Sunday, December 11, 2022

Operating a business as if it were a hobby

I very rarely (if ever?) have anything negative to post about the hobby or the people involved in it; therefore, this posting will be an exception to the norm.

It's an all-too-common occurrence that:

Someone buys something - it's almost always from a QRP vendor - and then becomes the recipient, not of what they ordered, but of poor service.

I was reminded of that most recently by this description of another ham's order placed with QRP Guys.

"I purchased one of their 40-15m EFHW tuner kits with an SWR bridge built in, attempted to assemble the kit, found incorrect and missing parts, contacted them (took a few tries) only to get a short email back saying something like, "We got your email and will get back to you."

Never heard from them again, and never received the correct parts.

This was months ago..."

But my own story is also recent:

In October I ordered a RockMite and Tuna Tin 2 from Rex W1REX of QRPMe. After eight days I had yet to receive acknowledgment of my order, so I emailed Rex. He replied that he'll get to it in a few days and that he has "other chores" to do.

Yeah, don't we all.

A quick email saying, "I'm pretty backed-up at the moment but I've received your order and will get it out to you as soon as I'm caught up" would have gone a long way. But nada.

Eventually, one of the kits arrived missing a 20m crystal. So I emailed him again, this time to request a replacement, as he asks buyers to do in the instructions. No acknowledgement of that request either.

A week later I received the crystal and a handwritten note from Rex. He'd read my reporting of this on an eHam forum (here) and offered to "ease my pain" by providing a refund if I sent the kits back.

The kits were on their way back to Rex the very next day.

It's been two three four weeks now and still no refund. Fortunately, I paid through PayPal and will launch an official complaint through them.

I'm sorry to have ordered from QRPme. Lesson learned.

But, as I said - this is, oftentimes, par for the course - not just with QRPme and QRP Guys, but with others as well.

The standard refrain in defense of such (dis)service is, "We don't do this full time - we have jobs, family and a life outside of ham radio."

As if that's ample justification for being quick to accept money but slow to dispense what was paid for. If you're taking money, then your vendorship is also your job and should be treated accordingly. Anything less is disrespectful to your buyers.


UPDATE (20 Dec):

A PayPal dispute finally got the issue resolved on the order I placed in October.

Unable to be resolved person-person via email, the PP dispute made it happen in 3 hours. 

I'm still out $16 for shipping but consider it money well-spent in learning who not to deal with in the future.




  1. very good post

    It goes like this - someone has an idea and writes software or makes hardware to solve a problem they have - one of their friends sees it and say "great idea - you should sell that" - the $$$$ flash and away they go and write or makes something - then posts a story about it - gets some more interest - $$$ flash again - they can make money out of it - offers kits / software for sale etc - it goes well for a while - a few units sold then nothing.

    Frankly not many have made life changing $$ out of this hobby. So here are my tips

    1. If you write software be prepared for the support that is required - time - if you can't commit to this then make it GPL - post it on GitHub etc and at least give others the ability to generate a community support network and perhaps pickup some co-developers

    2. If you hold the source code for whatever reason - make sure that someone can access it if you go SK/Disabled/loose interest so they can post it to GitHub - I can't count the number of reasonably good projects that end with locked source code.

    If you design a PCB - post the files on GitHub etc or ensure that someone has access to them in the event of the above.

    2a. If you lose interest in the source code - make it GPL and post it on GitHub etc don't just go QRT and leave us all hanging

    The fact is (as above) there are very few who have made life changing $$ or a constant stream of $$ from this hobby

    If you fall behind on support then people will take to social media and criticise your service or product - rightfully or wrongfully.

    make it clear on your website that support is best efforts or not at all - but be honest. We all get it - most of us have a day job and we squeeze our hobby around our work and other commitments.

    1. "make it clear on your website that support is best efforts or not at all - but be honest. We all get it - most of us have a day job and we squeeze our hobby around our work and other commitments."

      This is it in a nutshell - be communicative. Sarcasm in response to valid inquiries of orders (or of acknowledgement of orders) is probably not a good business practice either.


  2. Good morning John, thanks for the piece and like you I have not run into to many issues when ordering items in our hobby. Like you I had one issue with a certain SDR radio (a rig you owned as well) it was not with the manufacturer but the distributor and how they handled things during a repair. Because of their actions or inaction, I sold the rig and want nothing to do with that radio again. Just like outside the ham world there are good and bad companies and individuals within those companies that cost them in the long run.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Yes, I remember that event and the company quite well. I was relieved when you finally got refunded (we both did!).


  3. Full time, part time, hobby, there is zero excuse for poor service and poor/non-existent communication.

    I don't remember the supplier now but a couple of years back I ordered a small kit from a business, and they had a perfectly acceptable statement on their order page that indicated "Regardless of when you place your order, it will not be packed for shipment until the following Saturday. Then, it will be shipped on the Monday after that." Perhaps not what we would like in these days of Amazon, but you knew before you ordered what to expect. I'm okay with that. The kit arrived at my door the following Wednesday after being shipped Monday by the way.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tim - we're on the same page regarding communication.

      And an update: Almost two weeks after my kits were returned, and received, according to tracking - still no refund from W1REX. I emailed him to ask if he's going to honor his offer and he replied that he's "received three notifications of packages needing to be picked up at his post office but hasn't gotten around to it yet and that maybe one of those packages is mine".

      One of those packages is mine, but he has other things to do than operate his business.

      UPDATE: The issue is now resolved and a refund has been issued. A PayPal dispute, filed this morning, did in 3 hours what couldn't be done in 4 weeks (since refund was promised) of email exchanges.