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Your Reviewer

My Credentials
So who's doing this reviewing then?

Well I've been building and flying or driving radio controlled models for over 40 years and during that time I like to think I've built up a reasonable amount of knowledge.

I'm also a qualified electronics engineer who has worked in radio frequency, analog, digital systems and software for more than three decades. In fact I designed and built my first RC set back in 1969.

For the past nine years I've also been involved in the design and manufacture of some rather sophisticated engine technology and UAV flight control systems.

So, chances are I've been there, done that and have a huge pile of tee shirts to prove it.

Right now I'm heavily into 3D flying and enjoy all aspects of the RC hobby. I may be old but I don't feel it.

In the Pipeline

Here's just a little bit of what's to come on this site...

RC explained: Demystifying terms such as PCM, PPM dual conversion, single conversion, full-range etc., this feature will explain it all.

Cheap Chinese Engines: Just how good are those cheap Chinese glow and gas engines that sell for half the price of their "brand-name" equivalent? I put several to the test.

Build your own radio gear?: Back in the old days, building your own RC gear was not uncommon and now the arrival of 2.4GHz has made it practical again.


Review: Hobby King's Customer Service

Is that egg on my face? I think so!


Updated: 31 Jul 2010

On the 23rd of July, I ordered several items from HobbyKing. Here's a copy of the order:

HK invoice, click to expand

The box containing my order was delivered to my door on July 28th, a total of just four working days. That's pretty good, I was impressed.

The main part of the order was a small ARF F-16 EDF model which I planned to review for readers.

Thanks to plenty of packing, the box containing the ARF arrived in perfect condition so I opened it up to see what was inside. The first thing I did was check off the contents against the list of parts given in the instructions.

It immediately became apparent that an important part of this ARF was missing -- the cockpit/canopy (part number 6 in the instructions). It was simply missing, full stop.

Now obviously a scale model with no canopy/cockpit is far from a joy to own and, to make matters worse, this is also the piece that secures the battery in place so to fly without it risks disaster.

Unless they robbed the cockpit out of this box for another customer, I can't blame HobbyKing for the missing part, it may well have been left out by the ARF manufacturer.

Never the less, HobbyKing took the money and should have shipped a complete ARF, not just 9/10ths of a kit that really can't be used without the missing piece. So let's see just how good their customer support is. What follows is a documentation of the process required to get a replacement cockpit for this model.

If HobbyKing's customer support is worthy of the name, they will send the missing part at their own cost straight away. That's what good companies do when they fail to deliver what's promised.

Bookmark this page, I'll document every step of the process so you can see what might happen if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

  • 3pm, Jul 30, 2010 (NZST)

    Notification of the missing part and a request for replacement was sent to HobbyKing's customer service email address.

  • 3:05pm

    An automated reply was received advising: "Please note we are experiencing delays in email reply's [sic] due to a server error. Please allow 48-72hrs for a reply"

  • 5:51pm

    An email was received from "Joey" asking for pictures of all the parts from the order, including packing materials and their weight.

    Now I gather this is HK's way of trying to work out if a part was missed out by comparing the actual weight of the consignment to the projected weight. In this case however, it's pointless. The whole package weighed 2.1Kg and the EPP canopy plus lightweight blown PET bubble likely weigh under 10 grams. The box itself could have absorbed more than 10g of water since it was dispatched. Also, since this isn't a packing error on HK's part, this process, in this case, appears a little pointless and capable of proving nothing.

  • 7:15pm

    I email them back, requesting that they simply replace the missing part and explain that the whole weighing, photographing process will be a waste of time, showing only the parts I did receive and not the parts that are missing. Besides which, to HK, the ARF is a sealed box, a single "unit" that was delivered -- it was simply faulty due to a missing component.

  • 9:15pm

    I received an email from someone who had also bought the ARF involved (SkyAngel F15). They said:

    "I ordered and received the plane in the first batch HK had a few months ago. I thought they missed on the canopy and was very unhappy having had a few other misses on orders with them. Later in the evening while packing the plane up thinking that I would not see a replacement part for a long time, the canopy fell out of the air intake under the plane...."

  • 3:15pm, Saturday 31 July

    I went back to the workshop and checked inside the intake duct of the F16 ARF. There was something there -- deep inside. After some fiddling and digging around... success! The missing cockpit hatch/canopy was tucked right up inside the fuselage, jammed against the EDF unit. (I bet that would have sounded great if I'd assembled the model and powered it up anyway).

  • 4:30pm

    After wiping the egg from my face, I returned home and dashed an email off to HK's customer support thanking them for their time and consideration and fessing up to having located the missing part -- albeit not without the help of a kind third party. And, to be fair, I had looked in the intake before but not seen the missing part because it was way-up inside.

Case closed.

So there you have it -- I could have just kept my mouth shut and pretended that the canopy was still missing but here at RCModelReviews I pride myself on delivering the honest facts, whether they're flattering or not and that policy also includes fessing up if/when I stuff up because after all, I am human.

So, this won't be a review of HobbyKing's customer support after all but it is a great example of how the SkyAngel company could perhaps improve their instructions or wrap the canopy separately to the fuselage so that it doesn't disappear up the air intake to such an extent that it effectively vanishes.

Now I will crawl away and eat humble pie while working on other reviews where perhaps I won't make such a fool of myself.

As I always say: RCModelReviews -- just the facts. Nobody gets special treatment around here, not even me when I slip up.

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