Hmm, 3 sides to every story.
However, I will say I have dealt with OK4WD going back to the 90's and never had a problem.
The fact that a company in 2019 allowed someone to snatch a domain name out from under them speaks volumes to me as an IT professional.
We at OK4WD have found the need to expend valuable resources defending ourselves from an ex-vendor’s false and defamatory social media posts extremely exhausting and inconsistent with our ideals of professionalism. This internal dispute is not one that we feel that you the customer should be subjected to which is why we have had conflicting opinions as to how to respond.
To that end, up until this Monday, our approach has been to try multiple times to resolve the disagreement behind closed doors as professional organizations who had a fruitful relationship until conflicting priorities caused a necessary divorce. Please note that our attempts at a professional remediation included a third attempt on 11/25, after the false statement was posted. The ex-vendors reply to our overture was to demand that we forfeit all the intellectual property belonging to ourselves.
With this reply, we feel the need to officially respond to the misinformation that the ex-vendor has attempted to propagate in what can best be libel. Please see below for a point by point rebuttal to the false claims. Please note that the documentation backing up our assertions is indicated as well.
“For several months, our company has suffered from a misinformation campaign orchestrated by OK 4WD, one of our former distributors, based in Stewartsville, NJ”
We are struggling to understand what misinformation the ex-vendor is referring to with this statement. We discontinued carrying their products due to a difference in business philosophies. The ex-vendor did not choose to buy back their inventory necessitating our need to sell the inventory at a markdown to recoup our investment. As the remaining stock is liquidated and inventory is exhausted, we have marked it accordingly
It is important to note that we have not added any misinformation to the JamesBaroudUSA.com domain as clearly indicated here by utilizing the Wayback Machine:
“As a matter of fact, we faced the obligation to cut ties with this distributor in 2018, because of business behaviors which were against our quality and service rules.”
This statement is completely untrue, unnecessary to the discussion, and quite honestly upsets us personally. While not germane to the discussion, please note that the partnership was ended by OK4WD due to the following factors:
1. The ex-vendor’s revised retroactive warranty policy launched in 2018. From 2013 until 2018 OK4WD had sold the ex-vendor’s products to our customers and dealer network while promoting the 5 year warranty that we felt necessary to provide to customers when selling a premium product. Though issues with warranty fulfillment were always a normal course of business with the ex-vendor, ultimately we were able to act as effective intermediaries to ensure that customers had the experience that we felt they deserved.
While we cannot speculate as to the reasons behind the decision, in 2018 the ex-vendor abruptly reduced their warranty period retroactively from 5 years to 2 years for all problematic parts per the following URL from their own web site:
Despite being the sole distributor of North America, we nonetheless first learned about the change from a customer who had found it on the ex-vendor’s website. Again, we will not speculate as to the reasoning but at no point did the vendor send the dealer network an official statement, an email or have a discussion beforehand. The discussion was unilaterally made by the ex-vendor, and as such we challenged this decision since we had sold products on the basis of the 5 year warranty.
2. The extensive and unpredictable delays in the development of a new model roof top tent. When reviewing warranty data, problematic issues with gel-coat were among the biggest warranty concerns. The new model tent was to be the answer to these quality control issues. While we had some concerns about the product design, we were nonetheless optimistic for a solution to the costly warranty issues; however, after multiple missed launch dates and a lack of transparency it became clear to use that something was awry with the ex-vendor’s production capabilities.
3. In the summer 2018, we were notified secondhand through our dealer network that a representative from the ex-vendor had made a surprise visit to their locations without informing us. On that same trip the representative stopped at our facility to give us an ultimatum: we could sell exclusively James Baroud products or they would start selling direct to our dealer network. The irony of the ultimatum was that the ex-vendor had introduced us to the vendor that was the subject of the ultimatum and the ex-vendor was aware of us selling the product for over three years.
While we were dismayed at the sudden shift in the tenor of the relationship, we did not feel that an exclusive deal with the current manifestation of the ex-vendor’s product would have been consistent with our 40 year mission to provide the best products to the off-road community.
Despite the sudden breakdown in the relationship, we continued to assist with warranty inquiries and any corrective remediation that we could accomplish at our facility. While the liability technically did not fall upon us as a distributer, we felt that we needed to ensure that our customers could rely upon us to resolve their issues even when the vendor had abandoned them. To that end, we continued to make repairs even when it became clear that we would not be receiving payment for warranties much less a response from the ex-vendor. Resolution of these warranty costs would become a sticking point in negotiations to transfer the intellectual property that OK4WD had invested time and effort in creating. The intellectual property included the URLs that we had registered, the website that we had created, the social media accounts that we had built and managed and all photo and marketing assets that we had paid for. We simply asked for a reimbursement for the warranty costs as well as fair market value for these assets. We had incurred a cost to build the brand in North America and simply wanted to be reimbursed for intellectual property that the ex-vendor and its new distributors would benefit from going forward per standard convention in the manufacturer/distributer relationship. While the ex-vendor may feel that the reimbursement of warranty costs is exorbitant, we feel that a vendor delivering a quality product would not have an issue repairing manufacturing flaws with that product.
We subsequently made two more attempts to settle this debt and put the situation with the ex-vendor behind us. It is important to note that our final offer was simply to allow them to negotiate what they felt was a fair price. The response from the vendor to this final offer was “the best solution is to give us the site domain for free, as well as Facebook and Instagram.” It is important to note that marketing done in North America including sponsorships, magazine ads, trade shows, catalogs, website, studio shots, and social media channels were primarily paid for by OK4WD as we introduced and built the brand in North America.
Most of this media is currently in use by the ex-vendors without our consent as legal owners of the media, though it is important to note that until this point, we have not chosen to air our grievances with this intellectual property violation in public.
"After this breach of contract, OK 4WD took over the name of our company to create "jamesbaroudusa.com" with our permission or expressed consent."
As has been pointed out in numerous locations online, the domain was registered in 2013 and the website was created at that point. A current distributor has since admitted on social media that this statement was patently false when presented with evidence.
"This website allows OK 4WD to systemically and unequivocally discredit with our brand image and values with false consumer reviews, suggesting that our company does not provide any after-sales service"
The website has only had a few changes since early 2018, which included removing the James Baroud logo and updating products to show the new warranty policy (5 Year/2 Year).
We are unclear as to what reviews the ex-vendor is referencing as the website only contains extremely positive reviews from the original manifestation of the product. We purposely did not address the quality control issues with the product or warranty service issues out of professional courtesy on the JamesBaroudUSA.com website.
"It also allows OK 4WD to drive potential customers toward one of two other brands with which he is in partnership today"
Customers are still able to purchase the remaining stock that the ex-vendor did not want to repurchase per conventional vendor distributer relationship. In the event that customers do inquire about a tent that is no longer available, we present them with other options. If none of these options suit their needs, customers clearly have the option to purchase the ex-vendors products elsewhere.
We would also like to clear up any misconceptions regarding our motivations for not taking down the site that we funded, built, and managed as the primary distributer for the ex-vendor.
With the ex-vendor refusing to buy back the inventory we had purchased per the standard manufacturer/distributer convention, we were forced to maintain our primary sales channel to ensure that we would be able to recoup some of our outlay for product inventory.
The intention always was (and still is) to take down the site as soon as we have sold the remaining inventory. Any effort to discredit or damage the ex-vendors brand on our part would have hurt us by compounding our losses on inventory that was already increasingly difficult to liquidate. On the other side of the coin, investing time and resources into updating a webpage for a brand we were no longer carrying and could not stand behind would have had the same effect.
As a result of being caught in the lose/lose situation created by the ex-vendor, we made the decision to keep the site as is with the exception of updating product availability as inventory becomes depleted.
Final Thoughts from OK4WD
Despite dissolving our business relationship over a year ago, the ex-vendor has continued to distribute “alternative facts” via social media that have been continually discredited as false. We undoubtedly find these actions unprofessional, however we would still like to resolve this and meet with our ex-vendor privately to discuss. We at OK4WD would prefer to focus on providing quality products to the customer that we can stand behind as we have for 40 years rather than have conflict.
That being said, we hope that it has given you, the customer, some insight as to the lengths to which we will go to ensure that customers can depend on OK4WD for the unparalleled customer service and support that we have built our reputation upon.
"Before purchasing your roof tent, examine carefully the conditions of warranty. If the salesperson is not able to supply a written version, run ! If the conditions are connected with a multitude of exceptions, run ! [...] At James Baroud you have a 5 year guarantee and no exclusions. In the event of a problem, you take the tent back to where you bought it and that's it. James Baroud pays the carrier cost and the repair, no questions asked ... "
As we've stated on other platforms, this whole thing is unfortunate. To be completely transparent, we're a dealer for James Baroud so ultimately people will assume we're taking sides however all we can do is share what we've seen in our 1 year partnership with the James Baroud brand. The product is premium and although in our one year relationship we haven't made many warranty claims, the ones we have made were answered promptly and taken care of. It is my opinion if there were serious warranty issues with the fiberglass or other major concerns we would of heard of it by now as we're the only James Baroud dealer in Colorado and the surrounding states. Meaning, we get James Baroud customers from all over the state, as well as WY, AZ and UT who have owned their tent for years, and are now coming to our store to purchase awnings or add accessories. All we hear is glowing reviews. If people were spending premium prices on an average product we'd be hearing about it all over these threads, yet almost all of the comments I've read on other platforms from customers are positive and praise the brand. Meanwhile, the controversy between James Baroud and OK4WD is something we're not privy to but has certainly affected us negatively in our first year. Regardless of who's right or wrong, deliberately misrepresenting a brand and holding a site that is simply in place to sabotage a brand is not right. I've read their defense and it simply doesn't make sense. If the site was truly in place to educate and inform customers of quality issues, it would say that. Instead, it states the product is discontinued, which portrays it's no longer being manufactured. Furthermore, when customers have reached out with needs, rather than redirecting them to a new point of contact for James Baroud, they take it as an opportunity to slander the brand and push products they currently sell. I don't think this is a "for the customer" approach. If the customer was truly the focus OK4WD would be honest with the status of the James Baroud brand and their inventory and have no need to continue to host and respond to inbound inquires only when they see an opportunity. Whatever happened previously between OK4WD and James Baroud is unfortunate, but should remain in the past. We continue to see nothing but high quality products come out of Portugal and what we've experienced in our first year with customers both old and new is nothing but positive, giving us more than enough confidence to stand behind the brand.