I hope that all of you and your loved ones continue to be safe and well during these trying times. Central California, where our offices and warehouse are located, is a bit of a COVID mess right now, but thankfully we are still being allowed to stay open, and the safety procedures we have in place at the warehouse are thus far keeping our employees safe. As I've noted before, we are running multiple shifts with smaller numbers of workers in each, while working spread out in masks and gloves to provide as safe an environment as we can. We are doing everything in our power to take care of our employees while also getting orders out to you as quickly and accurately as possible. But make no mistake: we are not operating at anything near full-capacity or efficiency, and that's just the way it's going to be until we can get this virus situation under control. Safety of our employees comes first.
Customer Service & Availability. With that in mind, I want to acknowledge and apologize that our customer service is just not as "available" as it is during normal times. Contrary to what some (thankfully a small %) customers have said recently as they demeaned some of our office folks by phone or chat or posted online in terms of "GMT just isn't committed to customer service anymore," we haven't lowered our standards. But we are operating WAY below normal in terms of staffing. With staff spread out over two shifts for safety purposes (although we ARE available for more hours of the day than ever before), it's highly likely now that there are only one or two people at a time manning phones and chat lines, whereas in normal times there are generally 3-5. So it's definitely going to be true for a while that the phone may be busy or go to voicemail, or the chat line may be full, and honestly right now, don't even think about contacting the office via email if you want a quick response—they have over 1,000 backlog emails that they are slowly working through. If you need to reach them quickly, please use chat or phone, as even if you have to wait a bit, you'll be able to reach them much more quickly than through email.
I'm really sorry that this temporary drop off in office availability is so inconvenient—and I know that it truly is. I know we've set a high bar over the years, and it's easy to just assume, when our abilities aren't to that level right now, that we've slipped or just don't care. But PLEASE, try to have a little perspective and understand that we're fortunate at this point to even be open. Last week, we came within an eyelash of being closed down again as mass shutdowns were ordered across the state. And during those 11 weeks that we were closed, a mass of customer service backlog built up (I guess we should have shut down our email, but then people would have assumed we were closed forever) that we're STILL trying to work through. And then when we re-opened, we felt like you all would really want us to prioritize getting you new games (a dozen of which were sitting in our warehouse at the time). That largest-ever Batch 1 P500 shipment would have strained our capacities in normal times. It was a wrecking ball through our operational efficiencies with half shifts.
At the end of the day, I take responsibility for those decisions and for where we stand today—we are now shipping Batch 2 of P500 games and are still way behind on customer service emails and have not nearly enough bodies on either shift to take care of the volume of customer contacts we receive. Frankly, I don't see these things improving markedly in the near term, as what we need most is more trained people per shift, and we're not really in a situation with our work bubble that we'd feel comfortable hiring new employees who we don't know or trust (or have time to train) during this time. I'd just ask that you understand that the good people in our offices who are still helping so many of you are the EXACT same people who took care of you so well before this mess began. And they have feelings. I'd really appreciate it if you'd cut them some slack and not add to their burdens by treating them poorly. Thank you!
I do want to note again that, especially in an environment where the office folks have heard a larger-than-usual number of negative comments, those of you who have taken the time and spent good money to send gifts, meals, treats, cards, and notes to our office and warehouse staff during this time have been an encouraging breath of fresh air to all of them. You have lifted their spirits. We all appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness in helping us get through a trying time. Thank you! I appreciate you helping us take care of our employees.
Update on the Tough Economy Special. In the week that we ran this special, we were overrun with applications. We're happy that we were able to approve and respond to virtually everyone who applied: 1,296 customers! It's sobering to hear the stories of so many who have lost jobs during this time. Thank you for sharing them with us and allowing us to help, even if it's in a small way. For those of you who participated in this 2020 version of our Tough Economy Special, we hope that the game(s) you receive bring you many hours of stress relief, distraction, learning, and fun. And we hope your respective work situations improve quickly. God bless you all!
Where we Stand on P500 Charging/Shipping. Please see the P500 Charging and Shipping Section later in this update for full details. Briefly, though, we are finished shipping Batch 1 to both P500 customers and distributors and are now shipping Batch 2 to P500 customers. We anticipate that we'll be finished by the end of July. Then the office and warehouse folks will turn to shipping distributor and store orders for Batch 2 while others prepare the P500 ship lists for Batch 3. We will charge for Batch 3 on Wednesday, August 5. We should be ready to start shipping the Batch 3 games by mid-August.
Forgive me for breaking into these discussions about important general business items, but the solo gamer in me is VERY EXCITED right now, so please allow me to share some very cool solo game news! Here is a note from Ed...
Ed Beach adds a Solitaire Mode to Border Reivers! Since Border Reivers went up for preorder, I've spent a lot of my development time examining how well the game will work for less than the usual 4 or 6 players. The 2 and 3-player versions fell into place quickly: they involve each player commanding both an English and a Scottish family and having those two powers team up to terrorize the border lands. Even more interesting, though, is that I've also come up with a way to bring the Border Reivers fun to those GMT gamers who like a solitaire mode. Card drafting is still the core of the game in solitaire Border Reivers. However, now the decisions are doubly tense: for each card you choose to draft there are two other cards (that you passed on) that go toward making your enemies stronger. Only the craftiest solitaire players will be able to achieve the highest victory levels and get named after the most famous of Border Reivers. More details on this solitaire mode soon! -Ed
Consolidated Orders. Just a reminder that our Consolidated Orders functionality (see last month's update for details if you missed them) is now up and running on our website. So for our upcoming August 5 charge, which will be for the five Batch 3 items (see Charging and Shipping section for details), we will make one charge for all five items and consolidate them into one order and one shipment (which should save those of you ordering more than one game in the batch a LOT on shipping costs).
When we run the charge on August 5, our system will determine whether to charge and ship the orders separately or to consolidate the shipment based on whether the CONSOLIDATE ORDERS box (it's at the bottom of your ACCOUNT INFO page on our website) is checked. If you'd like to always consolidate P500 orders, please make sure that box is checked before we charge on August 5th.
We think that almost everyone will want to consolidate orders to save money, BUT some of our international customers may not want to consolidate. For example, if you live in a country with a VAT or Tax limit and single game orders allow you to stay under the limit while multi-game orders do not, you might want to uncheck the Consolidate Orders box so that your orders are shipped separately. We're leaving this decision in your control. A flip side of this is that with international shipping rates as high as they are today, with big discounts at heavier weights, consolidating might save you more than any VAT or taxes would cost.
We hope you find this new functionality helpful and efficient. Thanks for your patience with us while we work through these new options and capabilities.
Excellent New Video Series for Atlantic Chase. We have something special for you today, especially for those of you who like designer Jerry White’s games. Jerry has created a ten-part series of brief YouTube videos introducing you to his innovative new game, Atlantic Chase, now nearing printing. So if you can spare six minutes, we think you’ll appreciate Jerry’s historical perspective and his overview of how Atlantic Storm brings the Battle of the North Atlantic home to your game table. This is the link the Jerry's first video, posted this past Monday. Enjoy! Follow us on our YouTube channel and look for a new series segment from Jerry every Monday!
We're Updating Our Shipping Matrix with New Rates and Zones. As I noted last month, we are in the midst of updating our shipping rates and zones in our website software. I've written a Status Update on this process today, and posted it on our website. Here's the link:
July 23 Shipping Zones/Rates/Carriers Update
Office/Warehouse Hours. Just a reminder that our new warehouse shifts run from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and 4 a.m. to noon Monday to Friday (with an hour in which both shifts will be there for cleaning and coordination). We send the morning shift home at noon because we don't want our warehouse workers exposed to the heat of a Central California summer in a hot warehouse while wearing masks and gloves.
New Games in the Warehouse from Vae Victis. We have three new games in our warehouse from our friends at Vae Victis. Just click the links below to get more information or to order.
Alexander Against Persia
La Guerre de 1870
New Series Category for The Last Hundred Yards series. With a 3rd game in this series being announced and added to our P500 list today, we've now added a new series category on our website for Mike Denson's The Last Hundred Yards series. This means that you can now click on this series listed on the left side menu of most website pages to quickly see all the games in the series. But more importantly for you P500 customers, it means you can go into your account on our website and add this series (as you can for ANY series or even "Non-Series Games" ) to your AUTO-ORDER list if you'd like to always automatically order the newest game in the series as it is announced on the P500 list.
Note that auto-orders only happen when we FIRST add a game to our P500 list. Our system looks at all the auto-order lists at that one point in time and adds orders for any new games that match the series listed on everyone's auto-order lists. If a series isn't on your auto-order list when a game in that series is added to P500, you'll need to order it individually, then go add the series to your auto order list so you'll have automatic orders for all future games in the series.
A Peek Inside the Box for A Time for Trumpets - At the Printer now!
Digital Labyrinth is on Steam Early Access for PC and Mac! It's here and it's really good—even on early access. And the latest update included Mac users! Playdek is clearly still working on streamlining and fixing bugs (that's what early access is for), but already we're getting lots of good feedback from players and reviewers. If you'd like to see what a walk-though of a turn looks like, check out this video of the game's Tutorial by our friends at Gaming Rules! Enjoy!
Keep up with GMT Online
Virtually every day, we announce new information, show off upcoming products, or give you a peek under the hood of our new designs in our various online sites and forums. For those of you looking to keep up with us online, here is where you can find us. Drop in and start a conversation!
GMT Games Website
Official GMT Games Facebook Group
GMT Facebook Page
GMT Twitter Feed
GMT on Instagram
GMT on BoardGameGeek
GMT YouTube Channel
GMT on ConsimWorld
We are doing our best to segment this update so it's easier for you all to read. Here is what you'll find in the rest of today's update:
- P500 Additions
- News You Can Use
- Digital Games
- Charging and Shipping Update
- Production Outlook
- Coming Events
- Project Updates and Sample Art
- P500 Reprint Tracking
Thanks, as always, for your support of GMT Games! Enjoy the games! - Gene