A caution, maybe, but definitely food for thought to what I believe is a part of consumerism that may not register when purchasing a product.
This is in no way a pin pointed rant. Its a detailing of my experiences that has provoked my thoughts on pro’s and cons of what we do in our hobby. This also provokes the further implications of time/cost that one can consider when, like me, it just didn’t work out.
Its analogous to buying many things in life. We often trust new retailers, products or services in order to get our hands on what we assume is the latest or greatest or just to simply help the underdog trying to bust into an already established market. However there is a question that is not considered or simply just can’t be answered.
That question is, “What happens when a product is faulty?” It happens everywhere, but not every retailer/supplier deals with that the same way. And its the customer service here that can flag big red warnings over how you will be treated as a consumer.
I am no stranger to games, sims and the peripherals that can enhance the experience and the amounts of money we spend on them. I have owned many and this has posed another interesting spectrum in the swirling cosmos that is the consumerist nation.
So to start, and an important factor to any comsumer, you must know your rights. These are plainly written on the internet and encapsulate your basic rights. For me, the bugbear of Brexit has not arrived yet and so my law in its most basic is stated below under EU Law. You may also be surprised as to what you are actually entitled to.
Under EU rules, a trader must repair, replace, reduce the price or give you a refund if goods you bought turn out to be faulty or do not look or work as advertised.
If you bought a good or a service online or outside of a shop (by telephone, mail order, from a door-to-door salesperson), you also have the right to cancel and return your order within 14 days, for any reason and with no justification.
But did you also know that…
Free of charge, 2-year guarantee (legal guarantee) for all goods
Under EU rules you always have the right to a minimum 2-year guarantee at no cost, regardless of whether you bought your goods online, in a shop or by mail order.
This 2-year guarantee is your minimum right. National rules in your country may give you extra protection: however, any deviation from EU rules must always be in the consumer’s best interest.
These rules obviously have caveats, and need to be looked into further for finer details. But I am sure most EU consumers had no idea that a MINIMUM 2 year guarantee is a legal obligation.
So moving on to my purchase of the Virpil T-50 Throttle which had some flaws. Good for those of you, whose throttle works out of the box and just fine, but have you thought of the “what if” and the “down the line” events of your purchase?
Caveat, I am no lawyer and all this is personal opinions
Firstly as I posted on my initial review, it has an extremely week detent. After owning it for many months now, I still find I am rocking my throttles through the detent several times to find the sweet spot of mil power without engaging afterburner. I do this probably 50% of the time.
However. I pre-ordered this product before any reviews. First warning of the impatient consumer. Is it a fault in the product, no. Is it a working detent, yes. Was I aware that it was going to be so weak, no. So for being impatient and purchasing this product prior to reviews, I have neglected to protect myself against something that is not what I was expecting. Its not a fault in the product, just a deficiency.
So a lesson to be learned. Compulsive pre-ordering before you have a good idea of what you are getting can lead you up the garden path.
Of more concern, was the fact that my throttles used in independent mode would not produce the same amount of thrust. I.e. Having the throttles levers physically both at the 50% mark produced a thrust differential of up to 5%. So in order to have the same thrust on both engines, I have to have the throttle levers in an asymmetric position. Not ideal and not what you expect to a high end priced product.
So onto the next step of the phase. Customer support. All nice and dandy having a website and ticket numbers. Initially all went well with prompt response times as the basics were undertaken to try and invoke a simple solution. Akin to remembering your first call to IT support where they ask if you have “turned the power on”
So the basics were done with updating firmware, recalibrating, recalibrating a different method, factory resets etc. all to no avail. Response times were good at this point and no issue from my side.
However, after the basics were undertaken and problem not resolved, the first of the “red flags” started to show. My tickets were not replied to and multiple replies were sometimes required to invoke a response. In the end I am averaging approx. 10 days between my response and theirs. That’s not a quality service for a “quality” product in my book.
Back to consumerism and the letter of the law. Unfortunately, under quick investigation, EU law does not stipulate time frames for troubleshooting or agreeance on refund/repair/ or replacement of a product.
THIS IS THE PIT FALL THAT A CONSUMER IS NOT AWARE OF Its basically up to you, the consumer, to mediate actions needed for you to be satisfied with the purchase, it may take days, weeks months or longer. When is an acceptable time frame?. To me, this is the crux of whether you are dealing with a competent supplier or not. Do you know if the reseller is going to be problematic ?
Moving on, we finally agree on a date where they will connect to my computer via Teamviewer and try to understand the problem to move forward. This is 36 days after initial contact to customer support.
The day arrives and the Teamviewer session transpires. I am told over chat that this problem has not been encountered before and most likely need to have the product returned for fixing. I was also informed that there will be a discussion with technicians and they will come back to me with the next steps.
This in itself is not a problem and an expected resolution aside from the time it took to get here.
Red Flag no.2 Its a 14 day wait for a response. Despite being told previously they have not seen this problem before I am met with a response that this is a normality of the throttle and in time they will develop additional software that will sort this out.
So, thinking about EU law. If I am told that this is NOT a problem and a facet of the controller, then they are exempt from the returns law. An eyebrow raising moment on their part and not a move I would call “totally above board”. I don’t know any other controller on the market that tells the customer that asymmetric thrust lever positions is a normal occurrence. In addition, talking to those that I know that have the t-50 throttle, theirs do not operate this way.
Is this a play on the semantics of the EU Law by the reseller or do they actually think its not a problem. If the latter, how long am I going to have to wait for a software change to fix this. I can’t fly accurately with split throttles. That is the reason for split throttles, I want to use split throttles.
So I spend time accurately placing the throttles in the exact same position as per Virpils configurator software and then take photos of the asymmetric physical lever position. Its a further 12 days until a reply is returned stating this is indeed an acceptable deviation to them and I should try and fix that with curves. If its an acceptable deviation, then why offer a solution to fix it?
With my mind boggling at how the thought of asymmetric levers constitutes to an accurate and fun time in a simulation. I give in and go back into the configurator to try and do something about it.
Noticing that there is a new version of software (could this hold the magic code they were talking about) it is promptly loaded and installed and firmware updated.
Unfortuantely upon calibrating all the axis again, one axis - the Z which is the rotary on the right throttle, is not responding and cannot be calibrated.
Its here that I end this story. If you must know, I have spent more time fiddling with my throttle instead of playing with it online as each configuration change means I need to remap all my buttons again in DCS (there is now a fix for this).
I have asked to return it for a refund.
As we talked in the beginning paragraphs of analogous purchases. I can’t help thinking. Virpil products are not cheap and depicted as top tier items. Would I be happy purchasing an Astin Martin to be told that the pull to the left is an acceptable deviation after month(s) of troubleshooting?
You may be thinking, apples and oranges. Cars and throttles. But its still an EU purchase, covered by similar consumer laws. Though it was alluded to in the teamviewer session that there is a problem and now they are saying no. Is it doing what I am expecting of it. NO especially now an axis is not responding.
Have you the consumer considered about pre-ordering items and your rights as a consumer if the product is not what you want. Pre-orders are a very sketchy area and not covered (IMO) as greatly in consumer law. What about if that product is defective and what can you do about it.
Its going to cost me a pretty buck to send this item back for a refund with all its packaging and tracking to the edge of the economic union. Also take into consideration that purchasing a mid tier item at a store or local logistics branch will be easier and simpler to return. As an example, my x52 went funky. I simply called the LOCAL center and arranged for cheap shipment and it was fixed and returned promptly. These are costs or implications that should be considered by the consumer (and something I think a lot of us don’t think about) before finally parting with your cash.
There is something to be said by reviews. If you read enough, you can glean an understanding of what you are going to get and how that company may treat you when things might get costly.
For me customer service is a big part of satisfaction when purchasing a product and the quality of the company you may have to deal with down the line. Too many of us get a product and it works fine from the get go (as it should). And we think that company is the bee’s knees. We give them glowing reviews, but do we really know how they react when things like above occur.
Well for me, I have gauged the competence and unfortunately Virpil is not for me. That is purely my decision and of course yours may be contrary. I have asked for a refund and I now await, what I expect will be a battle over legalities to what they are obligated to do.
But if nothing else. Consider some of the points above. Know your rights. Know how to fight if a company tries to mitigate their obligation. Know what you are getting as much as you can before you get it, Pre-orders are a black hole of trouble.
Hopefully some of this will be of benefit