Where to buy a 3D plane
I trust 3DHS, EF, and PA all offer planes that fly well. If you're looking for value, HobbyKing also offers at least one plane that I thought flew well for the money, but it came with a longer delivery time, no spare parts, less than top shelf hardware (the included control arms weren't the best).
If I lived in Austrailia, I'd probably pick up a PA. For now, waiting for the reports of improvments in U.S. customer service to continue to come in.
And, for the sake of any vendors reading this: The best customer service is never having to contact you after I hit the confirm order button.
Automating shipping fulfillment with status update emails is one way to do this. If it is a busy time, and you're orders are taking a few days to fulfill, an automated email indicating the estimated ship date due to the backlog would go a long way toward having to field "where's my stuff" emails and phone calls.
The next best customer service is actually being able to get ahold of somebody who will address an issue without too much work on my part, too much work in either getting ahold of you and also in arranging for the photos, proving that I didn't buy it second hand, etc.
I view a vendor that trusts its customers as trustworthy. And I understand that new customers sometimes don't know that something that seems wrong really isn't. In this case, I really appreciate being educated in a friendly manner. You might lose some money on the one sale considering the cost of the support, but you'll probably make it up in future business and good will.
Also, I don't want to be a QA person.
On another point, there is such a thing as too much success. Having a bunch of planes and parts that are always out of stock isn't a good strategy long term.
Obviously, in a small market, it is sometimes difficult to maintain inventory for all planes and parts, but I *LOVE* it when I need a part, and it is in stock, especially during our flying season that is too short up here in Minnesota.
Lastly, a customer base that doesn't get their panties in a twist when somebody doesn't like one of their planes is a big plus. Even though it is not fair to judge a brand based on the reactive nature of their fan customer base, it is a factor. Some brands seem to encourage a gang mentality.
No vendor is perfect. But out of the things that I judge a vendor by, I like Extreme Flight best right now. Top shelf planes, top shelf customer service, very pleasant staff and owner, and a pretty darn good job of maintaining inventory. In general, they have one of the best behaved customer bases, and offer an outstanding value, from 48" through 91".
I also like Winners Model. Awesome owner (Frank), one of the nicest persons in RC. I wish WM planes were stocked in the U.S., with spare parts, though.
I also like Hobby King (sorry to those who hate HobbyKing). HobbyKing has an excellent ordering system, a customer service mechanism that works, and good value. They don't have a lot of spare parts, but their planes are sometimes so cheap you can buy two for less than another brand. But you are taking a gamble...sometimes, as stdgz says, you will buy twice and cry twice. On the other hand, if you're going to crash a plane within a month, might as well save some money so that you can replace it while you're learning.
I am looking into Twisted Hobbies for their crack yak, but don't have the workspace to tackle even another foam plane right now.
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