How the only Canadian Stern distributor lost me as a customer...


By PNorth

11 months ago


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#1 11 months ago

In Canada, Cineplex Starburst has a monopoly as the exclusive distributor for Stern Pinball. As it is now, Canadian customers don't really have much of a choice of where they buy Stern pins and parts. My recent experience with Cineplex leads me to believe that having more than one distributor might be better for the customer and better for Stern.

I’ve been having trouble with the drop target on my Star Trek LE for ages. Whenever the mech attempts to raise the drop target, it doesn’t catch properly, drops, and the target rapidly and repeatedly attempts to raise it. I’ve tried the thin washer solution detailed here on Pinside (I’m not the only one who has experienced this problem), and while it would allow the drop target to remain in the raised position, it was then difficult to knock it down with the thin washers installed, even with a direct hit. I had to remove the washers, but again, once removed, the drop target won’t stay up. You can’t reliably lock a ball under the Vengeance, as the drop target will cycle repeatedly, and there are other related problems.

After toying with this endlessly, I contacted Chas at Stern to see if he had any suggestions to make it work properly. I explained to him that it’s a Star Trek, and obviously not still under warranty. He graciously went through troubleshooting with me, but in the end figured that it was most likely a mechanical issue, and that the drop target assembly might need to be replaced. Chas said that as I’d been having the problem for so long, he would goodwill exchange the assembly as warranty, even though it was now out of warranty, but that I would need to have Cineplex (the exclusive Canadian distributor) contact him to do the order for it. He told me that he could have the part shipped anywhere, but that it had to be arranged through Cineplex.

I sent an email to Cineplex parts, explaining what Chas had suggested I do. The parts department at Cineplex forwarded it on to their service department, who replied simply that the machine is out of warranty, and that I would need to order the part at a cost of $289.95.

Receiving this message, I called Chas at Stern back. I told him about the message I received from Cineplex, assuming there had just been a miscommunication, as Cineplex wanted to charge me close to $300 for the part. He was shocked at the price. He apologized and told me that Cineplex had contacted them, and stipulated that my machine wasn’t under warranty, told them I wasn’t the original owner, and that I would have to order and purchase the part from Cineplex.

Helpful as always, Chas continued to help me try to find other possibilities in getting the drop target to work. At the end of the day, all I care is that my drop target works, regardless of the fix.

I take no issue with Chas or Stern, as they went out of their way, in an act of goodwill to help me out. I don’t really believe I can say the same thing for Cineplex/Starburst/Playdium Store. Stern offered to help me out, and it seems that Cineplex told Stern that they can’t. It's really disappointing that Cineplex would take this kind of action on behalf of a customer, and if that’s the new Cineplex concept in customer service, I don’t want to spend another dime with them.

Has anyone else had a bad experience with Cineplex Starburst? Should Stern reconsider only having one, exclusive distributor of their games in Canada?

#2 11 months ago

I Think competition with any company is a good thing, but don't see stern changing anything anytime soon.... and I have dealt with starburst a few times and they have been more than good for me...

#3 11 months ago

Seriously? I thought there were others, try an American distributor but phone them and explain the situation. You might have to pay a handling fee but not 300.

#5 11 months ago

What about Nitro in Vancouver?

#6 11 months ago
Quoted from KenLayton:

And now that Cineplex has become Player One Amusement Group

With that tid bit of info, that just cements that relationship with Stern, a second distro could only effectively sell locally, unlike the coverage of Canada by Player One.

#7 11 months ago

You're not at all upset with Stern about this? Couldn't they just make it happen or send you the part? When I needed a replacement part for my NIB Hobbit on the first day, JJP just took care of it. I didn't have to call anyone else. And I'd bought it from a private person on Ebay! They still covered it and it was also a $300 part. They also happened to send me a replacement LED and flipper assembly that were on the fritz on my WOZ that was a year old and I was the second owner/user because they asked what other pins I had and then asked how WOZ was working. The dude was so great he was even telling me how to fix minor things on my other pins!

Perhaps there is something I'm missing or unaware of in the pinball business? I am new to this hobby, after all.

I'll be interested to see how this turns out. I assume you haven't given up.

#8 11 months ago
Quoted from PNorth:

I’ve been having trouble with the drop target on my Star Trek LE for ages. Whenever the mech attempts to raise the drop target, it doesn’t catch properly, drops, and the target rapidly and repeatedly attempts to raise it. I’ve tried the thin washer solution detailed here on Pinside (I’m not the only one who has experienced this problem)

This is actually an easy fix and I would not recommend the 'washer fix'.

It's easiest to first pull the target mechanism out of the game first before going any further. Apply a very light(!) amount of thin grease on the target where it not only slides up and down against the washers, but moves back and forth against the 2 metal guides. You just need the tiniest amount here. You can also slightly(!) stretch the stubby spring that forces the target forward. Test the mechanism in your hands and when raising the target make sure it is moving forward freely all the way as it raises so it can catch on the ledge.

Rob

#9 11 months ago

Yeah I don't see why Stern just doesn't send you the part...they have sent replacement parts to me direct...seems strange.

#12 11 months ago

Fuck starburst. Stern is way overdue to make nitro a direct distributor.

#13 11 months ago

Companies like Nitro get screwed as well as the have to buy all of their games from Cineplex. Cineplex right now in Canada don't care who you buy your game from as they make money on all stern pinball in Canada. Never understood why Stern won't open up a second distribution partner in Canada.

#14 11 months ago

Guys in Starburst Montreal are great! Never had a problem and they're always ready to help.

#15 11 months ago
Quoted from Myles32:

Companies like Nitro get screwed as well as the have to buy all of their games from Cineplex. Cineplex right now in Canada don't care who you buy your game from as they make money on all stern pinball in Canada. Never understood why Stern won't open up a second distribution partner in Canada.

Why restrict it at all??? Seems to me there are multiple distributors in the States........should be no different here. I've bought 3 NIB's now from Starburst. Was on the fence about picking up a NIB MET Premium last month. Considering I've spent close to 30K there, I asked them to throw in a shaker motor (whats that....about 125.00?). Was told no, but they'd throw in some silverjet pinballs. LOL. Dumbasses, don't they know silverjets and magnets don't go together very well?? Will not buy another NIB from them. Will wait for a used one, or **find a way** to order through a US Distributor that includes free shipping.

#16 11 months ago
Quoted from Bigbossfan:

Why restrict it at all??? Seems to me there are multiple distributors in the States........should be no different here. I've bought 3 NIB's now from Starburst. Was on the fence about picking up a NIB MET Premium last month. Considering I've spent close to 30K there, I asked them to throw in a shaker motor (whats that....about 125.00?). Was told no, but they'd throw in some silverjet pinballs. LOL. Dumbasses, don't they know silverjets and magnets don't go together very well?? Will not buy another NIB from them. Will wait for a used one, or **find a way** to order through a US Distributor that includes free shipping.

A friend of mine bought a NIB TWD and after about a week or so he started to have problems with the trough registering drains occasionally.

It turns out they had 'thrown in' some silverjets with the purchase and they'd become magnetized and were 'sticking' to each other in the trough.

My friend had no way of knowing as this was his first pin but you'd think that whoever sold him the game would know better.

#17 11 months ago
Quoted from Bigbossfan:

Why restrict it at all??? Seems to me there are multiple distributors in the States........should be no different here. I've bought 3 NIB's now from Starburst. Was on the fence about picking up a NIB MET Premium last month. Considering I've spent close to 30K there, I asked them to throw in a shaker motor (whats that....about 125.00?). Was told no, but they'd throw in some silverjet pinballs. LOL. Dumbasses, don't they know silverjets and magnets don't go together very well?? Will not buy another NIB from them. Will wait for a used one, or **find a way** to order through a US Distributor that includes free shipping.

actually if you buy shaker motors in bulk you get a nice discount. I would value a shaker motor between 75 and 95 dollars. Obviously the distros if they are smart takes advantage of a 35% discount and then sells at full value. I also found a few distributors that threw in the shaker motor for the sale of the NIB machines.

#18 11 months ago

Yeah... I'd be pissed at the distributor too. That's some bs right there.
Wish I had a suggestion for you but it seems you covered most of the bases.

#19 11 months ago

This doesn't make much sense really .. It almost sounds like Stern wanted Cineplex to eat some/all of the cost? I mean - Cineplex is the distributor - who are they to "tell" Stern they aren't going to allow Stern to ship a customer a part for free? That makes no sense - it's the other way around. It also doesn't make sense that Stern can ship the part anywhere, but needs an order from a distributor to do so, even if it's free. Something just doesn't seem right here, as if a key piece of information is missing.

#20 11 months ago

I agree with the others, something seems strange.....If stern was comping the part, why the heck should stardust have anything to say about it...also, why can't stern send you the part directly? If you were in the US, could Stern send you the part directly? If that's the issue, send the part to a friendly pinsider who will forward it on to you.....or as others previously posted, buy/get it from a US distributor....

good luck, it sounds like an infuriating issue....

-1
#21 11 months ago

Could be that Stern doesn't want to ship out of country

#22 11 months ago

I've never had a bad experience with Starburst but with a Stern pro now costing 8K with tax I don't even care anyway, priced out at this point, maybe a dream theme could cause me to cave but that's unlikely to happen, I think Heighway will be getting my dollars, I have an Alien LE coming and the cheapest new pin will be a kit, saves space and money, Sterns will be have to be played in the wild, or at Starburst.

#23 11 months ago
Quoted from Eryeal:

This doesn't make much sense really .. It almost sounds like Stern wanted Cineplex to eat some/all of the cost? I mean - Cineplex is the distributor - who are they to "tell" Stern they aren't going to allow Stern to ship a customer a part for free? That makes no sense - it's the other way around. It also doesn't make sense that Stern can ship the part anywhere, but needs an order from a distributor to do so, even if it's free. Something just doesn't seem right here, as if a key piece of information is missing.

The contract might state that the distributor has the exclusive rights to sell or otherwise distribute parts in the territory, which could leave stern unable to send a part for free even without breaching contract. Speculation, but plausible IMO

#24 11 months ago
Quoted from Otaku:

Could be that Stern doesn't want to ship out of country

I just bought and received a mod for my GB directly from Stern through their website. They definitely have no problem with shipping out of country.

#25 11 months ago

Will they ship replacement parts out of country?

#26 11 months ago
Quoted from Otaku:

Could be that Stern doesn't want to ship out of country

Quoted from Bronty:

Will they ship replacement parts out of country?

as aid above, yes

for my TRON LE, needing few small replacements parts for the spindisc, warranty was over, Patrick P. send me what i need directly by air mail, was very quick, and all free

than when its good, it has to be said too
(OK, now i want my GB code update !!! lol)

#27 11 months ago
Quoted from Pdxmonkey:

What about Nitro in Vancouver?

Unfortunately, as Myles32 indicated, Cineplex has exclusive distribution rights in Canada, even Nitro has to buy everything Stern from Cineplex. It's a damn shame, as I've heard nothing but good things about Tommy and Nitro Amusements. From what I've heard about their customer service, it would be awesome if Stern gave them distribution rights too.

Quoted from TRAMD:

You're not at all upset with Stern about this?

Absolutely not... Stern has been trying to help me with a machine that's out of warranty, and was willing to ship me a replacement part at no cost, in an effort to help me solve the issue. I haven't given up, and Chas has continued to be very helpful.

#28 11 months ago

Starburst is the worst.

Ridiculous prices for parts and shipping. Thank god for Marco's cheap shipping option to Canada. Never again, greedy SB hosers! (Cheaper to ship from Marco in the US than from 1 hour down the highway from my house lol)

Awful prices on NIB games too. They lost a NIB Met Pro sale to me last summer over $90... on a 7.5k purchase.

#29 11 months ago

What a sad state of affairs.

Can I just say though that what a top man Chas is. Really, really great guy.

#30 11 months ago
Quoted from RipleYYY:

as aid above, yes
for my TRON LE, needing few small replacements parts for the spindisc, warranty was over, Patrick P. send me what i need directly by air mail, was very quick, and all free
than when its good, it has to be said too
(OK, now i want my GB code update !!! lol)

mods aren't the same as replacement parts though. I could be off base; I'm just picturing a scenario where the contract says they can't sell replacement parts without the distributor. That's different than a mod

#31 11 months ago
Quoted from PNorth:

Unfortunately, as Myles32 indicated, Cineplex has exclusive distribution rights in Canada, even Nitro has to buy everything Stern from Cineplex. It's a damn shame, as I've heard nothing but good things about Tommy and Nitro Amusements. From what I've heard about their customer service, it would be awesome if Stern gave them distribution rights too.

Absolutely not... Stern has been trying to help me with a machine that's out of warranty, and was willing to ship me a replacement part at no cost, in an effort to help me solve the issue. I haven't given up, and Chas has continued to be very helpful.

I went and drove and met Tommy and his business partner Don the other day. Great guys.

#32 11 months ago
Quoted from Bronty:

mods aren't the same as replacement parts though. I could be off base; I'm just picturing a scenario where the contract says they can't sell replacement parts without the distributor. That's different than a mod

EDIT: Okay, wait, I see you got tron parts direct... thanks for clearing that up!

#33 11 months ago
Quoted from Maken:

Thank god for Marco's cheap shipping option to Canada.

What is this cheap shipping option to canada that you speak of ?? I am unaware of any cheap shipping options to canada from Marco.

#34 11 months ago
Quoted from SUPERBEE:

What is this cheap shipping option to canada that you speak of ?? I am unaware of any cheap shipping options to canada from Marco.

I'm with you on that one.

#35 11 months ago

I was at the showroom on Tuesday and they told me that they will not have a playable machine for both Batman 66 or dialed in. They always had at least one model of each game to try out before you buy, but that will not be the case going forward.

Also deposits on the game have now increased to 2000.00. They have also changed the policy to non refundable deposits

#36 11 months ago
Quoted from SUPERBEE:

What is this cheap shipping option to canada that you speak of ?? I am unaware of any cheap shipping options to canada from Marco.

No tracking no insurance.

Last week, I ordered a couple of coil stops, some coil sleeves and a flipper rubber, they charged me 5 bucks USD for shipping to my address in Kitchener.

I mentioned it previously in this thread but my comment went mostly ignored: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/any-canadians-find-marco-has-absurd-shipping-costs

#37 11 months ago
Quoted from Maken:

No tracking no insurance.
Last week, I ordered a couple of coil stops, some coil sleeves and a flipper rubber, they charged me 5 bucks USD for shipping to my address in Kitchener.
I mentioned it previously in this thread but my comment went mostly ignored: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/any-canadians-find-marco-has-absurd-shipping-costs

Man, I have to investigate this time next time I need Marco parts. I've always been bent over a barrel by their Iglobal shipping rates which are ludicrous.

26
#38 11 months ago

If its like the states Stern put any part that has to be returned on the Distributor's account. Which is why we have to order it.. If you don't return it we get charged for the advanced replacement part. I wonder If we would be allowed to help you out, Ask Chas if he says its ok I will step up and help

JJ

#39 11 months ago
Quoted from Gexchange:

Ask Chas if he says its ok I will step up and help

JJ, that is truly awesome of you! I'm going to try out Chas' suggestion for a fix tomorrow, but if I end up needing to have the assembly replaced, I'll definitely inquire as to your offer. I wish Cineplex was as customer service oriented as Game Exchange!

#40 11 months ago
Quoted from Gexchange:

If its like the states Stern put any part that has to be returned on the Distributor's account. Which is why we have to order it.. If you don't return it we get charged for the advanced replacement part.

Ah, this might explain why Stern can send some parts out direct without fuss, but then sometimes it has to go through the distrib.

#41 11 months ago
Quoted from frolic:

Ah, this might explain why Stern can send some parts out direct without fuss, but then sometimes it has to go through the distrib.

That does clarify things a bit, as Chas told me that if it was just the plastic drop target or a spring, he could send it direct. Before Cineplex stepped in for the kibosh, he told me that he would send the replacement drop target assembly to me with a return shipping label to send the old one back.

For situations dealing directly with the customer, I'm surprised Stern doesn't just take the customer's credit card information down for an advance replacement.

#42 11 months ago
Quoted from PNorth:

That does clarify things a bit, as Chas told me that if it was just the plastic drop target or a spring, he could send it direct. Before Cineplex stepped in for the kibosh, he told me that he would send the replacement drop target assembly to me with a return shipping label to send the old one back.
For situations dealing directly with the customer, I'm surprised Stern doesn't just take the customer's credit card information down for an advance replacement.

Like I said above, it's not that hard to fix and then you don't have to worry about cineplex at all.

Rob

#43 11 months ago

Rob_g's suggestion is great minus the grease. Drop targets should never be lubricated. On a few months that lubricant will become gum and the whole thing will need to be disassembled and cleaned. I agree you don't need the washers like Rob said.

You also don't need an entire drop target mechanism. Worst case you need a spring and a drop target. All only a couple bucks from pinball life. You probably don't need any parts though.

#44 11 months ago
Quoted from Gexchange:

If its like the states Stern put any part that has to be returned on the Distributor's account. Which is why we have to order it.. If you don't return it we get charged for the advanced replacement part. I wonder If we would be allowed to help you out, Ask Chas if he says its ok I will step up and help
JJ

Wow!

You're a good guy.

#45 11 months ago

Got my GB premium from Tommy at Nitro. Great service and follow up after the sale. Please make nitro a distributor Stern!

#46 11 months ago

Success! Well... not with Cineplex, but the suggestions of several pin-heads responding in this thread and over at pinballrevolution.com, seems to have resolved the physical issue with the drop target. I stretched out the drop target spring to increase the spring expanding force on the plastic drop target. Hopefully this will be a lasting solution.

Thanks very much to quartergrabber, Luckydogg420, and Menace over on Pinball Revolution, and Rob_G and markmon here on Pinside.

Big thanks also to Chas at Stern for all the help he's provided, and JJ at Game Exchange in Colorado for offering to help out a pin-head in another country when the local distributor blocked Stern's efforts to help the customer. You guys are truly great for pinball!

C'mon Stern! Give Tommy at Nitro a distribution agreement!

#47 11 months ago

I have had some decent experiences with starburst, but over the past couple years has gone way downhill and become a shit show of a store. The mark-up due to monopolized distribution is absurd and even in the parts department things have become catastrophic.

While Doug in parts has always been great and helpful with everything, I have turned away and given up on price of goods alone.

For example, I was once in need of a coil for my spiderman, I went to get it at starburst beacsue it was easy and local. I was offered a stern replacement for an absurd amount (like $38 or something), meanwhile it was on Marcos for $9.99. that exchange rate blew me away. Literally. Just took a step back.

Ended up buying the same coil, unbranded (so no branded paper sleeve) for $12.

Was just sad to see the mark-up so astronomical that it becomes useless to even ask.

#48 11 months ago

Not to mention, if they send out a service rep, they strictly use stern official parts without any consent of the customer and charge up the ass for it too.

1 month later
#49 9 months ago

Time to revisit this heap.

It has become the new ruling that starburst is no longer open on weekends.

A company that sells leisure items is not longer open during leisure days.

If you want a pin, or pool table, or jukebox, or whatever may tickle your fancy; you now have to go during regular daytime business hours.

Seems like a piss poor plan, as most of us are at work and want to come see and play at the very least on a Saturday

#50 9 months ago

I was talking with a sales man a while ago, he said that their moving in the spring to a new location. The new location won't have any (or very few) pins on display to try out.

So, if your planning on trying out a game before forking over $10k, your shit outta luck. How do they plan on selling these games?

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