Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tweco Fabricator 141i Review


Now that I've had my Tweco Fabricator 141i (W1003141) long enough to try to the stick, MIG and TIG modes of operation, I feel that I can write an objective review.  Keep in mind that I'm new to welding and this machine is my first and this review will be written from that perspective.

The factory packaging is attractive.  The welder is well protected and arrived completely undamaged.  It comes with the power supply, stick electrode holder, ground clamp, new Velocity MIG gun, 20A to 15A adapter plug, manual, manual on CD, 2 drive rolls, extra MIG tips, gas regulator, gas hose, carry strap, Tweco hat and 4 sticks of 3/32 E6013.  Most of the items seem to be of good build quality and the manual is detailed easy to read.  The CD contains pdf copies of the manual in multiple languages.

The power supply/drive unit is attractive, light and build quality seems to be really good.  The chart on the inside of the wire feed door is excellent.  They give you settings for MIG, TIG and stick.  One complaint is that the locking thumb screw for the MIG connection is partially behind the plastic case front.  This makes it difficult to access.  I should note that the Firepower MST 140i (1444-0870) seems to be identical to this unit except for the MIG gun connection.  Firepower appears to use a MIG gun that screws on from the front and wouldn't have this problem.  The other is that the tension knob flips forward ending up behind the front cover also.  This normally isn't a problem, but once it wedged itself there and was a real pain to get back in place.













The leads, ground clamp and electrode holder are of good quality.  The Fusion MIG gun uses a new tip that doesn't screw in.  It is held in place by the nozzle.  The factory nozzle fits perfectly and holds the tip firmly in place.  However, the flux core nozzles I ordered don't hold the tip in place when tight.  When I tried to tighten one of them enough to secure the tip, the plastic grip, that is threaded on, started twisting and stretching over the nozzle.


I'm concerned over the 8-pin connectors used on the MIG gun, TIG torch and foot pedal.  They're kind of cheap feeling plastic and have a loose feeling fit when attached to the power supply.  Only time will tell how well they hold up.  Maybe I'l have to do a long term follow up at some point.


When I purchased this welder, the optional TIG torch was listed as having a rotary amperage control on the Victor Technologies site and many suppliers web sites.  That is not the case.  It has a push button that is used to activate the lift TIG.  After I brought this to there attention, Victor corrected the information on their web site (you can read about my dealing with Victor customer support here).  However, some of the suppliers still advertise it incorrectly.  If you want remote amperage control you must purchase the optional foot pedal.  The TIG torch is a 17V style, the V meaning that it has a gas valve on the torch.  This is because the welder doesn't control the gas in the TIG mode, only in MIG mode.  This is an annoying issue for a new welder like me, just one more thing to worry about is a lot when learning.  One interesting thing I have found is that the gas valve seems to have a post flow in MIG mode.  I don't know if this is normal, because I don't have any units to compare it to.  But it does seem that if the valve already provides a post flow, it wouldn't have been hard for them to link it to the TIG function as well.











As a new welder, I find it easier to use than I had anticipated.  I started with the stick mode and the included 3/32 6013 electrodes.  I was impressed that I was able to strike an arc easily.  I have run several beads on scrap with both the included sticks and some Lincoln Electric 6013 that I picked up at Home Depot.  I'm not very good at stick welding yet, but the 6013 seems to run pretty good.  The manufacturer says that 6010 and 6011 won't run well with this machine.  I had some old 6011 given to me and I gave it a try anyway.  I couldn't get it to run.  It was very difficult to start an arc with it and when I did get it started I couldn't keep it going.  I'm not sure if that is the machine or my complete lack of experience.



When it comes to MIG mode, the door chart is very helpful.  It's suggested settings got me close enough to make a decent MIG weld on my first try.  After running three practice beads on some scrap square tube with 1/8" thick walls, I put two pieces end to end with a 1/16" gap.  I welded them together on only one side and let them cool.  I tested the strength by picking them up and slamming one end into the ground like I was swinging a hammer.  They broke apart after four hits, but it wasn't the weld that broke.  The metal around the weld tore.  That indicated to me that the weld was pretty good and I credit that completely to the welder and the door chart, because I had no idea what I was doing.

I also ran some flux core wire using the recommended settings in the door and it seemed a little hot when running a bead on a flat plate.  I used the same setting for a fillet weld and it was better, but still seemed a little too hot.

I tested the TIG mode both with and without the foot pedal.  I don't really have a clue how to use it properly yet, but I found the lift start very easy to use.  The amperage control with the foot pedal seems a little touchy at the lower end of the travel, but that could have been me because I was trying to use it while standing.  I didn't have a chair or stool at the shop yet when I tested the TIG mode.  I has plenty of power for my needs.  I accidentally put too much power to the 1/8" plate I was testing on and almost melted a hole through it.

Overall I am really happy with this welder.  Considering it costs the same as most other big name MIG welders, the fact that you get stick function out of the box and the ability to add a TIG torch and spool gun make this a great value.

After I have had time to learn to weld and have used this welder a lot more, I will do a long term follow up.  So keep a eye on my blog and my YouTube channel.




Saturday, April 18, 2015

Customer Service Problems with Victor Technologies, JB Tool Sales and Amazon.com Part 2

In part 1 we left off with me waiting for a foot pedal promised by Victor Technologies and still fighting with JB Tool Sales and Amazon for removing my review.

I'm happy to report that Victor Technologies and parent company ESAB made good on their promise.  The shipped me a foot pedal at no charge.  While I wish that I hadn't had to take it as far as I did, I'm happy with the outcome and I love my Tweco Fabricator 141i welder.  If they had been more willing to help earlier, I would have been happy with a good discount on the pedal.  Since I don't have permission I won't say a name, but I would like to thank the person running ESAB's twitter account.  I hope they realise what an asset they have there.  

Now an update on Amazon and JB Tool Sales.  As you may remember, Jason at JB Tool sales sent me a passive aggressive email letting me know he got my review taken down.  In response I sent him an email letting him know I would take my complaints to all of my social media accounts.  His response:

"JB Tool Sales - Amazon Marketplace

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity.


Thank you."

That may be true for someone trying to be a celebrity, but not in retail.  Is he really dumb enough to believe that?  My response:

"Anyone with real experience in retail sales knows that's a BS line and I doubt Amazon believes that.  If you're content getting bad publicity, fine I can provide it.  

I don't think Amazon is going to be too happy with the bad publicity they will be getting because of their part in this.  And I don't that Amazon is going to be happy if they keep losing good customers like me, because of a bad seller like you."

If you don't already know, all of these emails go through Amazon's email relay service and they can read all of them.  

In looking around the amazon site, I finally find a form to request contact with customer service.  I fill out the form asking why my review was taken down without contacting me in any way and that I'm very upset about it.  When you submit the form it tells you that they will contact you within 12 hours.  24 hours later, still no response.  So I submit another, this one I keep a copy of.

"    17V TIG Torch & Accessories (13 Ft., 8 PIN) 
Comments:I would like to know why my seller review was deleted.  If you carefully review the communication between the seller and myself, you will see that the reason for my review was his refusal to help as requested.  The manufacturer of the product was willing to help me, but needed the seller to call them.  He refused.  He wouldn't make one phone call.  
I would also like to know why I wasn't contacted before or notified after the review was deleted.  I found out when Jason at JB Tool Sales sent me a passive aggressive email to let me know he won.  It went through your system so you should be able to see it.  
It appears to me that you delete negative seller reviews at the seller's request and without telling the authors, why?  Is it to keep up sales and your profit?  This is a deceptive practice and renders your review system less that useless.  
Jason at JB Tool Sales doesn't care about customer satisfaction.  If you look at other review sites on the web, you would see that he is mentioned by name many times.  If the distributor he has drop ship his products doesn't screw up, the reviews are good.  Anytime there is an error made, he handles the situation poorly. 
Because I purchased this product through your site, and because you deleted my review without notice.  I have to assume that you are covering up for his bad behavior.  This is the second time I've filled out a form on this site with these same questions about this incident.  I have not received a response yet.  So I now hold your company as responsible for the bad customer service I received as his.  
Jason stated in a later email that he thinks any publicity is good, even bad.  Well I will provide him with all the bad publicity I can using my social media accounts.  And since you've apparently jumped into bed with him, your company will be mentioned in the same posts.  
It's a shame that you would value a bad seller more that your good customers.  If this is allowed to continue you will lose many more."

 About 14 hours later I get a response.  It sounds like they're just telling me what they think I want to hear, but they don't actually answer my questions.

"Hello, 

I'm sorry you've had a negative ordering experience with one of our sellers; we do take reports such as yours very seriously. 


From your comment's, I can understand your negative review is been deleted without your knowledge. 


I've forwarded the details you sent us to our investigations team. Each report they receive is investigated and the appropriate action is taken. If you'd like to send more details to this team, please use the form below and choose the "Report a violation of our rules" option: 


http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/reports 


We do take the feedback and performance records of sellers very seriously. We monitor seller performance and we'll close an account when warranted. 


I hope you may understand our limitations in this regard. 

This team deals with possible violations of our use policies. Each report will be investigated and the appropriate action will be taken.


Amazon.com provides oversight of Marketplace transactions. Credit card information is held on Amazon.com's secure server, and is never shared with Marketplace sellers.


We also stand behind seller transactions made on our website by offering customers the A-to-z Guarantee (http://www.amazon.com/a-to-z-guarantee).


We value and respect your time, efforts and above all the trust you have on us. I apologize for this disappointing experience. This is certainly not the Amazon's Standard of taking care of customers.


We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Best regards,

Kogul S."
That was on March 31st.  I haven't heard anything from them since.  They seem to have no limitations when it comes to taking a negative review down.  But they can't be bothered to notify the author, or even explain why when asked.

I'm continuing to send out updates on all of my social media accounts complaining about their handling of this, but they evidently don't take that seriously like ESAB did.  JB Tool Sales has blocked me on Google+, but that doesn't stop me from calling them out by name.  It just means that he doesn't have to see my posts any more.  In searching about JB Tool Sales on the web I find information like this on manta.com:

30230 Hathaway Street
LivoniaMI 481503093 
Email: info@jbtoolsales.com
Write a recommendation
Jason Petta updated this company profile
Memberships
  • Ericthecarguy.com
And using that name I get reviews like this on Reseller Ratings:

"Ordered 1/4 x 3/8 adapters on Dec 27, 2013. Was told up front that it would take 7-10 days to get my order qty available. I stated ok and 10 days went by. Now here it is Jan 24, 2014 and still have not received my order !! Was given a direct phone number by Jason but when I call I keep getting different people. They stated that Jason Petta doesn't work here and they are the distributor that they can't help me, called back again in five minutes and now they know who Jason Petta is and proceeded to give me the wrong extension. I called back and told them to give me the correct extension. This time I got through to Jason's voice mail.. VERY unhappy with this kind of service. Waiting for a call back from Jason to hear his side of the story to see if I use them at all for future orders.
Their lost, as I will spend a lot of money on ordering.
"

So, now we know his full name.  And we know that my experience is not unique.  Other resources list him as the company president and state that they only have 4 to 5 employees.   That would seem to confirm my suspicion that this is a drop ship operation.

How many more sellers like this is Amazon.com covering up for.  Sellers will never care about their customers as long as they can get Amazon to remove bad reviews.  New customers will be fooled by the reviews they can see and will order from them.

As bad as my experience was with JB Tool Sales in this situation, I'm actually more upset now with Amazon.com.  They appear to be purposefully deceiving customers to keep sales up.  I have been a good customer and Amazon Prime member.  Now I'm finding other ways to purchase the things I need and will probably not let my Prime membership renew this year.  After the thousands of dollars I've spent with them over the last few years, to have my review silently deleted and then be ignored when I ask why.  I'd be better off ordering from Walmart.com.

That's it for now.  I will post an updated if anything changes.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Customer Service Problems with Victor Technologies, JB Tool Sales and Amazon.com Part 1

When I started purchasing tools for the shop, the first item on the list was a welder.  After researching and comparing many different welders, I settled on the Tweco Fabricator 141i manufactured by Victor Technologies.  I knew that I needed a 120 volt welder, because at this shop I have no possible access to a 240 volt circuit.  For the price, the Tweco feature list was impressive.  At the same price as most other name brand MIG welders, you get a unit capable of MIG, stick and lift TIG.  The 17v TIG torch is an optional accessory and was listed on Cyberweld.com and Victor's web sites as having a gas valve and rotary amperage control.  That meant I wouldn't have to shell out for a foot pedal initially.

I went to order the welder from my local welding supply store.  It took them several minutes on the phone with their Victor representative to get the correct model number to order.  When they ordered the unit for me, the system notified them it was on back order.  Being this far into the process I went ahead and ordered it through them and paid my deposit.  A couple of weeks later, we still didn't have an estimate on how long it would take.  It was while I was on the phone with them and looking at my reciept that I noticed I had failed to order the TIG torch.  Since I wasn't able to get an ETA on the welder through that supplier, I decided to try to find someone who had the torch in stock.  I ended up ordering the torch through Amazon from JB Tool Sales.

The TIG torch arrived two days later.  Even though I still had no idea when my welder would arrive, I opened the box feeling like a kid on Christmas.  Only when I opened the box, I found a TIG torch with no amperage control.  I double checked the part number on the box against what I ordered, they matched.  Thinking maybe I ordered the wrong model, I looked it up on the Victor web site and also on Cyberweld.com.  It was the model listed on both sites as having a rotary amperage control.  Thinking maybe the wrong torch had been put in this box, I called the Victor customer service line.  Someone immediately answered, no hold time at all.  This must be a sign that they take customer service seriously, right?  The person that I talked to didn't know much about the torches, so he put me through to tech support.  I told the tech support guy that my torch seemed to be missing the amperage control and he immediately responds with "That model doesn't have an amperage control."  I explained that their web site said it did.  He asked me to wait while he looked it up.  He then stated that the page was in error and he would notify the people responsible to get it fixed.

After getting off of the phone, I started to think about it.  I bought this welder and this torch with the idea that I wouldn't have to buy a foot pedal to have amperage control.  I called the customer service line again.  Again there was no hold time.  It wasn't the same person and I couldn't remember the name of the person I talked to before.  I explained the situation to him and asked if there was anything they could do.  He said that they would be willing to help me, but they aren't set up to help customers directly.  All requests, exchanges and discounts are handled through the selling dealer.  He told me to have the dealer call them and they would arrange to help me.  This time I made sure to make note of who I was talking to.

I contacted JB Tool Sales via email through Amazon.  I explained the situation and asked them to call Victor to see what could be arranged.  They replied that they buy through a distributor and that they didn't think they would get anywhere if they called them or Victor.  They said their only option was to let me return the torch. I told them that I didn't blame them for the problem with the torch, but that as my supplier, I expected them to at least make the call.  Returning the torch didn't solve my problem, I still had the welder on order and wouldn't have a torch to use with it.  The reply that came back was simply "All we can do at this time is process your return."  That's it, a one line reply.  Now I'm mad.

I called Victor support back and asked to talk to the same person.  I told him what JB Tool Sales had said.  He asked for their information so he could look into it.  He then asked me where I live and asked if I had purchased the torch online.  I confirmed that I had.  At this time his tone changed.  It was like I wasn't a real customer anymore, I was now one of "those people."  He stated that they couldn't do anything for me directly, they are obligated to go through their dealer network.  He said that he would send an email to the district representative for my area and I should wait to here from him.

While waiting to hear from the district rep, my welder came in and I was impressed by the quality.  It was packaged very well and appeared to have been well designed.  I didn't have time to set it up or test it yet, but it looked good.

The next week I still hadn't heard back from anyone, so I called back and asked for the same person.  I asked why I hadn't heard from the district rep yet.  He said he didn't know.  He had sent the email and "it's out of my hands now."  WHAT?  That was it as far as he was concerned.  I ended up having to get the rep's phone number so I could call him.  Now I'm having to do customer service's job for them.  I was too pissed off at this point to call the rep.  I needed some time to cool down.

During this time I submitted a negative seller review for JB Tool Sales on Amazon.  They wouldn't make one phone call, so I was having to put up with this crap.

The next day I called the district rep.  He answers and I give him my name and tell him that customer service sent him an email about my TIG torch problem.  He tells me he has no idea who I am or what I'm talking about.  Now I'm pissed off again.  I start in with the whole story thinking that customer service failed to email him.  When I get finished with the story, he says that he remembers seeing that email now.  He then starts to tell me that it isn't a big deal because it's such a low powered welder, I don't "need" an amp control.  Trying to keep my cool, I explain that while I know you don't "need" an amp control, I would like to have one and I thought that's what I was going to have when I bought the welder and torch.  He asked what I wanted him to do.  I said I wanted what I paid for,  a torch with amperage control.  He said that Victor didn't make one for this welder and the only way to get amperage control was to use a foot pedal, but he wasn't about to give me one of those for free.  At this point I'm feeling really insulted.  Trying to keep my cool, I ask if he can give me a good discount on one.  He says that he can discount the pedal, but that the discount goes to the dealer and then they mark it up and give me my price.  He asks which dealer I want to go through.  I tell him the dealer I purchased the welder from.  He tells me that I will have to call the dealer and tell them to call him to get the price.  He we go again, I'm doing their work for them.

About this time JB Tool Sales emails me through Amazon.  They want to know what they can do to get me to change the review.  Really, after all the extra crap I've had to go through because they wouldn't make one phone call.  I tell them that I think it's a fair review considering all the extra work I was having to put into this thanks to their lack of effort.

I also got a chance to setup the welder and give it a test in MIG and stick modes.  My welding experience up to this point consisted of running a couple of short beads with an Oxy/Acetylene torch over 25 years ago and brazing two 1" cracks in the hinges of my outdoor grill this winter.  With that in mind, I was impressed with how easy it was to weld with this unit in both MIG and stick modes.  But I'll do a full review of the welder later.

JB Tool Sales keeps making excuses and they want me to change my review.  I tell them that I don't feel I should change it, but if they refund half the purchase price to make up for the extra time and effort I've had to put in because of them, I will.  I know they won't do it, but that's fine, I'm happy leaving the review up.  They email back offering $15 off.  I tell them no, the review will stay up.

I call the dealer and he agrees to call the rep and call me back with the price.  Good to his word, he calls me right back.  I was thinking that we would be talking a substantial discount, nope.  Even after the discount I could have purchased it for less online.  That felt like a major insult.

Now I considered this war.  I'm so pissed that I don't want a discount anymore.  I want a foot pedal or a pound of flesh.  They advertised a feature that didn't exist.  They sold me a welder and torch based on that advertisement and they were still trying to gouge me for almost full price on a foot pedal.  I decided to look up information on false advertising.  Yup, that's what we have here.  Who regulates that?  States and the FTC.  Okay, time for another phone call.

Now I call back to customer service.  Ask for the same person.  I tell him what an insult the discount was.  He tells me there is nothing more he can do.  I told him that I thought this was either a case of false advertising or bait and switch.  He transfers me to his supervisor.  I explain how upset I am and that I think that this is a case of false advertising and I want them to make it right.  She feeds me the same line about not being able to do anything for me directly.  She will have to call the district rep and get back to me.  Sounds like they're blowing me off again.

On to twitter.  I start tweeting. Asking for anyone else who has fallen victim to this false advertising to contact me.  I make sure to tag both the @FTC and @ESABglobal (Victor's parent corporation)  in my tweets.  I want them to know how pissed and serious I am.  If they aren't going to help me, I'm going to make them pay for it in lawyer's fees.

Fifteen minutes later I get a tweet from @ESABglobal.  They want me to email them about what is going on so they can help.  I send an email laying out the major points of the story you just read.  I add at the bottom that I'm fed up and if this doesn't get fixed I'm going to pursue a false advertising complaint with both the state and the FTC.  And at this point, I secretly hope they don't fix it.  I want to make them pay for treating me like this.  And I continue to send out my tweets, because I don't really think she is going to help.  After all nobody else in their company has given this any real effort.  She emails me back and asks for the names of the people I talked to.  I provide her with the names of the customer service person and district rep.  I couldn't remember the name of the customer service supervisor.

Later that afternoon my phone rings.  I'm at work and it's an out of state number that I don't recognize, so I don't answer.  Later my phone shows I have a voice mail.  It's the customer service supervisor I'd talked to.  I call her back.  She apologizes and asks me for my address so she can ship me a foot pedal.  WOW!

Now I get this email from Jason at JB Tool Sales.

"Hi,

I was able to get it removed. It amounted to a product review and it was felt that we did attempt to help.

Thanks, have a nice weekend!

Jason"

I check my Amazon account and the review is gone.  Amazon removed it!  They obviously hadn't read the emails or they didn't care.  And Amazon didn't contact me at all, they just took the sellers word for it.  I wonder how many other peoples negative reviews have been deleted and they don't even know.  I only found out because Jason at JB Tool Sales is so cocky he felt he needed to send me a passive aggressive email telling me he won.  I guess Amazon's whole seller review feature is a joke.  If sellers can get a negative review pulled so easy and without the author being notified, the whole system is less than useless.  It appears that Amazon wants to keep seller reviews high to keep sales up.  I can't help thinking they are manipulating the system to deceive customers and increase profit.

How will this end?  Will I really get the foot pedal promised by Victor?  How much trouble will I stir up for JB Tool Sales and Amazon?

Stay tuned for Part 2



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Welcome to my shop.

This is my shop.  It's not much, but at least it's a place to work.  It's really just a large storage unit, but the owner lets me use it as a shop.  It's smaller than most one car garages and only has one power outlet.  I've spent the last few months buying tools and getting it setup.  I still need to do some cleaning and organizing.



So far, I've managed to get my Sportster road worthy.  Then partially stripped it again in order to clean up the aluminum corrosion.  It's back together and ready for the riding season.  And I replaced the timing belt and water pump on my wife's car.  

I've got a few more projects for this summer.  There's the generator that needs carburetor and fuel tank work.  The Harbor Freight folding trailer to put together.  I purchased a Honda CL100 that needs some TLC.  And new tires for the wife's car.

One of the goals I have for this blog is doing some reviews of the tools I purchased for the shop.  I'm also thinking of doing some video reviews on my YouTube channel.