Well, here it is. I’m finally doing a review of Am-Hi-Co. It’s been a long time coming, and I never thought it would be like this. Late last week, I was contacted by someone claiming to be a former Am-Hi-Co employee. They had documents, snippets of conversations and emails, and all sorts of interesting info that paints a very interesting portrait of what amounts to a Legal High Hindenburg. Of course, I was skeptical. Being a student of, among other things, the Classics, I tend to assume automatically that any gift horse that shows up is likely packing a few surprises. That being said, everything seems to check out. The stories they gave me jive pretty well chronologically with complaints on various forums and “Sorry, we’re having trouble” posts on their own (seemingly deserted) blog, and a lot of the specifics and details seem to mash up as well. You all know how I am with data and research, so I can give you a reasonable assurance that what follows is, for the most part, the truth. As always, however, grab that grain of salt. If nothing else, you’ll have something to put on your popcorn to enjoy with the ensuing fireworks.
Even before I checked my email, I knew something was up with Am-Hi-Co, which is why I didn’t automatically dismiss what I received as a disgruntled customer trying to get even. The Am-Hi-Co Facebook page is perhaps the most obvious example. Compare posts from before the Christmas holiday:
Our credit card payment platform is still down, but we’re working on a replacement system which will be available ASAP. U.S. customers can still take advantage of our GIFT coupon by using COD (cash on delivery) as their method of payment. Take 25% off all UK/WW legal bath salts!
To those after:
Hi everyone:) So this is a last few days we all can enjoy the 2011 year, we hope everyone is ready for the new 2012 year, the year of dragon:) Am-Hi-Co team would like to thank all of you for that that you were with us, and we will be happy to see you again next year. We are working hard to take our services and products to another, higher level so that the all our customers receive only the best quality services and products. Feel free to post your suggestions, wishes and of course what you are expecting from us next year. Happy New Year and best regards from Am-Hi-Co team. And don`t forget about our special NEWYEAR discount code it’s working only till 1 January, and it only applies to the Extremely Strong Incense Blends 100% Legal Worldwide.
It’s like goddamn night and day. We go from clean, succinct and well written posts dealing with issues to rambling placation slapped up by someone who obviously has, at best, a mediocre, likely foreign (lack of plurals is a big clue), grasp of the English Language. The Twitter is in similar shambles. The blog, which had been updated twice weekly by the looks of it, hasn’t had an update since Christmas. While I could only guess at the reason, it was obvious something was amiss, and painfully so. Someone new was behind the proverbial wheel. The information provided by my informant confirmed my suspicions. What follows is a paraphrase of what was delivered to me:
The long and short of it is that the company is run by a “unique foreign gentleman” who is apparently concerned mostly with making money and indulging his ego. Now, without any real warning, right before Christmas, the owner of the company fired his entire American customer service team in an effort to save money and replaced them with a team of Latvians that
a) is half the size
b) speak English as a third or fourth language
c) are the reason the American team had to be hired in the first place a year ago.
See, this Latvian team, apparently, doesn’t really get it. People with legitimate complaints that are kind get ignored and go unhelped, while other customer who pitch giant bitchfits and act like children and threaten to do oh so scary stuff like call the FCC get handed the world and all the free bathsalts they could want on a silver platter. That is, if they get to and decide to respond to your email at all. The last time the Latvian team was handling customer service and communication, apparently they got to the point where they were up to 3 months behind in emails with tens of thousands of dollars of orders paid for and yet unshipped. That was why they routinely lost the ability to process credit cards, and got kicked out of Paypal and AlertPay, because they would suffer dozens of chargebacks every month from unshipped orders.
Simple customer neglect is one thing, enough at any rate to make me tell you to pass them by, but the rabbit hole goes a bit deeper than that. Your new Latvian Overlords apparently have no problem being shady with the product too. Remember that label issue I talked about back when?
Apparently I was wrong.
Despite appearances, they were up to no good. While the details are unclear (my informant never got the full story), apparently they ran out of bags for a specific product and were just slapping stickers willy nilly on whatever empty packs were lying around. Word on the street, however, is that it wasn’t just empty bags that got the new identity, but a not insubstantial amount of filled ones as well and there were a rash of resulting complaints about that most recent batch of salts being not quite the same as before. To the owner’s credit, when he found out it was going on, he put the kibosh on it immediately, however it was almost two weeks after the fact that this was discovered.
That was pre ban, however, and the informant says that the owner now “personally ensures” that shady stuff with products doesn’t happen. The quality control of the product itself is apparently pretty good. The rest of the operation is just a terrible mess.
The Am-Hi-Co website, for example, is almost unusable at this point and a great deal of the information it presents is outdated, contradictory and incorrect. Their state finder is a nifty idea, but it doesn’t work. Clicking on your state will take you to a list of products that are supposedly legal, but a number of them, mostly the new line of salts, when clicked on say “NOT FOR SALE IN USA” in big red letters. Not to worry, however, because if the main site doesn’t work for you, you can check out any of Am-Hi-Co’s eight mirror sites, like SpiceWorld420 and Spike99, all the while screaming to high heaven to look out for impostor sites selling fake product. Hi Pot, this is Kettle…
Some of the mistakes are just funny to the point of being almost sad. The last newsletter that was mailed out, as was forwarded to me, was little more than a fill in the blank template, complete with such gems as “Stay tuned to <site name>’s (Pick: Twitter, Facebook, Forums) for great coupons like <coupon code>, good for <sale>”. Other mistakes aren’t so funny as they are lethal.
You’re looking at a company that will take it’s sweet time with a refund, if they even bother or remember to send it out at all. It’s not unusual for a refund we requested to take a month or more, if it ever happened at all.
At this point, it’s simply a matter of time. The changes that Am-Hi-Co made internally are going to be the death of it. Their only hope now is to either get their old team back (something I don’t think will happen) or switch to wholesale only, because their products are apparently pretty good, despite their operational issues. Their post ban salts are supposed to be some of the better blends and their incense has always had a rep for being good. Even if they did that, it would only stave off what is at this point inevitable. Am-Hi-Co has become the biggest fish in a pretty small pond, and, as we’ve seen, that is a dangerous place to be. Compound that with the fact that their financial practices aren’t exactly helping keep a low profile, and it’s not unreasonable to expect there may be some legal trouble Am-Hi-Co faces in the not too distant future, either as a result of station or via their own devices.
So what’s the jist of the situation? Well, the outlook is bleak. From all indications, Am-Hi-Co’s products themselves are good, it’s just that the company is piss poorly run and will eventually implode. So someone will catch up with them. Or some other sort of self brought disaster will befall them. At this point, it’s only a question of when. So if you are an Am-Hi-Co fan, than I recommend finding a new source. Their products are not all that hard to find on other sites, and for comparable price. But stay away from Am-Hi-Co itself for the foreseeable future, unless you’re a masochist and like your life far more difficult than it needs to be.
Nothing lasts forever. So much for “too big to fail”.
Don’t buy from Am-Hi-Co. You want to buy their products from someone else, go for it. Their stuff is great, but this company is blowing up. The sad thing is, they did it to themselves. Get away as fast as you can before they cost you money that you will never get back.