Changing Times at Aircraft Spruce?

A search of the archives will show that many builders, including myself, have had VERY SEVERE customer support problems with Aircraft Spruce over the years. Some of the stories are truely outrageous. The problems seemed to recur on a regular basis over the four years I was building indicating to me that the policies, procedures and personnel causing these problems were not being changed. I was fairly vocal about the problems, and avoided Spruce to the point that I didn't even own a copy of their catalog for the last 2 years.

In August 2003 the complaint fires started again, and ACS President, Jim Irwin, began another series of emails in an attempt to stamp them out. His email to me seemed genuine, and I can sympathise with his situation. Many of the complaints he was receiving were based on experiences from years ago. Bad reputations are very hard to correct.

Jim sounded like he really wanted to solve his customer service woes, so I decided to give Spruce another try, just out of fairness, and report the results. First I went to their web site looking for a clock and my rear seatbelts. The Spuce web site leaves a lot to be desired. Many of the parts don't have pictures or decriptions, and quite a few that I clicked on came up "Invalid part number". There's no Cozy parts list on line, so I couldn't tell whether the seat belts I was looking at were the right ones. To be fair, the Wicks site is about the same. Web ordering is fine when you know exactly what you need. I didn't.

I gave up on the web site and called 1-877-4-SPRUCE. I do wish people with distinctive numbers would give the numeric translation. I was connected to an operator within a few seconds, and was beginning to think things had improved, but all she said was "please hold. click" and the line flipped to music. I waited over a minute for her to come back. Uh oh!

From this point on I cannot fault the sales person, Tangee, on ANYTHING. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, she got a definate 12. I was beginning to wonder if they stole her from Wicks, she was so good. Tangee checked the belts I was interested in against the Cozy parts list and confirmed that they were the recommended items. Combine this excellent service with an upbeat, down to earth and friendly attitude, the fact that the price was $88 each compared with over $150 at Wicks and the combination was a winner. I ordered the belts and a Spruce catalog. Two days later I called to check on the shipment. I got a quick response that it had shipped on the day of order. My belts arrived three days after I placed the order. They're not the same product as the Wick's ones. They have black plastic covered buckles instead of chrome, but they'll do the job just fine in the back seats. I don't plan to use these belts myself - ever. I've spent FAR too much time in the back of the plane during building. The Spruce catalog probably won't get much use either, since I'm just about finished building, but I'll refer to it from now on when I'm looking for a part.

My order shipped the same day, the price was right, and it was well packed and complete. You can't ask for more than that. Well, actually you can - Keep it up, you folks at Spruce, and eventually the bad taste will go away.

I'm delighted to report that, at least on this one random sample, sales support at Spruce was top rate. I hope they are able to maintain they're service at this level, and I hope they fix problems quickly when they do occur. One way to help them do this might be to email Jim Irwin directly at if you have a problem with a Spruce order.

I hereby withdraw my offer to test my ejection seat on a Spruce sales rep. The test, not the ride. I'll give a Spuce rep a ride anytime, just for the effort they're putting in, and so they'll have a better idea what they're selling and why.

A few weeks later I needed some AN47A bolts. The price at Spuce was about 40% lower than at Wicks. I ordered via the Spruce website, and the bolts show up a few days later. Come on, you folks at Wicks. Competing with Spruce used to be easy. Now they've woken up you guys will have to do better on prices!

Which Company to use?

After being burned by Spruce a few times in the early days, and being treated superbly by Wicks every time I ordered from them, I bought almost everything for my plane from Wicks, even though Spruce prices were often lower. For anyone just beginning I'd recommend the following approach before placing a big order:

1. Call each company and ask a fairly complex question about the parts.
2. Order a few small parts from each company.
3. Return something.
4. repeat before each large order.

Place your large orders based on how the suppliers perform on the small ones.