March 9, 2018

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KMC Responds to Sleeve Concerns

Image sourced from KMC USA Facebook page.

 

Over the last couple of years there’s been a lot of talk, at least in my local meta, about the quality of commonly found sleeves. Some players prefer Ultra-Pros, some prefer Dragon Shields, some prefer KMCs, and some even prefer specific lines like Eclipses without really supporting a particular brand overall.

Personally, I have had very little trouble with any sleeves. I’ve only rarely had sleeves split on me, and I’m particularly rough on my card sleeves when playing, taking cards out, and putting cards in. I’ve always been way more focused on the look and feel of the sleeves, for which I personally prefer Eclipses and Dragon Shields in a matte finish. I understand, though, that each person has their own preference.

But for about as long as I’ve known about card sleeves, people have touted KMCs as the leader in terms of quality. While opinions of other brands have been mixed, in my personal experience, I’ve heard the most positive opinions on KMC branded sleeves. That’s why they were among the first packs of sleeves I’ve ever bought.

So it came to me as a surprise when people have claimed that KMC branded sleeves have been on the decline in recent times when it comes to quality. Having enjoyed the quality and look and feel of those that I own, this opinion came at me from out of the blue. It was even shared by one of my friends in my local playgroup.

Well in a major case of transparency in the field of Magic the Gathering accessories, KMC has addressed the problem. This is their official statement regarding the matter, pulled straight from their Facebook page:

“After thorough research and consideration, we at KMC Sleeves USA, would like to provide information and clarification regarding the perceived quality issues with our sleeves in recent times; and issue an official statement elucidating our operations, in hopes that full transparency will help answer further questions and concerns.
Since 1995, we have supplied the United States card game community with the KMC sleeves they have grown to love. However, we are not the Japan-based KMC Corporation and thus do not manufacture the product. KMC Sleeves USA is an independent exclusively authorized importer of the KMC product. We purchase from the factory in Japan and sell the product to United States distributors and retailers. Through the years we have built a great relationship with the KMC manufacturing company in Japan and they have placed their trust in us ensure that their business thrives in the United States. We have strict quality control standards for the sleeves that we import into the US, as it is important that we consistently deliver a great product. When rumors of an ‘owner’ and/or ‘formula change’ began to surface accompanied by an increasing perception that the sleeve quality had diminished, we were genuinely concerned and confused. We had not received any complaints from our distributors or retail stores regarding the quality of our product, yet customers were claiming to notice a difference. We took this customer feedback to the factory in attempts to discover the source. After a thorough investigation of all products at the production level, we were able to identify that the Silver Hyper Mats had failed our quality control standards. As unfortunate as this was, we were relieved to have identified the problem and looked forward to reestablishing consumer confidence in the KMC product. However, it did not stop there as customers were still reporting that the product was not up to par.
More recently, and with the help of our supportive customers base, we were able to identify that over 90% of those who reported problems with our sleeves had purchased from overseas retailers on Amazon. Our investigation has found that a multitude of overseas sellers claiming to sell KMC product began heavily populating on Amazon circa 2015, such a timeline aligns with the perceived degradation of KMC product quality. It is vital that we clarify to all of our customers that KMC Sleeves USA does not supply these online, overseas retailers. As such, the quality control standards, product origin, and even product authenticity are unknown. Please be advised that we are now working closely with the KMC factory in Japan to discover the nature and authenticity of these overseas online sellers. However, as is the case with any brand, grey market andb-stock product will unfortunately make their way into consumer hands. With the advent of online retailers such as Amazon and eBay, it becomes a difficult task for us to eliminate and/or prevent all illegitimate sellers on the online marketplace. KMC Sleeves USA does not have an official seller’s account on Amazon or eBay at this time. If you have purchased product from these sites and are unhappy with the quality, we strongly encourage you to file a complaint and request for refund with that retailer on the grounds of receiving defective product. Since we do not supply these retailers, we do not stand behind their product and can provide no quality guarantees.
 
That being said, the best way for you, our customers, to know if you are purchasing the authentic KMC product you love is to purchase exclusively from United States retailers. We have strived for decades to bring you a quality product you can trust. Whenever you purchase from a United States retailer you can feel secure in knowing that we will back our product 100%.
 
We sincerely appreciate the continued support and hope this provides clarification and renewed confidence in KMC Sleeves USA.”

This looks like a supplier and buyer-beware issue when it comes to the quality of their product and that cheap knock-offs are more widespread of an issue when it comes to KMC products sold in North America. It’s still pretty nice to actually see a company in this industry address an issue directly without trying to make something else of it. It is well known that largely respected products do get knocked-off internationally and one of the larger ways they get sold is through e-commerce such as Amazon and eBay, so this seems like a fairly legitimate claim.

That being said, I don’t think anyone locally will have to change suppliers or methods in response to these statements because I’m fairly certain I’ve only ever purchased authentic product. I could be wrong, though. What do you think? What has your experience been with sleeves? What are your favourite brands? What about those sleeves make them your favourite? Let me know in the comments!