I’m thinking of stopping selling radios to hams

I think my days selling ham radio clever products are over. I’ve even added little notes to my ebay sales ads saying please don’t buy this radio if you are not comfy with computers, or have a Mac. People still buy them and seem unable to do anything for themselves. Yesterday my phone rang. It’s Barry from Dorset. Er, hello Barry. Can you send me new links so I can download the proper software for the radio I bought last month. Bells rang, did you not get the files I sent the links to? I think I’ve already sent them three times? Yes but they don’t work. Oh dear, what happens. The Norton says they dangerous, I need safe ones. Ah, one is an exe file, virus protection might be set so you cannot install an executable file from the internet unless you disable it. I know that is safe because I tested it on my own computer that has AVG on it, and AVG sent it for examination and a few minutes later said it was safe and installed it. I don’t understand any of that, just send me one that works. He hung up. I then got an email a few mins later saying the same thing. Send me the files, so at home on a Saturday, I sent him a link to the exe file plus a zip file containing the same file and some codeplug examples. It got rejected. Unknown address his email was outlook-232425sjdbeidghekejfnbekdjfghekejfbdjejdbdhdjej@outlook.com.

Clearly that was wrong, so as his phone number was on the email I called him. He started to rant. I interrupted and said I want to send the files, I just need your correct email. He said bravo, alpha, Romeo, Romeo, Yankee, then started yelling I can’t do this, I can’t do this and hung up again.

He called back half an hour later and had calmed down. I asked him if he had any local ham friends? No. Any local computer friends? No. There is no way in the world this man can cope with a handheld dmr radio which is what he bought over a month ago. I’ve been yelled at, had two slam downs of the phone and before anyone says I should be nice to the elderly, my callsign is older than his. I’m not selling therapy, or social services, I made £17 by selling him a DMR radio on ebay. Clearly he will call me back during the week and expect me to talk him through installing the cps. Even if I succeed, what next? I think he could be Ill or on medication, or be just eratic. I don’t get this from business customers, or even the leisure boaters, who are often very er, unusual, but as I’m older, I can say this - elderly hams are a real pain. Looking at call signs, which they always put on emails, all the issues with clever radios and computers are from buyers licenced before 1990. Perhaps I should add a test question to the adverts. Please supply your digital ID so I can test the radio before dispatch. Or Please confirm the colour code for your local repeater before dispatch, or ask a question about the type of virus protection on the PC? I don’t need to know, but if they email back and say they don’t know, then I don’t sell to them. It was mildly annoying and cost me a fair bit in return postage and returns, but after being yelled at, I’m thinking hams and DMR is just bad news. A shame for the normal buyers who are great people, but these dinosaur hams are making it uneconomic. The profit wiped out by physical returns and my wasted time. Oddly, my direct sales via my website rarely generate issues, just ebay, so maybe just sell direct to hams and NOT via ebay? What do the hams think of this? Am I being unfair or practical.


I’m a HAM (20+ years, don’t even remember when I got my first license) in the US. I’m in my 60s and computers aren’t really my thing. I do not believe you are being unfair. I have no desire to delve into DMR but if I did I wouldn’t expect a vendor to hold my hand and try to teach me computer operation. And you certainly don’t have to take the verbal abuse you have received thus far. I do mostly GMRS these days and feel accomplished being able to run the manufacturers cps for my handelds. I understand what you are saying about some of the older HAMs. On air attitude is one of the main reasons I don’t spend much time on in the HAM bands. (Perhaps my attitude is my problem.)

You can sell to whom you choose, No Shirt, No Shoes, No Common Sense, NO Service.


Cheers - I finally got an email today (Sunday) I was in the office, and it came through after I sent another message via ebay saying that I’d checked ALL the messages and he was only replying to the ones through ebay - all the direct ones had the random email address. He must have fixed it because I now have a BTinternet email address for him - BUT - he wants me to post him the files on a USB stick and send him the bill.

I replied and said that surely that won’t change anything - as soon as he tries to install it, Norton will reject it again, unless he turns it off. He didn’t respond, so tomorrow he will no doubt telephone.

I’m very worried that if he does get the software installed - how on earth will he ever manage to program a codeplug. I bet he doesn’t even know what any of his local repeater details are?


Hi Paul,
I’m 76 years old and used the COVID “rest period” to get my U.S. license. I’m and extra class guy.
Bought a few handhelds, both analog and digital. I wanted the challenge of learning and doing. I think that’s part of being a ham.
Computers are no problem. Some things were more difficult than I expected, but there are so many resources online. People need to be responsible for their own education. We’re all adults here. You’re not their teacher.
I’m a retired physicist, electrical engineer and older than dirt. I’m here to learn and have fun. Building a transceiver for FT8. Should be exciting. I’ll figure it out.
Paul, you’re running a business. It should be at least satisfying for you. You be you. Drop the digital. Life’s too short.
BTW: Thanks for all your helpful posts here

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I don’t know about all hams but that guy should be cut free while you still have your sanity. Why not put a footnote in the product description that says the purchase of these radios requires you to load software, understand your antivirus activities, et al, and the buyer assumes the need to learn and understand what they are buying as you don’t have time to be someone’s IT dept. I dunno, something like that. I would lose my mind if I took that for such short money.

He phoned up this morning. He’s got a new laptop, with microsoft’s edge browser. I don’t use it, but we both went to ebay’s messages, and both clicked on the same things - Microsoft says something like “it’s uncommon to download this type of file” and then page after page of fairly straightforward instructions on how to free the file up, which he could not cope with at all. He lost it again. I told him to download Chrome or Firefox and do it all again - ctrl-C ctrl V and windows E were mysteries to him. He kept muttering about not being long for this world and stuff like that. I’m so tempted to abandon him, but if he really is on the way out, that seems too cruel for me. If somebody cannot cut and paste, or follow instructions that require capture type security letters to be typed in, how will he possibly cope with DMR.

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Looks like I may have everyone beat on age as I just turned a youthful 79😂 I totally agree with you. The radio communication industry is quickly migrating to computer dependent radio equipment. Ham radio enthusiasts are usually well versed in radio communication theory. However, radio dependent software is adding complexity that they are unable to cope with❗️
As a retired Broadcast Engineer, I struggle with the very things you’re mentioning. However, I don’t lose my cool. I simply study and try to educate myself on software and how to use it. People want EVERYTHING to be plug-n-play, nowadays. We know that’s not how life works, especially in the complex highly technical world we’re living in now.
Broadcast radio station studios rarely use balanced shielded audio cables anymore! EVERYTHING that connects to the modern mixing board (console) is with Cat 5, 6, 7 Ethernet cable. Studio equipment connectors are now RJ45.
Computers are rapidly closing in on us. Everything is becoming Internet Protocol (IP) driven!

I couldn’t tolerate what you’re having to put up with. This long distance “hand-holding” along with frustrated hot tempered customers would definitely make me seriously think, as you are, about exiting the ham radio business.
Life is simply too short to tolerate the continued frustration along with the slim profit margins.
Wishing you the best👍

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Thanks - I suspect I’m a lot like you. I’m prepping for a theatre show being recorded for broadcast on Sunday. Lights, sound and video all revolve around IP networks and we don’t have any other video than SDI now. Analogue is really wired comms and radio comms, mainly because the existing ones work. Oddly - from the radio point of view, I did put in last year a Nexedge, followed by DMR system - but there was a major flaw, certainly for music events. When anybody pressed the button, the very loud music leaked into the comms, but severely delayed by the system latency - so you would hear BOTH audio events. It’s very disturbing to hear and see something but the comms repeating it delayed. In the audio world, we now have 32 channels of audio squirting down a CAT5 cable as normal practice. The lighting folk are using hundreds of DMX addresses from nodes everywhere and the lighting control just has a network output - nothing plugged into the DMX outlets now.

Then I get a fella on the phone who cannot even work out how to turn off his antivirus system, because Norton know people are silly and do daft things.


The saga continues - I get a request from the fella to put the software onto a memory stick (the same software available via download from my server, and in the zip file I sent by email. He says he will pay for the stick and postage, so I email, saying “Great you found out how to turn off the protection. Are you sure you really need the file now as you already have it, because it caused the problem when you tried to run it?” - he responds with please send it. I did, and bought a memory stick from the computer shop next door, and included a photocopy of their receipt, and the post receipt. I added the VAT I have to charge, and popped the invoice in the post. He just paid the invoice. Somehow, I’m still waiting for the next email. He still won’t give me the real email - as his emails to me come with a giberish outlook email that he’s clearly messed up. Even if he has finally got the software installed, what happens next? At some point, ebay will time out forwarding messages I think? 90 days maybe?I can only wait.

The radio communication industry is quickly migrating to computer dependent radio equipment. Ham radio enthusiasts are usually well versed in radio communication theory. However, radio dependent software is adding complexity that they are unable to cope with❗️

I wouldn’t say very quickly, I’d say over a decade ago the transition was made. Of course, Land Mobile Radios have been PC programmable for 30 years or so but it was narrowbanding in the US that really killed off the rock bound stuff. Until DMR and NXDN became truly popular, most infrastructure was still circuit switched technology but about 10 years ago now everything made the migration to IP routed/switched.

I really meant ham switching to DMR, so many radios, doing so many things but needing a level of different skills they haven’t got. Analogue programming was, at least, obvious to even unskilled people. Just typing in frequencies and tones, but the step up to digital is a step too far. I’ve tried to help one fella over and over again, but now he has resorted to yelling on the phone and I’m sending files in the post on usb drives. Now he has every file I can give him and still cannot even get the radio connected. I cannot tell him what port to select, I cannot see what is on his screen, and I don’t even know which repeater he wants to use. His email address is wrongly set in outlook so I don5 even have that and he gets cross when I keep asking. He is old and Ill but I’ve had enough.

Today an ebay customer messages to say I have sent him a second hand radio with bits missing. I remember this one quite well. UPS delivered 20, his order came through, I opened the packaging, inserted the bateries, connected it to the computer, programmed in the special UK channels not in it (It is a marine unit), tested it, boxed it back up and posted it. After some too and fro, he said it should have 5 batteries in it. I responded, “Have you turned it on?” - and the response - well, you should tell people if youre going to put the batteries in! Words fail!
He back! He cannot talk to his friends. His postcode puts him inland, 8 miles from the marina where his friends are. Sigh.

Why do you think I’m of the opinion P25 is one of the better digital protocols out there for hams? It’s mature as it’s been around for a quarter of a century and in it’s most basic form it programs identically to analog, swap a PL/DPL for a NAC and that’s it. Don’t “have” to set an ID (all manufacturer’s radios default to an ID of 1), don’t have to define a talkgroup (all manufacturers radios default to TG 1 now). You can optionally add all that…but you can also optionally add all of that to analog too (through protocols such as MDC1200, GE-Star and Fleetsync).

Oi, you never said how then turned out. I suppose the fella is dead by now… ?

Well - it’s been long enough now to mark as closed. If he is happy or not, I don’t know. I’ve been working away since mid November, and the office is closed. I put a nice Christmas banner on the web site saying when I reopen, and wishing customers old and new a merry Christmas. I’ve had a few advice phone calls and that’s fine, but one guy wanted to buy a radio that needs programming - no user controls at all. I explained that I was currently 500 miles from the office, and there wasn’t anyone who could go in and program it. Apart from the fact that my wife can’t tell a radio from a brick, the office computer is with me. This wasn’t good enough. I said how sorry I was, but I was overseas, 500 miles away. He was a new customer and wanted to know what I was going to do about it. I was a bit miffed, to be honest. Radio retails for £79. He said he pay the programming costs, and as I had just booked the ticket home, I doubled the price, because I’d have to come back again, as my ticket is for next week - I said fine, the cost price for me to be able to go to the office and return would be £618. He called me a spartarse and slammed the phone down. There was a smile on my face.