Banana Hobby...the good, the bad, the frustrating
There are thread of this sort either praising or lambasting Banana hobby at least once a week. Since I have some experience with them, both good and bad, I figured I'd give my two cents for those still sitting on the fence, and Banana Hobby management who monitor the forum.
First off I have to say that for all the numerous times I've called, I've never had to be on hold for longer than five minutes. The representatives were always generally courteous. And though they didn't have the great technical knowledge on the product, I never had to wait long to eventually get my question answered.
Continuing with the "good," the production values of your review videos is nothing short of excellent. The general performance of everything I've purchased is similar to what is shown (apart from Pete's flying skills), so I can't be count among those who think the product is modified from stock to give a better showing (unless of course stated by Pete). One thing you might consider doing is moving to a different flying field to film. Since Nitroplanes also films at that location, it leads a perspective buyer to think you are related companies, which can affect reputation (positively or negatively).
Lastly, I think your prices are generally fair. Mostly, I appreciate that fact that they don't fluctuate up or down on a regular basis (like your competitor Nitroplanes). If but for you, I'd probably never get into EDFs due to the expense. In the same vein I like the performance value of your batteries and I am slowly converting my entire fleet to that standard.
But enough of the fluff piece. I'll say this straight, and I can't emphasize this enough, your company is not suited for the beginner or uniformed. Several complicated aircraft are listed as "Good for beginners!" when they are anything but. The documentation for building and essential items like CG are either...lacking, flat out missing, or just wrong. None of that is really Banana Hobbies fault per se, the manufacture produces those items, but it is something to keep in mind. For every aircraft I bought, there was something I needed to "figure out myself." The return policy, while I think it is fair, is also very limited. I recommend any buyer to test EVERY component before assembly. Banana even includes instructions in the box telling same. Because after you build it, it's yours.
The worst aspect of Banana Hobby, however, is the shipping department and general "processing." It has taken roughly two to three business days for any of my orders to ship. Banana is the slowest company I've ever dealt with with regards to order placed to shipping label produced. Seriously, if you need something quickly you're better off having a vivid dream of what you want to buy.
When the shipping department actually ships they package well. I have little to no complaints about that, but the time it takes is once again ridiculous. This is doubly so for return orders. Now Banana says when you order it can take several business days to process and up to 14 days to process a return, however, I don't see why it takes so long.
For a bit of the more frustrating aspects of Banana Hobby, it has always been about 50/50 if they'd contact me when they said they would. I don't get the impression that I was ever getting blown off, but having to follow up myself when they said they would was...annoying. I would like if Banana would put a live chat service on their website like most of their competitors. Your documentation both on the website and in writing for every order I've received made reference to it, but no such service exists. Another thing involving communication is that I've signed up for your newsletter multiple times, but have yet to ever receive anything. Announcements on facebook are nice for those who use it, I don't, but I think you're severely under using some of the other relatively cheap marketing avenues available to you. Which brings me to sales. You don't need to run them all the time. However, it is difficult to time my buys without some sort of regular period to expect some sort of discount. Frankly, the free shipping over the summer was one of the better sales I've seen. Don't know how expensive it was for you to run, but I definitely spent more just to qualify for it. I like the idea of the rewards points (even if the amounts given were rather miserly), but since it was only for a limited time "who cares."
So in short for the people that don't want to read my book (sorry for the length). Banana can work well for you if you know what you want/research the product here or on other forums. If you expect to pay what you're paying and have everything work flawlessly out of the box, with Banana responding promptly to any problem or issue no matter how minor...well no. Banana is like most of the high volume low margin merchants I've dealt with. The product is the product, good or bad (and Banana really does have some winners), the service is the bare essentials; nice reps, slow to respond, limited liability. If you expect anything more, shop at a more expensive company.
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