(Danbury, CT 06810)
1) My original email complaint:
Order ID : 11688588
"So, ......i am disappointed......who am i disappointed with?....in order of severity, masahiro, the fella who polished my Masahiro Red Sakura Wakizashi(on sale for 40 bucks from 60 bucks), the fella who supposedly eyeballs the gear from KOA, then cult of athena(KOA in the interests of brevity), then sword buyers guide(they suggested the sale and it has never happened before we were not happy with their suggestions), but not so much with SBG because they would be disappointed as well, and they didn't recommend this particular blade although they recommended KOA, technically.(I think)
That said, who is responsible to me in this case, well, cult of athena because they advertised this wakazashi as "razor sharp & battle ready" ........any problem between masahiro & KOA is none of my concern & shouldn't be part of any excuse because KOA claims they hand check all they send out ........of course, according to KOA, there could not possibly be a drop-ship problem here either because it was already(according to their policy) in stock.
So, what was wrong with it............well, the scabbard had a hook in it, the operative word here is "had".........thank you my friend Ajax for the correction, what an amazing craftsman he is, when sober........the scabbard and the blade are badly scuffed and have more than a few scratches(odd for something in a bag & a box unless it was attached at some point to a paint-can mixer or was used as a toy by someones employees)........but the most annoying thing is the "razor-sharp" blade.........which in reality is as dull as a lecture on calculus.........except for the very tip, it is a mutant laito blade except it isn't a good laito blade..........just terrible.........the rest of the blade can hardly cut my finger!!.............so what is the result here?....this is the first, and last, masahiro product i will ever buy...........i keep thinking about that snapped tsuka i saw on SBG and i'm thinking maybe it wasn't a fluke............and probably the last time i shop at KOA because i don't care for their return policy........my grandfather called it "throwing good money after bad".........and we don't intend to eat shipping two or three ways...........but it will cost me to have a decent sharpen and polish done to this little cutter...........last but not least, it has the ugliest bo-hi we have ever seen but that has nothing to do with our complaints, it is just the way they made the blade........very heavy, too square top rib above the bo-hi, in laymen's terms..........but lovely compared to the rest of this poor little waki."
2) Their only response:
"I'm sorry to hear that you were not happy with this product. As you are aware you are welcome to return it for a refund. I'll try to address some of your concerns.
Masahiro makes the cheapest available functional katanas, no one ever said they were great. For $40 this item IS a great value, many stainless steel wall hangers cost more then this. But to expect it to be the same quality as the $200-$300 swords is simply unrealistic. Masahiro's products are very popular, but are not for the discriminating collector. We offer swords from $15 to $3500, so anyone can find an item that fits their needs / budget. Never do we claim that the quality will be the same no matter how much or little you choose to pay. My advise to you is to spend a bit more, and go with Hanwei products, as you are obviously buying below the quality level you expect to receive.
As for this sword specifically, as stated we do inspect them for any obvious defects, this one was no exception. The packers, who also inspect the products, do not know how sharp every specific sword should be, and in deed this will vary especially with a lower end manufacturer like Masahiro. Judging by the ones we have here, I would assume the one you received is sharpened, but it is only a machine edge. This item does not come with a hand sharpened blade like you would get on a higher end product. Once again it's only $40, so hand sharpening would be out of the question for a product at this level.
Should you decide not to order from us in the future, that's fine. This is your option. However, stating our return policy as a reason does not make any sense. I know for a fact that some of our competitors will not let you return products at all, some of the ones who do, charge you a 10%-15% restocking fee. We allow you to return anything you are not happy with for any reason, you are just responsible for the shipping costs. I do not know of any dealer who is willing to pay your shipping for you simply because you do not like the product. This policy is not meant to punish customers for retuning items. Shipping costs money, in fact we usually loose a bit shipping most items. This money you pay goes to UPS or FedEx to get the shipment to you. They are not going to give us that money back because you ordered something you were not happy with.
If you would like to return this item please let me know and I will explain the process for you."
3) our response to their response:
"Everything you are saying sounds very nice, but is only partially true except for the fact that "razor sharp and battle-ready" means it should be pretty sharp, which is our main complaint, which you are so deftly side-stepping...........yes, we do have a few cheap blades and they are incredibly sharp compared to the sword you sent us.............as a matter of fact some of our expensive musashi, ryumon, various longquan, etc are not that much sharper than some of the cheaper blades, at first, of course............our cheness blades are the only blades we have that are beyond comparison................so i don't think we are mistaking what the meaning of "sharp" might be......................apparently either you or masahiro have a problem with what "razor-sharp" means, clearly................based on your attitude, we don't think we need any advice or lessons on blade quality, sharpness, etc from you...........as to our arrangements with our usual sword providers.......we certainly do not and would not pay for shipping when the product is so wildly mis-represented.............and they are fully aware of that.............by the way, you keep saying it is only a 40 dollar blade, well it was originally 60 bucks...........are you saying it should never have been listed as a 60 dollar sword..............that it always was a 40 dollar blade?.................................we have some 50 dollar tokusen that truly are razor sharp and that is what we would use as a comparison, something in the same price range.........................not an overpriced carpetbagger like hanwei who for some reason won't use anyones real names............what's up with that?........................and so, i hope you realize that insulting our expectations achieves nothing and we will be more careful when dealing with strangers from now on.......................as it is, it is only a 50 dollar lesson.....................the tsuka and tsuba were nice though."
So we just wondered what anyone thought about all this........are we the victims of false advertising? or are we being petty even though we could use our "razor-sharp" to hammer a nail?.......on a personal level, was this guy being just a little condescending or outright insulting, or are we too thin skinned?......if we pay shipping back and forth, it will kind of negate the whole sale price idea, which is the main reason we bought it in the first place and we needed a maroon waki.........has anyone else received a dull "razor-sharp" from these guys or from masahiro in general? ........if you can see the picture, blow it up a bit.....don't know if our photo can show what we mean or not......hard to translate in this manner.
I'm in two minds about this situation. On the one hand, Masahiro have a spotty QC reputation at best - especially for their cheap swords, which is aptly described here at Sword Manufacturers Guide.com. Ryumon (the higher end of Masahiro) have made some decent blades, though they vary quite a bit within models.
So on the one hand, there is plenty of info to suggest that they aren't the best choice available at this price range (personally, I think that the best $40-60 swords are made by Musashi Swords) and I believe that the sharpness varies wildly as production costs of these swords is, as you might expect, likely to be around $5-$10 dollars...
The problem is further compounded by the fact that, as you note, some low end swords are indeed very sharp - and the original sword KoA received may have been a good one, hence the description.
I am only saying that because if you go to the various forums, Kult of Athena is the most recommended company out there and they are very high regarded by the sword community at large, and they don't intentionally mislead customers and give very honest replies to enquiries before purchase trying to steer them a direction that will actually suit their needs rather than to make a quick buck.
Granted, their focus and specialization is for the medieval sword enthusiast generally, however they aren't scammers or a fly by nite operation, that is for sure.
At the end of the day, when it comes to $40-60 swords, it is something of a crap shoot. Sometimes you get lucky, but more often than not you end up with a lemon, especially with Masahiro...
Hope this helps.