Points of Articulation
Why I Hate NECA
When it comes to collecting action figures, we go through fads of popular companies: this seemingly began with McFarlane Toys revolutionizing the industry with well-sculpted, well-detailed, (sometimes) well-articulated action figures in their Spawn and Movie Maniacs lines; it moved on to ToyBiz and their marvelous Marvel Legends; and so on in that manner. Although the "in" company at the moment is Mattel, reigning triumphant with their hilariously condescending website and their awesome overpriced Masters of the Universe Classics and DC Universe (and maybe Ghostbusters), NECA remains the go-to company for gorgeously sculpted movie and videogame figures, as well as musicians and prop replicas and so on, so on.
NECA has picked up the reigns from McFarlane Toys and schooled them on nearly every front: better sculpts, better articulation and broader range. Properties that McFarlane claimed were impossible to acquire were a walk in the park for NECA, and they're responsible for some of the best action figures of the past few years - look no further than the amazing Big Daddy from BioShock, their superb aliens from Aliens, the wonderful comic-accurate TMNT, and their upcoming Predators to be thrilled to bits with what they have to offer. With this in mind, and owning a large collection of their figures, why, oh why, would I possibly hate them?
Two words: Customer Service.
Action figure shopping has become a specialty and a pain, with fewer stores stocking them than ever before. Specialty stores that do stock action figures tend to be a case of slim pickings, meaning that a lot of toy shopping is now done online. Online shopping often has a better range, but with brick and mortar stores you could at least paw through the available figures on the shelf to try and find one that looked best, checking for good paint apps or broken joints or whatever. With shopping online, everything is blind, and you can never be sure what you're going to get. Where paint aps are concerned, NECA's product is pretty good, with reliable consistency. But when it comes to durability, abandon all hope.
Case #1: NECA's great Player Select God of War Kratos with Flaming Blades of Athena. This figure was one of the first fully-articulated toys that NECA made, and it is awesome - the sculpt was exceptional, and the accessories grand. Kratos included his two signature weapons, which could be held in his hands, or connected to his wrists by transluscent "flaming" chains that looked fantastic, matching the action from the game. yo has been after me for years to review Kratos, so why haven't I done it? Kratos broke while on display, with the pegs in the blade snapping off, thus rendering the accessory useless. Then the thing broke again while it was sitting on my desk waiting to be fixed - the peg from the balljoint in his shoulder came loose and broke. I attempted to return/exchange the toy at my local comicshop, but they refused, saying to contact NECA. I filled out NECA's customer service form on their website, and got... nothing. Kratos wasn't too pricey when I got it, but now people are forking over $100 for the single toy - imagine how angry you'd be getting a great toy like this, having it break, and being unable to get any kind of customer support for it.
Case #2: NECA's Cenobite Lair Box Set. A fantastic diorama featuring some of the most well known demonic Cenobites with leader Pinhead inside an awesome bloody diorama display, complete with hanging chains and body parts. A rarity on purchase, and a rarity now, I was overjoyed to acquire one MIB online, and happily inspected and played with each figure inside before going to assemble the diorama, only to find - a piece missing. One of the two struts that was the ceiling, holding the walls together and hanging chains from, was absent. The online retailer wouldn't take a return, recommended contacting NECA. I filled out NECA's customer service form on their website, and got... nothing. Again. I also tried to find email addresses, which I got no response from.
Case #3: the latest (and film-accurate) Saw Jigsaw Killer from Cult Classics, purchased online. When I received this figure finally, I was ever so happy until I looked at it, and saw that the right shoulder balljoint had broken in the box, with his arm limply hanging around in the package. Both elbow joints were also nearly broken, the pegs hanging out of the sockets. Still in the package. Should be able to return this one, right? Wrong. Time for NECA's customer service, which is... nonexistant!
Now, broken toys aren't something new - back in the day, I had McToys and Palisades both replace toys before without an issue (in fact, McFarlane Toys used to be known for having the best customer service in the industry). Usually, if you have a malfunctioning item, first port of call is always to go back to the retailer, but this is difficult or impossible with online shopping and specialty stores where products are in limited supply. If a BD player malfunctioned and was under warranty, you contact the company and would be directed to a service centre where it would be repaired under warranty. I have heard that toy companies are under no obligation to replace broken items, which might be true (at the very least, I'd argue that action figures still sealed should be replaceable), but NECA never even bothered responding to my contact. Multiple contacts. This may be because I am international, in Australia. If so, makes them even ruder. The cost of toys in Australia makes this even worse, with toys being very expensive and difficult to find.
Although they may have schooled McFarlane Toys in sculpt and articulation, NECA seems to still have a problem with durability, and without the ability to have broken figures replaced it makes every purchase a gamble. I'm not talking about toys that have tumbled off a display onto the floor and broken either - these are toys that have broken in their box or just being looked at, or are incomplete and thus worthless. There is no wealth in having an enormous range of different figures available if they're at risk of unrefundable damage upon purchase.
What prompted me to write this was a bunch of Tweets from NECA_Toys. I've seen several tweets at them claiming how good their customer service is, with this recent bit of bullshit responding to a fan: "thanks & we will replace broken or damaged pcs. Hate when that happens" Oh, will you, assholes? Is that because the asker is American and not international? I "hate when that happens" too, because I have no chance to get things made right. Or have you, NECA, changed? Prove me wrong.
Now, obviously all the toys I've mentioned here are older releases (as far as our hobby goes), so the odds of NECA still having any available for replacements is slim: I have no illusion that writing this PoA will make NECA email me with offers to fix their broken product. That's not what this is about. What I want them to fix is their broken customer service. Even if the answer is "sorry we can't help you, we don't have any more of that," it's better than no answer at all. It's professional.
And then there's the other reason I hate NECA: still no bloody Resident Evil 5 Wesker! What are you doing?!