The Maker Community Needs Better U.S. Companies

The Raspberry Pi, Red Pitaya, and a number of other popular hardware devices used in the Maker community use some really huge U.S. companies as their U.S. dealers. In general this is Farnell/Newark/Element14/MCM (all the same company) or Mouser. These companies are too large to care about the business of us little Makers, and it shows in the way they operate their customer service with us.

Nobody likes Newark. Mouser can also be a pain. Today Mouser has┬árefused to deliver to my address, an address which is perfectly fine for Amazon and a plethora of other Internet retailers. I have an account with their company of long duration and previous orders on record. I logged in with my password. But apparently I am a credit card fraud risk, according to their policies. I was invited to fax them my photo ID, or arrange for an electronic funds transfer from my bank. All of this is quite old-fashioned, they didn’t offer Paypal rather than EFT and didn’t have any of the common ways to verify a customer’s bona fides without bothering them about it.

Instead, I made the order through the Red Pitaya store in Europe. For their 14-bit SDR they charged me exactly what Mouser would have for the merchandise, an excellent price for shipping, and didn’t charge sales tax. So, the order came out about $24 less than Mouser.

Obviously, my complaint to Mouser won’t have any effect. I’m a little fish and they’re a very large company. But there are lots of businesses in the U.S. that want the business of Makers and will keep stock on hand and ship promptly, and with sensible policies that don’t require the customer to give up information they should not – like their ID or their bank account numbers for an EFT. We have credit cards and Paypal to protect ourselves from having to give out such things.

I’d encourage more companies to find a smaller, more agile U.S. company, rather than dealing with the difficult, old-fashioned, behemoth ones.

Update: MCM is closing as a separate business and Newark/Element14 will carry their inventory.