Buying the Company Too (Rant/Disappointment)

Okay, so I have a bit of a rant.  I wrote a post similar to this last December, but I removed it the same day I posted it as the owner of the company responded to my email listing my concerns about their "business practices".  Because of that, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I removed the post for a little while to see if he would actually do what he said he would.  To date, he has not.  

I purchased the Humboldt GMT from Oak & Oscar last December (2022).  I LOVE the watch!  Nearly everything about it is what I look for in a watch.  But I also love to have multiple strap options, so in addition to purchasing the watch, I ordered one of their new canvas straps.  It looks and reads to be as rugged as the watch itself, and because they were made for these watches, I anticipated an excellent fit.  That is how I justified the premium price ($115 USD).  

Well, when it all arrived I quickly realized that the custom canvas strap was not a great fit at all.  It was too wide for the lug width of the watch.  And not just by a little bit, I really had to force the strap in between the lugs.  This causes the end of the strap to kind of puff out, or round out, so it rubs on both the lugs and the watch case itself, and it catches on the ends of the case quite often. This has already caused some of the color to wear off of the strap where it contacts the case, and it reduces the mobility of the strap on the wrist which reduces comfort and making it much harder to break it in.

Shortly after receiving my order, I got an email from the company asking me to review the items I purchased.   So I did.  On December 18th.  I gave the watch 5 out of 5, and I gave the strap 3 out of 5.  On December 21st my review for the watch was posted on the O&O website, but not my strap review.  So I emailed the company to see what was up and express my concern that it APPEARS that they artificially suppress less than desirable customer reviews to keep their ratings high on their website.  Chase, the owner, responded.  

We're crazy swamped right now and your watch review was a quick and easy approval for me. But, your strap review was, in my opinion, a little harsh. I wanted to take some time to reply to the review before publishing it and have a quality response noted on the website.

As for your strap issues, it's a natural, organic material that is formed, by hand, into the shape. There will always be some variance and tolerance in the width and thickness. Personally, I'd rather it be too thick than too thin. I also have no clue about the "shedding" as I've never heard or seen that before on any of the canvas straps we've sold. 

I'm also not sure why you didn't reach out to us directly about your issues with the strap before posting a negative review. We'd have happily discussed it with you as the issues you're having are a first for us. Making sure our Owners are happy, and just generally being good people, are absolute priorities for us and I would have hoped that came across when you met us at the NYC Windup. 

That response from Chase was on December 21st.  My review is still not on their website.  Also, here are my problems with his reply. 

  1.  My 3 star rating is fair game to be questioned in his opinion, but my 5 star was perfectly acceptable as valid and posted to his website.  So, I am of the correct opinion and sound mind for the 5 star watch review, but not for the 3 star strap review.  Regardless of the fact that I am indeed the same individual, and I used the same criteria to judge that I use for all things.  I guess the only quality responses are his?  BS.  
  2.  I could care less what HIS preference is for straps being a bit too wide vs. a bit to narrow.  This is not his review, it's mine, just as it it my preference, not his.  If a custom watch strap does not fit the watch it is designed for, to me, that is not an insignificant issue.  And, even if he has never heard of the other issue I mentioned, that doesn't mean they are not an actual issue.  When the strap arrived, some of the canvas material "shed" from the strap as I was handling it (all over my desk and keyboard).  He just dismisses my feedback as he is not familiar with it, even though I said it no longer seems to be an issue and was not part of my overall rating.   BS. 
  3. I submitted my reviews in direct response to his company's request for me to do so.  I recognize that 3 out of 5 is less than desirable, but it being negative is also entirely subjective.  Not great, but also not a failure rating.  Given the option to do a 3.5, I likely would have, but their rating system does not allow for such, and to me, it was NOT worthy of 4 stars.  Also, telling me that I needed to contact him before providing a review THEY asked for, that's not on me, I was following their process.  
  4. A quick conversation at a watch fair is not a basis for how I see a company, their actions determine that, not their words.  
  5. Everything is his response addresses how all of my actions are questionable and incorrect, it's full of platitudes and "spoken" company values, but takes zero accountability.  And apparently only good, constructive criticism given in the right way (based on his personal assessment it seems) makes their webpage.  

Thanks for your email. We absolutely appreciate all reviews—good and bad! Good constructive criticism given in the right way is absolutely vital to learning and doing better. I wholeheartedly believe that.

We've been very fortunate, and put in a lot of hard work and effort into making great products, that we've not received any legit bad reviews (some reviews were made for wrong products or by folks that didn't even purchase the items they'd left reviews for). The reviews posted are legit and uncensored, typos and all! We absolutely do not curate the reviews (again, except for the ones that are obviously not accurate or otherwise inappropriate) to inflate the ratings. 

I hate this because this casts a negative cloud over this company for me now, which also makes me look at my watch a little differently.  Customer ratings matter to me, a lot.  I read reviews to help me make a determination when making a purchase, especially for items that cost thousands of dollars.  As I am sure most of us do! I now naturally assume that O&O only post reviews that are 4 or 5 stars, while keeping other reviews off of their websites, which is extremely disingenuous and misleading, which I said to Chase.  

My review specifically noted why I gave the rating I did, that fact that the actual fit and compatibility of the "custom" canvas strap does not actually fit and does not appear to be compatible.  I could have bought a much less expensive version from Etsy that likely would have been a better fit.

I waited over a month, and well after the holiday season to see if he would do as he said he would, post my review with his "quality" response.  He has not.  So, my post is now back.  

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Do you have photos of the strap fitment and shedding? 

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southernwatch

Do you have photos of the strap fitment and shedding? 

I do. And I told them that. Last message was him saying I can just return the strap if I’m unhappy with it. 

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BigIona

I do. And I told them that. Last message was him saying I can just return the strap if I’m unhappy with it. 

I mean its nice that you can return the strap.  I was wondering why you didnt post the photos here? 

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$115 for a canvas strap and it’s a very poor fit?  Sheesh.  Not okay.

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First, you were asked to review a product, not take to a watch forum and evaluate the company's business practices. As Chase is saying, "We absolutely appreciate all reviews—good and bad! Good constructive criticism given in the right way is absolutely vital to learning and doing better. I wholeheartedly believe that." But now, you're not just targeting your criticism at a product, you're levelling it at a whole company and the business practices of a man who started it. 

Second,...you were able to post his responses directly, but not your reviews or emails? 

How are we to believe that you gave your criticism or suggestions in the right way if you don't share pictures or your review?  Did your review include the nuanced discussion of the strap production that led to your unsatisfactory experience?  Your write-up leads me to believe that you're only showing part of the story...talk about a double-standard. 


 

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Yeah I would have been pissed too. They hosted a RedBar MKE event last month, they were nice guys for sure. But I will say this does put a bad taste in my mouth as well. I most likely won't be moving on any of their pieces.

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AdrianR

$115 for a canvas strap and it’s a very poor fit?  Sheesh.  Not okay.

They don't have a leg to stand on here regarding quality/fit issues. You buy direct, pay a premium for a non-premium material, you rightly expect zero compromise in the final product. This is the kind of thing that always taints customer experience, a shame for the customer and should be a lesson for the company in terms of quality control.

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KyleC93

First, you were asked to review a product, not take to a watch forum and evaluate the company's business practices. As Chase is saying, "We absolutely appreciate all reviews—good and bad! Good constructive criticism given in the right way is absolutely vital to learning and doing better. I wholeheartedly believe that." But now, you're not just targeting your criticism at a product, you're levelling it at a whole company and the business practices of a man who started it. 

Second,...you were able to post his responses directly, but not your reviews or emails? 

How are we to believe that you gave your criticism or suggestions in the right way if you don't share pictures or your review?  Did your review include the nuanced discussion of the strap production that led to your unsatisfactory experience?  Your write-up leads me to believe that you're only showing part of the story...talk about a double-standard. 


 

If the company refuses to post the review, then posting the criticisms on a watch forum is entirely appropriate. 

Criticizing a company that refuses to, or unreasonably delays posting reviews that they asked for is entirely appropriate, and the right way to get information out to potential customers. If the brand was interested in countering the narrative in the review, they should have posted the review with a reply. It's a far more effective way to deal with these things than not showing the negative reviews at all. Not posting the review makes it seem as though they have something to hide. 

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This is EXACTLY why I don't respond to brands anymore. Regardless of who's really in the wrong here, it just isn't worth it. Either you're a dick for writing what you wrote and posting the experience in a watch forum, or brands don't actually appreciate all feedback. You're free to be as mean as you want, and Chase is entitled to be a little whiny baby if he wants. 

The problem with these situations is that it's like watching sausage being made. You'll feel different about the company/hobby from now on. I'm confident that we're not getting the whole story, but everyone deserves a chance to defend themselves. You and he both seem jaded. You're both fully justified. But I don't do stuff like this anymore. The absolute worst thing that will happen now is that this will sour your watch enthusiasm. It happened to me. It took a while for me to find the spark again. 

Also, what would be the point of reaching out about your thoughts on the strap before they're posted? Did he plan on begging you to do/say something else? Would he have asked you not to post it? My advice is to stop talking to brands. It really only gums up the works in my experience. Review what you can get your hands on and ignore comments/emails from anyone tied to the product, even if they absolutely love it. 

P.S. I reached out to a small brand once. They make a good product. I'd used them myself before. I noticed that I hadn't seen a single review of anything that came out of there, so I offered to do a review in hopes that it would expand my reach online and give them a little attention. I even offered to pay for the product. No worries. After a week of it going live, they hadn't shared it, posted it to the site, or even thanked me for it. The only feedback was that there was a typo in the opening paragraph. Embarrassing, yeah, but typos happen. I shrugged it off, fixed the typo, reached out about the fix, and didn't hear back for a WHILE. 

A month later they told me that the article hadn't brought as much traffic as they were hoping it would and that they wouldn't be doing anything like that again. Not sure why they'd never want free press again, but I think I said something like "That's too bad, at least we gave it a shot." I don't remember for sure, but it was something like that. Then I went against my better judgement and reminded them that they didn't interact with the article online in any way. It may have brought some traffic if they'd posted it on the site or shared in on social media. They responded to my feedback with a little heart emoji and then disappeared. Anyway, my point is, fuck 'em. Some people are meant to be business owners, and the rest of us are meant to be consumers. Forming relationships between the two is rarely a good idea. It'll go bad one day, even if it takes a decade. Also, reviews are stupid and most brands don't deserve them.

Just a little side note though, $115 for a canvas strap? Get real.

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That's a lot of money for a canvas strap especially if it doesn't fit properly.

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@BigIona I think this could be best tackled by posting a detailed strap review with your photos on WC, perhaps appended to this post.  It would help flesh out your argument.

Edit: I think them not posting on their website means it's fair game for you to post here with photos.  I think everyone (or at least I) would appreciate knowing if a well regarded microbrand is having quality lapses on the strap side.

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KyleC93

First, you were asked to review a product, not take to a watch forum and evaluate the company's business practices. As Chase is saying, "We absolutely appreciate all reviews—good and bad! Good constructive criticism given in the right way is absolutely vital to learning and doing better. I wholeheartedly believe that." But now, you're not just targeting your criticism at a product, you're levelling it at a whole company and the business practices of a man who started it. 

Second,...you were able to post his responses directly, but not your reviews or emails? 

How are we to believe that you gave your criticism or suggestions in the right way if you don't share pictures or your review?  Did your review include the nuanced discussion of the strap production that led to your unsatisfactory experience?  Your write-up leads me to believe that you're only showing part of the story...talk about a double-standard. 


 

Yes, and I reviewed the product. If you want to know what I said, as is my point in this post, THEY should post the review they asked for, for all to see. They had no problem posting my 5 star review in less than 72 hours.  But it’s been 35 days since I submitted my strap review, and it still does not appear on their page.   Both of my reviews included the photos you would like to see, and my positive watch review which is on their website included the 3 photos of the watch I submitted with that review. 
 

Also, this is a watch forum to discuss all things watches. That absolutely includes watch company business practices and consumer/collector concerns.   At least for me it does.
 

The double standard, which again is the point of this post, is theirs. 

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Well that sucks.

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That really sucks! That price for that strap is ridiculous! I have custom straps made starting at 105.00 US. We'll you know who to stay away from. Sorry it had to ruin a moment with that watch. SERVICE is KEY for any brand to survive in this competitive market. 

Best and hope you get  it worked out.

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They are clearly selective with their reviews. On their Humboldt GMT watch we have 59 reviews, 56 of them 5 star, 3 at 4 star. That's the kind of approval rating one expects in a North-Korean election.

Having said that, I'd generally not give a hoot on the reviews of the company's own website, because this is open to manipulation. On platforms like Amazon, ebay, AliExpress, Jomashop the negative reviews do make it to the site and are quite informative.