spectra symbol

hi, this is a suggestion to never do buisness withe spectra symbol. I filled out there samples page, and was contacted by a man named "dmarriot" ( short for david marriot ) and he politely asked me what kind of samples i would be interested in, and for what kind of applications i would use them.

I dont have the e-mail i sent him, but i will say that i was very polite, and i asked for 3 linear and 3 rotary softpots, and if they want to, they can also throw in some of their other products which i was also intrested in.

I was never answered back, and i waited a week before trying to contact him back, only to receive a return e-mail saying that his e-mail no longer works, and it wasn't from the company, it was the auto thing.

so i called them up and i got a lady to e-mail me, her name was Shanon Branca, a very nice lady who wanted me to re-contact the man i was talking to. So after a few more days, i recieved this e-mail from the man:

You will have to purchase the Soft Pots.  For each size your want there is a minimum of 2 each. The small linears (50mm) are $20; the medium (200mm) are $25; and the large (500mm) are $28.  The rotary Soft Pots will be $20 (40mm) and $25 (58mm).  The shipping charge is going to be about $30. 

A minimum 2 each of each kind would be about $266.  Do you still want samples?  You will have to pay in advance.

Best regards,


I could not believe he just sent me that! He wants me to pay 300 dollars for samples! i'd rather order 50 softpots, then sample 12 for 300 dollars! And whats up with the 30 dollars shipping? do they send it in a large metal box?

So i calmed down, and thought about it, and i e-mailed him this:

Thank you for answering my questions as best you could David. At this time i am not interested in buying anything until i can make sure that the product i am willing to pay alot of my money for, is worth it. That is the reason i wanted to sample your product and not buy your product first. If i am confused, and for every possible client you get, you charge them almost 300 dollars to sample around 12 softpots ( 3 linear, and 3 rotary ), then i am sorry. I was also interested on how you ship your products, because if you product is as "rugged" and "long lasting" i don't believe sending a few paper thin samples in a large envelope , possibly with lined bubble wrap would total 30 dollars. If i am completely wrong about everything, i am truly sorry if i offended you by going to a superior of yours, but i never received an answer from you, leading me to believe that the samples were sent to the wrong address by mistake. If the reason you are interested in charging me, is because i asked for a large quantity of samples, i would have not been offended if you told me that the quantity of samples i ordered was over the regular amount.

Thank you for the e-mails, and despite this back and forth, i hope to one day become a customer of yours.

and i thought that i said everything i should, as politely as i could. What do you think, good, or did i mess up more?

I think you overreacted some. "Samples" doesn't necessarily mean "FREE samples"; sometimes it just means that the company is willing to sell you a smaller quantity than they'd normally deal with. ("Gee, we thought six (12?) samples for $300 was a much better deal than our usual 10k piece, 6w lead time minimum order.") Understand that if you were a "real company" of the sort they'd LIKE to have as a customer, the $300 would probably be irrelevant; more important would be getting them SOON, without having to go through the dreaded PURCHASING DEPARTMENT. (but of course in this case they ought to have been more responsive...)

If big93 was a technician for a well-to-do Fortune500 company, then it's highly likely the samples would be free, there would be no talk of money because it implies a competitive weakness.

A company that has samples available, snatches them from the tail-end of main runs, so the cost is nominal. So what they are really saying, is that they'd like you to pay for a few hours of their time packing up and sending the samples, because your probably a no-body and if they sent samples to every no-body, then they wouldn't have time to send out samples for free to companies they might be interested in doing business with.

And it's slightly misleading to advertise 'sample' without attaching an indicative cost schedule, particularly if they have an unspoken policy of discrimination. But then if big93 was a technician for a well-to-do Fortune500 company, he'd perceive a company charging for samples as 'cheap' and he wouldn't bother talking to them, so their naive marketing department, has elected to make decisions based on initial contact and if your an important person who I guarantee they'd send 'free' samples, or a no-body likely to be wasting their precious time.

So they run the risk of offending big93, as they obviously have, and offending anyone in business, no matter how small, isn't a particularly clever thing to do. Big93 might one day land himself a job for a company they already supply, or want to, and his position of authority might come back and bite them in the butt.

At the most, samples from those that advertise them, should only attract the cost of postage to be fair to everyone, and then you don't run the risk of having your good name splashed all over forums. There could be anyone in here reading about this, and it could potentially ruin their business, which for not being overly clever, they might well deserve.

There's no hint of cost in this:-

Would you like to see how our product works, looks, feels? We'll gladly send you a sample packet, complete with product specifications and product samples.

Please fill out the below information, and we will send you a packet today.

Really, it should read:-

Would you like to see how our product works, looks, feels? We'll gladly send you a sample packet, complete with product specifications and product samples.

Please fill out the below information, and we will send you a packet today once your credit card payment has been accepted.

btw. Their website has very few visitors, so perhaps they need to charge for samples.

Heh, I wouldn't be surprised if Spectra had received a number of sample enquires originating from these forums recently.

Big93, while the world of samples is wonderful, it's always wise to remember (as a hobbyist) that nobody owes you anything and that any samples you receive are a bonus. My assumption is that there's always a strong possibility that a company won't ship samples unless you meet their criteria as a "likely future volume buyer". This particularly applies to smaller specialist companies--which Spectra seems to be.

As strange as it may seem, companies generally offer samples as a means to increase business, not to supply hobbyists with free stuff. :-) (Westfw's comment about "small volume samples" vs "free samples" is also important to remember.)

I do agree that if they decide on a case-by-case basis that it would be wise for them to state that up front. Many companies state they only ship to "qualified" people, or that they reserve the right to not supply samples.

One thing that does annoy me is when a company doesn't state geographic region restrictions up front--nothing worse than spending time reviewing datasheets, selecting products, entering delivery details and then being told "oh, we don't deliver samples to that region". (Even more so if they required a geographic region in your profile to signup!)

(Also, $30 for express courier-type shipping would seem fairly normal.)

So, in conclusion, IMHO while I understand your frustration and disappointment I do think that your assessment of Spectra is overly harsh.

Don't let this set back stop your flow of projects though! :D


I just had to pay US$9 for shipping some "free" samples from National. Since I need them fairly soon, and it was cheaper than Digikey's minimum order charge + shipping, I went ahead and paid it.

I'm not a design engineer, but I do remember who treats me nice when I build stuff, or recommend parts (e.g., to our students, some of whom become design engineers...)


In some countries they would be prosecuted under fair trading law for misleading advertising, because there is no mention of cost or that you need to fit a particular criteria in order to qualify to receive samples, particularly in the context that samples are generally perceived by most as promotional or marketing "give-a-ways", and their site portrays an enthusiastic willingness to supply them with apparently no-strings-attached.

They are soliciting people to contact them to get their samples sent out on the 'same day'. That in itself is blatantly false advertising, obviously they will not send them out on the same day until they've received payment from those they elect to charge.

So regardless of their reasons, they deserve every ounce of ill-will because no matter how slightly, no one likes having their time wasted or to be made to feel like a second-class citizen.

Personally, I've never bothered with samples of "anything" because it's hard to get value for money if your not spending it. In fact, even the free drinks with maccy's combo's I tell them to keep, just in case the 'free' means a thinner paper cup, or a more watered-down coke.

If people want to put themselves out there with practices that might pi$$ a few people off, then they'd better have the lungs to suck it up.

i understand and AGREE what everybody who posted, and i must say that i am a "nobody" in the business perspective, but it just offended me that he was testing to see if i was willing to pay. How he was speaking say "Do you still want the samples?" after giving me prices like say "Well i suspect your a nobody, so do you wanna fork over 300 bucks to prove your a somebody?" and thats where it dident end, he had to add the "Ill need the payment in advance" where i perceived it as him questioning my intelligence. I never heard of a company where you order things, then pay once you received them.

i was just itching to say "Thanks for the offer but Me and my company ( Nintendo of America ) will do our business else where."

grr, shuda said that...

but either way, how was my response to him... too dramatic?

but either way, how was my response to him... too dramatic?

It isn't, in fact, you have justifiable cause to lodge a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission Act covers many areas of business practice. Some specific examples of violations of the FTCA, are as follows: false advertising of food, drugs, devices, services or costmetics; inaccuracy of prices, falsehoods as to "free gifts," distortions as to credit or payment terms; misleading representations as to the type, content, origin, or test/surveys relating to a product; or deceptive T.V. commercials.


A business may be in violation of the FTCA regulations if they are using deceptive practices aimed at an average consumer. A few examples of deceptive acts would be where a business uses statements of half-truths or "come on" advertising; supplies misleading labels, tags, or names; uses package design or labels similar to a brand name or trade name of another label or design; misrepresents the ingredients of a product or where the product came from.

The above is completely relevant to your experience, a letter to the FTC will cost you nothing but the time it takes to write it.

So, before we get the lynch mob together, I was wondering about inviting Spectra to respond here, which might be a more useful exercise.

Anybody object if I send them a link and invite them to respond?


So, before we get the lynch mob together, I was wondering about inviting Spectra to respond here, which might be a more useful exercise.

Anybody object if I send them a link and invite them to respond?


Yeah I'd love to hear what they've got to say about this story.

Then, while we're inviting people along, I'd love to hear what the Federal Trade Commission have got to say about this picture.

yea, asking them to view and possibly reply to this might be a good idea, but they probably wont swing for it. Maybe i'll just e-mail who i believe to be his boss: Shanon Branca, a nice woman i conversed with to get the guys attention again.

i can e-mail her and see what she thinks about the situation, without asking her to llok at outside sources.... (especially ones name "spectrosymbol SUCKS!" lol

yea, asking them to view and possibly reply to this might be a good idea, but they probably wont swing for it.

I emailed a guy from there I had had contact with, so we'll see. :-)


Y'know, I looked twice and nowhere on that screenshot did I see "free samples". Request samples, yeah, but nowhere do they claim they are free.


I think you're overreacting a bit :)

I asked them for some samples in the past and after a couple of days I got a call from the italian distributor. A lot of companies want to evaluate your buying potential before they give you free stuff and it's kinda understandable.


Y'know, I looked twice and nowhere on that screenshot did I see "free samples". Request samples, yeah, but nowhere do they claim they are free.


Correspondingly, there is "no mention of cost", so is it 'tease advertising', 'deceptive' or 'misleading', that would be something the FTC are qualified to rule on.

There are no conditions attached to "we will send you a packet today", at the very least it should be reworded to include "*costs may apply", because in this instance, they apparently did ;)

strangely enough, the guy replied to me!

here is what he wrote:

Yes, we do charge for samples, and do not send out multiple samples free of charge.  I am sending one sample out to you so that you can see if this is what you want.  If your project justifies tooling and engineering charges, then your piece price can be less; however, you must have a project worthy of such expenditures, and be able to purchase sufficient numbers to justify our efforts and yours.

Best wishes,


and my reply:

Ok, problem is resolved. You are sending me a sample, so i can see before i buy, please notify me just which product, or products you sent me. I will evaluate the product in my application, and notify you of my further interests.

Thanks again for the assistance. Hope to do business with you!


in the end, i got what i wanted, it was less than what i expected, but i got it...

Sweet, glad it worked out for you :)


i'm glad ill get atleast a sample... but i guess ill have to wait for the group buy to get alot of em.....

It just so happens that I had a conversation with Daniel Marriott of Spectra Symbol last Friday, about selling the softpots and flex sensors on my website. I talked to him about some of his products and it turns out that Spectra Symbol are the people who made the original Matel data glove flex sensors and also the flex sensor that Jameco has been selling for years - It used to be pricey at $9 and he informed me that it's now $12.

I asked him why the sensors are so expensive since they are just silkscreened pressure sensitive ink. To make a long conversation short, he told me that they would be $1-2 in quantities of thousands but that they had a business plan to keep the price up in small quantities. I told him that I was ready to buy a 1000 for 1 or 2 dollars a piece but he said they wouldn't sell them to me because of I would sell them for $4 each and mess up their "boutique pricing scheme".

I'm probably burning some bridges here, as far as selling their sensors, but I do think their model is short sighted (not to say greedy). In this land of free enterprise, drug companies, defense contractors, or anyone with a unique product has the right to gouge the government or the people for whatever they can get. (Insert long lefty rant here). In any case you might guess that I don't agree with their business model to sell what basically amounts to small silkscreens on plastic for (what appears to be) obscene profits.

It's noteworthy that they don't try and get these ridiculous prices from toy companies or car companies, only wealthy electronics hobbyists and students. (Insert more lefty rant here). It's also noteworthy that the rest of the electronics industry doesn't work this way. I can buy a microcontroller for $2.50 which requires a multi-million dollar chip fab to make, these sensors are silkscreen ink between two sheets of mylar.

Mr. Marriott did say that if he could get Digikey or Mouser to carry them then perhaps the price would come down - so maybe you should call up your favorite wholesale vendor and convince the vendors to try and talk some sense into these pirate... er entrepreneurs. Spectra symbol could sell a whole lot of sensors at reasonable prices and the corporate people who troll artists and experimenters projects for future product ideas might even generate some real products and volume for Spectra Symbol.

For other would-be dealers here's the wholesale prices I was given with the "Market Price" they would be expected to sell at retail for.

[removed at request of poster]

Paul Badger

great report

thanks paul