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HobbyKing Uncovered

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From left to right: Toby Osmond, James Burulcich, Ben Everton, Matt Feinstein and Ryan Dolan

There are a lot of opinions and misconceptions about HobbyKing floating around the internet and over that last year, specifically, we have been working closer with key people in the company to better understand the workings of this entity that has had such an impact on the industry in such a short amount of time. We decided to take a trip yesterday to their new facility in Long Island, NY to see if we can uncover who HobbyKing really is up close and personal.

WHO ARE THEY?

We wish we could elaborate on how this is some massive corporate company with suits roaming the halls and massive cubical farms throughout the facility with employees concentrating on how they can rule the world, but thankfully, we have a much better story to tell.

Ben Everton and Ryan Dolan in their video studio.
Ben Everton and Ryan Dolan in their video studio.

The truth is that HobbyKing is made up of modelers who are as passionate about the hobby as you and I. Everyone we met, from the Marketing Director to the guys answering support tickets (Yes they have support, lots of it – more on that in a few) are all fun, energetic, knowledgeable and very down-to-earth people.

The facility in New York is located in the office space of an airplane hangar at a rather large municipal airport and no matter which window you look out of; you see full-scale aircraft moving about. Talk about optimum scenery for hobby business that specializes in model aircraft!  One word comes to mind when you walk in the offices…Google. They took some extreme measures to make their offices fun, laid back and anti-corporate…very Google-like. There are no ceiling tiles when you look up, just painted structural beams with bright bold colors and model aircraft hanging everywhere. The walls have corrugated metal treatments and the conference room table is a ping-pong table with a regulation pool table underneath. Large framed posters adorn the walls of the magazine covers on which their models have been featured. Everyone is dressed casually and the atmosphere is relaxed. Yes, this is a fun environment to work in!

Cool conference room.
Cool conference room.

Although we have not been there, they shared some photos and video with us of their headquarters in Hong Kong. Many of their key management personnel are not, however, from China. They are from Australia, Europe and the United States. When I asked why they would move from somewhere that most of us dream about vacationing, like Australia, to such a huge, busy city as Hong Kong, they said that they wanted to be close to where their products are manufactured and developed so they can grow their product line quickly. It is important to the company to work very closely with all their manufacturing facilities to ensure product is top quality. Even after working closely with them for a while, we have to admit that it is funny talking to someone who lives in the heart of China with a heavy Australian accent using words like “mate” and “bloke”. But again, the perception that many have about the people behind HobbyKing is not the reality.

 

 


HobbyKing’s Office in HongKong

 

DISPELLING THE MYTHS

We hear the most amazing comments about HobbyKing and don’t think we held back when meeting with them; we shared all of the comments that we read and heard from people throughout the industry as well as consumers.

Myth #1: HobbyKing is in business solely to put U.S.-based companies out of business.

Competition is huge in all walks of commerce and it is no mystery that when you buy something from a manufacturer in very high volume that you can get better pricing than you would if you just purchased one or two items. This is one of the main reasons why HobbyKing is so competitive on their pricing; because they are buying quantities to support the demand from customers around the world, not just from the United States. Does this mean that that their mission is to put reputable U.S. companies out of business? No, of course not. The consumer is going to buy the product they want from the businesses they know and love. While pricing is a determining factor, the fact is that if you crash your model and want to get flying in time for the weekend, you rely on local businesses for support.

One advantage that we see with the pricing on some of HobbyKing’s products is that it makes it easier for a new person or people with limited budgets to be involved in the hobby. We love hearing about new hobbyists, and people who share the hobby with their families and friends. With our economy the way it has been for many years now, many people would have been scared completely away from the hobby if it was not for companies that offer products they can afford. Fortunately there are many companies that realize this and offer products aimed at getting consumers into the hobby affordably.

Myth #2: HobbyKing products are of poor quality.

We did not really need to talk to them or visit their facility to respond to this myth. We have been reviewing many of their products and using components like motors and electronics in projects with satisfaction. Are all their products perfect? No. I mean how can you compare a micro servo that costs $3.00 to one from a better-known supplier that costs $50?  However, if you were building a scratch-built airplane out of Dollar Tree foam board, would you really need $50 servos? You can buy a couple and have a spare in case one breaks and you are still ahead of the game. Conversely, would I put an inexpensive, non-name brand servo in an expensive machine, or one that I have invested hundreds of hours in constructing? No! After reviewing many of their proprietary components and aircraft, we have been very happy with the results and the one or two models that we did not like; they don’t carry anymore. Many of their products offer a lot of value for the money, at least the ones that we have personally tested.

Myth #3: HobbyKing has terrible support.

Well this one is not necessarily a myth. They admit that their support is not what they want it to be, but this is one aspect of their company that they are focusing a lot of resources and attention on. All we can say after visiting their facility and meeting their support staff, is that it is improving rapidly. (See SERVICE, SUPPORT AND SHIPPING)

There are other comments and rants we have seen throughout the forums online but the above myths are the main ones that I seem to hear all the time. While we have a good working relationship with HobbyKing, we are also not afraid of telling it like it is and they have openly admitted that they would not want us to be any different. They are listening to the customers and they listen to the people who are working with and writing about their products.

SERVICE, SUPPORT AND SHIPPING

HobbyKing openly admits that this is one area of their business that has negatively affected their reputation. But with the recent opening of the facility that we visited in New York along with their facility in Washington state, this the one area of their business that they are rapidly improving. After talking with them for a while and meeting their support team, we can attest that they have some very knowledgeable hobbyists that work for them and they are all very eager to improve service and support.

We can also report that knowledgeable modelers and not “computerized robots” answer all their support tickets with real, helpful solutions.

One part of the HobbyKing service department in New York.
One part of the HobbyKing service department in New York.

 

One thing that HobbyKing has been dealing with is their tremendous growth, not just in the United States, but worldwide. Their massive inventory and competitive pricing makes them very sought-after throughout the world. Any company with that kind of growth is going to experience some growing pains, but it is how they react to it that matters most. They could have the, “Too bad, the customer will just have to deal with it” attitude, but instead they are listening and working as quickly as possible to ensure that their customers are happy around the world.

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Sign of a global company.

One of our common complaints is shipping time. When we need components to finish projects for the magazine, we usually need stuff quickly, if not yesterday and if what we need from HobbyKing is coming from an international warehouse, we know that it could take a while to arrive and I know that you modelers operate with the same impatience. I voiced this concern to them yesterday and they explained what contributes to many of the delays and most of the time it is not the order processing or warehouse fulfillment, but rather the parcel carrier. While HobbyKing is a massive global retailer in the hobby market, they do not control the delivery services or their capability to process the volume of packages that HobbyKing sends them every day. They have three main focuses when it comes to fulfilling your order: quality, speed and price.

HobbyKing's service technicians.
HobbyKing’s service technicians.

You don’t want to pay $75 to ship a $25 item and they don’t want you to either. They want to ensure that all of your packages arrive in perfect condition and that they arrive as quickly as possible. To solve these issues they set up a warehouse in the U.S. and stock it heavily with many of their most popular products so customers in the United States can expect the same turnaround and delivery time that we would from any other U.S.-based company. They are in the planning process of developing an east coast warehouse as well. For international orders they are working closely with as many carriers as they can and have even terminated relations with major carriers because of high prices and poor reliability. So as a consumer who often complains to myself about the long delivery process, after talking with them and understanding that they are doing everything possible to improve the time it takes for their customers to receive their orders, we can tell you that it will get much better in the near future.

THE FINAL WORD

In no way am I advocating for HobbyKing, nor were we asked (or compensated) to write this article. In fact, up until I had the opportunity to meet and speak with the people in charge of the company and visit one of their U.S. facilities, I shared many of the same thoughts and concerns that many consumers have. The reason I wrote this article is that I had the opportunity to visit and speak with them and I understand that most consumers will not have the ability to do so. So I wanted to report about what we uncovered so you have a better understanding about the company and the people behind it.

I am not looking to make you a believer, nor am I telling you that you should go and buy from them. Ultimately only you can decide what models and components you want to buy and what qualities you are looking for when it comes time to spend your hard-earned money. I did, however, feel that it was only fair to share our findings from our visit because we found that it changed our minds about some things that we have heard about and experienced.

I am sure there are many of you reading this that have had bad experiences with the company and have fire coming from your fingertips eager to blast me in the comments. Please don’t. It is not that I don’t care, but I can go to the forums and read these kinds of remarks all day long about many companies, not just HobbyKing. I personally get tired of hearing everyone touting the negative stuff within our hobby; case in point…the word “drone” in the media. No one ever talks about how a drone saves a cat that was stuck in a tree…they only talk about the negative. This is much in the same way that people go out of their way to talk negatively about a company, HobbyKing in particular, but will not make an effort to talk about something good that the company does.

So I encourage you to post constructive comments or email me directly with your thoughts, but I really hope that you will consider sharing something positive. HobbyKing does not process the massive amount of orders that they do every day without having lots of satisfied customers.

3 comments

  1. Hi, I just wanted to say I very much enjoyed reading the article you wrote on about Hobby King…it was a very well written one that showed both sides to the company that all companies experience at one time or another. I myself have had very good dealings with Hobby King and often wonder how someone can say such negative things about a company I have had such good results from…I then realized that anyone can experience a good or bad experience with any company at any time due to many other contributing factors that are beyond the control of the company but sadly can sometimes leave a bad mark on a company. From your article I think Hobby King is striving to tighten up any thing they can to better serve their customers and I must add I have had very good dealings with them but also have to admit that sometimes shipping times have been very slow and very costly. I will continue to deal with them as they are making many improvements to their company to better serve their customers. Thanks for a very well written article.

  2. Nice article about Hobby King. I’m not a huge buyer from them but I can say that there have been no problems with any parts that I purchased. I’ll admit my impatience when waiting on items to arrive at home but I understand the problems with distance. I will continue to buy from them in the future.

    • I’m the same way…I HATE waiting! We were impressed with the fact that HobbyKing was aware of their shipping issues and have a plan in place to remedy all of that. Thanks for reading, Paul.

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