Jun 22, 2007 at 6:25 pm #1223814
I remember when the plans for the new MLD were first announced how excited I was that there was a plan to not only launch a new e-commerce website, but to also ramp up production so that customers would no longer be faced with the months of delays that they have been faced with for the past… almost 2 years. I was very pleased that MLD was taking steps to become a "full fledged" company.
Well… the new site has been up now for about half a year… and every month or so there is a new posting on the homepage about how long the delay is… "6 weeks" or "8 weeks" etc. I have to say… I love the gear… I love the innovation… I appreciate the option to customize… but I'm disappointed with the continuing inability to meet customer demand. Sorry Ron. It had to be said.
Perhaps one solution might be to offer standard and customized gear. I expect to have to wait if I'm asking for something special. I don't order a guitar to my specs and expect it in a week (more like a year… depending on the builder). But if all I want is the standard 'off the shelf' Prophet (for instance)… why can't these items available on demand? Surely… after a number of years in business and over a year and a half of being plagued by backorder problems… you must have gotten better at judging demand and planning for it… like any sucessful business?
Again… I love the gear… but I really do think this is a problem. I hope that some day it is solved. Gossamer Gear doesn't have any of these problems. Ok… if I place a custom order… I'm willing to wait. I expect to wait. But if I'm not asking for anything special… I think it's only reasonable for a customer to expect to be able to order something "off the shelf" and have them (most of the time) in stock and ready to ship within 24-48 hours.Jun 22, 2007 at 8:43 pm #1393137
Although I can't question the content of your criticism of MLD, I hope that you leveled this feedback to Ron Bell privately prior to posting the way you did.Jun 22, 2007 at 10:10 pm #1393150
Ron makes all his gear, himself, thus the wait. ULA now has 3-4 people helping to make their gear, and Gossamer Gear has a company in Seattle sew theirs. Tarptent does the same, as does Six Moon Designs. As of right now almost all Tarptents are on backorder too.
I placed an order a week ago with Ron, and was told 8 weeks, even if he runs a couple of weeks over, I would be understanding, knowing he's making all the gear himself.
The only thing I don't like is having to pay in advance, rather than being charged for your order on the day it ships, like most suppliers do.
If you want the custom stuff, you're going to have to wait, if not, then buy the mass produced gear from Vietnam and China.
I had my name down for maybe 3 weeks for a pre-purchase for a BMW Cocoon 180, and it shipped out today. Not as long as 8 weeks, but still a wait?Jun 23, 2007 at 2:31 am #1393164
I didn't know Ron was still making everything himself?! Wow. I recall last fall that he said he was going to start getting stuff made for him… and that that was a big part of the new "ramp up" move… and something that was going to happen at the same time as the new website. So I was surprised and disappointed to see that that nothing has changed as far as delivery times.
As for making my comments public… MLD is a company… not a friend. I know that sounds harsh… but Companies should expect to receive criticism and praise in public!!! It may not always be pleasant when the feedback is negative… but in the end it's GOOD for business.
As for buying "mass produced gear from China"… please. I've bought gear from Goassamer Gear, TarpTent and SMD and it's all top quality gear… and none of it is made in China.
Bottom line is… I don't always WANT custom gear. I want an off the shelf Prophet… or Spirit Shelter… or Tarp or whatever. I think ideally, Ron would continue making the custom gear… and get a deal in place similar to Gossamer Gear for making the "off the shelf" stuff. That would free him up… allow for non-custom stuff to ship in 24 hours… and also probably speed up the production of the custom stuff. How could that NOT be good for business?
Anyway, I hope that Ron and you all don't take this personally. It's not personal. He's a great guy making great stuff that we all love. But my sense is that he's a tinkerer… not a producer. That's great for innovation… but not great for business. I don't know how he does it actually. I think I would go crazy trying to make all that gear myself!!!!!! Hat's off to him… really!!!! But it doesn't make sense to me to try and do everything yourself. You can't run a business that way. Consider that when you go to the competition… GG, SMD, TT… etc… none of them have as the homepage of their website… a perpetual warning about wait times.
BTW… what bothers me most is not the wait itself. 3 weeks isn't so bad (altho' the current wait time is cited as 8 weeks). What bothers me is that Ron has some amazing new products up his sleve and their release is being held up while he tries to fill backorders. Those "delays" are much longer than 6-8 weeks. Last winter / early spring… Ron had a message on the homepage saying that no new products (like the Spirit Shelters for instance) would be released until he was caught up with backorders. But the bottom line is… he will never catch up. If that's the way it is… and that's his choice… that's cool! But you should position it as such. The homepage should say "Unlike our competition, we specialize in making custom gear to your specifications. This kind of great gear takes time." etc. This positions it as a positive thing. Custom gear that takes time. But it's always positioned as something that is a temporary problem that will be rectified.Jun 23, 2007 at 2:54 am #1393165
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
The same could very well be said for BPL gear. It seems that all these great products come out and members pick up the pre-release items so fast that there is never even time to think about whether you really want it or not. By the time you have a chance to make up your mind, the items are gone, and then there is an enormous wait again. I was going to buy a pair of Cocoon Pants and the Cocoon Pullover, but the pants disappeared before I could save up enough money. Now I don't know when they will be available again. It seems people here do more waiting than actually buying. I'm not one to do much impulsive buying. I'd prefer to look at gear carefully before purchasing.
At least all this gives me more incentive to design and make my own gear!Jun 23, 2007 at 3:20 am #1393167
Good point Miguel… LOL. I was thinking that same thing… i.e…. making my own gear :) I have done some simple stuff myself.
Anyway… I know that's a really long post of mine above… but I think the bottom line is that Ron's delays are perpetual… not temporary (like the TarpTent example cited above)… and that's fine if that's how it is and that's how he is most happy doing business!!!!!! Really. It is. But if that's the way it is… you should position it that way… not "appologize" for it. "Shit or get off the pot" as my grampy was fond of saying… LOL :P Just say… "I'm a one man shop… I make custom stuff… ya gots ta wait yo!!" Either that… or work on getting some small scale production happening for non-custom stuff.
Anyhoo… I'm sure Ron will weigh in here at some point. Sorry Ron. Don't hate me man!!!!!! :-)Jun 23, 2007 at 7:58 am #1393185
@earthdwellerLocale: North Carolina
"At least all this gives me more incentive to design and make my own gear!"
I'm with you, Miguel! I've been waiting all spring for Ron to add a solo bug bivy to his offerings. The new 5 oz model looks fantastic, but I really need something now rather than late August (when I assume it would arrive). Since there's nothing else quite like it on the market, my only option is to make my own. I'm sure Ron's design and workmanship are far superior to anything that I could produce, but I'm still giving it serious thought.Jun 23, 2007 at 3:33 pm #1393211
@kdesignLocale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Well, at least Ron is upfront about the delays. Communication (in my experience) w/ him has always been good—-unlike he who cannot be named (not Voldemort). I think Mr. Bell is struggling with well earned success — has anyone seen the counter hits for his site? Over 150K hits in half a year. Not huge by Web standards, true ( I'm sure p-orn sites have their millions of hits), but huge, I think, in the (still) tiny niche that is UL backpacking equipment.
Consider MLD like the "Slow Food" movement— Some things are best anticipated and savored. :-D>
Down, you gear lusting dogs, you!
Incidentally, I believe that Ron Bell is no longer sewing everything himself but it must be a small staff.Jun 23, 2007 at 7:33 pm #1393224
@earthdwellerLocale: North Carolina
There's no doubt that Big Sky's communication disaster highlights Ron's emphasis on keeping his customers informed. Although I'd really like to buy some MLD gear and have it within a week or two, I do appreciate his effort to be up front about delays. My wife and I started our own small retail business nearly seven years ago, and part of the reason that we're still in business is that we've not tried to grow too quickly, and we've kept our customers happy by never promising more than we can deliver.Jun 24, 2007 at 4:42 am #1393241
As far as I now Ron still sews (almost) every item by himself. And I can tell you MLD gear is really worth the long wait!Jun 24, 2007 at 8:28 am #1393251
And what would you say about a SIX month delay for a "non customized" RED Terra Nova laser competition?
I prefer not to name the UK seller who simply stopped answering to my emails…Jun 24, 2007 at 10:46 am #1393254
I think you make a good point. The key to any business is being able to build a market niche and meet the demand within that niche without compromising quality and customer service. It's simple, if you are not able to fully meet the demand, you are leaving money on the table.
Case in point – I was interested in some of the cocoon products. But they are *never* in stock so I gave up and bought a comparable product. Sure, it's maybe .2 ounce heavier, but to me it's worth it since I got it for almost half the price and it was available when I needed it. Now it looks like they will be available starting Monday … oh well.
I don't think any of these comments should be taken personally, they are purely 'constructive observations'. I've had positive interactions with Ron, and would definitely buy any of his gear. The point is I would purchase a lot more MLD gear if I could get it without the wait.Jul 19, 2007 at 4:55 am #1395895
Phil… I agree. I've had nothing but positive interactions with Ron as well. He's a pleasure doing business with… and his gear is fantastic. I'm just disappointed because almost a year ago he announced that there would be a new website AND a small staff of production workers… which would presumable reduce delays… and only half of that promise was fulfilled. And ya… I'd buy more too if I didn't have other options that are out and available right now.Jul 19, 2007 at 10:32 pm #1396018
I'll agree that 8 weeks is a long wait for gear, and now I see , its up to 10 weeks.
I don't mind the wait, as long as its delivered when promised?
I also see were MLD will be basically shut down for a week as well? I'll be surprised if my order, is ready in 8 weeks, and if not, then I can't say, whether, I would place another order?
But, I'll be fairly well set, with my Big light-weight gear purchases, after, I've received my order from MLD, anyway?Jul 19, 2007 at 11:36 pm #1396022
Although negative comments in this discussion about MLD are accompanied by high praise for Ron and his innovative gear, I want to add my perspective about Ron and cottage operations in general based on a personal purchase from MLD (which was 100% positive as far as I'm concerned) and from my dealings with several other cottage outfits.
Within the past 6 months, my single order from Ron (which was a bug bivy) was delivered within just a few days after I placed the order on-line. Ron was equally quick to remedy a small issue with the size by simply sending me another bivy to replace the first one, which resulted in minimal delay for fully resolving the issue.
As far as dealing again with MLD, I have no hesitation at all because I know that Ron does fine work and will do his very best to provide excellent service.
What more could I ask for in this day and age of faceless retailers for whom profits and sales volume trump quality, creativity, and personal attention? Exceptions are rare.
If waiting for an item is sometimes necessary because Ron is busy taking care of backlog (or getting away to do what we all would prefer to be doing), no problem. Life's too short, and people of Ron's talents, commitment, and direct personal accessability too few, for me to get in a tizzy about having to wait awhile. If I need or want a particular item but can't wait for it to be delivered, then second best from somewhere else, or even a MYOG project, will just have to do.
Although MLD is technically a company, I don't think of it as a "company" like North Face, Patagonia, or many other big operations that neither can nor will ever provide a level of service and commitment to any single customer as does Ron (and as do other cottage operations).
I would hate to see MLD become more like a big "company" in the interest of mass production. Getting bigger easily leads to reduced quality, less innovation, and loss of the opportunity to have the designer/manufacturer personally respond to calls and emails to resolve issues or just talk about his products.
What would we do without Ron and all of those others blessed by the same inclination and commitment to create great gear and share the fruit of their ideas with all of us — for a reasonable price, of course, to make their effort possible?
Bottom line: If Ron didn't make his very lightweight bivy, I would have missed out on a great item of gear since no one else has taken time and effort to design and manufacture it.
I appreciate Ron of MLD, just like I appreciate all of the other cottage outfits run by Henry, Brian, Dave, etc.
JRSJul 20, 2007 at 12:19 am #1396023
well said, i am with you.
sometimes the best gear is worth the wait (for me it helps if i know how long the wait will be). I waited two years for my BMW Cocoon pants but it was worth it…sometimes there is just no substitute.Jul 20, 2007 at 6:25 am #1396043
@aroth87Locale: Missouri Ozarks
This isn't directly related to the MLD discussion but just thought I would share.
I placed an order from Gossamer Gear on Monday. They billed me and gave me a tracking number less than an hour after I placed the order. Yesterday I got on the USPS website to track my order because I thought it should have arrived. I saw that my package had been delivered to California, not Missouri. I quickly wrote an email to GG, explained what I saw and double checked that I didn't mess up anything on the form. Within a half hour Grant had emailed me back saying he had just received an email from the person who received my package and that he was re-shipping my order that day.
Yes, its a little bit of a pain because I would have liked to have used my new pack this weekend but the turnaround on fixing the problem was so prompt that I'm not too upset. If the same thing had happened with an order from a large manufacturer or store I would be hard pressed to believe it would have been resolved so quickly.
There's no real moral or message I'm trying to get across except maybe if you're worried about placing your first order with a cottage gear maker, don't be. If anything does go wrong you can call them up and talk to a real person who knows what is going on.
AdamJul 20, 2007 at 11:22 am #1396065
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
Quality and Innovation
Speed of Delivery
You can have any two.Jul 20, 2007 at 2:57 pm #1396080
I'm just stating the facts on how long an MLD order will take and I don't think it was overly negative.
Also, as I mentioned, if you place an order for a piece of gear and are told 8 weeks, then, it should be 8 weeks?
Otherwise, if it will possibly be longer, then tell people up-front that it could be longer saying 8-10 weeks, this way there is less mis-understanding.Jul 20, 2007 at 6:08 pm #1396102
I ordered this week from Ron Bell a cuben duo tarp, two Event Soul side zip bivies. I ordered from him for two reasons.
First, a couple of years ago I ordered an Epic bivy which turned out not to suit my needs. He took it back, no questions asked. What a refreshing experience! He earned my customer loyalty that day. Second, the Soul bivy with Event allows me to sleep under the stars for 10 ozs, a clear advantage over my other Event bivy of 22 oz. Such quality and innovation are not usually found and are worth supporting.
Douglas J. DurhamAug 15, 2007 at 10:04 am #1398682
I just received an email from MLD (Ron), stating that my order will ship-out today, and should be at my door by Saturday.
So, he was almost spot-on, with his original 8 week delivery promise!
Thanks Ron!Aug 15, 2007 at 10:08 am #1398684
@maynard76Locale: New England
I had the same experience. I emailed after about 8 weeks and he said my Zip would be in the next batch he made,
2 days later in an e-mail he told me it was in the mail!Aug 15, 2007 at 2:26 pm #1398725
I've had nothing but good experiences and great communication with Ron as well. He's one of the best. That was never my point. My point all along was that back in the fall, he announced (as I recall) that along with the new web site, they would also be hiring / sub-contracting a small production staff to resolve the delay issue. That was never done.
As for "picking any two"… I'd have to disagree. There are a number of companies out there that are innovative and well priced without the wait times (Gossamer Gear, Six Moons, Tarp Tent, etc.)
That doesn't mean I'm going to stop ordering from MLD.Aug 15, 2007 at 3:14 pm #1398731
Hmm, Lets see now,
ULA is closed till December.
Tarptent doesn't currently list any of their shelters as available to order.
GossamerGear doesn't have their Spinntwin tarp or Mariposa Plus packs available in the most popular size of medium.
Some of SixMoon Designs most popular shelters are currently unavailable as well.
So, waits for most of the cottage gear guys, is not exclusive to MLD, and being that Ron is still making each piece of gear himself, and delivering within 8 weeks is pretty darn good.
He was even on vacation for a week and still met his deadline on my delivery.Aug 15, 2007 at 3:19 pm #1398733
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