Please note that I am now AF6ME, Extra class.
Let me start off with a few caveats. I don't expect Yaesu to give me a free anything, a discount anything, or anything more than the service they claim to provide; honest and accurate diagnosis, and potentially repair, of their own products. I am well aware that A) I bought a used radio, B) that the model in question has a poor reliability reputation, C) that the company has a reputation for not supporting this radio as one might expect, D) the guy I bought it from did claim the radio had had repair work done by Yaesu that, in fact, it had not had, and E) it is entirely possible I may have caused or exacerbated some of the damage through my own efforts to repair problems with the radio. I am, and always have been, more than willing to take lumps for these things, and fully expected to have to pay for some or all of the repairs on the radio. I have had people claim that flux on the boards and transistors could not have caused a problem, and I've had other swear that many, many FT-100 radios have died specifically because of solder flux from manufacturing which was never removed from the radio's boards. Ultimately, Yaesu's behavior in this has been bizarre and more than a little troubling, and I honestly feel that I cannot trust the company to stand behind its products any longer.
I've been an unofficial member of the "Yaesu fan club" for forever and a day. I have fond memories of FRG-series receivers throughout my youth, and seeing hams operating FT-101 models from when I was just into the double digits. I've always been impressed by the quality and features of Yaesu radios, and when I finally became a ham this year, after 30 years of electronics experimentation, computer-building, and fuel injection system analysis and design, I went Yaesu all the way. Despite being disabled and on a limited income (SSDI), I scrimped and saved and did what I could, a time-honored (but increasingly hard to emulate) ham radio tradition.
I bought a VX-170 as my first 2m radio, and thus far it's proven to be rugged and durable (I should note that it is still under warranty, and at a purchase price of slightly over $100, I consider it to be something that is "disposable" -- if it fails in any major way, I known it's not worth fixing and is much more easily and affordably replaced). I was gifted an FT-11D that needed minor repair, and got that working (it now belongs to my YL, K1TTY). I have a loaner FT-470 kicking around, too. And when it came time to invest in an HF rig, so as to at long last realize my 30-year dream of making worldwide HF voice comms, I jumped right on a clean used FT-100D that was available locally. Unfortunately, this radio has been a series of hard lessons for me, the saddest and most surprising of which is that Yaesu (which is officially known now as Vertex Standard, and partners with Motorola) does not stand behind their gear, or their customers.
I wanted to believe that all the stories I kept hearing about the FT-100D from angry former customers of Yaesu were flukes, that the untold hundreds of people who suffered failure of one or more of the power amp transistors in the finals of that rig, many when the rigs were almost new, were somehow in the minority. That the many who found obvious defects in the manufacturing process of these rigs were wrong somehow. But ultimately, I was to become their next victim, and on a much deeper level than I ever would have suspected.
Most people know by now that Yaesu never bothered to de-flux the boards in the FT-100 and FT-100D radios during manufacturing, and the visually obvious baked-on remains of the flux is the almost certain cause of the early failure of the PA transistors in these rigs – power transistors that Yaesu's partner company, Motorola, no longer makes or has stores of, a scant ten years after they were debuted. Being a new ham, however, I was the guy who had just fallen off the turnip truck, and like many unsuspecting hams when the rig was new, I found myself facing problems with my radio from the outset of my ownership.
My radio was apparently plagued with one of the variations of the "high SWR problem", which was caused by poor grounding of the many tiny coaxial cable connectors inside the rig which joined the boards together. This can cause intermittent high SWR as well as problems with the operation of the ATAS series of auto-tuning antennas, and is not only well-known by Yaesu, but in fact has been handled with a service bulletin "fix" of using screws to improve the grounding of many of those connectors. To attempt to alleviate the issues, I applied, correctly and per the labels, several DeoxIT brand products manufactured by Caig, with several decades of perfect record in electronics manufacturing and maintenance behind them. When this was insufficient, I added additional grounding of my own. Believing I may have damaged one of the tiny coaxial cables in the radio, I replaced it with a length of RG-213 that would fix properly in the radio. When none of this bore fruit and the radio was still not performing properly, I shipped it to Yaesu, despite a staggering number of complaints about their repair service which I had found online. If nothing else, I needed to at least know where I stood with the radio.
In under a week, I received a telephone call from a man claiming to be a repair technician for Vertex Standard. He said he had examined my radio, and that his testing had revealed that the application of the DeoxIT products had caused the permeability of the ferrite cores of every inductor on every board in the radio to change, thus changing the inductance of every cored inductor throughout the radio. Every single circuit board inside the radio would need to be replaced, I was told, and I was quoted a price with labor that was nearly $900 to repair the unit. Since that was in excess of the cost of a new FT-879D, even at full retail, I asked that the radio be shipped back, since at least it had always worked properly on VHF and UHF, and I could theoretically continue using it on those bads, at least until such time as the inductors went so far out of spec that the radio would no longer function properly on those bands, either. My total time of ownership was at this point less than one month, and the HF section of the rig had never worked quite properly from the outset.
Armed with the assessment of Vertex Standard's technician, I immediately began to pursue a claim with Caig Industries, the maker of DeoxIT. I was more than happy to provide them with the radio, as well as any and all information and facts I had at my disposal. After all, a reputable corporate repair department, manufacturer of commercial radios and partner of Motorola, had pronounced Caig's product to be the specific cause of failure of my radio, and why would I question that, coming right from the mouth of a technician who had examined and inspected my radio?
I waited for the radio to arrive so I could forward a copy of the repair order with the technician's findings to Caig Industries. However, when the radio arrived, there was only a packing slip and an invoice for the inspection and return shipping. I thought to myself that it was extremely odd for a repair department to inspect something and issue a pronouncement but to utterly fail to include those findings in writing. Having been in the motorcycle industry for almost 20 years, much of it in service and repair departments, this omission made me distinctly uneasy – there is every reason to include such a paper report, and only unscrupulous reasons not to. And since this report was essential in making my case with Caig Industries, I emailed the repair department twice over the span of the following week, asking for the technician's findings in writing, as I was pursuing a case with Caig per the technician's claims about the cause of my radio's failure. These emails were never answered. Since the money I was out for the radio was a substantial sum, me being on permanent disability (SSDI), I intended to pursue this to its logical end. Assuming at this point that I was going to have to "pull teeth" to get anyone to take responsibility and handle the failure, I sent a letter to Vertex Standard stating that I required this information in writing, potentially for a small claim against Caig, and that I would file a subpoena for testimony from the technician as well as Vertex's repair records should they wish to ignore my requests for a written copy of what I was told over the phone by the technician.
Within a few days after sending the letter, I received a phone call from a gentleman identifying himself as Scott from Vertex (who I later found out, thanks to Caig Industries, was Scott Dolliver, director of customer relations for Vertex Standard – Scott himself never gave me any way to contact him directly, nor did he divulge his full name or position with Vertex at any time during our communications). Since I screen all my calls, he left a message on my answering machine before I picked up the phone, and in this message stated that the radio was unrepairable, as well as a completely different story regarding the radio's demise. Scott Dolliver completely contradicted the technician, claiming that the radio was unrepairable (the tech said it could be repaired) and that I had caused it to be unrepairable. I spoke some choice words to Mr. Dolliver at that point regarding corporate integrity and ended the call. Immediately Mr. Dolliver telephoned back and left another message, this time contradicting the message he had just left! In his second call, he went on to claim that the radio was repairable, but that I'd refused Yaesu's offer to repair it. Yes; in less than five minutes, he contradicted himself – on tape. (an audio file of the time-tagged answering machine messages from Scott Dolliver can be heard here: http://www.allthings550.com/Dolliver_Vertex_9-11-08.mp3
At this point I realized the true state of affairs; Yaesu had blamed Caig to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the radio's construction, longevity and repairability, and counted on the fact that most people would just roll over and buy another radio, holding no ill will against Yaesu (since according to them, the problem came from someone else's product), and once caught in that lie, they simply lied and lied again.
I presented all of this to the representative of Caig Industries, since I wasn't looking to scam anyone – I just wanted to know what was going on with the radio and how it ended up needing repair, as well as what could be done about it and at what cost. I was extremely apologetic to Caig's representative at this point, and he was apparently pretty unhappy that an apparently reputable radio manufacturer partnered by industry giant Motorola would have sullied the reputation and products of a company with such a long and rightfully proud history in providing top-quality products for electronics manufacturing and repair. It was the Caig representative who quietly informed me of Scott Dolliver's full name and direct email address, as well as the fact that Mr. Dolliver was attempting to get Caig to form a unified front with Vertex against me in case anything ever went to court (two big companies against a single individual without the means to hire forensic experts to legally prove the truth).
Emailing Mr. Dolliver with the recording referenced above and the entirety of the story so far resulted in an email from him to me which gave a fourth version of events, this one claiming only two circuit boards in the radio needed replacing, listing a vague $50 "miscellaneous" charge and claiming 4 hours of labor required (the entire radio can be disassembled and reassembled in under an hour by anyone with basic electronics skills), having a different total than was given previously, and refusing to state what was supposedly wrong with the radio that required these components to be replaced (which I have attached here). Further emails to Mr. Dolliver asking for information about what was allegedly wrong with the radio and inquiring about the discrepancies in his statements and claims have gone unanswered.
Several days after the radio was returned to me, it began to draw 12 amps from my 13.8v power supply on receive, and at that point I unplugged the unit and set it aside, since it has obviously malfunctioned even further than it had prior to sending it to Vertex Standard for evaluation. It may be repairable, perhaps even easily, but I cannot afford to put anything else into the unit. It has been partially replaced with a wonderful Kenwood TS-520S, which at over 30 years old (with its original tubes in the finals!) still performs the bulk of the HF duties that the FT-100D failed to do at 10 years of age. I am wiser and more sobered to some harsh realities of ham radio – it can be an expensive and frustrating hobby at times, and is not for the faint of heart any more. Gone are the days where anyone with interest and some willingness to learn can piece together his own station on the cheap. Today, anything under $1000 for a transceiver is apparently considered "disposable"; when it breaks, It's cheaper and easier to replace than to try and repair it. I'm no fool; I know that all the major manufacturers make radios this way these days (although I'd hoped the cutoff point for "disposable" was well short of the $1k mark). However, manufacturers like Icom at least stand behind their products, offer honest assessment, work hard to make a quality product (or at least wash the flux off of the boards after construction and prior to assembly in a production radio!), and don't pull punches when they obsolete something in under a decade. In other words, I can trust a company like Icom to shoot straight with me, even though I may not like their battle plan. However, Yaesu has proven to me in excruciating detail that they cannot be trusted to even attempt to make a product worth buying, nor can they be trusted to accept responsibility for their own choices. Blaming someone else's product for your product's failure is beyond low, but it shows the same sort of callous disregard for anyone else; they don't care about their customers, and that's the one thing that has really shined through in this whole sordid experience. Yaesu? For me, never again.
Adam Wade, AF6ME
From: "Scott Dolliver" <firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "'Adam Wade'" <email@example.com
Cc: "Mikio Maruya" <firstname.lastname@example.org
>; "Jeff Quan" <email@example.com
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 9:08 AM
Subject: RE: Case Update: 1010 - Damaged HF radio gear (Yaesu s/n #9K120559)
I am sorry if there has been any confusion in regards to Yaesu in this
matter. I was asked to provide you again with a copy of your estimate for your needs. When you sent your radio into our company, you sent the radio to be repaired. Yaesu made a call to you with an estimate, that you see below. You informed the service person on phone that you did not wish to continue with those repairs because the cost involved was to high. Yaesu then returned your radio, because you did not wish to continue. We charged you the 30 min bench fee for the estimate, plus the shipping back to you. Your radio was not under warranty, so Yaesu did not have an obligation to repair the unit for you under our warranty policy. Furthermore, you elected to not have the unit repaired and wanted it returned to you. You also provided us with your credit card to pay for the 30min estimate fee and the shipping for which you agreed to pay our company.
8/5 @ 8:24 DNR RETURN FOR $35+SHIP-RON
8-5-08 ESTIMATE FOR FT-100
CS1620001 LPF UNIT 314.21
CB0409003 CONTROL UNIT 196.30
MISC: $50 50.00
LABOR: 4 HOURS 280.00
Customer Service Manager
Yaesu Amateur Radio
Vertex Standard USA, Inc. | 10900 Walker St. | Cypress, CA firstname.lastname@example.org
| 714.827.7600 x 1412 | FAX: 714.527.9472www.vertexstandard.com
This message (including any attachments) contains confidential information intended for a specific individual and purpose, and is protected by law. If you are not the intended recipient, you should delete this message. Any disclosure, copying, or distribution of this message, or the taking of any action based on it, is strictly prohibited.
From: Adam Wade [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 6:19 PM
Subject: Re: Case Update: 1010 - Damaged HF radio gear (Yaesu s/n #9K120559)
You let me know if you'd like to explain how soldered connectors a
centimeter from any board surface can ruin circuit boards universally, and if you'd like to let me know why between your tech's account and your two voice mails there are three different, contradictory stories. In the meantime, the radio is going to a forensic electronics specialist so I can get to the bottom of this. Once I have that report in hand, I will proceed as need be based on the report's contents. You have my position and my statement in writing. Let me know if you want to move toward resolution withint involving a judge.
! Adam Wade -=- KI6QYJ -=- FT-100D/VX-170/TS-130S - BCT15 -- 5BVT !
! 1990 Kawa Zephyr 615 (Daphne) -=- 1986 Kawa Ninja 250 (Iris) !
! "I write down everything I want to remember. That way, instead !
! of spending a lot of time trying to remember what it is I wrote !
! down, I spend z time looking for the paper I wrote it down on." !
! - Beryl Pfizer -=- http://www.allthings550.com
From: Adam Wade [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 4:23 PM
To: Mark; email@example.com
Subject: Re: Case Update: 1010 - Damaged HF radio gear (Yaesu s/n #9K120559)
Mark, please note that I have cc'ed Vertex Standard's repair department on this email, after several contradictory voice mails from someone named Scott, who I presume is some sort of management personnel for Vertex's repair department (more details on that further down the email). The recordings are in the process of being converted to MP3 and will then be uploaded; expect a follow-up email with links.