The Problem with Delayed Lightsaber Shipments
In an age of two-day and even same-day delivery, many custom lightsaber enthusiasts are accustomed to long wait times and order delays. Custom saber buyers may wait weeks, months, and sometimes over a year for a lightsaber order to ship. Although some custom saber companies sell in-hand, ready to ship items that get mailed within a week or two, many custom saber companies estimate much longer shipping lead times.
Lead times between 1 and 6 months or longer are not unusual in the lightsaber hobby. Why are lightsaber lead times so long? When are long lead times a problem? What are the Federal Trade Commission’s Prompt Delivery Rules?
Some reasons for long custom saber lead times include:
• production speed, capacity and efficiency of the machine shop/manufacturer
• lead time and availability of the lightsaber materials (many materials are imported from abroad)
• seasonality and demand for the product(s) (i.e. lightsaber demand tends to increase in fall/winter, around May 4th [Star Wars Day], and around the time of Star War movie and television show releases)
• complexity/intricacy of the project (i.e. customized, one-off projects tend to take more time than more streamlined, off the shelf items)
• miscellaneous unexpected delays
When Long Lightsaber Lead Times are a Problem
Long lead times are rarely problematic when a company is being transparent, realistic and honest. Some custom saber companies, however, provide extremely inaccurate lead time estimates AND fail to communicate delays to customers.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), companies “must have a reasonable basis for stating that a product can be shipped within a certain time.” Additionally, companies must follow Prompt Delivery Rules, which outline “ground rules for making promises about shipments, notifying consumers about unexpected delays, and refunding consumers’ money.”
The FTC Prompt Delivery Rules require a company to take the following actions if they are unable to ship an order in 30 days or within the length of time advertised by the company (whichever is longer):
1. The company must “seek the customer’s consent to the delayed shipment.”
2. If the company “cannot obtain the customer’s consent to the delay…the company must, without being asked, promptly refund all the money the customer paid you for the unshipped merchandise.”
For example, if a custom saber company estimates that an order will ship in 5 weeks and they are unable to ship the order in 5 weeks, then the company must contact the buyer to get the buyer’s consent for the delay. Additionally, if the company cannot obtain the buyer’s consent for the delay, then the company must promptly refund the buyer. Read more about the FTC guidelines here.
If a company does not follow the Prompt Delivery Rules, a buyer may file a complaint with the FTC here:
Full Payment Alternatives: Buying Interest Lists and Deposits
Creating an accurate lead time estimate can be challenging for lightsaber sellers. If a custom saber company is unsure about how long it may take them to make and ship a custom saber, then the company may consider erring on the side of listing a longer lead time. Alternatively, the company may compile a list of interested buyers or a collect a deposit on the item and then followup at a later time to collect the payment balance when the custom saber is closer to completion.
After the Order is Shipped
After the order is shipped, the customer saber company has no control over the speed of delivery. Many domestic shipments arrive within a few days or a week, depending on the shipment method. International shipments can take several weeks to a month or longer to arrive. International shipments can easily suffer from additional customs delays, local emergencies, or other local disruptions to transportation.
The FTC Prompt Delivery Rules serve as an important safeguard that help keep sellers honest in their lead time estimates and ultimately help protect consumers from companies that may exploit and intentionally mislead buyers for monetary gain.