Reasons not to buy - Smart Doll Business Ethics

POSTED BY DANNY CHOO On Mon 2022/08/08 21:14 JST in Articles

Hey there! Danny here.

Some folks who invested in a Smart Doll end up shocked and disappointed after learning of our business ethics - which they are reminded about each time they look at our products as they symbolize everything we do here at Smart Doll Land.

To avoid this disappointment, I would like to set expectations by sharing some concerns about our business ethics - and hopefully help avoid a regrettable purchase.

In this article, I will cover the following topics.

  • Why our business is built around our employees and not the consumer
  • Why we don't apologize for our product lineups or designs
  • Why we vet all newbie orders
  • Why our products are not designed with the consumer in mind
  • Why we don't do pre-orders or announce release dates
  • Why we give away stuff - but not to everybody
  • Why we do special orders - but not for everybody
  • Why we have a club for the elite and entitled

If you are considering investing in a Smart Doll, I ask that you read this document before making a decision. Its a bit long but could save you 500 USD ;-) I added some cute photos of Smart Doll between each section to keep you awake as you read.

Our business is centered around employees' welfare, not customer requirements.

A customer placed an order one day and left a note saying, "your stuff is too expensive." When we replied offering a slightly cheaper shipping method, they responded:-

"Oh No No No! - you don't understand. In America, when we say something is expensive, you say, "can I offer you a discount?"

This is where I showed "Mr. Oh No No" the door also known as the Smart Doll Land Exit.

I think "Mr. Oh No No" pretty much sums up who we consider to be an entitled customer - somebody who expects us to act and speak in a particular manner and fulfill customer requests no matter what.

In western cultures, the saying goes, "The customer is always right," while in Japan, they go a step further by saying, "The customer is god."

Many folks call us the most customer-uncentric company they know. On the contrary, to be truly customer-centric, we need to be unconventional and build our business around employees - not customers.

Focusing on employee welfare and the working environment contributes to creativity in producing a high-quality product and service, which is what we want for ourselves and what our customers seek.

As you know, most consumers want things yesterday (and available all the time) at prices that they deem "reasonable" but to achieve this, we would need to force staff members to work longer hours for less wages, reduce the quality of works/womanship (throw it together), use cheaper materials and force vendors to lower unit costs. But I'm unwilling to do any of this, and you can learn why in the following article.

No apologies given for product lineup and design

Pretty much daily in my inbox and on social media, I get "constructive criticism" on our designs being politically oriented, offensive, and racist. I have been asked to change the designs or halt their sales - and apologize at the same time. 

When they say that I can't take criticism because I block such messages from my inbox or on social media, what sort of "constructive criticism" are we talking about - let's take a look ;-)

  • "Your design is obviously a nazi uniform - change the design and apologize. And while you are at it, change the pose in the photos as it looks like a nazi salute."
  • "Your surgical masks for Smart Doll are a political statement. If I knew you were going to get political, I would not have bought a Smart Doll."
  • "Most of the world is white, so you should make more white dolls, not black ones. Your decision is offensive and racist."
  • "Your increase of cocoa dolls is a political statement, and plain woke."
  • "You are a racist because you don't make pure white-skinned dolls - you even got blue, so why no white!"
  • "The hole in the back of the Smart Doll torso is insulting to all ball-jointed dolls."
  • "The flat hand in the option hand pack 2 looks like a nazi sign if held up at an angle. Stop selling it and apologize."
  • "You should remove the fingers crossed gesture in option hand pack 4 as it's the equivalent of the middle finger in my country."
  • "The Smart Doll hearing aids contribute to fewer people learning sign language. Stop making them."
  • "Your Japanese police uniform encourages police brutality and is racist."
  • " Your free (apparel) patterns are making it harder for those who make their living selling patterns. Stop giving them out."
  • "The vitiligo, birthmark, burn scarring, cleft lip, amputee Smart Dolls, and medical devices are taking advantage of minorities. "
  • "My doll is not dead! Apologize now!"

Unfortunately, there is not much I can do with such "criticism" (apart from delete and block), especially when every decision I make is supposedly racist. Oh wait! I suppose I should do the right thing and reply like so:-

  • "This is obviously a nazi uniform. I apologize and will change the design straight away. Thank you for your feedback."
  • "I will make fewer black dolls and more white ones. I apologize for my racist decision. Thank you for your feedback."

But I bet you are now wondering about the "My doll is not dead! Apologize now!"

I call any long-shaped bags "body bags" - including the protective bubble wrap bag we use for all Smart Doll shipments. However, in Japan, "body bag" is translated as "dead person bag." Thus the Internet rallied together and chanted in unison, "Danny says my doll bag is for dead people - my doll is not dead! Apologize now!"

Don't roll your eyeballs too hard - they may pop out like Arnold Schwarzenegger's eyes in Total Recall.

While I understand that designs can be interpreted differently by different folks of different cultures, my intent is not to offend or make any political statements. I do not have the interest nor the time to venture out on any political agenda - my hands are already full with looking after the production of our Smart Doll girls ;-) Nor do I have the time or interest to entertain such requests.

If folks are offended by our designs or product lineup decisions - I apologize, but they will have to live with it - just like I have to live with them calling our products nazi or racist.

I have no intention of changing designs or halting sales of products that had no intention of being offensive - because everything we do will end up offending folks in some way or another.

The only way to avoid offending anybody is to do nothing and pack up business - which is not going to happen.

We vet each and every newbie order

Many folks feel it unethical to contact the customer to confirm their order details, while other companies would simply ship the order. If all I cared about was money, I wouldn't care where our products ended up - I would fulfill orders, no questions asked.

But I do care. I know better than anyone the time, love, and energy my team puts into the product, and I want to make sure our Smart Dolls go to a good home and get there safely.

For this reason, we vet every newbie order to ensure that the new owner doesn't end up with buyer's remorse - we are not interested in banking money that will end up with a neglected Smart Doll in a cupboard - because they start screaming.

We want to ensure we have enough info for the package to reach the destination safely - many folks have typos in their mailing address, leading to missing packages. Typos in emails mean that the customer can't reply to DHL or FedEx to pay import taxes - leading to packages being returned to us. Customers in the US do not pay import taxes, but we still need to be able to contact them.

We reconfirm that folks are fine with the handmade nature of our product (some folks say "no - send me a perfect one") and if they are OK with paying import taxes - many of them are not and ask for a cancelation - this is great because we have avoided yet another return package after they refuse to pay the taxes.

The final reason for vetting is fraud. We ask questions about the order (how folks discovered us and why they decided to invest) which bots or fraudsters can't answer in a convincing comprehensible manner.

For the above reasons, we cancel orders with no replies, so check your spam folders for the follow-up mail.

Learn about other things you need to know before placing an order.

Smart Doll products are not designed with the consumer in mind

From its conception to this day, the target consumer of Smart Doll is me. Humans have a selfish gene and inherently want the best for themselves, and I am selfishly no exception ;-)

I will spend whatever it takes on the best quality materials and workswo/manship, and I will always factor in design elements that I personally want - like the "controversial" Support Socket in the back of the torso for the stand or the slits in the baseball cap to secure a pair of glasses. While such design elements add to the development time and cost of the product, I would not remove them even if they were unwanted by consumers.

I left corporate life at Amazon and Microsoft to spend the rest of my life making stuff I wanted for myself. I would have remained an Amazonian or a Microsoftian if I wanted to make stuff for others.

If I factored in consumer requirements such as "cheap but high quality" into our product design, I would be left with something of questionable quality that I wouldn't even give to my worst enemy.

I talk more about the "Cost-To-Design" manufacturing method in the following article.

No pre-orders or release warnings

All our products are handmade by humans, and we want the product to be shipped in the same condition we would for ourselves and our families. For this reason, we always prioritize quality over meeting release date deadlines, which is why we do not announce release dates or take pre-orders. I am unwilling to release half-baked products just because consumers or shareholders wanted something yesterday. Good thing we are not a public company ;-)

Most manufacturers take pre-orders based on prototype photos which I feel is misleading. The reason is that fabricating a prototype is usually completely different from the final production process.

Prototypes are usually made using a 3D printer where the results look like the original 3D data. This is not the case for production, where many complications derive from the need to create a mold - meaning that the final product always looks different than the prototype.

I remember many moons ago pre-ordering a very cute figurine of Ringo from the Japanese manga comic Air Gear. Six months later, Ringo arrived looking not even remotely like the product photos - disappointed was an understatement.

I don't want folks to experience the same disappointment with Smart Doll, so we only take orders when I can take photos of the actual product, not a prototype.

We give away stuff - but not to everybody

We usually give freebies to parents who send in photos of their kids with Smart Doll to post on the Smart Doll website. We also give away medical supplies to folks who have to live with various conditions.

We donate Smart Dolls to educational and medical institutes that feel Smart Doll can help with their mission. However, many folks deem this unfair favoritism. To anybody that feels it unfair that I gave an insulin pump to a child that lives with diabetes, I show them the Smart Doll Land Exit.

We do special orders - but not for everybody

We only do special orders for certain situations. For example, folks who live with arthritis or similar conditions can request that we attach the wig before shipping - or swap out any option parts they bought like bust size, prosthetic legs, or eye color.

We have also been doing special builds for amputees. These special orders require extra processing time, which we can't do for everybody. Again, those that deem this "favoritism" and customer-uncentric are given a free tour - towards the Smart Doll Land Exit.

We have an exclusive "Hammer Time Club"

We have an exclusive "Hammer Time Club" created to help protect its members from being taken advantage of. Members get the following perks.

  • Subscription-free lifetime membership
  • Protection from being charged unreasonable prices by a business that puts employee needs before consumer needs (Mr Oh No No)
  • Prevention of fraudulent activity
  • Instant savings due to the automatic refund and cancelation of orders
  • Free automated email outlining the cancelation details
  • Free use of the #HammerTimeClub hashtag

We don't want trouble - we just want to make cute Smart Dolls. However, when trouble looks for us, we need to protect ourselves because retail law only protects the consumer and not the seller - even when the consumer uses a stolen credit card.

I once thought that maybe having such a club was rare, but I later discovered that even the courier services we work with also have a ban list - of customers who have caused so much trouble that even couriers refuse to deliver to them!

Mr Oh No No?

If you managed to stay awake after reading all this and feel that our business ethics are questionable - congratulations - you have just saved 500 USD. 
However, if you are easy-going and cool with all the above, then there may be something waiting for you at Smart Doll Land ;-)

If you have not done so already...
Learn why our imperfect products may be a reason not to buy

Learn why Smart Doll may not be your best choice