It's very interesting, this whole notion of rapid, courteous service. All of the companies/retailers I have dealt with in the past three years, since beginning the Grand Duchy of Stollen project, have been great (Tom at GFI, Rich at RSM95, Peter at Spencer Smith, Rob at Garrison, and Peter at PB Toys, et al). The various miniatures I have purchased have all arrived quickly and, except in one instance, undamaged. And these were replaced at no charge just as quickly. Neither has it made any difference where these orders have come from -- Russia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain, or here in the United States. Pretty amazing when you think about it.
Back in the early 1980s, when the teen-aged, long-haired Stokes began painting 15mm Napoleonic figures, it was very different as many of you will, undoubtedly, remember. I liken it to the stone-age. You had to write actual, REAL letters, requesting figure catalogs from a given manufacturer or retailer. It took a long time for the sometimes badly mimeographed, unillustrated catalogs to arrive. Sometimes the envelopes arrived opened, minus the requested sample figure or two. We had no internet. PayPal had not been thought of yet. So, you wrote another letter, detailing your order very carefully and including payment with it. I paid for my very modest orders of figures with either a check or money order, sometimes giving my money to either my mother, or grandmother, who then wrote a check for me. And it took weeeeeeeeeks for orders to arrive, even if you paid extra for air postage. And when your order turned up, something was invariably missing.
Given my intital expereince with one Baltimore retailer (The Ship Shop) in early 1984, it's a wonder I even began painting figures at all. Following the Christmas holidays, I made a small order in early January for some 15mm Jacobite French and British Napoleonic infantry as well as some lancers and hussars. When the order finally arrived in March, it contained only the infantry. It took until mid-July to get the cavalry part of the order filled, and that took repeated letters of inquiry and telephone calls to the Baltimore-based retailer in question, plus a letter or two to Jacobite HQ in Britain.
To be fair, I finally recieved an apologetic letter from Jacobite HQ, explaining the various problems -- including a nasty accident suffered by the guy who cast the molten metal in the molds -- that had prevented them from filling a number of orders during late 1983-early 1984. I was obviously not the only one inconvenienced. But all of my letters and calls to the American retailer, who advertized the figures in his ads in The Courier and Military Modeling, went unacknowledged and unanswered. Incidentally, the cavalry figures that finally completed my small order were sent directly from the U.K. free of charge. So, service eventually came from some quarter, but it took too much work, and I never ordered Jacobite figures again. Too bad really, but there you are.
My, how things have changed in the last quarter century. We really have been spoiled by rapid and usually very good service. While the basis of the Grand Duchy of Stollen project has to do with old school wargaming nostalgia, the once slow, at times rather poor, service is a facet of the hobby that I certainly do not miss. It will be fun to get to Berlin, greet the Grand Duchess, recover a a bit from the flight(s), have a cup of real coffee or two , and then set up the thirty Holger Eriksson cavalry on the coffee table to ogle them.