Nice T-shirt! Did You Buy It Online?


Usually I have some pretty long rants, I mean, Commentary articles. This one, I’m thinking, is going to be short and sweet. Let’s see how it goes. The subject of certain T-shirts being worn at the track has bothered me for a long time. What T-shirts? Is someone wearing something offensive? Not really. At least not offensive in the traditional sense.

I’m talking about mail order company T-shirts. Okay, I’ll put the brakes on one offshoot of this commentary right now by making it perfectly clear that I am not against mail order. They undeniably serve a purpose. Plenty of people can enjoy the hobby and never set foot in a brick and mortar hobby store. So why do I have a hair across my you-know-what about these t-shirts? It just puzzles me when I see local racers sporting their favorite mail order company across their chest. I see it a lot.

At one of my local hobby store/tracks, you have to have your head pretty far, um, in the sand to not realize keeping the doors open is a big challenge in this economy. It’s a small store and a small track, and the owners make it a point to get to know everyone. They treat everyone like a friend and it’s sincere. That’s their point of difference (Business 101) that you can’t get online. When my son goes there, he feels like a king. Point is a six-year old probably isn’t their best customer, but they treat him like he drops bills like a rap star at a strip club. So, I have to scratch my head when I see a guy—a local yokel who expects to race there every weekend–walking around the pits sporting a shirt that essentially advertises their competition. Not only does this weekend warrior racer expect to have a place to race, he wants reasonable race fees.

I was recently at another track. This time out of state. Much bigger store with more tracks, more stock, more staff and, of course, more overhead. I was playing in the dirt outside, but had to venture inside to, well, use the facilities, but that part’s not important. As I walked by the indoor on-road track, I spied a gentleman with his arsenal of equipment spread out across a few pit tables as he tuned, tweaked and practiced for hours—for free. He was, of course, sporting the mail order company logo proudly across his chest as he leaned back in his chair giving me the hairy eyeball. The T-shirt might as well said “I Didn’t Buy Any Of This Stuff Here.” I just don’t get it! Isn’t the conflict obvious? This guy will probably be the first to complain [Edit] if the track starts enforcing a pay to play fee or, worse, goes out of business. You see, tracks–as in race fees–aren’t a viable primary source of revenue for a hobby store. When you factor in the substantial overhead directly attached to a track, the track side of the business may not even break even.

I’m not here to preach for everyone to support the local hobby store (Can I get an Amen?!). Okay, maybe I am a little, but the reality is how you spend your money is your business. It’s not my business and it’s not even the local hobby store owner’s business. Just don’t rub his nose in it.

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  1. I agree. However I do see both sides to this. Racers buy a lot of parts and work on their race vehicles during the week. Many live up to or more then 1 hr away from a hobby shop. With gas prices at $4 a gallon it can make it an expensive venture to the hobby shop with much wasted time. Some racers race 2-3 times a week and spend a lot of money at the shops they race at. I know I certainly do. So I can also see the side of online ordering to help lower cost and keep them in the hobby to race at and support the local tracks. Then there is the point of the local tracks having a limited parts supply. I agree 100% that wearing a mail order t shirt is a bit disrespectful but I have seen my customers wear others shirts and it does not bother me a bit.

    1. Thanks for checking out the article and commenting. I, by no means, fault people who shop online–especially when it’s the only realistic option. I’d be a hypocrite if I did. I don’t buy RC stuff online, but I mail order almost everything for my full-size truck. For me, the rub is with wearing the online mail order T-shirts to the track. Of course, it’s the individual’s right wear what they want to the track. I just hope no one thinks that a track is a viable business. Hence, if they like the track, it’s in their own best interest to support the hobby shop sitting next to it.

  2. I buy on line a lot of the time. Only reason is my local shop just does not carry any crawler or scaler stuff. If I need parts for my kids sc cars then I buy at the local shop. And I do not own any online shirts. Only my sponsor shirts.

  3. Hey Matt,
    I agree completely with your point on the shirts, I’m sorry but you have to be a real ehemm to do that. I’m a guy who believes in keeping your money in the community. I still go to my local hardware store to get any supplies I may need for my, or more likely my wife’s latest project even though I could go down the street to the Home Depot or Lowes and save quite a bit of money. The difference I found with my local hobby shop, where I did in fact purchase my trucks, is that there is nothing in stock!! So this raises the issues. (1) The obvious is that I’m paying MAP which is as you know quite a bit higher than what the product could be sold for. (2) Because there is nothing in stock, it needs to be ordered and in my case and sure many of the other stores do this as well, they only place orders twice a week so they have enough ordered to get their distributor costs. So for in most cases I’m waiting twice as long than if I just order the parts myself. I love having the shop here and when they have something in stock I need I make trip and buy it there, I was even told not to worry about paying the annual membership fee for using the track but insisted on paying it. I know you can’t stock every part for every car, truck, airplane, or helicopter out there, but not to have ball cups, wheels, tires, and the other things that every vehicle needs, and needs often is just ridiculous. Again though I never have and never would even buy a shirt from an on-line store(unless of course some kind of sponsorship was attached) and even than I wouldn’t wear it to my local hobby shop.

    1. You bring up a very real problem and an issue that has frustrated consumers for years. It also appears to be a worsening problem. One reason it’s getting worse is there are so many brands and sub-brands. It would be impossible for a hobby shop to stock every part for every vehicle. If I owned a hobby shop I don’t what I would do. I do know, even though I am very much a proponent of hobby shops, no one should be expected to give their business to a business that hasn’t earned or deserves their business.

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