If anyone has been part of Usborne for the last two years, you would often hear and read about, “Coming soon to the internet: A State of the Art upgraded website along with tools and scanners to go with the shiny new warehouse Usborne moved into back in January!” The tools, scanners and equipment (some borrowed) were supposed to make shipping faster and more effective. With a simple scan, books could be picked, boxed and shipped to the consumer in a timely manner. The problem is, since November of 2015, shipping problems have been massive. We hear more bad than good so it’s hard to believe when home office claims that shipping times have a turnaround time of 1-2 weeks. For the past year, shipping has taken anywhere from 4-8 weeks. The company does not fill orders as they are received because too many Consultants place large consignment orders and well a $10,000 order takes precedence over a $50.00 from Joe or Joan the plumber. This results in missing orders, missing books in orders, or the wrong order all together. In other words, Usborne’s customers do not come first; the Consultant, however, does.
Why is this?
Simple. When Consultants take out consignment, they sell it to their downline or other consultants who are in dire need of a book, because an unhappy customer is fed up with waiting. This will probably be that consumer’s one and only purchase with the company because no one in their right mind would wait over a month to receive some children’s books. It is no secret that groups exist on social media for this very reason. Consultants don’t make their money in parties, or selling at events—remember an event is free advertisement for the company, not to make some sales and clear personal inventory. There are other people seek out groups that are “buy in games,” and if they win, other people go to their website and make a purchase. Is that an illegal way to buy goods? No, but it is morally unethical. If you wonder why a consultant is winning every home office challenge each month as well as fast tracking their way to team leader, or winning the coveted trip paid by the company each year within 5 months’ time via buy/sell/trade groups, while you’re pulling your hair out and being told “it just takes one party,” that’s how it’s done. It’s Usborne’s and really every MLM’s dirty little secret. Usborne’s only customers are their Consultants.
As frustration grew about shipping, more and more people got fed up, and #worththewait for an order was the new saying by spring. The company was gloating over explosive growth. The hashtag should have read #nochoicebuttowait. There was, however, a problem with the cool hashtag saying. The CEO on one of the social media groups when asked about refunds to customers said, “Explosive growth does not mean more revenue.” In other words, he wasn’t going to refund a customer’s money, he would give you a book credit instead, or run a contest and pick one lucky family to win $1,000.00 worth of books (yawn). How anyone can buy anything he was saying, waiting, twiddle your thumbs and avoid speaking to angry customers leaves many of us shaking our heads. Customers tried to complain on Usborne’s Facebook page, but the company took down the ability to leave a review. They wanted their little book distribution company to look perfect on the outside when everything was starting to crack at the seams.
Consultants were promised a 30 day notice when the new website would go live. That did not happen, in fact it was about a 4 day notice back in late August that the new website was finally ready and would launch on September 2nd. The website did go live, and it angered a lot of people. It wasn’t a shiny kick ass website they hoped it would be: user friendly, faster processing orders to arrive in a timely manner, easier way to create support tickets if there were errors, but they said it was a move up. In reality, the antiquated system that sort of worked, made the new website look like it was designed by a five year old with no knowledge of how to code. Many problems occurred, people could not place orders, orders were being credited to other Consultants and Consultants were not getting their commission just to name a few of the many software problems going on.
A few days ago an e-mail was sent to all Consultants from our good buddy Mr. CEO and President Randall White:
“November 23, 2016
To our UBAM sales force:
I think we all can agree that 2016 has been a tough year for our beloved company. That it all stems from our epic growth over the past 18 months is the most frustrating part — but also the best reason to be optimistic. Our struggles are NOT because of a lack of demand for our books, and so we have every confidence that we will right this UBAM ship.
If you’ve been with us for at least a year, you’ll remember that last year’s surge in orders led to website crashes and shipping delays. Those forced a warehouse move and new warehouse software that compounded the delays and led to an increase in shipping errors. These errors quickly overwhelmed our customer service department. Some customers waited weeks for books, had problems with their orders, couldn’t get help from us, and turned on you, their sales consultant — who had no fault in the situation, no answers, and often no way to help.
On the heels of these shipping and customer service issues, we launched a new website with the purpose of improving these major issues and to increase site stability. We had already been working with our web developers, By Design, for nearly two years, and we were all antsy to have a shiny new website that would better communicate with our warehouse.
We knew it was lacking some features, but we felt it could be improved later … and that the tradeoffs were in favor of making the switch now. We were wrong. We did not realize just how many problems we would experience with the By Design system. We did not realize the negative and stressful impact these problems would have on our number one customer: our consultants. I take full responsibility for this decision and truly apologize for all you have been through as a result of it.
Since the launch, we have worked tirelessly to get the laundry list of site issues fixed. Despite our attempts, including the hire of two very talented and dedicated IT consultants, our list of issues does not look much shorter than it did months ago. We are extremely frustrated with the lack of improvement and functionality after all our efforts, and we have lost a great deal of faith in By Design’s ability to make this system work in all the unique ways that a UBAM business requires.
With the level of investment we had in this new system, we had to exhaust all possibilities to make it work — and we feel we have. After endless research and soul-searching, we’ve reached the point at which enough’s enough. The continued impact the By Design system has on our company — most especially the stressful impact on your business and on your customers — is a sacrifice we are no longer willing to make. Because of this, we will be rolling back to our previous IT system.
It is important to note that rolling back does not mean we will be getting the system of our dreams (yet). Returning to the previous OrderPro/e-commerce system will bring a return of its quirks and limitations along with its strengths. Fundamentally, it will be the same system you used previously, although we will be making necessary adjustments to improve site stability and performance. After researching all of our options and their implications, we are certain that, despite its limitations, it will serve us better than the By Design system we currently use.
While we will continue to collaborate with By Design on resolving current critical issues, work is already under way to prepare for the rollback. I wish the process could be a simple flip of the switch, but first we have to go through a rigorous process of preparing the data for migration to ensure we do not recreate any of our current problems. After such a tumultuous time with By Design, our priority is to take the time needed for making it as smooth of a transition as possible.
Following this migration, we will begin work on custom-building a new technology suite designed specifically for UBAM. Having lived the painful reality of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with a predominantly off-the-shelf system, we know we need to hire a team of developers to craft a system in-house. After all we have gone through with this failed system, we feel you deserve nothing less than the ideal system for your business needs and will be working closely with leaders in the field to develop it to best fit those needs.
For most of us, the pain of enduring this system is still too raw to think of silver linings, and only the distance of time will reveal how we have emerged stronger as a result of the ordeal. But even now, I can say that we have been so impressed with how you have handled this frustrating weight with grace, dedication, and perseverance. Because of YOU, we have been able to continue to fulfill our literacy mission, despite the massive challenges you’ve endured now for months. That is something that should make each one of you very proud, and I know I could not be more proud of all that you have accomplished.
We are confident that the rollback is a significant step towards bringing our company back to our roots and commitment to excellence. Though the term “rollback” is most fitting in a technological sense, it should not be interpreted as a step backwards for the company on the whole. On the contrary, this is a very necessary step that moves us forward. Like an archer that is preparing an arrow to rocket ahead, we are taking the time to pull back the bow, set the stage for momentum, and aim for the future. It is a careful, calculated process that is launching us to greater heights.
You are a significant, valued part of our company, and I am very thankful that you have chosen to remain a part of the UBAM family even throughout these struggles. We appreciate you more than words could ever say. Thank you.
CEO and President
Usborne Books & More”
The CEO of this company will blame anyone or anything on why his way or the highway does not work. First he blames the explosive growth. What a classy way to thank those the company scammed into buying a kit to sell Children’s books that have not one a single award in over 2 years. Then he blames the customer service department, which is kind of ironic given no one can get a real person via email or telephone to resolve daily disasters. There are countless reports of the lines being busy and full voice mailboxes. Last, he throws the company he hired to design the new website under the bus—that was a real class act. He could have easily said he and the company had creative differences and parted ways. But you rarely ever hear an apology from a director or someone who works directly out of Tulsa; it’s always someone else’s fault. Mr. White likes to tell people they don’t understand how his warehouse or his business for that matter works. And it’s very obvious he does not have the patience to train home office so home office can train directors and their teams. The problem is not a web design company, company growth or customer service. The problem and fault lies with the CEO directly, who did not do the proper research nor beta testing before going live with his shiny new toy. He didn’t properly train his directors and downlines so that Consultants could learn the new system to avoid delays in their sales. They’re too busy telling each other what color their personality is. Mr. White is a distributor of books, managing a warehouse is not rocket science. But, he knows nothing about building a compatible website, or handing the reigns over to someone who can, very cheaply it appears, and that is his downfall. He thinks this is still the 80s where he runs his business still like a mom and pop shop. Well, this is 2016, and every direct sales company has a well-oiled website and software system where customers can make purchases, consultants can manage their sales and shock of shocks orders are actually delivered in a timely manner. Mr. White said it himself: “Our number one customer is you the consultant.” He was left with no choice but to use the words “I apologize” because had he not, that would have only angered more people. Mr. White is a bit glib in that he doesn’t care when people go into inactive status, they won’t let you outright quit until a year of no sales over $500.00 has occurred, and he has to keep the 1% that do make him money loyal to him. That’s why he sent out that ridiculous email, he failed and he failed big time. Yet the few, the proud, the loyal, will stand by this guy for reasons unknown because it sure isn’t the paycheck they are getting every week. Still, one major problem continues literally daily. No one can openly vent out their frustrations without repercussions. If you’re being too negative in an already stressful time in the company, you either stop or face the consequences. With that attitude, you can see why he depends on keeping his Consultants who make him money happy; those are his customers. His money makers. And being that he’s a salesman, he’ll tell you anything you want to hear, along with posting endless pictures of himself, by himself no less, surrounded by supposed orders being filled by him or ready to ship just to show you he’s #allin. Side note: Where are all his warehouse employees in those pictures?
Will there ever be a new system? That’s hard to say. The company has been butting heads with a website building company for over 2 years, and many of us can attest that he is not the easiest person to work with or for. He says in the above email that he has hired two IT Consultants to work with the company to design a new website that is compatible with the company’s needs. Maybe he should contact the now defunct Blockbuster video and see if he can purchase their inventory processing software. At least they were able to keep track of all inventory and ship out correct orders within 5 business days. If all else fails, revert to the dewy decimal system, that has been a winner for over a hundred of years. You can’t get any more antiquated than that, and it costs little to nothing to use!
So, are you #allin? Try #getthehellout
That’s my take. Tell me yours