What do all of Smith Enterprise, Inc.'s angry and dissatisfied customers have in common?

The Saga of LFOD1776

Below is our record of the exchange between LFOD1776 and Smith Enterprise, Inc. as it originally transpired on The M14 Firing Line Forum:

09.14.2007 LFOD1776 relays the abuse he has suffered at SEI's hands.
09.18.2007 Ron Smith is sufficiently worried to put together a response.
09.19.2007 LFOD1776 presents very specific evidence contradicting SEI's counterclaims.
09.19.2007 Finally LFOD1776 presents audio evidence in the form of messages Ron Smith left on his voicemail.

At 2:46PM, 09-14-2007, LFOD1776 wrote:

Smith Enterprise

I just concluded a very negative transaction with SEI.

I’ll just introduce my problem by quoting an email I sent to them on September 4th:

Hello Ron,

I am sending you this email because I still have not heard back from you regarding a Vortex flash-hider for which I have been charged, but that was not included with my rifle when it was returned to me.

If you will recall, we originally discussed my sending in my rifle (an LRB M25, serial number 10102) on July 31st for trigger modification and gas system upgrades. After you received the rifle, we spoke on the phone on August 7th and created a work order consisting of the deluxe version of your trigger work, and a complete SEI heat-treated gas system. I asked if you would return my original gas piston, resulting in a $10 surcharge.

I explained that my interest in these modifications was to improve accuracy. You were concerned about my barrel, noting tool marks that you saw in the chamber. We decided that you would test-fire the rifle for accuracy at my expense after performing the trigger and gas system work, and you asked me to ship two boxes of my ammunition to you for the testing. If accuracy turned out to be unacceptable, we would discuss installing a new barrel at that time.

I next heard from you on August 16th. You apparently forgot about our last conversation, having already tested the rifle using 168gr Sierra match ammunition and gotten good accuracy. At that time I asked you to add a Vortex flash-hider and SEI bipod to the order, and ship the rifle back to me on the 24th, as I was going to be away from home on business. I asked you if you thought that the castle-nut style flash hider had any disadvantages (particularly, any accuracy-related problems) compared to the direct-connect style apart from the ability to connect a silencer. You thought they were comparable, so I opted for the castle nut style, in order to save myself from having to get a new gas lock.

I heard from you again on the 24th when my ammunition arrived at your shop. Again, you had completely forgotten our previous conversation. I recounted it to you and again explained that I would like a castle-nut flash hider and bipod. You quoted my total as $996, and said that you'd ship my rifle as soon as you verified that it had been packed with those two items.

My rifle arrived on August 29th, and there was no Vortex flash hider. There was also no packing slip or invoice. The packaging and rifle case were both in good condition, and my original birdcage-style flash hider was installed on the rifle. I called you and you said that I was charged for a direct-connect, not a castle-nut flash hider, and that you’d get back to me after figuring out what had happened. I called again that evening and spoke with Mike, who said that the consensus in the office was that I was lying about it. He suggested I try calling again on Friday when things had "blown over". Let me say that this did not sit well with me one bit.

So, I called again on the 31st, but got the machine and left a message. I called again today, and was told very tersely that you’d call me.

I have attached copies of our correspondence, as well as a photo of my rifle that I took yesterday, so that you can see there is no Vortex flash hider on it. Still you have not called me. I must assume that you do indeed think I am lying, but why on earth you would suppose that I'd send you a $3000 rifle and ask for nearly $1000 of work, only to lie about getting a $100 part, is beyond my imagining. Frankly, I have wasted far too much of my own time simply writing this letter, and I find your distinctive brand of “customer service” to be unacceptable.

I insist that you either send me the castle nut flash hider that I paid for (and feel free to enclose with it the $40 worth of ammunition that I sent you, apparently for no reason), or keep my ammunition and refund the money for the flash hider to my credit card. I would also like an itemized invoice of the work that you performed on my rifle for my records.

If I still have not heard from you by the time I receive my statement, I will contest a $100 portion of the charge through Mastercard. In that case, I will post this record of my experience with you at the M14 Firing Line website.

SEI actually DID send me the flash hider; I have a saved voicemail from Ron himself saying something to the effect that “even though our records show that you already have the flash hider, we’re going to ship this to you anyway”. But a few days later (today), I got this email from them:

Ron did not research this enough. He didn't have the okay to send this to you without charging your credit card. I will be charging your card for $100.00 plus $10.00 for shipping USPS.


The heck she will! I filed a complaint with the BBB of Arizona, included our case number in my reply, and asked that they work through our mediator. Ron called me personally to spew expletives. I hope that made him feel good about himself.

I know that a lot of you swear by SEI and think that they’re great. I will admit that the work they did on my LRB was first-rate. But their customer service is abysmal, and Ron’s attitude is frankly insufferable. When this war ends, he’s going to have a really hard time earning a living.

Life's too short to deal with this kind of "service". My advice is to steer clear.

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At 11:27PM, 09-18-2007, Smith Enterprise, Inc. wrote:

We were out of town doing some testing and just found out about this thread. It is time to step in and say a few things. We usually do not respond in public forums, however this case approaches business slander. For all members of the retail community, this is a classic example of why businesses are more reluctant to trust customers. It has nothing to do with you but has to do with a few bad examples.

In this case, Mr. LFOD1776 accuses Smith Enterprise of various bad practices and acts. We re responding to set the record straight.

First, for those of you who believe that nearly $1000 is a lot to pay for just a trigger job, please note that Mr. LFOD1776 actually received a trigger job, modified gas cylinder and bipod as well. Also, when we modify a gas cylinder and piston, the price we charge is for exchanged parts. If the customer wishes to retain his or her original parts, there is an exchange fee of $35. In an attempt to help Mr. LFOD1776 out, we only charged $10.

Also, SEI is a very busy place which receives hundreds of telephone calls every day, yes including weekends. Assuming LFOD1776's dates are correct, that makes at least 900 different conversations between his call on the 7th and the one on the 16th. Again, between the 16th and the 24th, that is at least another 800 conversations. As any customer should know, it is entirely unreasonable for any business to remember all details of a customer’s call given these numbers. It is polite to remind teh business the reason and subject of your call. I do note that according to his own “letter” we did, indeed, communicate promptly with Mr. LFOD1776 promptly.

Concerning this “e-mail” which is attached, no such e-mail was ever received by SEI during this entire exchange.

When we completed the work on the rifle, two different people checked and verified the order prior to shipping. The rifle had the DC Vortex® installed. We never ship rifles with work orders or packing slips.

When we asked Mr. LFOD1776 if he wanted us to return the ammo to him, he said no.

When Mr. LFOD1776 spoke with our employee, that employee never said he was lying but simply that he was mistaken. There is a big difference in the two. He indicated that we were going to look into this, not wait for things to "blow over." This is an entirely different conversation that what Mr. LFOD1886 relates in his rant here.

Now, on to the flash hider question. After discussing what flash hider was best for his application, Mr. LFOD1776 decided on a Direct Connect Vortex®. That flash hider was paid for with a credit card to the amount of $75.00.

Later, Mr. LFOD1776 called back and ordered the castle nut version in addition to the DC version. When asked, he indicated that he had already paid for it. Against our better judgement, we shipped it in an attempt to work with this customer. When we discovered that it had not been paid for, we notified him that we would be charging your card. Mr. LFOD1776's 7 September invoice shows a credit card transaction #039200 of $75 for the first DC Vortex®. We show no other payment for teh castle nut Vortex®.

When we contacted Mr. LFDO1776 asking whether he received the second Vortex®, he responded “Thanks, I got it. By the way, I have notified the Better Business Bureau.” Nice guy.

Now, this is the very interesting part. Mr. LFOD1776 admits that he received the second Vortex® and he states that he stopped the credit card payment for that item. BUT HE HAS NOT RETURNED THE SECOND VORTEX®. Taking merchandise without payment is theft. So to answer your own question, Mr. LFOD1776, you ARE stealing from SEI. PLEASE RETURN IT OR PAY FOR IT!

For all members of this forum who have expressed opinions, we remind you that there are two sides to every story and that sour grapes can take many forms. Please refrain from making reckless statements if you do not have all the fact. Thank you.

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At 10:14AM, 09-19-2007, LFOD1776 wrote:

I am so glad that SEI responded!

Now you can all see for yourselves the kind of intransigence I've been dealing with! I will address the most outrageous of the mistruths, and present evidence to support my case.

Smith Enterprise, Inc. wrote:

As any customer should know, it is entirely unreasonable for any business to remember all details of a customer’s call given these numbers. It is polite to remind teh business the reason and subject of your call.

Perhaps it might be a good policy, when a customer calls, to take out a pen and some paper, take notes, and then attach the notes to the appropriate work order at the end of the conversation. It hardly takes an MBA to figure that out!

Smith Enterprise, Inc. wrote:

Concerning this “e-mail” which is attached, no such e-mail was ever received by SEI during this entire exchange.

I suppose I am lying about this too? Apparently everyone at SEI has access to their solitary email address. I can hardly be blamed for their inability to use such a simple and commonplace technology.

Smith Enterprise, Inc. wrote:

When we completed the work on the rifle, two different people checked and verified the order prior to shipping. The rifle had the DC Vortex® installed.

Pray tell, if my rifle was shipped with a DC Vortex flash-hider installed, then please tell me WHAT AM I DOING WITH THIS?!

It's the same flash-hider that you can clearly see on my M25 in this photo taken on September 1st (which incidentally is the same photo that I attached with the email I sent to SEI, in my original post), with the US Optics scope I bought at a gun show in Concord that same day (and clearly after the rifle arrived back at my home):

This next photo, which I just took this evening, shows the flash hider that SEI wants me to return attached to my M25. You'll also see a lugged birdcage flash-hider attached to my Springfield. (You can also see the SEI bipod attached to the Springfield, where I decided to put it, and a GG&G bipod attached to the M25).

Smith Enterprise, Inc. wrote:

Mr. LFOD1776's 7 September invoice shows a credit card transaction #039200 of $75 for the first DC Vortex®. We show no other payment for teh castle nut Vortex®.

Never mind the fact that only a fool would order a direct-connect flash-hider and not also order a new gas lock to accommodate a front sight. Although the transaction number on the slip that was enclosed with my rifle is indeed #039200, it was for the total $996 amount. Like the man said, it's not their policy to itemize a bill. In fact, here is a photo of my credit card statement:

I do not normally post photographs of my credit card statements on the Internet for all to see, but this is clearly an exceptional case!

Why would I go through all this trouble, including filing a complaint with the BBB, just so that I could steal a stupid little flash hider from a compete jerk?! You're welcome to visit my firearms website and see for yourselves if I might be the kind of person who would do this! I'll tell you all what, if Ron Smith publicly apologizes to me for SEI's unconscionable customer service in this public forum, then I will donate $100 to the NRA on his behalf. What do you all say to that?

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At 05:42PM, 09-19-2007, LFOD1776 wrote:

Hear Ron Smith in his own words!

I found myself sufficiently motivated to actually convert Ron's two voice mail messages into MP3 files. I am making them available for all to hear.

Here is Ron's voicemail to me on September 11th, where he clearly says that even though they think they already sent me the Vortex, they're going to go ahead and send one because I said I never got it. Listen closely, because he says the part number they were supposed to send me originally, which is 2002V (the part number for the DC Vortex is 2000V):

mp3September 11th, 2007

And here is the message where I learn that apparently Sonja watched me unpack the rifle in my home and saw me steal the flash hider! If I'd never gotten this voice mail, and the accompanying email message, I would never have started this feedback thread at all.

mp3September 14th, 2007


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They all did business with Smith Enterprise, Inc.

Ron Smith