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My experience...which is not a good one. This is a long one, but an accurate account of my experience with HOS, their poor customer service and return policy.
This past December, I purchased The Championship Series Chess Set and Board from HOS. Literally, right out of the box, the white queen had a lose weight and rattled. And the rosewood King wobbled and would not sit flat on the board. As the purchase fell under their 21-day return policy, they sent out an RMA label and I sent the defective pieces back. After a few business days, my replacement pieces arrived. At this point, I'm thinking this is an isolated incident.
March 2014 - Through no abuse while using this set, I noticed now a boxwood pawn had a hairline crack from the bottom and running up the side! Clearly, I am not outside of HOS's 21-day return policy. So to send this pawn back, it cost me $8.51. A few days later, I receive a call from HOS requesting $4.00 to pay for their shipping to get my replacement pawn back to me!
I own three other sets (thankfully purchased elsewhere), made out of the same materials (boxwood and rosewood), of varying price points, that have had absolutely no problems. Each set being over 5-years old with the oldest, nearly 10-years old. No extra special care and they are flawless. After my initial complaint, their customer service rep told me because I live in Arizona the dryness is likely the contributing factor as to why these pieces are exhibiting the problems they are having. If that's the case, then my other pieces should be falling apart by now!
This set is clearly inferior and on top of that, HOS will not stand behind their products if the customer has to pay for shipping defective pieces to them, then having to pay to have them ship the pieces back!
April 2014 – Boxwood queen now has a hairline crack! I have lost complete faith that there is any quality to this set that I purchased just 4 ½ month ago. Yes, this set has a 1-year warranty, but by the time I end up replacing every single light colored piece in this set, I might as well have bought me a far better set!!! This set is complete garbage! Now this, after I purchased a humidifier.
I requested my money back on this garbage set but of course they will not honor a deeply unsatisfied customer, stating that as the set is now over 4-months old, this would not be possible. In this instance, HOS send me a replacement queen without requesting that I send back my defective piece. Show of good faith. Let’s see what they show next!
May 3rd, 2014 – Just when I thought I had weeded out all the bad pieces from this set, I was playing this past Saturday when to my disbelief I noticed the rosewood king and one of the bishops is hair lined cracked too! I’m sure they will want me to send both pieces back so that they can “color match” for replacements – all at my expense.
I cannot emphasize enough how regretful I am with this purchase. Buyer's remorse doesn't even begin to describe my frustration. It is getting to the point that I don't even want to look at this set anymore in fear that I will see yet another and another and another piece that has cracked. At the rate that this set needs replacements, especially on my dime, I might as well have bought me a much better set – elsewhere! In the end, this set will probably cost me double (or more) what I paid for it. Will I ever buy from HOS again? I won’t waste my keystrokes answering that question.
I closed one of my emails to HOS customer service with this paragraph, “If you were the customer, how would you feel? What would you expect after the experiences I have had with this combo set and the HOS? Would you be happy to continue paying shipping costs as each piece continues to crack?
Maybe their high-end sets are of better quality. But with the expeience I have had, there's no way I'm going to take any chances with this company. Nice website but buyers beware!
I know how it feels to receive a less than perfect set and it doesn't feel good so I can sympathize. I've noticed that several retailers have had problems with pieces cracking in the last few months. I'm not sure what the exact cause is. I suspect the extreme cold and dryness in most of the USA this winter didn't help. It's also possible the wood being used by one or more manufacturers lately hasn't been properly cured. Regardless the cause, wrangling with a supplier to complete an imperfect set certainly dampens the enthusiasm for that set.
az5654, I can't believe it! I bought a HOS set a while ago, everything looked fine. Now I read your post and thought: this guy has bad luck with hairline cracks, good that my set has no such issues.
Next time I used the set I found a hairline crack in one of the ebony rooks.
I guess there is at least something to be said for plastic....
"They very obviously didn't inspect the pieces before shipping. I figured this was just their business model, to fix in stage-2 defects perceived by the customer.”
In my opinion from repeated experience, I think you are correct. The behavior of HOS today is generally consistent with your assessment.
It appears that the overall cost of managing the returns nets out to be less than the cost of inspecting each set at the distribution center. Even the high-end sets seem to go out with no inspection.
The burden is shifted to you, and the inconvenience is actually your bearing of a cost which is shifted away from HOS. You become the unpaid employee responsible for final inspection.
They can choose to do that if they want – probably no law against it. It might be questionable as a business practice though.
For any set over $400 or so, I find it vaguely insulting.
If I owned a chess retail business that specialized in chess sets as they do I would check every model from top to the club set to make sure they went out inspected as wellas packed to the max so no damage occurs in shipping.
Yes I do own an internet retail bisiness but it has nothing to do with chess so I ahve been inspecting merchandise as well as shipping out on a daily basis. I take pride in what I sell and the way I pack and ship it. It takes about the same time to pack something in a crappy way as it does to do it the proper way.
As for inspecting the chess set, come on you don't have to put every piece under a microscope. Spend 10 minutes to final inspect expensive chess sets and a couple minutes on a club set. That's about all the time I took inspecting it when I unpacked each. If they can't do this they shouldn't be in business.
Also if I keep on getting defective pieces from a factory in India I would look elsewhere in India as I found myself without trying 4 different places that manufature chess sets and board in India. I am sure they would all want your business.
IT'S CALLED CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!! If they have crappu customer service deal with another chess retaler. BTW the best chess retailer would be the one that you never have to say "I just examined my chess set and 1 piece is chipped and 3 others have cracks and 6 pieces are buldging out from the bottom due to rust on the steel." I don't care if they replace them in a NY minute the fact is they shouldn't have had to replace them to begin with. yes I know once in a while a piece or board my slip through the cracks but that should not be norm at all.
For years I thought I was the only one not in "awe" of these HOS chess set. I bought a Professional series in ebonized boxwood and a "Superior Traditional" chessboardback in 2004. It was my first and last HOS set.
The chess set that was sent was ok except for a king with broken cross and 2 pawns with cracked collar. The chessboard that came appears to be fine.
I called HOS and they shipped a new cross and 2 pawns to me free of charge. I said wow, that's customer service! (I was thinking these things happen but they've done alright and took care of the problem)
A few months later my white king developed a cracked and the "superior traditional" chess board also had a huge crack in the corner. Once again, I called HOS and they gladly replaced the board and the white king. That's fine BUT why are these things cracking? Meanwhile I was out like $25 shipping the boards and the pieces back to HOS.
I must have used these pieces and board playing less than 20 casual games with friends. It shouldn't be cracking.
I stopped playing with this set because I thought they were too delicate for casual play. Mind you this professional series are supposed to be "able to withstand the rigors of practial play. I stored them away on its HOS box and forgot about it.
About a year later, both my kings had cracks on the same area. what gives? These can't be attributed to humidity. Both kings at the same area? The only thing I am thinking of is that the weight they are using to make the kings heavy are actually too big, that when the wood had shrunk a little bit - they cracked!
I understand why HOS would talk their chess sets up. I don't understand why so many people talks these chess sets up though. Some of these people even talk about Frank Cammarata like he's the best thing that ever happened to chess sets. I mean yeah, the sets and board that I got looked nice but far from "heirloom" pieces they were saying these chess sets are. I mean they talk these chess sets up like they're something you can hand down to your grand kids. Yeah I mentioned Frank Cammarata because you might think these quality issues are something that is just happening recently. It's not. It's been going on even when he was around.
Thank you for posting your photos which clearly shows your point. We have to agree in that the pieces cracked are a result of weighting. It also clearly demonstrates that it's not only genuine ebony that can crack. Many have opted to purchase and have turned to other woods, some due to cost, while others having fears of genuine ebony cracking and turning to ebonized boxwoods for example assuming they'll be safe. Many will point to the wood or aging, however we believe that temp and humidity control along with weighting are the usual suspects of cracking. To be honest, improper weighting assigned or put in improperly is close to being our biggest pet pev when it come to quality control.
I had a near identical experience with HOS last year. Long story short, after numerous exchanges back and forth on my dime, I decided to box up the set and board and store it away. I just did not enjoy playing with it any longer as I was finding so many glaring defects with the pieces. I have three other wood sets that have never displayed a fraction of the problems I have had with this set. I have never done business with HOS again.
My other suspicion would have to be kiln dried wood vs. naturally age dried. (Right terminology?)
Thank you for posting your photos which clearly show your point. We have to agree in that the pieces cracked are a result of weighting. It also clearly demonstrates that it's not only genuine ebony that can crack. Many have opted to purchase and have turned to other woods, some due to cost, while others having fears of genuine ebony cracking and turning to ebonized boxwoods for example assuming they'll be safe. Many will point to the wood or aging, however we believe that temp and humidity control along with weighting are the usual suspects of cracking. To be honest, improper weighting assigned or put in improperly is close to being our biggest pet pev when it come to quality control.
Being straight up and quoting ourself, with that said... We must now add to our last comment above in defense of HOS products... Frankly, we have received some very high end absolutely wonderful sets with no problems whatsoever from HOS currently and/or through out the years and have found their respective sets to be of the highest quality with servicing also being top shelf should a problem ever arise.
Yeah, HOS may be a little overpriced (I buy my sets via Ebay), but the sets I've bought have been magnificent. Let's not forget that Frank Camarrata essentially reinvigorated (I think that's a word ) the high end market for chess pieces. I also believe his designs will stand the test of time.
In my short collecting stint I do attribute the cracking to the weights and not so much to the dryness of the wood. My cheap wooden club set boxwood and ebonized I do beleive will not crack in 20 years and it sits out in dry weather as well as damp weather. The weights are very small and therefore the wallk thickness is substantial. Ass long as the weights were rpoperly put in and not forced in there shoul dbe no problems. Most of the cracking come on sets that are heavily weighted, just my observations, no matter who they come from HOS,CB,ANYONE.
The House of Staunton sets are made in India. Frank Camaratta started out having solid contracts with his producers that made high quality be necessary.
With that though a lot of these manufacturers, from anywhere not just India, get a bit too comfortable and let the quality slip on the sets they produce. It is on the shoulders of the seller, House of Staunton, to keep their manufacturers on the ball.
The sets and boards discussed in this thread are all made of wood. Being a natural material, cracks and other flaws will be present in any particular piece of wood no matter how hard it is checked from the outside. And cutting the wood apart to look for flaws in the grain will destroy the piece of wood, so you can't do that.
Yes, the manufacturer very well could have made the holes for the weights too small in that set, which would cause the cracking. And it appears that this has happened in both sets, the Championship and the Professional Series.
My experience has been to contact the House of Staunton and talk about this. They do work hard to keep people satisfied. They cannot control pieces to never crack or have problems. No one can. They can make it right though. And from my experience with them, they most often do.
I have about 6 wood sets that are 25-35 years old & have not had a single base crack or any other issues. None of these sets are from HOS. Check the Wegial site out. They show open air wood curing & I think they use cylindrical weights as well.?
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