphaOfficium store is still properly active and not a scam? We've emailed them earlier last month about coins purchase, and my friend bought about 100$ worth of coins, and so far its been over 12 days, a couple emails, and an FB message since their last reply. The owner appears to be active & posting new coins on their FB group but no replies since.
...which is kinda e-scary as my friend already paid for a larger set of coins, including the VikingMix featured here, and all we asked for was a postal tracker code. The owner (the same person as on FB) sent us a wrong one first, for a different person from a previous month, and when we asked for the one for our purchase all contact broke off :C

[update since I prepared this message]
My friends' FB has been reported for the PM asking for the tracker code & suspended, no email replies received to my friends' account, BUT my email asking about another of their coin sets received an instant reply that "yes this expensive set is available" and that they can ship them ASAP. We got all the emails copied & screencapped, gonna give the guy one last chance before opening a PayPal dispute for refund. Friend sent one last email asking about the tracker code via the same store-contact form just earlier after I got my reply just to give them one more chance but this is feeling super nasty now.

I apologize for dropping this on you like that, but we did decide on that replica coin store because we saw your recommendation here (I adore your blog and you featured some of my works here as well, and the coins appear lovely, and a lot of people online seem to have gotten theirs OK, at least in the States).

Do you have any ideas what else to do? If you need us to show screencaps of the store messages or copies of emails and such, please tell, my friend kept them all for possible PayPal dispute/claim if nothing arrives in the next two weeks. If needed we can contact you via email I believe. :C

 Hopefully this is a situation that will be quickly resolved.


Meliadhor said...

Situation still sorting out, hopefully I should have 'a' proper update of sorts in about 24 hours. He does reply really fast to all the other people that didn't pay yet though as we checked earlier :) Even if this somehow works out OK this is not a service I can recommend to anyone, especially for a 35$ shipping fee.

Propnomicon said...

@ Meliadhor

Please keep us updated.

Meliadhor said...

Micro update: he's looking for the tracking number today as the parcel was returned back to him due to an error in filling in the address (as per his email).
"It looks like we incorrectly filled out the address. It was returned to us. Look for a tracking number tomorrow.
Very best,
Which would have been easily avoided or at least faster to spot if we'd have the tracking number in the first place. PayPal has 180 days to initiate a dispute so I guess we can wait an extra day, and chalk this up under expensive educational experience. Personally at the moment I think the guy isn't a scam and just has a really terrible work ethic and approach to people for a store owner but we'll see how this goes. Digging through the net we found one more person with a similar (but worse) issue and some general "slow parcel/slow reply" posts but they appear rare.

Propnomicon said...

@ Meliadhor

I'm glad to hear things are close to being resolved. That said, the situation shouldn't have escalated to this point in the first place.

Meliadhor said...

I wish I was, as they say, "taking the piss", but he finally replied.

I can't paraphrase this, I have to include a screenshot because I wouldn't believe me if I told this to myself.
He gave my friend a tracker for a parcel sent in January to Jamaica. After giving him a tracker to Estonia, from last month. (email) (tracker code info)

If you wish I don't include screenshot links, please tell me. Its just that level of abstraction where I cannot believe what's going on so I have to look at it over and over to make sure I'm not making this up.

In all seriousness, I have no idea what his issue is. He has favourable reviews on etsy

A good and working FB sales group that has his website in the header
(and I would LOVE to bid on the 35 dirham set myself, those coins are lovely and friend promised to gift me those from his set)

Favourable reviews on blogs and twitter too. I am honestly baffled as to what is going on, and if his website/email were manned by a scammer then he simply wouldn't reply at all.

Anonymous said...

I've had an extremely similar experience with Alpha Officium that been going for upwards of six months now. He's finally gotten back to me and I agree with Meliadhor's assessment that he's not a scam but has an extremely poor work ethic and attitude to business.

It's very disappointing because I'd like to order more work from him but I now don't trust that I'll receive it in anything like a timely manner.

Meliadhor said...

So, coins finally arrived today, we've just sorted them out (one of the smaller pennies from Viking mix missing, 124 total in VikingMix) but that would still be ok, as they're pretty nice but..

In the email exchange with the guy he stated that Viking mix now has Abbasid type Dirhams and the mail order itself was for:
>1x Viking Mix, with Abbasid type dirhams
>4x (additional, separate) Omayyad dynasty dirhams at 1.20$ a piece
>1x grab bag (random coins)
(screenshot of the final email confirmation with the coins order)
(photo of coins received) yeah as you can imagine with how things went so far he packed & sent the wrong Omayyad dirhams (29 total) and one (1) Abbasid dirham which was in the RandomBag mix, so we can just about see what we're not getting :)(the Abbasid is a really lovely coin btw, and I'd wish we had more of them, as it looks better and clearer than the Omayyad)

Friend's pretty upset, once we calm down I'll help him write an email to AlphaOfficium about this but not gonna lie, at the shipping costs & time needed I don't think we can afford playing with returns/exchanges. That is, if he does reply to our emails. Plus, honestly, no idea what to write and ask of him? Like, ask for correct coins? Paying for a new shipment or returning the wrong coins would just cost too much in total in stress, effort, and actual cash :C

In short, lovely coins. Absolutely NOT recommended if you're not good with handling stress, or want specific coins you ordered, or live outside of the USA. Kinda OK if you live in the US and order specifically from the Facebook Group I think? Though as I contacted people that bought there they also stated that they won a bid, sent the money, were told items go into mail next week, and then weeks of silence & nothing mailed till way later. At least FB bids include the shipping price so the coins are way cheaper for US customers (only, non US pay separate shipping). In a couple months once I feel better about this whole deal I'll probably try to customize them with fake aging, patina, and arrange a proper display for them hopefully. All in all, shame. The coins are clearly hand-stamped with nice historical dies and we'd love to get more but this experience wasn't something we want to repeat.

Meliadhor said...

OKay good news this time :D

We wrote to him, with screenshots of the original order email and photos of the incorrect coins and asked what to do as my friend cant' afford to mail back the wrong coins to the States.

He replied fast and said he'll mail in the correct coins (and the missing penny) for free. With all the lockdowns and holidays mail probably wont' arrive for at least 6 weeks but if everything goes OK I'll post an update/resolution on this story. Hoping for the best.

Also I got to handle the coins myself today, they're great. Hand stamped, solid (can't accidentally bend them even though its thin pewter), thickness comparable to original silver coins I own (comp. to 14th - 17th century). Did prop aging/damage tests too, you can age them nicely, just gotta be careful with open flame, and you can easily "shave" the sides too to give them that nice worn look.

I'm honestly torn as at this price those are absolutely lovely replicas that will work great as props. Craft-wise they absolutely beat casts & recasts. I think I'll follow my own advice from earlier and ask one of my US friends to grab what I need for me from the FB group, and once they get the coins and confirm all's ok, I'll arrange another transport to Europe with regular friend-mail. Just lots of extra patience required.

Meliadhor said...

Mini update: Its been over a month now and... reply from the guy, no tracker numbers & no info whatsoever so I guess we're back to square one I guess with the regular "where's the mail" emails.

Managed to chat up to a person that bought stuff off his Facebook auctions and they got exactly same issues. FB purchase to be mailed from US to US and it took 2 months from 2020 to 2021.

Kinda sad, really. I can see him auctioning off nice stuff on Facebook and complaining that coins & chests worth 260$ get auctioned off at 125$ because not enough people are bidding on stuff but, well, I can see why this happens now. Also managed to see a comment asking when will the stuff auctioned a month ago ship but that one got deleted an hour later so I guess that explains why there arent any bad comments/asks on the FB group page.

Meliadhor said...

3 days to full 2 months since his promises, last 'please reply' email from us sent today, so far he didn't reply to a single once since 17th December but keeeeeps posting all sorts of replica coins sales on Facebook Alpha Officium group. Guess this is where we'll do our first ever PayPal dispute with a seller :D Just wish we did it straight away instead of trying to be decent about it and giving him all those chances.

Live and learn, or so they say. Hope any future people that will consider buying from that guy will find this post series.

On better news, Canadian friend tried out an Australian propmaker that has a coins store making very similar (just more expensive) replicas. Mailed 5 days after online order, just took a month to arrive but with the Plague and Australia -> Canada distance that's normal. Won't name names as it was just one purchase but at least there's a chance there's another seller that might be decent? Will pop an update once it happens.