Mar 30, 2014 at 12:44 pm #1315032
MLD and GoLite SL-3 fans have probably heard of Sean Clayton and his company OookWorks. Sean's been making custom inners for these shelters for a few years now.
I personally ordered an inner for my Trailstar two years ago, and was very disappointed by the quality of the product I received after 4 1/2 months. For the record, I was told the order would take 5-6 weeks, plus shipping time to the US. I chalked it up to the risk of doing business over the internet, with something of an unknown entity.
A month or two later Sean's personal life unravelled and he posted about the demons he was facing on his blog. I won't go into those here. If you're interested you can read it for yourself. He seemed to pick himself up by his bootstraps and get on with his work.
Over the last 18 months, Sean's still making products with very long lead times. Most people are happy with the quality of what they receive. But I've spoken directly to a number of people who have said that Sean has stopped responding to communications once they placed their order. Lead times have stretched to 6 months, 9 months, a year, even longer.
Over on the UK website Outdoors Magic a thread was revived about a month ago with people asking whether anyone had heard from Sean. The website went dark a few days ago, which caused a flurry of activity with people thinking that he'd done a Bender. I'll let you read and form your own opinions. See page three onwards:
I'm glad that Ron Bell has introduced a Trailstar inner, and that he's listening to customer feedback on bathtub floors, inverted T zips and the like.
I would be very concerned that an order placed with OookWorks now is being used to fund materials for one that's been waiting in the queue since early 2013.Mar 30, 2014 at 2:01 pm #2087766
Derek WeeksBPL Member
I can't say much more then what has already been said above, but want to add my own experience with Sean at OookWorks. My leadtime for my inner was extremely long wait. Yes I was happy with the overall craftsmanship, but was not happy about the inner being over spec by 3 oz. One could argue it was only 3oz, but that's not what I ordered or paid for. And to top matters off I was never was refunded the money for the difference in cost between the two Inners. I change my order due to long wait time I originally ordered the Doumid inner, but after waiting so long my needs change, so I order the nano, but was never refunded the different. Even if I had not read the recently chatter about Sean and the difficulties people are having with him I still with my experience would never place an order with Sean ever again….!Mar 30, 2014 at 2:26 pm #2087778
@bsmith_90Locale: Epping Forest
From what I've read, half of the lead time problem is people pestering him with emails that they "need" their item for a certain date for a certain trip or whatever reason and he then puts their item closer to the top of the queue, causing further delays to other people's orders.
I don't think that's how a sole trader should run a business. But I can barely sew a straight stitch, what would I know?Mar 30, 2014 at 6:26 pm #2087867
Randy CainBPL Member
@bagboyLocale: Palmdale, CA
The plot just keeps thickening as the months go by. One VERY nice outdoor blogger with more patience than a saint waited almost two years for his 2012 order. Yes, I said 2012!! HE STILL HASN'T GOTTEN IT, and he is being denied a refund because Sean admits that he doesn't have the money (as of 3/30/14). Over the months, in the course of conversations about gear, this blogger mentioned several times that he was excited about his Oookworks order and was totally forgiving of the wait time he had endured. He assured himself that it would be worth the wait for the quality product he was sure he'd receive. But how long do you allow someone to keep more than $700 of your money before you begin to think that it's getting ridiculous? He held out longer than anyone I can imagine.
Finally this individual understandably went public and stated on his outdoor blog that he has an Oookworks order from 2012 that he hasn't received. Sean's response? He gets mad and accuses the guy of "turning" on him. All this individual did was tell the truth, yet Sean made it very clear that he is NOT okay with the truth being made public…while he continues to take orders and money from other customers who don't know any better. It's really quite a ridiculous thing that's going on. Yet people will still defend Sean.
Part of me wants to scream, "Stop taking orders until you can catch up, ya jackass!"…but that would be crass and insensitive of me, right?? :( But the reality is that crass and insensitive is in taking new orders from folks when you can't even give a guy his stuff from 2012…OR offer a refund!! This is no longer about Sean's potential to produce good products. It's about ethics in running a business.
We know that Sean IS still taking orders, because people have posted online recently that they've not only placed orders, but some have received their goods. Yet he has orders from 2012 that he hasn't fulfilled and confesses that he doesn't even have the money to issue refunds. Something sure seems wrong with this picture to me.
By the way, all of this comes right from the outdoor blog page on facebook that's open for the world to see.Mar 30, 2014 at 6:59 pm #2087878
Good luck even getting in touch with the chap.
Why do business with someone like that when we have excellent fabricators like MLD and Bear Paw and Zpacks ,etc.?Mar 30, 2014 at 7:55 pm #2087899
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
I don't know about the consumer laws in the U.K., but in the USA, the consumer laws (Federal Trade Commission) clearly state that the vendor must ship the order within 30 days or else they must negotiate a different date with the consumer.
I would never let a vendor slide around this way. I would get in contact with the credit card company and reverse the charge.
–B.G.–Mar 30, 2014 at 9:39 pm #2087939
And therein lies the rub – many cottage companies only accept PayPal. By the terms and conditions they should only process payment when the goods have been shipped, but unsurprisingly they won't start on an order until payment has been made in full. PayPal's protections stop at 45 days, and at peak times that may only be 1/2 way through the production queue.
Back in the day I used to use an escrow service for high ticket purchases on eBay. I'd be all over that in this kind of situation, but the point is Sean would never accept those terms. He needs the money coming in now to fulfill orders he was paid for in 2012 and 2013.Mar 31, 2014 at 9:56 am #2088047
Ryan SmithBPL Member
The credit card reversal/charge back works with Paypal too, just have Paypal send funds from your credit card instead of your bank account. The credit card company debits the funds from Paypal's bank and presto – you have your money back….I realize this may not help Stuart but maybe others.
RyanApr 1, 2014 at 9:23 am #2088396
Randy – you make a really good point which has been bugging me for the longest time. Why is it that there is so much good press for OookWorks, when Sean is horrible at communication (mostly) after an order has been placed, and apparently never completes a product on time? Product quality only goes so far, and I know I'm not the only one to receive a subpar inner from him…
Sean is flat broke. He's financing old orders with the money received on current ones. Anyone who has placed an order and is still waiting is dependent on future orders to bankroll their OookNest. It's not in their best interest to cast doubt on Sean, for doing so will jeopardize the chances of them ever seeing their order. However at this point it's a matter of when, not if, he will go bust and leave a lot of extremely angry customers in his wake.Apr 1, 2014 at 10:15 am #2088416
Erik HagenBPL Member
@ewh100Locale: SF Bay Area
I can't help anyone who may have got hosed but if anyone is considering a purchase I would recommend going to Bearpaw Wildnerness. John makes quality inners and is great with communication and delivery times. Although somewhat buried on his website he makes inners for Trailstars and Duomids as well as SL3's. He will also do most any custom work. I've purchases a couple of products from him and have been quite happy.Apr 1, 2014 at 10:48 am #2088429
Shawn PeytonBPL Member
@alifeoutdoorsLocale: Iron River, WI
+1 on John and Bearpaw Wilderness. I go strictly to him on any of my net tent inners etc or any custom work.Apr 1, 2014 at 11:06 am #2088434
Any issue with over spec'd weight? I ordered two items and both were 20% over. He would not permit them to be returned, either.Apr 1, 2014 at 11:12 am #2088438
Ouch, Dave. That's not exactly a glowing recommendation. I was about to say that perhaps I should have gone with BPWD seeing as he's only an hour up the road from me, but maybe the safest option is to stick with MLD.Apr 1, 2014 at 11:51 am #2088448
Jennifer MitolBPL Member
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
Ouch is right – he's making me a custom 1.5 person inner with a tall bathtub for my duomid…..Apr 1, 2014 at 6:56 pm #2088608
Erik HagenBPL Member
@ewh100Locale: SF Bay Area
I purchased a SL3 inner with a CF 1.25 Floor. It came in at 23 oz vs the stated weight of 22 oz so I thought that was within reason. Now if it was 20% over I too would be highly upset and would definitely expect to be able to return. Makes you think twice…
The other item I purchased was a CF Luna 2 but I had a second zipper with screened doors and perimeter netting added. There aren't weight specs listed for those mods so there was no way to compare. That shelter ended up weighing 21.5 oz.Apr 1, 2014 at 8:33 pm #2088639
I think it's understood that custom work will vary by a few grams or parts of an ounce from job to job, so Erik your reaction to shrug it off makes sense.
My OookWorks inner wasn't even close to being within tolerance. I ordered the exact same model as was listed on the website, and the version that arrived so many months later was a full 3 oz heavier. That's almost 30% over spec. I reluctantly accepted it because I feared I'd see nothing if I returned it. That's one thing, but when I went back and compared photos from other happy owners with mine, I saw that Sean had cobbled the FrankenOook together from leftover scraps. It was definitely the ugly stepsister to his proudly photographed Cinderellas, that he thought he could palm off on a customer in a different country.Jul 2, 2014 at 9:05 am #2116774
Heather CarterBPL Member
@hc3515Locale: Pacific Northwest
I just signed up to Backpacking Light in order to post my experience to this forum in hopes that other people may heed the warning about Sean at Oookworks here.
I live in Seattle, Washington. I am unable to contact Sean by phone or text. I have attempted to contact him several times by Gmail and through his own Website, with absolutely no response. As far as I am concerned this guy has stolen my money, his Website is a scam, this is fraudulent behavior, and he's a thief. Strong words and accusations, but this is what I am led to believe.
On April 30, 2014 I purchased an "instock" item – a simple bathtub – that according to OookWorks Website was in stock and would ship within 2 business days. It is July 2, 2014, and I have yet to receive my item.
I thought maybe he was on the TGO and was so busy that he couldn't get the bathtub in the mail on time. So I patiently waited until the TGO was over. In my mind, I thought I would even give him two weeks to recover once he got home. And then I emailed him. No response. And at that point we are past the 45-day Paypal dispute. Great.
I know it's not $700 and I know he reportedly makes a fine product but after this experience I would not have purchased from him to begin with and I won't again. Which is too bad, I had my eye on his MSR Twing Innernest.
Anyway, I did a bunch of reading about Sean and his products before I purchased. I believe I did my due diligence. Everything I read had him being a great communicator. And that in said buyers' experience had received their products within 10-12 weeks. Which is what I would expect from a custom item. I found this forum too late for me to learn from. Hopefully someone else will find this in time.
Happy Hiking (and buying!)Jul 2, 2014 at 9:13 am #2116777
Heather, thanks for sharing and welcome to BPL.
There have been other accounts of this sort of thing happening with Oookworks. It is a shame.
On a related topic, if you are looking for a simple bathtub floor, Mountain Laurel Designs just released (as of the past couple of days) separate bathtub floors albeit for pyramids.Jul 2, 2014 at 11:05 am #2116820
Welcome to BPL, Heather. Sorry to hear another disappointing outcome with Sean. If you can afford to wait a few weeks, I would second Dave's recommendation. If you need something quickly, take a look at ZPacks for their cuben floors.
I have the strongest impression that, unless you are one of Sean's "mates" – someone he knows and likes from Outdoorsmagic or a prolific blogger who can see nothing wrong in what he does – you will be left hanging by this guy.
And the further away you are geographically from Dumfriesshire, the less he gives a hoot what your opinion is.
Sean is capable of great craftsmanship when he can be bothered. But more often than not, he simply doesn't care. I don't know whether it's laziness, incompetence, or willful financial mismanagement, but he's a horrible businessman.Jul 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm #2116888
Franco DarioliBPL Member
@francoLocale: TarptentJul 2, 2014 at 5:12 pm #2116914
That's a huge bummer, his work looked phenomenal and before I read about this stuff a few weeks ago I was interested in getting one of his duomid nets.Jul 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm #2116916
Now I have no idea whether this is 100% fact, but I was reading (I believe on outdoors magic) something about him battling depression, or has battled depression. That could explain a lot.. still not excusable if that really is the case though.Jul 2, 2014 at 7:13 pm #2116950
Jennifer MitolBPL Member
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
Sean actually posted a long missive on his website a few years ago apologizing for his behavior and attributing it to a severe bout of depression. He said at the time he was working through it but asked for patience.
But as I said, that was a few years ago. It truly is a shame, because those inner nets look amazing!Jul 2, 2014 at 8:03 pm #2116961
They really do. Without having actually used one, they really do look like the best on the market if he actually had the effort to really make something of the company.Jul 2, 2014 at 8:48 pm #2116979
The blog entry where Sean mentioned his battle with depression was just a little shy of two years ago, and I respected him for doing so at the time. However, ever since he's treated it as his get out of jail free card, and I'm frustrated to read more and more reviews (see outdoorsmagic and trustpilot) where he continues to let people down horribly. Sean has chosen to continue to accept orders from customers. He has an obligation to fulfill those orders both equitably and in a reasonable timeframe, or offer a refund for failing to do so.
The pattern I hear from friends, and read on blog postings, is that as soon as he has your money, he stops communicating. Heather is right to call him out for non-delivery of an in-stock item ordered over two months ago. Heather, if you do ever hear back from him, expect him to use the 'lost in the mail' excuse. He used that with me to stall me for six weeks, and I've seen reports of him using it with others.
When I dealt with him in the spring of 2012, he said that he was amazed at the trust people would put in him, sending money from all over the world on the promise of a product in return. It struck me at the time as a peculiar thing for him to say. Sadly that trust was misplaced for an awful lot of people who are still waiting for their orders in 2014.
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