Processing the nightmare
"A series of unfortunate events"
It was a day like any other one, when everything suddenly fell apart.
We use to think that special events, both the good and the nefarious ones, coincide with some significant date, but indeed that was just a normal day.
After the 3d prints setback, we delayed the delivery from January to March, and even if for me and my pride it was a hard blow to get over, all the backers reacted incredibly well to the bad news (a thing that, despite having relieved me a lot of stress, increased my guilt).
We worked so hard to deliver the rewards as originally scheduled, because I really didn't want my campaign to be the classic "Kickstarter project that accumulates months of delay on delivery": I thought I was punished by Odin for my pride, and maybe there really was some kind of kharma-truth in my paranoia.
However, I was determined to fix that horrible situation so, to recover as much lost time as possible, I started to organize in advance my office in order to be able to speed up the delivery: having lost more than 2 months on schedule, at least I wanted to be able to ship the rewards in half the time scheduled!
I assembled in advance tons of boxes, I divided up all the resins according to the bundles composition and my girlfriend started to set up the monumental excel file with all the details of all the backers and late pledgers. We organized an incredibly efficient assembly line and to test it, we decided to start fulfilling at least the rewards we already had the resins we need for.
It is precisely in that moment, in an anonymous Tuesday morning, that I discovered the extent of a situation that, unbeknownst to me, was already apocalyptic.
When I took the first Brewmaster Beerrant, I noticed that it was horribly casted.
As we say in Italy, to explain -often ironically- that you can tell, from how things start, how they will evolve: "You can tell it's going to be a good day from the morning" (a rough translation, I know).
However, at first, I wasn't worried too much: after all, especially in a huge resin production, it's normal to find some fail-casts: maybe it was only one of the last copies made by an old mould, I thought.
I put that kit apart, and I took another one.
Another horribly casted kit.
I put apart that kit too, and I took another one.
Another horribly casted kit.
I repeat this process again and again, a sort of sadistic version of "wax-on, wax-off" designed by the Miyagi-sensei of an alternative universe that decided to stop with his bonsai-nonsenses, and to start a resin manufacturer.
The situation was far beyond my worst nightmares: after a morning spent on checking every single Brewmaster kit, I discovered that on 400 stocks only 34 were ok.
- me, trying to process the situation -
I didn't panic. Or better: I didn't panic as you may expect by an Italian guy. Instead, it was like something in my inner circuits just stopped. In hindsight, I think it was a sort of self-protection, activated by my soul to preserve myself from a short circuit that would have surely shattered me like a steamroller launched at full speed on a tender, little chick.
In that moment, I knew what I should do, but I confess that I was terrified of doing it: I had to check all the resins I received.
At that time, there were almost 14.000 resins crammed into the shelves of my office, and I had to check them all, one by one.
I wasn't scared by that dramatic quest itself: obviously, it had been a monumental amount of time wasted. Instead, I was scared to find other badly casted resins.
To me, it had been like an endless Russian roulette, with 14.000 potential chances to take a bullet.
"Oh my god"
I was like Santa Clause, called to divide the good ones from the bad ones, but with the awareness that every child inserted on bad guys list, meant for me days of delay.
After days of checking, I collected mountains of fail-casts, and you can't imagine the feeling I felt while discarding hundreds of miniatures like trash.
In every single fail-cast, I couldn't help but see the years of work on designing them and all the expectations I put on them, totally wasted.
- my 2018 in a nutshell -
After depressive days spent on checking thousands of miniatures, I was really exhausted but my dirty job wasn't accomplished at all.
I had to make an inventory, to precisely calculate the exact volume of s**t I was submerged in and I had to take pictures of the fail-casts, another time-consuming affair that not only slowed down all my work, but that brought me to the brink of depression.
The situation, however, was a living nightmare: the vast majority of Brewmaster Beerrant, Inventor, Adventurer, Iron Warrior, Angry Bulldog, Mechanical Familiars was haunted by fail-casts.
Moreover, in basically all the other stocks we found almost a 10-15% of not salable kits.
To replace them all, it would take months. Being the Mechanical Familiars and Angry Bulldog stretch goals, also, it meant that I wasn't able to deliver almost the 90% of the rewards.
I prepared myself to give the bad news to the backers: I didn't want to lie to them or to minimize the situation, cause I thought that they deserved at least the most transparent communication possible.
Obviously, it wasn't easy at all to expose the pictures of the fail-casts to the backers: I have repeatedly emphasized how important the quality of my products was to me, and suddenly here I was, showing to my customers some of the most horrible casts I've ever seen.
Shame enveloped me.
I sincerely was worried to lose all my credibility and respect before my backers, and I felt guilt as hell.
Luckily, they not only understood the situation, but they gave me also such a great support that I would never forget (and even now, I ask myself if I really deserved that!).
- sometimes, a hug is all you need -
Galvanized by my backers' reaction, I decided not to give up.
"If you are positive, the sun will shine on you!", I kept repeating to myself.
Then, the first replacements of the fail-casts arrived. And they were, again, plagued with problems.
Kharma is a bitch.
It seemed like the same careless person that casted those unwatchable abortions, handled the replacements with the same irreproachable seriousness.
Not only the new resins were haunted by issues, but they were the same exact issues discovered before.
It's like he, or she, thought: "well, I made a horrible job: let's do it again, horribly!".
Moreover, I was shocked by how those issues were caused by rookie mistakes: the major problems were due to an evident attempt to use the moulds way more than their normal duration (first sin: greed).
A lot of resins, also, were plagued by bubbles, as if the one who casted them forgot to de-gas the resin before pouring it in the mould, which is the abc of resin cast (second sin: sloth).
What's worse: they tried to send me the same all those craps, hoping that in my ignorance I would not notice them (third sin: pride).
I'm a patient guy: a goody-goody guy that doesn't want to have problems with others, if possible.
I'm that kind of person that, if I order at a restaurant a dish and they serve me another one, I prefer to eat it the same, without complaining.
In short: you can easily imagine that my capacity for forgiveness is quite impressive.
However, when I feel teased so shamelessly, I lose my mind (fourth sin: rage).
Nevertheless, I underestimated my opponent.
The third wave of replacements (the replacements of the first replacements!) was plagued by issues. Again.
At that point, I took the deepest breath I could and I tried to figure out the situation, because it was clear that something way beyond normality was happening.
- the symbol of all the production issues: the faceless bulldog.
I happily worked with that resin guy for years, before the campaign, and he was known by all for his ability and punctuality. I chose him for my biggest project because of the high reliability that he had always shown in years of collaboration.
I couldn't believe that, suddenly, he decided for some weird reason to throw away approx. 25.000€ of commission and my undying trust as customer, in that way.
I put apart my delusion, rage and panic and I tried to establish a genuine contact with him.
As we say say here in Italy: "it is useless to cry on the poured milk" and by that time the omelette was already done by far (you would be surprised by how many references to food we have in Italy, to refer to real-life situations).
Before me, I had two choices: get angry, insult him and vent my legitimate frustration, or try to understand his situation and take the best from it.
It was almost easy to pick the second road, both because, as I said before, I always prefer the "friendly approach", and above all because I thought about the situation of my backers.
If I had chosen the "Frank Castle approach", as liberating as it was, the risk of a dramatic escalation would have been extremely likely.
- not the best way to solve a thorny situation, at least if you are too pretty for prison -
What would have happened if, with his shoulders against the wall, the resin guy simply disappeared, cutting our commission? I would have been alone in the middle of the storm, without any possibility to accomplish my mission and over 600 customers without their rewards.
I should have to re-start everything from zero: new 3d masters, new resins. Months and months of delay and obviously tons of money wasted.
I was right, I deserved compensation, of course: but I was also the one who had more things to lose, in that situation. I couldn't afford to put my emotions before the interests of my project!
So it was easy for me to put apart my pride and to try to recover a decent human relationship with the resin guy.
So I opened my heart with him and luckily my words hit the target: finally, he explained his situation and, as I guessed, he also was in the middle of his personal storm.
As I learned, during that year he took too many commissions and, to handle them, he entrusted several ones to external collaborators. These collaborators, unfortunately, they did not repay his trust at all and they did an horrible job: suddenly he found himself in big, big troubles.
I wasn't happy at all about my situation, obviously, but he was in a (if possible) worse one.
At that time, the delay was already impressive, but at least we could save our honor: the resin guy renounced to his vacancy to replace again the fail-casts (this time, made personally by him) in the shortest time possible, while I decided to start delivery all the rewards I was able to, at least to break the inertia of that stagnant situation.
I had a desperate need for even a small satisfaction: delivering the first rewards was pure oxygen for me and I think at least a minor relief for my backers, that saw the situation evolving a bit towards a positive direction, finally.
In August, with 7 months of delay, we finally started to ship the first parcels, a glimpse of light after one of the worst nightmares of my life. At first, I was able to ship only about thirty rewards, but for me it was like finally seeing the peak of a mountain that seemed insurmountable.
- an exhausted me, soberly celebrating the first reward arrived to destination -
>continue in the next episode.