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Gerard's Blog

Gadgets, Photography, Marmite on Toast

Out of the blue today (months after last contact) I got the following:

Dear Sir,

I come back to you about the problem you got about the SwissPen. You weren’t delivered. So please send me your bank detail and we will refund you on monday.

Thank you in advance

3d print team

Of course I’m not going to give a company that I don’t trust my bank details, especially since eBay has kindly told the world my home address and date of birth.  I’ve given them one of the email addresses associated with my PayPal account instead.  Since I paid via PayPal with a credit card I’m pretty sure it’s actually illegal for them to refund me through any other method anyway.

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May 24th, 2014

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So after a week or two of waiting I contacted the Swiss e-commerce ombudsman again to get a progress update.  Their response (and I’m paraphrasing here, not quoting) was:

We tried to phone Jean-Charles Monnin’s work number and got no answer.  We phoned his personal number (we got it off the Internet) and spoke to his wife who claimed ignorance.  Now you’re on your own and to proceed any further you’ll need to hire a Swiss solicitor. Be happy in the knowledge that someone else also contacted us about this so at least we know you’re not making it all up.

Really?  You assumed a number you got off the Internet was correct and didn’t even try a phone book?  Didn’t try writing to his office?  Thanks very much.  Even PhonePayPlus is more effective than that.

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March 11th, 2014

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The nVidia Shield isn’t officially available in the UK but there’s at least one reseller on Amazon who’s importing them and selling them over here for around £255.  I’ve tried some different Android gaming solutions (the laggy Ouya with its proprietary app store and nagging e-mails, the good but somehow clunky Moga Pro and plain old touch-screen controls).  nVidia’s offering, to me at least, is by far the best solution to date.  The Tegra 4 processor is excellent, especially in those games that are optimised for it and the device is solid feeling if a little heavy.  The 720p screen is only a smidge on the small side but very crisp and bright and (here’s where it wins over the Moga) adjustable to a good range of angles.

Battery life is OK though not great.  If I spend my lunch hour playing Asphalt 8 and the rest of the day on standby then it will be in need of a charge by the end of the day despite that hefty weight, a good portion of which you’d imagine is due to the battery.  Sound is sufficiently clear enough from the speakers though I spend most of my time with headphones connected.

If there’s one serious flaw in the device I’d say it’s the stability.  The Tegra Zone app crashes frequently when trying to jump to a game’s Google Play page and Asphalt 8 occasionally has a flaw where the car select screen gets stuck in a rapid loop of navigating to the next vehicle which is only solved by quitting the app entirely (can’t say whether that’s a device issue or the game but I never suffered from this when paying on the Moga and HTC One).  The landscape orientation can also cause some issues such as the keyboard occupying most of the screen or on the Marvin ZX Spectrum Emulator (an app designed for portrait mode phones) having no keyboard at all.  It’s not really a failing of the device and portrait mode is supported but it’s very awkward.  If you’re not familiar with Android, be warned – not all games support external controllers but the Shield has a control-mapping overlay as a sort of controller shim.

Sadly as I have a slightly outdated 580GTX video card and no Miracast device I wasn’t able to test any of the Shield’s display mirroring features.

The price of the device is high compared with other mobile consoles such as the PSP and Vita but the availability of (admittedly non AAA) games at relatively cheap prices (consider the £35 price of Angry Birds Trilogy on Vita vs the £2-3 Android price if you don’t succumb to micro-transactions) and the quality of the hardware made it a worthwhile purchase for me.

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February 25th, 2014

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Received the following e-mail from the Swiss e-commerce ombudsman this morning.  Doesn’t really help me get either the pen or a refund but at least they’re taking steps to prevent further victims being scammed:

Dear Sir,

We try to get in contact with unmanageable Mr Monnin by phone. If we don’t success, we’ll give you further advice how to go ahead and we will take ourselves steps that his homepage will be taken from the internet.
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February 19th, 2014

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So the last deadline has passed with no pen and no more word from Monnin & co.  I’ve now requested that the Swiss consumer ombudsman deal with the matter.  I strongly recommend that everyone avoids this company.  I can’t help but wonder if Monnin’s other company (Novatiq, a company that claims to make military robots and hasn’t posted any news on their site for 2 years) is also all smoke and mirrors.

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February 3rd, 2014

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dthx

I decided to buy one of these to use as a PC-on-a-stick since it has a generous 256GB(-ish) of space and USB3.0 high speed support for what seemed like a reasonable price of around £150 (discount of about £300 from RRP).  There are a few reviews knocking the reliability but it has a 5 year warranty (with Amazon taking responsibility for fulfilling it) so as long as I kept it backed periodically on my Windows Home Server box this seemed acceptable.

I’d started with a WD My Passport, moved on to a 120GB SSD in a 2.5″ caddy but wanted something smaller that I could pick up with my MacBook Pro without worrying about a cable getting yanked out.

I have to say I’m very disappointed.  Copying my (already 23GB) Parallels Windows 8.1 VM was actually very quick but that was the last time it impressed me.  Random-access speed on this drive is not remotely good enough to run a Windows VM.  It would hang for minutes at a time, controls would be unresponsive and when I finally gave up it took about 10 minutes to shut down.  Running on both the external HDD and USB3.0 SSD it was difficult to tell the difference from a SATA device.

See item on Amazon UK

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January 26th, 2014

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With multiple card slots and integrated change management.
image

See item on Amazon UK

 

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January 14th, 2014

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Well it’s been a week since my last e-mail to Swiss-3dPrint requesting cancellation and refund.  I have received no refund and no reply from them.  My next email is on its way to the Swiss e-commerce ombudsman (via http://www.konsum.ch/ombudsstelle) who say they can intervene if you can’t find a consensus by contacting the vendor yourself:

Hi,
Apologies for contacting you in English but I don’t speak German or Italian and my French is very rusty.
In August 2013 I pre-ordered a product online from http://www.swiss-3dprint.com/ that was estimated for delivery before the end of October 2013.  Since then I have had numerous e-mail conversations with Jean-Charles Monnin, CEO of this company regarding delivery of my order.
On more than one occasion Mr Monnin has promised delivery of the product in a very short time and to provide a courier tracking number.  At one point he told me that the order was already dispatched but since it never arrived and he never provided a tracking number I believe that he was lying to me.
My last email to him was sent on 2 January 2014 (one week ago) requesting that my order should be cancelled and a full refund of my payment returned.  I have received no response to this e-mail.
I must stress that at no point have I received my ordered product or any courier tracking information from them.
Can you provide any information on how I can escalate this matter?
Regards,
Gerard Krupa BSc MBCS
United Kingdom

That’s right, I’m now quoting fairly meaningless post-nominal letters at people just to emphasise that I’m qualified to rant at people from a position of experience and respect.

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January 10th, 2014

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image

Decided to replace my G700s due to its inability to handle lots of EM interference (what use is a wireless mouse you can’t use wirelessly) and the DarkField sensor in the newer model.   So far it’s looking good.  The tracking is smooth, the DPS can be altered at the press of a button just like the G700s and it feels solid without being heavy.  My only reservation so far is that I prefer more resistance and clickiness in the scroll wheel.

See item on Amazon UK

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January 5th, 2014

Posted In: Gadgets, Mice

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You may or may not be aware of a product called the SwissPen.  You also may or may not have heard of the 3Doodler, a successful Kickstarter-funded device that’s essentially a hot glue gun designed to extrude plastic like a 3D printer allowing you to draw in 3D.  After 3Doodler was announced, a start-up in Switzerland called swiss-3dprint started marketing the SwissPen on the basis that it was a similar product to the 3Doodler but would get to market first.  For the price of around 95 Swiss Francs (plus quite a lot of postage) you could pre-order one during the summer of 2013 and it would arrive at your door before the end of October.  Seems like a reasonable deal?  I thought so and ordered one on 25 August 2013 (and paid the same day through PayPal).

As October drew to a close I started having reservations about this product.  My order was still sat at “processing”, the stock checker on their site hadn’t moved from 10% in 2 months and there was none of the exhaustive social media marketing you might expect from a product like this.

A couple of days before October was out the company announced through UK retailer John Lewis that they would be selling retail, also before the end of October.  Having seen this I wrote the following email to swiss-3dprint:

Hi,

As there are now only 2 days left in October and I recently read an article that the UK retailer John Lewis will be stocking the SwissPen before the end of the month I was wondering whether delivery of on-line orders is likely to occur before the device becomes available in store.  If not then I would like to cancel my on-line order and received a refund and instead purchase a SwissPen in my local branch of John Lewis.
Regards,
Gerard Krupa
The same day I received a reply from no less than the CEO of swiss-3dprint, Jean-Charles Monnin:

Hello,

We had a small delay into the production but your order will be shipped within 10 days, we will send you the tracking asap. About our UK distributor,
they planned to stock the swissPen for the end of this month but they delay
their process so they will not have anything before one month.

Regards

Jean-Charles Monnin

Odd that such a short time after announcing their retail deal that they would have a delay in getting the product onto the shelves. Fine I think to myself I’ll just wait it out since it sounds like delivery is coming sooner.

So I allow for the 10 days and then 4 more.  There’s no sign of the promised tracking and no product has arrived at my door.  We’re into the middle of November at this point but their site still promises delivery before the end of October and that stock checker is still at 10%.  I poke a bit more around the site and find that half of it is still under construction.  Out goes my next email on 14 November, this time direct to Mr Monnin:

HI,

10 days have passed with no dispatch and no notification (failure to notify customers that you are unable to satisfy the original contract is a breach of the European Distance Selling Regulations to which Switzerland is subject – your online shop still promises dispatch in October by the way).  Are you able to provide an updated estimate for delivery?
Regards,
Gerard Krupa

This time it takes 4 days to get a reply but it seems to be worth it because apparently my order has shipped:

Hello,

Your order has been shipped so I will check and send you details.

Regards

Swiss 3Dprint team

Not signed by Mr Monnin this time, but it’s from his personal e-mail address.  Looks at this point like it’s on the way though the site still says my order is processing.  Nothing happens after 4 days (22 November) so I get back to them as politely as possible despite the fact that I’m now suspicious they were lying about the dispatch:

Hi,

This is good news but I haven’t yet received a follow-up from you with details/tracking information.
Regards,
Gerard

Another 3 days produces the following which again, suggests that the dispatch has occurred:

Hello,

I’m waiting the tracking and I will update you

Regards

JC

Nice and friendly from my pal, “JC”.  Nothing continues to happen but I give them the benefit of plenty of time and doubt.  Now we’re well into December (the 8th to be precise), sufficient time that we can assume it’s not coming whether it’s lost in the post or some other reason. I’m getting a bit less friendly at this point because I can’t find any evidence that anyone has received one of these (I mean 10 minutes after delivery there’s going to be an unboxing video on YouTube, right?) and they’ve still failed to provide a tracking number to prove it was ever dispatched.  So given that Switzerland implements the European Distance Selling Regulations I decide it’s time for an ultimatum:

Hi,

It’s now been 3 weeks since you informed me that my order was dispatched and while you have failed to provide the promised delivery tracking information it is quite clear at this point that the item is not going to be delivered.  Since sufficient time has passed for you to make a claim against the courier, please either dispatch replacement goods or a full refund of 126.45 CHF via PayPal at your earliest convenience but within a maximum of 30 calendar days (as required by the European Directive on Distance Selling 97/7/EC prior to 7 days after completion of the contract – which has not yet been completed due to non-delivery).
Regards,
Gerard Krupa

Firm but still polite and not accusing them of lying which I’m now 100% certain they did.  At this point they’ve actually now updated the web site.  That stock meter is still 10% and my order is still processing but now delivery on new orders is estimated before Christmas.  I’ve given them until after Christmas so that seems fair.  Next day another promise comes back from them:

Hello,

We will send you the tracking until end of the week, you will receive the package next week. I know that you must receive it urgently, we are doing asap

Regards

Swiss 3dprint

Sounds good but unfortunately I’m going away for Christmas so I’m not going to be able to receive the product until I get back.  Still, I’m going to get a tracking number before the end of the week (ha ha).

Christmas comes and goes (3 weeks in sunny Bradford) and I return home on the 2nd January ready to pick up that Royal Mail failed delivery card and scoot off down to the sorting office.  I’ve received no tracking number still so I’m sure you can guess how likely that scenario is.  What was lying on my doormat?  You guessed it: diddly-squat.  Quick check of the web site again and now they’re up to 95% imaginary stock and delivery time is the nicely vague “4 weeks” (4 weeks from when?).  Over Christmas I’ve made a few blog comments and G+ posts about this and heard from others who have received nothing, some who found their e-mails going into a black hole.  Enough is enough now and, still on 2nd Jan, I send my latest (though probably not final) mail to Mr Monnin:

Despite yet another empty promise, have still received neither a tracking number nor the product I ordered.  Please cancel my order #xyz and provide me with a full refund of 126.45 CHF including all tax and delivery charges into the PayPal account I used when ordering the SwissPen as soon as possible.

That’s right, no salutations or regards.  I’m now into mildly impolite which is the last point I’ll get to before contacting the relevant Swiss authorities.  It’s now the 4th January; I wouldn’t have expected any replies over the weekend but who knows what excuse or complete blank I’ll be receiving this time…

TO BE CONTINUED.

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January 5th, 2014

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