When Kathy Moses mailed her order and check for $25.99 in early February to the Beanie Baby Official Club (BBOC), she counted on her 11-year-old daughter Mandy playing with the limited-edition Clubby Bear soon after. A month later, when the canceled check arrived, she reassured Mandy it wouldn't be much longer.
But by mid-May, Moses grew impatient. Still no Clubby Bear in the mail, still no Beanie display cases included in her order. She located the Web site of the Ty Co., maker of Beanie Babies, to find out what was going on. It directed all questions regarding Clubby orders to the Cyrk Co., the Gloucester, Mass., firm that was operating the BBOC and handling Clubby orders.
Moses e-mailed Cyrk. A day later, Cyrk responded saying it could not locate Moses's order in its database, and asked her to send a copy of the canceled check and other order info.
When she received no further response after two weeks, Moses called Cyrk -- the first of a series of frustrating conversations with Cyrk customer service personnel. At best, they could only assure her that the turn-around time once complaints are handled is two months.
"I advised them that this was unacceptable . . . and that I was not happy with Cyrk's lack of concern," said Moses, who unknowingly had joined the ranks of a massive, nationwide mess of disappointed consumers who had ordered BBOC's Clubby Bears and hadn't received them.
"I would assume that, conservatively, 100,000 children have ordered Clubby, etc.," added an angry Moses. "By cashing their checks immediately and waiting several months to fill orders, Ty or Cyrk is making thousands or possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest -- while the consumer waits."
In a written corporate response to a reporter's queries, Cyrk spokeswoman Mary Ann McCormick attributed the delays and difficulties to the overwhelming response for Clubby Bear orders.
The program, she said, "received unprecedented consumer response, not only in the numbers of membership kits purchased, but also in the never before experienced fervor with which the Beanie fanatics approached the Clubby offer."
According to McCormick, the economics of Beanie collecting and trading further fueled the logistical problems. At the beginning of the program, Clubby Bears were selling in the secondary market for more than $100. "Fearing that they would miss out, consumers jammed the system, overwhelming it with checking and rechecking the status of their orders," explained McCormick, adding that many of the customers sent and re-sent order-status requests and complaints that were "improperly filled out," which further delayed resolving complaints.
The company, she said, "dedicated a multitude of additional resources to handle the program," including adding customer service personnel, round-the-clock fulfillment staffing, more phone and fax lines.
Cyrk even searched the Internet, she said, to locate disgruntled customers who were sounding-off online so the company could resolve those complaints.
But all of that, she said, "means little to a Beanie fan who got lost in the massive shuffle. For that we are regretful."
Postscript: Kathy and Mandy received their order, plus the Platinum Edition membership kit containing the next special BBOC beanie, Clubby II, on July 16.
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