Back at the end of December 2020, I placed an order with Frank at Audio by Van Alstine for a Vision SLR preamp. Heard so many good reviews about Frank and his products, I felt that was just what the doctor ordered for my system. At first I was told the custom building of my unit would take up to 3 weeks. Then, as nothing happened, I inquired and was told due to an unexpected high volume of orders, mine would take another 2 weeks. I then told Frank, please tell me if there are any further delays because not knowing is worse than getting bad news. Three weeks past, not a word from Frank. So, almost 2 months past the order date, I called him and he tells me they have a problem, the master technician who builds these units left for another state to care for his wife who got sick. I get that and I hope with all my heart she will be ok. But bottom line is Frank fed me multiple excuses for not performing while not communicating about any of it. It was completely inexcusable. He had my money for nearly two months and did not bother to keep me updated of what was going on. I could not ever recommend AVA to anyone and felt compelled to relate this on this site since I usually see only praise for Frank and I frankly felt the opposite. Worst audio purchasing experience in my 66 years.
These small shops are doing the best they can, I’ve got a piece on order from Decware. Their usual turn time is 6ish weeks. Currently it is 4 to 6 months. So the guy didn’t call you about his head guy having to go out of town, while I understand your position, a little grace might in order. Sure, in a perfect world he should have called, but he didn’t. If it’s that big a deal, just cancel your order, if you haven’t already.
“do you know who I am?” ”this is simply inexcusable” ”I DEMAND SATISFACTION” ”I’m going to post my experiences in forums OR ELSE”
Entitled much? You are aware that those of us who don’t reside in a gilded cage are dealing with a world wide pandemic to which a HALF MILLION people have died in the US alone? If I was Frank I’d refund your money and show you right where you can put it.
I posted this to make others aware of what I went through. I have ran my own businesses for over 20 years. Some things you can't sugar coat. This transaction was badly handled all around, sorry to those who are offended by hearing what they don't like to hear. BTW, I canceled the order, got a refund right away and already ordered a Prima Luna Evo 100 tube preamp. More money, but likely worth it. Wanted the basic 4 RCA inputs with none of the bells and whistles and other than the vision SLR, there is really nothing out there in solid state.
It’s not about delays in this pandemic situation, it’s about communication once a company has your money. I have two PayPal disputes with small ( non audio) companies that refuse to communicate with me about their shipping delays. The least ANY business can do is communicate its problems with a customer. I agree with the OP.
Leaving aside motivations of the OP or Frank, here's what seems to be happening:
Likely that many small makers have seen booms in business of a magnitude that their longtime business skill set cannot cope with. They lack the staff even without the challenge of employee attrition, so those complications multiply a situation they already aren't quite capable of dealing with.
That said, the OP's point about communication is valid. Keeping a simple list of orders, date promised, date expected, and last contact made is something which anyone can do and anyone can make time for. If this is not happening with a company, then there's bigger trouble afoot.
this thread is an illustration as to why retail/’direct to consumer’ businesses are so difficult
people can just be unreasonable, indignant, entitled, unforgiving, without grace -- and of course, the customer is always right!!! ...sure...
as for frank and ava... in my book, if there is one man in the high end audio trade that deserves some latitude and goodwill, it is him - he is older now, still answers the phone personally when you call in, honest to a ’t’, often to a fault - all small businesses in this time are struggling
I think if the company can’t fulfill the costumers demand, or there’s a big problem going on, and no resolutions in sight, maybe just tell them straight they will refund their money. I met Frank in the room with Doug Schroeder at Axpona , both very nice people.
@hilde45 Good post. I agree about the importance of communication. I was in business most of my life and put a strong emphasis on it. But its a lot of work. I was taught that when you tell someone you are going to do something, you DO IT or you call and tell them why you can’t. It is hard to believe that in an age where so many vehicles for communication exist yet, communication is so lacking. EDIT I should also say that today, many customers expect W-a-y more than they pay for. Were I the OP, I'd just have got my $$ back and been quiet. His 1st post is not a good way to introduce himself on a BB. Seems more revenge than pure info
Some of you have gone quite hard on the OP. If I were he, I would feel the same way. It takes but a few seconds to send an email to the customer regarding their order delays. All of you who are condemning the OP, if it happened to you, I wonder how many of you would complain? I met Frank at RMAS in 2017 and found him to be in a bad mood. I introduced myself to him, thanked him for his many contributions to audio and he was quite short with me. As we walked away, my wife asked me “what is his problem and is he always like this”. That sums it up nicely. I wouldn’t buy a paper clip from him.
I agree it was handled wrong.. The customer is alway right.
That being said, you should have included he gave you, your money back without delay.
That says something to me too.
I’m at 4 months on a 4-6 week order from Decware. LOL I’ll wait, I’m a retired mechanic... Patience can really cost if you don’t have a LOT of it sometimes..
Decware has a forum going 24/7 so folks get to vent a bit.. They have contacted me twice in 4 month. When I see a parts pull on their web site, I’ll start, peaking out the front room window, 6 weeks later.
I waited 2 years on a Mac repair... 2 years..my friend.. The things I said on that phone, I’m going to hell.. Hope not.. LOL
I actually bought plane tickets, I got so ticked.. I don’t get pissed or mad (well I did twice in 66 years.. Enough of that)...
In any case OP hope you get what you need when you need it... Enjoy the new gear.. I’m lookin’ at a TT, it’s built though.. TT and shipping... my favorite thing.. So is pulling a stick out of my eye.. :-)
+OP I read his post, didn't sound as if he felt untitled. I recently sent an amp in to have repaired, the tech contacted me when he was told buy his supplier parts may be held up. It may take longer than expected. In fact he ended up with the parts only a few days late which he communicated to me, then sent my amp priority shipping at great cost to himself (which I told him was not necessary) to guarantee his commitment. That's the way you do business. Personally I think the C19 excuse is being used for incompetence and laziness.
My experience with AVA was positive. In January I purchased the new SET control amp and received it ahead of the estimated delivery date. I was given a phone call advising me that the amp shipped and I was sent a text message with the tracking number.
Pace the loss of a key employee in a small company, but...
The ground rules for taking deposits on orders to be fulfilled later: 1. Too many companies just take all orders that come in. Do NOT take orders that cannot be fulfilled by delivery date. Keep capacity under daily review. 2. State delivery date. 3. If the company goes bust, the customer loses deposit. So put customer deposits in a ring-fenced account and not use them in the business. 4. Keep customer informed weekly, good news or bad. Quicker for bad news. 5. Customer: do not deal with suppliers who won't do all above.
If I understand this correctly, the OP, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that has disrupted electronic supply chains, orders a custom built preamp from a small, niche manufacturer. Multiple delays ensue and the OP eventually asks for and receives a refund. The OP then bad mouths the manufacturer on a popular internet site.
You promptly got your money back when you asked. So why start this post? You just want the world to know how you were treated. Fair enough, AVA should have communicated better. Now the world knows how you were treated, but they also know what you're really like too.
Seems to me that Frank/AVA could certainly have communicated to the buyer more promptly, but he did provide the refund and the reasons for the delay and mayhem are quite understandable and seems to have occurred without much warning on his end.
For the OP to come on here and post like he has, while contributing little else, also signals the kind of person he is. I think the one poster who mentioned that some people live in ’gilded cages’, pampered and easily angered at being slighted, irrespective of underlying reasons and what others may be facing with in our present world state, themselves need some lessons in humanity.
The last time I talked to Frank, he told me he was in the process of teaching a new technician, so it would take a few more weeks before he could build mine. For real! Never even offered a refund at that point. That's when I pulled out. Being told the master technician would handle the custom build for nearly two months kept me in. But having it built by a "trainee", his quote, definitely put me over the top. For him to never be up front about the situation and dragging me along while keeping my money was unfair, to be polite. He should have notified me the minute his master technician left, not 3 weeks later when I finally called him. Calling him is the only reason I found out about it, otherwise I would still be waiting. For those who are ok with this, good shopping. Posting this was not an easy decision, but it was so badly handled, I have no regrets, I feel I did the correct thing. Sorry for all the ruffled feathers.
you were right to post this. I want to hear about the companies customer service, good or bad. Because Frank Van Allistine has made many contributions to the audio world over the decades, many people feel he deserves a pass. I do not feel de does and I am sure many others who never post feel the same. You did right and I wouldn’t want a first timer working on something of mine.
Here. Is a little story, in 1995 I bought a new Dodge Stratus with the 2.4 liter engine. The car went through 3 head gaskets in 2 years. The third time it was being replaced, the service manager had his son, fresh out of mechanics school do the job. It ended up being quite a cluster***k and he not only installed it wrong, he punctured a hole in the transmission line. All the way home and back I had smoke pouring out in front of the windshield because the transmission fluid leaked onto the hot manifold. The engine and transmission was ruined. Chrysler Corp had to pay for a new crate engine and transmission. As soon as it got fixed, I traded it in on a new Camry. Would never buy anything made by Chrysler Corp ever again.
All because a trainee did the job with no supervision.
Well it seems Frank dropped the ball in that situation. 2weeks ago He returned my call I left for him at 7pm Central time on a Friday night. Now that is good service my friend. Sometimes you reap what you sow.
Damn, Frank must be pretty darn old now. In the mid-80’s I sent him my Dynaco PAS pre-amp to have him install his mod, and he was at least middle-aged then. He already looked a lot like Bill Johnson, iirc. Real fine designer imo, very value orientated. His modded-PAS was the quietest pre-amp I’ve ever owned. He installed 5751's in place of the 12AX7's.
I understand the OP's frustration but I think this is fairly common. These tiny companies with high demand for their products (Decware, AVA, Zu, etc) don't have the staff to continually update customers on outstanding orders while fielding questions and orders from new customers (and maintaining quality control!). Decware was smart to create their order status spreadsheet, but a lot of companies don't want the hassle of moderating their own forum.
I find that a simple followup email usually generates a good response from the manufacturer.
Here is what Decware is doing. Click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Real Time Amplifier Build Schedule. Customers can see where they are in the cue...August orders shipping now.
I'm with you baylinor, once ok, twice maybe, but 2 months past the order date and not even a courtesy call that's not a good businessman, he may be a terrific human being and by all accounts he certainly has fans on this site, but when I have handed my money to someone for a product and the attitude is you need me more than I need you, guess what? i'm going elsewhere, I deal with business that stand by their word, not excuses!
your last post hit the nail on the head. There are too many of these small company’s using the purchasers CC payment way before the item ships, to finance their company. In essence, they are getting an interest free loan using YOUR money and making you wait for the product, sometimes months later. That is a bad way to do business and there should be laws against that.
That practice tells me the company is operating on a shoestring and my not be around that long. Here is another side:
When I bought an Odyssey Stratos amp from Klaus @ Odyssey Audio, I gave them my CC info when I placed the order over the phone. It took a little over 3 months for my amp to be built and shipped. My CC was not charged. Two weeks after receiving the amp, I noticed my CC still hadn’t been charged. I called Klaus and reminded him to bill me for the amp and was told that he wanted to be sure I loved the amp first. Two weeks later (a month after I received the amp), I received the CC Bill. That was really over the top but a great way to buy something. Needless to say I purchased more from Odyssey and was pleased every time.
I'm sorry that baylinor experienced those problems, but I feel bound to say I've experienced the opposite: years ago I contacted Frank about a late 1980s Super Pas II (I was not even the original owner): he asked for photos of the inside, mailed me upgraded captors, and refused to take any money! Just this week, I mailed him a Vision Q phono stage I thought was failing: turned out it's fine and my cartridge is the problem. He spent hours testing the unit and is mailing back, again refusing to accept any payment, even for the postage!
i know covid has been really tough on small outfits like his... i can confidently say he is not a financial shark purposely taking advantage of customers for working capital float, he just isn't that kind of person
I don’t think the op is being unreasonable at all…when I hear that businesses like this are having trouble keeping up with orders…and don’t have the time or staff to communicate in a timely fashion…. I think…maybe they need to stop taking orders for a while!
You can’t have it both ways… I.e. take people’s money …but not deliver the product or even communicate in a timely and professional fashion!
Basically they are saying…I got mine….but you have to wait (and wonder) for yours.
I personally want to know about these situations….especially if I’m shopping.
The more excuses you’ll accept….the more you’ll be given.
P.S. This is not against this particular vendor…I’ve no experience with him…sure he’s a great man.(but, that’s not really the point…is it?)
I agree. The business should not take any more orders until they know they can be filled in a timely manner. That time frame should be determined up front before money is accepted. When delays happen notify the customer immediately with options.
Frank’s been in business since the Pleistocene Age and has a great reputation for both products and service, or he wouldn’t have lasted this long. Practically every audio company you can name is "boutique" in size and they’re all experiencing their worst nightmare. Ever hear of Covid-19? Lots of audio companies are having a hard time getting parts and have lost employees. Oh, and try buying home appliances, a bicycle, a car, puzzles, lumber, computer equipment, furniture, or even toilet paper (again).
I agree that the communication could be better, but this isn’t business as usual.