TUS/HMS Communication Issue Resolved by Andrew

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aaronkb

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Update: Andrew from TUS replied here, took ownership of the situation and apologized. I feel a hell of a lot better, and TUS is back at the top of my list - the negative experience has been addressed, and I’ve had several very positive ones.

As for this debacle of a thread, we should think about how we treat each other. Multiple people PM’d me lengthy messages of support that they weren’t willing to post publicly. A lot of people in this thread were thoughtful in their disagreement, but some attitudes were downright toxic. The amount of bitterness and hostility is insane.


Hi everyone,

I’ve recently had a bizarre and honestly really hurtful experience with TUS, which has always been my favorite shop. I’m posting for multiple reasons: I’d really love to a) get some validation that you’d be upset too, or b) get some outside perspectives that might change my mind and make me think about it differently if you think I’m wrong. I’d also be thrilled if this prompts them to respond and offer some kind of explanation, since I’ve been unable to get one on my own.

The tl;dr version is that they inexplicably excluded my entry from their contest, read and ignored my polite message asking about it, and read and ignored a follow-up message after that.

Ok, buckle up…

I’m sure many of you saw their recent 30-second instrumental contest on Instagram. They invitedthe community to post reels/stories of instrumentals, which they then reposted in a story (every entry) on their own page and then selected finalists from there.

I was really excited to enter, and got more excited watching their story every day and seeing everyone else’s amazing entries. I worked hard to condense my version of Cherry Wine by Hozier into something that felt complete in 30 seconds, practiced a ton so I wouldn’t accidentally play it my usual way, and went outside with my patient and supportive girlfriend to record a ton of takes. I sorted through all of them and managed to trim a handful down to exactly 30s. I sent my favorites to my parents, who are both musicians (my dad was my original guitar teacher), and they helped me pick the best one. Finally I posted it on my Insta and reposted it to my story, tagging TUS both times. Here it is if anyone’s curious. I’m pretty proud of it, despite what followed.

I posted it on the last day before the deadline and they “liked” it from their official account, so I figured I was good. When I tagged them in the reel Insta automatically sent it to them in chat, and when I posted it to my story Insta automatically sent it to them in chat a second time. I deleted the second from chat bc it was redundant. I added the following message: “Thanks for running this competition, I’ve loved hearing all the other entrees. And Andrew, thanks again for helping me pick out this uke! I love it.” As you can see, I was feeling very positive toward TUS, Andrew, and the contest.

I kept waiting to see it on their story which I was really excited to be part of, but it didn’t appear. I didn’t wanna nag or hassle, and I trusted that everything was ok since they’d liked it. Maybe they were just staggering the entries, and they never necessarily said that they’d have them all posted by the deadline.

I woke up the next morning and checked their story first thing, and discovered that my entry still wasn’t there but the latest story posts were announcing the ten finalists. I was confused. Why was my entry left out of the story, and had my entry even been considered in the contest?

At this point I was bummed and confused but not at all angry. I’m in a position of leadership at work and always remind my people that “mistakes happen.” I never get angry over an honest mistake. I sent them the following message: “Just wanted to make sure, did my entry make it into the contest? I never saw it in the story” followed by a half-frown emoji. Instagram indicated that my message was read almost immediately, but nobody replied. I couldn’t understand why my question didn’t merit some type of response, whatever the answer.

I got progressively more upset about them leaving me on “read” while I waited for any kind of response. Had they not read it I would have understood and been patient, but I couldn’t fathom why anyone would read a message like that and not feel the person on the other end deserved some kind of answer.

After waiting a day and a half I was VERY upset. I sent the following message:

“So it’s been a bit….

I’m not asking for special treatment. I don’t care about winning, the finalists you chose were awesome. But it feels really, really crappy to be super excited about being part of this awesome collection of uke instrumentals, work hard on a unique arrangement just for this, record tons of takes and choose/edit the best one, and put myself out there only to not be included in the story that was meant to be all of the participants and then be ignored when I asked about it.

It would have been so easy to respond, to acknowledge my question in some way, to go back and add my entry to the story at least…. But instead I’m left on read with no response and in the humiliating position of begging to be part of something I was really excited to enter.

Again, I don’t care about winning or not. I was just really excited to participate in this, and not only was my entry not included in the story, I was ignored when I asked a question about it. It sucks.”

I followed this with, “I’ve always really loved HMS and TUS but idk how to feel about all that”

I want to emphasize that while I was very direct about my experience and what I was feeling, I was careful not to attack or insult them or their character in any way. There was no ad hominem, no name-calling, no criticism, not a single bad word. I wanted to express myself fully but in a way that was civil and reasonable, and that would leave the door open for a reply.

Once again, my message showed as being read almost immediately. No reply.

At this point I was extremely hurt. These were people I had admired in the community. I had bought instruments from them, interacted with them about my purchases, I’d watched a ton of their videos, I thought it was so cool of them to run this contest, I expressed that to them…. And they saw my entry, excluded my entry from the compilation story, read and ignored my reasonable message asking about it, and read and ignored my message expressing how hurtful that all was. This was the first time I had really put myself out there in the community, and that was my experience.

Before I was willing to say anything or call them out publicly, it was important to me to make sure there wasn’t some kind of explanation; maybe there was a third party or new employee running their IG account for them. Three days after sending my last message on IG, I sent the following email to their support address, with “social media questipn” (yes, including the typo) as the subject line:

“Hello,
I was just wondering how you manage your Instagram - is there someone who’s responsible for reading and replying to messages?

Thanks,
Aaron”

At this point I was starting to feel like a deranged ex, and I knew this would be my last communication to them because it was getting embarrassing. No one responded, which tells me that either the same person in charge of their IG also filters their emails or the whole team was on the same page.

The email was sent on 4/27, over a week and a half ago. My first IG message asking about the situation was sent early on 4/23, more than two weeks ago. The follow-up message was sent on 4/24, also more than two weeks ago.

So where did I go wrong? Why did I deserve to be excluded, brushed off and ignored after being so excited and grateful to participate? Here are a few of my thoughts on possible explanations, none of which make sense:

-this section of random theories edited out to make room for update. Most of them came down to a) why wouldn’t they double check an assumption or b) why couldn’t they just tell me a reason.

So if you made it this far and I haven’t lost you yet, I’d love your take. Is it reasonable or unreasonable for me to be upset? How would you have felt? How would you have handled it? Can you think of a reasonable explanation for their behavior?

I know this has only been one side of the story. I’d love to know theirs, but they refuse to tell me.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
Aaron

My contest entry
Screenshots of DMs and Email
 
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rainbow21

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I read your post and saw your video, which is very good.

I cannot speak to why HMS has not responded, though my inherent understanding and experience with HMS and other ukulele sellers is that they are not very responsive to emails (perhaps Instagram even moreso). I have friends who are equally bad and it is hard to comprehend why, especially since some of them work for tech companies and are comfortable with that as a communication tool (and they are bad at texting too).

So understanding that they are not good at email, I have used the phone to deal with them. This has worked well (you can even call and ask if they could read your email that you will resend under the title... ________ (fill in the blank here)).

I hope you get the satisfaction you seek. Being unhappy and swearing off a positive relationship with them makes it worse for both. Good luck!
 

aaronkb

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I read your post and saw your video, which is very good.

I cannot speak to why HMS has not responded, though my inherent understanding and experience with HMS and other ukulele sellers is that they are not very responsive to emails (perhaps Instagram even moreso). I have friends who are equally bad and it is hard to comprehend why, especially since some of them work for tech companies and are comfortable with that as a communication tool (and they are bad at texting too).

So understanding that they are not good at email, I have used the phone to deal with them. This has worked well (you can even call and ask if they could read your email that you will resend under the title... ________ (fill in the blank here)).

I hope you get the satisfaction you seek. Being unhappy and swearing off a positive relationship with them makes it worse for both. Good luck!
Thanks, I really appreciate you reading through all that and giving thoughtful feedback. I did think about calling at one point but I already felt so weird about the whole thing and I suppose I chickened out. I probably should have, though.

I’ll feel bad if it turns out to just be poor communication, although it’d make a lot more sense to me if they hadn’t read my DMs.
 
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bearly_enough

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It was just a contest. Most times entries are based on someone's opinion and maybe they just thought it wasn't up to their standards. I think it is unreasonable to be that upset.
 

aaronkb

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It was just a contest. Most times entries are based on someone's opinion and maybe they just thought it wasn't up to their standards. I think it is unreasonable to be that upset.
Can you please summarize what I said I was and wasn’t upset about?

The story I’m referring to that I wasn’t included in wasn’t limited to finalists or semifinalists or anything of the sort. It was all entries, across a broad range of skill levels.
 
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DuckyI

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Respectfully, I think you’ve put too much thought into this. You worked hard for something, and were hoping for validation and recognition for it but it didn’t quite arrive. These things happen. You’re clearly a talented musician, focus on the things you want to achieve with that and enjoy the journey. Some nice things will come out of it. I’d let this one go.
 

aaronkb

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Respectfully, I think you’ve put too much thought into this. You worked hard for something, and were hoping for validation and recognition for it but it didn’t quite arrive. These things happen. You’re clearly a talented musician, focus on the things you want to achieve with that and enjoy the journey. Some nice things will come out of it. I’d let this one go.
Thanks, I appreciate your take.
 

John Colter

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Your response to this situation strikes me as unreasonably agitated and intense. That competition was just supposed to be a bit of fun, wasn't it? This is not good for you. My advice would be to get it into perspective, then move on and concentrate on the more positive things happening in your life.
 

aaronkb

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Your response to this situation strikes me as unreasonably agitated and intense. That competition was just supposed to be a bit of fun, wasn't it? This is not good for you. My advice would be to get it into perspective, then move on and concentrate on the more positive things happening in your life.
It’s not the contest itself, I think - like I said, I don’t care about winning or being a finalist. It was the idea of showing up to something that’s supposed to be a bit of fun, being greeted and then not being let through the door with no explanation. It’s like showing up to a public party and a bouncer silently blocks you from entering while he high-fives everyone else on their way in.

But I do appreciate your respectful honesty and the advice to move on.
 

TheBathBird

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I can completely understand why this has upset you, after you worked so hard on your video and were understandably excited about being part of the competition. But I also think you probably need to put it behind you now and move on. I know myself how easy it is to be eaten up by life’s little injustices, but at the end of the day it’s not important enough to be worth extra stress in your life.

As for the read receipts, is it possible that if someone leaves their Instagram open on messages it could show as “read” even though nobody has actually properly looked at it? Just a thought.
 

aaronkb

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I can completely understand why this has upset you, after you worked so hard on your video and were understandably excited about being part of the competition. But I also think you probably need to put it behind you now and move on. I know myself how easy it is to be eaten up by life’s little injustices, but at the end of the day it’s not important enough to be worth extra stress in your life.

As for the read receipts, is it possible that if someone leaves their Instagram open on messages it could show as “read” even though nobody has actually properly looked at it? Just a thought.
Sage advice, thank you for that as well as the understanding.

I don’t think that’s what happened with the read receipts, as they’d have had to have that specific chat open and it didn’t happen the exact moment I sent it - when I said almost immediately, i might have given the wrong idea. I’d say it was within 20-30 mins that it showed as read.
 

Rakelele

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The folks at HMS/TUS are great and they have a professional approach to many aspects of their business such as their videos and photos, but communication is not their strongest skill, and their contests reflect that. They want them to be fun without overthinking the system, and I assume they don't expect the participants going through such an amount of preparation as well. There is no further subtext to them not reacting to your messages. As others have mentioned, they have a better response via phone.
 

Brad Bordessa

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One more vote for "you're overthinking it". It's good to remember that everyone's perceptive of a situation is different. Andrew never emails me back. Not because he doesn't care. I know he does. It's just that he and his team have a million more important things to do than answer emails that aren't directly tied with paying the bills.
 

kaimuki

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To us , Andrew and crew may seem like Ukulele gods , but they're only human .

This is clearly posted at the top of their website :

If you have questions or need any assistance our phone lines are open Monday - Friday from 9am-5pm HST (808)622-8000

I think you should have called them before posting .
I would still call them to find out what happened .

And there's always the next contest ...
 

aaronkb

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One more vote for "you're overthinking it". It's good to remember that everyone's perceptive of a situation is different. Andrew never emails me back. Not because he doesn't care. I know he does. It's just that he and his team have a million more important things to do than answer emails that aren't directly tied with paying the bills.
The folks at HMS/TUS are great and they have a professional approach to many aspects of their business such as their videos and photos, but communication is not their strongest skill, and their contests reflect that. They want them to be fun without overthinking the system, and I assume they don't expect the participants going through such an amount of preparation as well. There is no further subtext to them not reacting to your messages. As others have mentioned, they have a better response via phone.
To us , Andrew and crew may seem like Ukulele gods , but they're only human .

This is clearly posted at the top of their website :

If you have questions or need any assistance our phone lines are open Monday - Friday from 9am-5pm HST (808)622-8000

I think you should have called them before posting .
I would still call them to find out what happened .

And there's always the next contest ...
Ok, you all have me seriously considering calling despite how embarrassed I’d be to reach out again.

I’m curious though, what do y’all make of the read receipts? I’d feel very differently in general, and including about calling, if it didn’t seem to me that they clearly saw my messages and chose not to respond.
 

kaimuki

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Ok, you all have me seriously considering calling despite how embarrassed I’d be to reach out again.

I’m curious though, what do y’all make of the read receipts? I’d feel very differently in general, and including about calling, if it didn’t seem to me that they clearly saw my messages and chose not to respond.
If you have questions or need any assistance our phone lines are open Monday - Friday from 9am-5pm HST (808)622-8000
 

Diedra

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As someone who relies on social media for my business. I can tell you replying to messages is EXHAUSTING.
If something doesn't look like it requires a reply, I won't.
If I then get a follow up message that seems a bit "off" I will just walk away as its not worth the drama most of the time.
Also they may have an admin doing their SM (I do too as it was killing my soul) so how they chose to respond(or not) is not necessarily a reflection on the company.

I absolutely understand the frustration and hurt but sometimes its just better for one's mind to just go "eh" and try again in the next competition.

If I were to receive slowly more annoyed DMs and then(an implied that it's gonna happen) phonecall honestly I'd be yikesing hard as it seems WAAAY too much investment and anguish in what was meant to be a simple and nice competition.
 

derbyhat

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Not only are you overreacting, but this post, where you’re hoping that community peer pressure will elicit a response, is downright childish.

Worse, if they do respond, you’re gonna second guess their intent: did they really apologize or are they doing it because it’s damage control?

personally, I’d close the thread and think hard about what you really want. Then go out and find more concrete ways to get that sort of validation.
 

aaronkb

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Not only are you overreacting, but this post, where you’re hoping that community peer pressure will elicit a response, is downright childish.

Worse, if they do respond, you’re gonna second guess their intent: did they really apologize or are they doing it because it’s damage control?

personally, I’d close the thread and think hard about what you really want. Then go out and find more concrete ways to get that sort of validation.
I mean what I wanted was just to be treated like every other community member who entered the contest, and not to be completely brushed off when I rightly wondered why that didn’t happen. I wanted to be part of something that I thought was really cool, and that was open to the public. I didn’t need anyone to say my entry was good or validate it in any way, other than to acknowledge that it (and I) existed.

If they were to respond to this with a generic apology I’d question it, but if they respond with an explanation of what went down and why I wasn’t treated like everyone else and was then ignored, I’d likely be satisfied whether or not it includes an apology. If you look over my initial post again, there was nowhere in it that I indicated I was looking for them to say sorry. I said I wanted to know what happened.
 

mjh42

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It's Instagram, social media, internet, technology........don't take it too seriously......find fulfillment elsewhere........it ain't a perfect world......
 
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