Parcel Anticipation Syndrome, or, How I Learned How To Order From  by  Steve Wilson, Arizona, USA
October 1st, 2003
This article was originally going to be a review of the Aimsworth F-16 control knob set. That offering is definitely one that will afford the Viper cockpit builder a world of relief from tedious carving, not to mention the ugliness that making molds and casting resin parts can be. My order for the set was placed with ViperPits, the independent distributor of Aimsworth products in the United States. However, as will oft happen with grand plans, things went astray.

Given the circumstances, this article is primarily aimed at the North American 'pit builder. However, there are lessons to be learned here that can apply to almost any vendor for the very unique consumer that is the cockpit builder.

When I placed the order, I simply went through the straightforward purchasing procedure offered on the website. I received an email acknowledgement at the email address I provided, and began my wait in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, to make a long story short, after a two week wait, the parts didn't arrive, and my email interaction with ViperPits as a concerned customer began. This concern escalated after almost a month of waiting, and suffice it to say that there followed an email exchange wherein much angst and learning occurred. But this isn't a soap opera, so the juicy stuff stops here. Sorry about that!

To my knowledge, all Aimsworth products are manufactured in Thailand. This means that the resupply chain is a long one, and to keep costs down, the most economical means of transportation must be used. Surface freight from the other side of the planet can take over four weeks. The alternative, air parcel shipment, is prohibitively expensive. At $117.30, the price for the knob set is not exactly pocket change, so anything to keep that price within reach of the cockpit building hobbyist is reasonable and desireable.

When I placed my order, the knob set was not in stock. In fact, it hadn't even been cast. That sort of thing is not unusual for a niche product in a very niche market. To add more intrigue, there was a production delay in Thailand. Mix that with the aforementioned shipping timeframe and you get the makings of a significant expectation shortfall.

One gets used to getting parcels rapidly these days within the US, since so much commerce has gone online. Consumer demand has provided a lot of stimulus to a wide variety of delivery couriers, and their efficiency is astounding. The result, of course, is a mindset that says if I place an order, I will likely have it soon. However, when dealing with a vendor that is supplying things to a niche market, and with as unique a supply source as ViperPits enjoys, that mindset is out of place.

When that mindset ran into the production and shipment reality associated with the product I ordered, the result was unpleasant. Bug on the windshield unpleasant. Fortunately, that can easily be avoided.

I would recommend doing business with ViperPits. Chris Mihok, the proprieter, is one of *us,* and a lucky fellow that can combine his aviation and computer passions into a small but profitable enterprise. Despite having gone through an unpleasant situation with this customer, we managed to end up on common ground in the end.

A bit of consumer strategy is called for when ordering, though, and this can help one avoid the situation I wandered into. I would recommend verifying that stock is on hand in the US before placing an order. I would also recommend inquiring as to the shipping costs and timing of your prospective order. That functionality is not part of the website at present, and shipping costs will not appear on your acknowledgment email. In my case, an extra $10 was appended to the purchase price, a fairly typical amount. On the other hand, if product is out of stock, backordered, etc., gently persist in getting the best time estimate that you can for it's arrival in the states, and therefore to you. That may not always be possible, or even accurate given the vagaries of global surface transport, but it's important to avoid leaving the issue vague. When you have that qualified estimate, you can assess at that time whether or not you want to place your order immediately.

These recommendations should help establish a reasonable expectation, and it opens the lines of communications as well in a proactive manner. Always a good thing, and it keeps things in a positive light.

Is all of this mere common sense? Maybe. Were my expectations unreasonable? Maybe. I can assure you that at the outset I didn't think so. But this was a terrific learning experience nevertheless, and hopefully it will enable other 'pit builders to avoid unpleasantness.

With new code being added to Falcon 4.0 again, the future is terrific for the F-16 cockpit builder. There are several great vendors, and ViperPits should certainly be one that you consider.