Impersonating FBI Agents And People Who Can Solder

[Dale Botkin], [N0XAS], is a competent designer for the amateur radio crowd and has a part-time business on the side selling a few kits. As anyone who owns a business, works in retail, or simply interacts with the general population will know, eventually you’ll have to deal with one of those customers. [Dale]’s latest horror story (here’s the coral cache but that doesn’t seem to be working either) comes from someone who bought a little repeater controller. You’re looking at this customer’s handiwork above. It gets worse.

After this customer completely botched an assembly job, he contacted [Dale] for some technical assistance. [Dale] graciously accepted a return and received the above mess of solder, wires, and parts. Then an email disputing the Paypal charge arrived. The customer wanted a refund for the original kit and the cost of shipping it back.

Oh, but it gets better. After posting this story, [Dale] received yet another email from an FBI agent demanding that his original post be taken down. The email from the FBI came from a Czech domain, so of course this is a totally legit demand.

So there’s your, “worst customer ever” story from the world of kit electronics. The assembly is impressively bad, even for something that was ‘professionally installed by an electrician’, but mail fraud and impersonating federal officials just takes this over the top.

Quick note: any doxxing in the comments will be deleted, so just don’t do it.

97 thoughts on “Impersonating FBI Agents And People Who Can Solder

    1. Not commercial, consumer. Commercial electronics are often fairly well made. Consumer electronics caters to the lowest common denominator though. Skipping trimming soldered boards is money in a manufacturer’s pocket too. When cost is king one has to expect that level of quality, and attention to detail. Final blame rests with customers though who place low price above everything else.

      1. Well, there is that. But paying more isn’t always a guarantee the manufacturer hasn’t done an equally crappy job and just keeps the rest as profit.

        Things like having a government that enforces standards laws helps. As does brand-name recognition. But ATM we’re still in the transition, where instead of buying brand-name stuff you can buy electronics at ludicrous prices, with badges you’ve never heard of. Even tho things like LCD panels are all made in the same half-dozen factories.

        Soon a Chinese brand name will have as much respect as anyone else’s, Hua Wei abandoned using “front” companies a while ago. Then, best of both worlds hopefully.

        You can guarantee quality 95% of the time with brand names. But you’d miss out on some great bargains.

  1. Lol, report him to the actual police for impersonating FBI…
    That would be lots of fun!

    And for real, that solder job? He must be a complete retard.
    My blonde girlfriend who normally only drinks café latte and goes to fitness, managed to solder up a medium sized kit as her first soldering adventure, in just under 2 hours. And that was without much supervision and the soldering itself was actually pretty decent for a first-timer.

    But this is just like the worst of the possible worst, like a million time worse than the worst I’ve seen ever!

    Are we sure the guy who bought the kit isn’t a real-life troll?

    1. I think i know how he managed to solder this badly, When i went to school (grade 7-9) we had a technical class where one part was soldering.

      The teacher said that the proper way of soldering was to melt solder onto the tip of the iron, then stroke it onto the leads you try to solder (burning away all the flux from the solder wire before the solder touches the solder joint)

      When i did it a different way (the correct way, melting the solder at the joint) he yelled at me that it would never work unless i did it the way he said. He also said that he knew all about soldering since he had taken a soldering class. He calmed down a bit when i had a fully working kit while the others were still trying to get the first solder joint to stick together…

      1. Reminds me of a typing class I had to take. I’d already taught myself how to type at a fairly high rate. But my home keys aren’t necessarily the ones they tell you to use. I just knew the map of the keyboard. Caused no end of consternation.

        Then of course there was the computer programming course. In BASIC of course – the Brother teaching the class didn’t know about the : concatenation thing in BASIC. I had to show him.

          1. One of my best teachers was a history teacher that was pressed in to comp-sci. Room full of Mac SE machines running 6.0.7 from the top floppy, student data from the bottom one.

            He stood at the front of the class and said he didn’t know much about computers, but he has a textbook to follow. If anyone had anything to add to a lesson, raise a hand.

            About a thousand raised hands later from the 30 kids in the room, we were skipping the repetitive parts of the course guide, filling in the gaps it left out, pooling together to find many ways to solve each problem, and were allowed to pick our own so long as it worked and we could explain why. All because that one guy had the guts to learn it himself.

        1. Man, also all those stupid keyboard typing lessons where they try and force you to use the correct hand position, I can type faster with 4 fingers than many people can with all of theirs and they still always harassed me to do it properly.

  2. That looks like my solder work… when I first started many years ago. This person is an idiot for trying to solder something with no experience then trying to pin the blame somewhere else. I wonder if the guy can get in trouble for making fake FBI email?

  3. I work in a similar situation, and just like the guy in question I will help anyone that fesses up to getting something wrong, usually beyond time, sense and money allow. But lie to me, play the idiot, “like i dunno, it was like that when I bought it” etc. etc. and you should be put on a national register for testing up coming meds.

    1. It’s good to help a newbie and potential repeat customer, but you really have to turn 100% defensive when things turn truly fraudulent. Small problems can get big and ugly if you don’t nip them in the bud.

  4. That’s some truly impressive soldering. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. How is that even possible? After you did one wire like that would you not think to yourself ‘this can’t be right’ Just google basic soldering technique for the love of god! Looks like there is about 10$ of solder on that thing lol

    I’ve dealt with customers like this before I almost alway refund the money. If you win the paypal dispute then a lot of the time a month later a CC chargeback comes in and they take the money anyway and then charge you an extra 15$ on top.

    You could always look on the bright side and just send that pic with every kit you send. Just attach a note that says ‘if it looks like this you’re doing it wrong’

    1. This is true. There’s a good few “PAYPAL SCAM” sites out there, usually pissed-off small vendors complaining about the fact that a complaining buyer wins every dispute by default, and if you try and fight it you’re up against an under-manned (if it actually IS manned) Paypal department, that really don’t care about their vendors.

      Apparently the percentage of complaints, or the percentage that are left open, or something like that, affects the rates Paypal get from the credit card companies. Obviously 0.1% is millions of dollars to them, so it’s in their interest to ignore vendor complaints.

      The second type of “Paypal scam” site is when some young James Bond wants to share the secret with his friends, of how to get free stuff by simply ordering, then disputing it. The fact that 13-year-old idiots have cracked onto this goes to show something.

      So really you’re at the mercy of the decency of your customers, with Paypal. It’s rigged against you. The only option is to suck it up and hopefully make more money out of bothering with them than not doing.

        1. It’s currently a little volatile and full of scammers to be basing your life around. Might have some good principles, but financial realities always trump that. ATM it seems to be idealistic geeks vs sharks updating the old ripoffs with a digital element. I wouldn’t get into finance if I knew nothing about it, which I really don’t.

  5. All of the N0XAS kits are rated 5.0/5.0 or 4.9/5.0 on eHam. They… work. And it was made by a professional “electrician”. What did he use? One of those propane blow torch soldering adapters? (That’s a real product). Look at the melted insulation on those wires!

  6. While searching various archives (all blocked by the silly robots.txt, even Google was thwarted), I see that some sites discussing it made a special exception to identify the individual bringing shame to the hobby, by identifying his ham radio call sign. You cannot help but stumble over this guy, doxing or not…

    Lot’s of discussion about this guy, plus extra details, but no working cache content for the downed site…

  7. I bet that person thought “oh that soldering lark looks easy, I’ll buy a kit” then when he royally screwed it up decided to land the blame elsewhere for his pig-headed incompetance.

    PayPal should have a clause for situations where the buyer is a complete [word yet to be invented], whereby they lose the right to refunds.

      1. My experience is that paypal is quite reasonable about these sorts of things, if the evidence is plainly obvious then they will do the right thing. The buyer was apparently under age which makes the whole transaction questionable anyway.

  8. probibly used one of those weller monstrosities that people used in the 70s (and probibly still gets used on high power pcbs than need thick traces). i once build a kit on one of those radio shack fire starters with no flux and 30 year old solder, and it was nowhere near this bad.

      1. I’ve got one of those from the 40’s… I always thought it was something that a plumber might have used instead of a torch (for pinholes or something), but I’m beginning to think that it was a dumpster-find (or as I like to think of it, prehistoric recycling at its finest by a long-deceased relative of mine) from Bell Labs’ Murray Hill facility (likely for large transformer work, or something similar). That theory makes much more sense. I’ll have to give it a better looking over in case there’s anything etched on the handle. Thing’s a beast! The rubber insulation is cracked on original cord so I’ve only had it plugged in once to test it, but it heated up like it was fresh from the factory. Built to last.

    1. I once read a how to for increasing the brightness on those old PS1 screens. It involved jumping one or two SMD resistors. The guy doing the tutorial did it with a 100w soldering gun and a bit of wire. I still have no idea how he pulled that off.

  9. ass-hats are funny,
    and this is a good lesson on dealing with knowledgeable immature sociopaths.

    First rule of containment is not to embarrass the kid into becoming a better scam artist.
    You should always add an honorable exit option like a “pre-assembled” replacement.
    Don’t be tempted to feed the troll… too late…. popcorn ready…

    1. first rule is to cover your own ass and don’t pretend you are some sort of social hero

      throwing time and money at bad customers is no way to run a business

      your job as a vendor is not to play parent to your apparently fraudulent customers

      this is a pretty flimsy reason to add a money-losing item to your catalog

      1. No where does this say the kit is a money loser. Not the vendors fault if the kid didn’t even read the instructions or learn to solder.

        The vendor tried to provide reasonable support – good business tactic, but it does not always help with an idiot customer.

        A cautionary tale, yes. The Vendor sems to have learned a lesson, and by sharing it, helped educate others. Does not mean others will learn…

      2. We care about our customers needs, and try to mitigate losses.
        However, one has already lost if they spend 5 hours talking/dealing with this kid.
        If your venture actually makes a sustainable profit, than you have lost 5 hours of labor.
        Also, such things are usually a tax loss-deduction, or covered by insurance.

        Actually, we hire several disabled/ex-service people who are perceived difficult to place. I find their perspective in the workplace attenuates peoples pathetic greed impulses, and focuses people on balancing their personal life with work. Also, we pay people well above average, and don’t churn-and-burn-out our talent like Facebook or Microsoft.

        My income tax burden is all too real to me kid, and why won’t I hire you….
        Think carefully… you used $200 worth of my time and gave nothing… =)

  10. He’s just a kid that made some really bad choices. From the QRZ thread, I think he’s figured that out and is trying to figure out how to salvage his ham hobby now. I think they’re all steering him right, and he may be going with the flow. Here’s hoping.

  11. Group, both sites are up now. The first is interesting and wow is that a really lousy job. Even I could do better the first time around, I was all thumbs then. The second one resembled those idiotic posts that are sent from a Nigerian nitwit at a Cybercafe there trying to annoy someone into playing their game.

    That one on the second one should be ignored. The first one up, well let it stay up.

  12. I dunno. No matter what ridiculousness this guy has perpetrated, I’m not sure I like hackaday being a place where people are mocked for lack of skill. This site has always been pretty beginner-friendly, and I’ve learned a lot because of that. If we are to believe the story, the guy certainly does deserve some ire, but if this site is trying to become the internet’s asshole police, well…

    1. I agree it’s borderline, but the main thrust of the story is that there was a guy who bought a parts kit, misassembled it, and then instead of googling “how to solder” or “how to fix a cold solder joint”, decided to file a PayPal claim against the guy who did everything he was supposed to as a vendor.

      I’m all for Hackaday showing support to (and undoubtedly increasing sales for) Dale since he had to deal with the electronics equivalent of the customer who eats the whole steak before claiming it was ice cold.

      Plus…. *FBI agent*? Really? Who thought that’d be a good idea?!

    2. I think this story is really about the poor guy who was just trying to sell something, and the risks associated with it. A cautionary tale for those who might want to sell their project.

      1. Sell things but add the words, “AS IS NO WARRANTY” then it does not matter. Paypal will not do a charge reverse on anything that is AS-IS. I have had a lot of scumbags try that on ebay, paypal always sides with me as my auction is perfectly clear as to what it is and that I refuse any returns for any reason on kits. In fact do not sell kits… sell boards, and a bag of parts.

        1. Seeing “AS IS NO WARRANTY”, to me, is the same as “UNTESTED”. IE, it doesn’t work. Especially the latter one gets me, you’ll get, say, a guy selling second-hand hard drives. These 90 over here are all guaranteed working, and those 10 are “untested”.

          There’s also such a thing as statutory rights, merchantable quality, fitness for purpose. You can’t ACTUALLY evade a country’s trade laws by putting up nonsense “disclaimers”. 90% of the disclaimers you see around the place in life have no basis in law.

          But beside that, I wouldn’t buy something that’s sold as a new, working product, if it wasn’t guaranteed. Who would?

  13. It looks like a pine forest after an ice storm, kinda pretty in it’s way, but it just goes to show because you can solder pipes with a blowtorch it won’t work on everything and jamdis I would have cut this slack until he claimed to be the J. Edgar Hooverski of the Czech FBI.

  14. “professionally installed by an electrician” Electricians do not know ANYTHING about electronics or anything low voltage. In fact most are so inept at anything that is not 14 AWG solid copper wire that they will break it. I had an electrician “help” by adding wire staples to the fiberoptic run we had in a customers home.

    1. Well… wow.

      There’s those of us in the world who understand things, and enjoy doing so. Then there’s everybody else who seem to be some sort of programmable monkey.

      The Einsteins of the world figure out the nature of the atom. Middlemen come in, and soon enough the whole thing’s reduced to General Hapablap pressing a red plastic button.

    2. Not all electricians live in dumbassville, friend. Some got to where they are after getting their start in electronics with kits and projects such as this. Admittedly, some others got shoehorned into the trade by a guidance counselor/parole officer at their vocational high school, but that a different matter entirely…

    1. As a competent high school hobbyist from the same small town, I would like to say that most of us (even in small towns) know how to use google.

      More importantly though, I have half a mind to look him up in the phone book and walk over and smack him upside the head a few times.

  15. I have only seen something this bad once; a first ever soldering attempt by a 13-year old friend at school.

    If this person has never soldered before, I could understand, perhaps, since I’ve seen it happen. But I do have to say my first ever time soldering\kit building was a perfect success – I read the instructions carefully and took my time, and had no problems.

    The only thing I have so far had difficulty with is hand soldering 0612 capacitor arrays and insufficient iron power on multilayer boards. One really needs a preheater to do that properly.

  16. Does not beat the worst soldering project I have seen. In college, we had to make a simple 555 LED blink circuit as part of a first year course. The circuit was to be done on perfboard, single sided copper holes for making connections. The student manged to solder everything on the NON COPPER side of the board. EVERYTHING.

    I think they went in the programming stream after that, I hope.

    1. It probably doesn’t beat the worst soldering job I’ve ever done either. We all have to start somewhere. BTW some perfboard has no copper rings on it at all. That is the kind I prefer. Although building circuits on unclad perfboard is mechanically challenging I still like unclad for its versatility.

      1. Yeah I did a project on non copper board, had to twist all the leads together on the back side and jumper the long connections with wire. It was a discrete transistor 8 bit adder.

  17. Waaaaay back when, we sold clock doubler kits for the first PC’s (going from a whopping 4.77MHhz to 8MHz at the flip of a switch). One of our first dealing with a biz lawyer, earned us the advice to state “no cash refund, replacement or exchange only, shipping not included” on all our product ads and literature. Saved our bacon a few times. Our kit was a pretty easy build, but for the few that bungled it, if they returned their “defective” kit, we’d send them one pre-assembled (which was good customer service, since the kit was $45 and the pre-assembled & tested unit was $75). Never piss off a client, no matter how fumble fingered they are.

    1. That was pre-internet, so we didn’t have to worry about a website like HaD writing an article about how you could save $30 and get a assembled and tested board for the cost of the kit and a small box and postage.

        1. Do you remember those articles on upgrading headphones and oscilloscopes that were the same as their higher models by simple modification such as getting rid of foam / altering software?

          1. That’s not quite the same. Abusing a returns policy like this costs the retailer the actual money it takes to buy the parts. Upgrading stuff only costs virtual “lost sale” money that the retailer may or may not have made. Without the upgrade option the buyer may have bought some other company’s otherwise-better-value equipment.

            Same thing with piracy. If I’ve no intention of buying a DVD, then copying it harms nobody. If my only choices are do without, or pirate, then there’s no money going lost. Of course if I *was* going to buy it otherwise, that doesn’t apply.

    2. I’m going to play devils advocate here and mention that people like the one described buying the kit are bound and determined to be assholes. I will bend over backwards to help someone improve their own situation, but when they make it a point to take a mile when you give an inch, it’s time to cut ties and leave them be. While I applaud your ethics, it only serves to feed their unjustifiable self importance over everyone else. I know, of course that this never actually works, but if I at least make the attempt, I will have a clear conscience when I see their names in the obits for pissing off the wrong person.

  18. I can solder with the best of them – but damnation that has to be the worst soldering job I’ve ever seen too. And it scares me to think the guy who bought the kit is a Ham too. Irks me as someone who’s had his Extra ticket for over 20 years and knows how to solder that someone with a ticket it that clueless.

  19. The site seems to be back up (or I got to it quickly, at least). I can’t say much about the soldering other than it makes me feel a whole lot better about my poor skills, which are unacceptable to me but light-years ahead of that.

    But – the guy who runs the site? He’s a freaking saint, I can’t imagine having 1/10th the patience as he’s had. I have to salute him, in public – he’s a better man than I. I sincerely hope the attention this gives him increases his sales a hundredfold; seeing this story, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to buy from him.

  20. Yikes! No matter how terrible a customer is, I don’t think a vendor should publicly shame them like this. Doing so is stooping down to the level of the loathsome customer. You definitely don’t want potential customers to see this kind of thing. I probably wouldn’t do business with this vendor after seeing this.

    There’s a reason why you won’t see Wal-Mart or Amazon publicly bashing bad customers. I can only imagine some of the crazy returns they get.

  21. Reading these comments, one would think many are just a little too excited that they found someone actually dumber than them.

    You may be the smartest guy on the short bus, but you’re still riding the short bus.

    But good for you!

  22. Dismal fail doesen’t even do this foulup justice.

    I’ve been told off for my kludging before but to be fair most of the time it works.
    Yes I once dropped £40 worth of oh-so-carefully-desoldered blue LEDs all over my floor but got them all back. Every one worked, even the ones with the yellowed plastic.

    I got banned (!) from the local amateur radio for commenting about someone’s lack of soldering skills but to be fair they later apologised because it later failed in the exact place the soldering was bad requiring a rework.

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