Based on feedback from my previous journal post, I decided to write a few lines dealing with what we, as simmers and virtual pilots, should expect from manufacturers and sellers. This post is more directed to those entering the hobby rather than experienced builders; those that have been in the 'game' long enough already know the 'do's and don'ts'.
In comparison to other more main-stream hobbies, flight simulation is relatively uncommon and specialized, and as with fishing, hiking, dog grooming and gardening, a plethora of companies have sprouted to supply the enthusiast with an assortment of “essential” add ons from panels and quadrants to books and magazines. Some manufacturers are large companies and others small “one man bands”.
It is unfortunate, that even in our small community; all potential buyers must be conversant with the term 'Caveat Emptor' meaning in Latin 'Let the buyer beware'. Nobody is immune from the unscrupulous seller whose only want is to remove the hard-earned cash from your wallet or pocket book.
Since beginning the development of the B737 simulation two years ago, I have come into contact with many companies and individuals; some respectable, reliable and very honest, and others that live in the silt, that swirls around in the bottom of the barrel.
The small number of 'bottom crawlers' (without being offensive towards trilobites and other invertebrates) include not only those that sell reproduction parts, but also those that sell real secondhand aviation parts. One seller of real aviation parts lists and shows a picture of one item on his website, however, dispatches a different lower quality item.
Do you have recourse - NO! Once you have parted company with your money it is is gone forever......
One theme common to many suppliers is the time it takes to supply a customer with their product. This is especially evident when commissioning manufacturers to produce and supply hardware associated items such as yokes, panels and the like.
LEFT: Main Instrument Panel (MIP), yokes and throttle unit. As stated later in this post, building a simulator is very much a detail activity. (click to view larger)
Suppliers always want their money up front and nearly always promise supply forthwith. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Any number of excuses are promulgated: I’m busy, too many orders, lack of staff, waiting on parts, postal service delays, sickness – and the worst of all - no contact despite e-mails being received..
This is not to say that all companies and individuals selling flight simulation products have a poor reputation; this would be incorrect. There are many sellers that provide first rate service that cannot be bettered. It is unfortunate that all businesses do not subscribe to this philosophy.
It is an easy task to “troll” through one of several flight simulation forums and read the common threads evident in many of the posts published by disgruntled customers. If a common theme is duplicated in several threads, such as: delay, problems, glitches, bad communication or minimal contact, then why expect your experience to be different.
"past experience is a prime indicator to future performance".
Do Not Accept the Risk
I think anyone who has been involved with the industry for any length of time, has a horror story to tell.
It ceases to amaze me that many potential buyers that have read the threads on the forum and asked the correct questions, still proceed with an order and send full payment to an unscrupulous company or individual. It is almost as if they want the product so badly that they are happy to accept the risk! Then, after they have been let-down they post their story to a forum.
Unfortunately, this behavior only goes to strengthen the resolve of the suppliers that continue to behave in this manner. If you look at the supplier’s point of view, why should they improve their performance if there is any number of purchasers willing to order and pay for something in advance.
There is no incentive to change!
The only way the supplier will alter their behavior is if you, the customer, alter your behavior.
I'm not suggesting that a vendor will "run" with your money, but there have been instances of vendors suffering financial problems which culminated in them liquidating their business. If you have paid in full before production occurs, and a financial problem develops, then retrieving your money will probably be difficult.
Before any purchase:
- Do your research. Know your product and know what you want for your set-up.
- Ask others regarding their experiences with a company or individual.
- Read the forums, learn to use the search functionality on each forum and contact members who use the same item you wish to purchase.
- Ask on a forum whether a manufacturer is reliable, prompt and does good work. Building a flight deck is a detail thing; it’s not hammer and nails mentality. Why employ someone who is not into detail...
- Try to only pay a deposit, despite being told otherwise.
- You are the customer and you have a right (obligation) to ask anything you want of a manufacturer.
- Secure an accurate time-line in writing to when an item will be supplied.
- Ask about a return policy should you not be happy with the items purchased.
- Finally, if the information you are told by several people is identical – then BELIEVE this information and don’t make the purchase.
Instead, contact the supplier and tell them your concerns and reasons why you will not be buying from them. Often when you do this, the supplier will alter their behavior to accommodate you. After all, they want your money!
Guidelines for purchasing real aviation parts
- If an item looks a bargain it generally isn't...
- Always check on return policy.
- Only purchase from E-Bay from sellers with a solid positive feedback rating.
- Pay via PayPal if possible as PayPal will provide buyer protection.
- If the advert states "not checked, unsure if working or similar", then expect the item will be broken.
- Assume nothing. Assumption is the "Mother" of all ClusterFucks". A "CluserFuck" is a military word meaning multiple problems (see definition a bottom of page).
- Pay a little more and purchase ONLY from reputable, reliable and honest dealers.
Have I been caught before – of course! Will I get caught again – not likely, hopefully not....
What are your thoughts on this subject?
The bnext post will deal with more aviation-minded business...
'CluserFuck' - Military term (mainly American) for an operation in which multiple things have gone wrong. Related to 'SNAFU' (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up") and 'FUBAR' (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair).
In radio communication or polite 'conversation (i.e. with a very senior officer with whom you have no prior experience) the term 'clusterfuck" will often be replaced by the NATO phonetic acronym 'Charlie Foxtrot'.