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Over the past thirty years, I've come across many of stories from skydivers who've had to deal with goods or services below an acceptable standard. I've investigated and solved complaints on behalf of skydivers, and I've 'been on the receiving end of a few myself. My experience has given me a unique insight into what usually goes wrong and what can be done about it.


  1. Incorrect colour scheme
  2. Dangerous Purchase
  3. Harness didn't fit
  4. Delivery problem
  5. Dealer or not a dealer?

Incorrect Colour Scheme

As a dealer for a well known canopy manufacturer, I sold a display team eight new main parachutes. The customer ordered "Tan" thinking it meant tan as in light brown, however, tan from this manufacturer meant tangerine. I knew this but my customer didn't. The sale was made via mail order so I never showed him a colour swatch and he never asked.

I ordered the team another eight canopies with the correct colour scheme and paid for a rush order. I made sure my customer got what he wanted and that he wasn't financially out of pocket. The canopy manufacturer was very helpful and added the first batch of canopies to their stock canopy list and they all sold fairly quickly.

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The customer wasn't happy because of the delay in the delivery, however between the manufacturer and myself, the dealer, we did our best to make sure that the customer was as happy as possible.

When ordering new kit, it's always advisable to see the specif manufactures colour swatches as each manufacturer provides different names for different colours.

Dangerous Purchase

A customer of mine bought a used tandem rig and brought it to me for a reserve inspection and repack. When I tried to deploy the reserve it came out of the freebag in a solid block of material that would not deploy. The reserve was previously used as a main parachute but because it had many jumps on it, the owner decided to swap it with his original reserve parachute. Prior to this incident there were no rules saying that this couldn't be done, but common sense would dictate that if it's not safe as a main then surely it's not safe as a reserve. However, this was not the complete problem.

The previous owner had a logo stuck onto the bottom surface of the main tandem canopy and the extra bulk made it impossible to pack as a reserve. His solution was to take of the logo which left the canopy surface covered in glue. The canopy, which was compressed while packed as a reserve, forced the glue to stick the canopy to itself and it formed a solid block that would not have been able to deploy in any condition. It was without a doubt a potential total malfunction.

When the new owner contacted the previous owner, he was told to use talcum powder which would stop it sticking together and that's what he'd been doing for the past few years. I obviously declined to do this and told the new owner that even if it didn't have the glue on the canopy it was still a death trap. The reserve had far too many jumps on it because it had been used as a main.

After weeks of arguing the old owner agreed to replace the reserve parachute in fear of losing his instructors and his riggers qualifications because the new owner threatened to take his complaint to the BPA Safety and Training Committee. The moral in this story is; don't trust anyone, no matter what qualifications they have. When buying used equipment always have it inspected by a third party.

Harness didn't fit

I bought my rig from a dealer on my drop zone, but the harness is too small and my leg pads do not go all around my legs like others do. The dealer said it's ok but me and my friends don't agree. What can I do? Is it safe to continue jumping it?

I can't say whether it's safe to jump or not without seeing it, but from your description it sounds like your only problem is the length of the leg pads. First of all speak to your CCI, other instructors or your local rigger and get more opinions. However, even if they say it's ok to continue jumping the final say has to be yours. If you're not happy with it then say so and get it changed. If you can't get satisfaction from your dealer go straight to the manufacturer as they don't like their equipment being seen when it's not right. as it reflects back on them.

Your rig may need a new harness but from your description it seems like all it needs is a new set of leg pads. If that's the case then it's an easy fix. If the harness, itself, is too small for you then it's a bigger problem, but it's still fixable in most cases. You need to have it properly inspected by an independent rigger and instructor. If you can't get satisfaction then don't despair, you can always make a complaint to your local trading standards office and to the BPA riggers committee.

Delivery Problem

When I ordered my new rig I was told that it would take approx twelve weeks. I have just been told that the delivery date is scheduled for twelve months time. I've tried to cancel my order and get a refund but I've been told that this is not possible as it's a custom order. My dealer said this happens a lot and there is nothing we can do about it. I've now found out that I can order the same custom rig through a different dealer and receive it within the twelve weeks. I don,t know how this is possible, but I believe that I've been lied to by my dealer. I don't want this to get awkward as the dealer works at my drop zone, but I need to resolve this situation. What can I do?

Delivery quotes have always been a controversial subject. Dealers will say it's only a quote and the jumpers will say they promised me. Always try and get this in writing, if possible. Then at least you have something concrete to argue with to support your rights. having a delivery date move from three months to four months is, unfortunately, very common. However, going from twelve weeks to twelve months is very rare. The first thing to realise is that the manufacturers, usually, only start production two to three months before it's delivered. This means that a rig that has a year delivery schedule is only a paper order and because no work has been carried out, the excuse of "it's a custom order" so we can't do anything is not acceptable, as far as I'm concerned. This is probably an excuse used by the dealer to make sure he keeps the profit from selling you the rig.

Your best bet is to contact the manufacturer yourself and give them the full story, and ask them if they can help. The other company who can gave you a twelve week delivery date, will probably have orders with the manufacturer that they sent in nine months earlier. All they have to do is send the manufacturer a change of colour scheme to their existing order, and they can now give you the custom order you want within the twelve weeks.

If you can't get satisfaction, contact your local trading standards officer as he might be able to help. This does depend on how you paid for the rig as you will need proof of payment. I believe he can force a refund, or cause the dealer a great deal of problems, so a solution is usually found in this situation. If you decide to wait for the rig then at least negotiate compensation from the dealer.

Dealer or not  a dealer

I had a skydiver bring me his brand new parachute container and he asked me to return it to the manufacturer and get a replacement because it was not the colours he had chosen. I was a dealer for the container manufacturer but I was not the dealer who sold him the equipment, therefore, I told him that he had to take it back to his dealer. He then told me he had bought it from his instructor at his parachute centre who wasn't a dealer, he just helped him with the order that was sent direct to the manufacturer.

I contacted the manufacturer on behalf of the skydiver who told me that the rig was sold through the instructor, who was a registered dealer. They wouldn't accept it being returned by a third party, it had to go through the dealer who sold it. The end result was that the skydiver had to accept it as the manufacturer would not accept responsibility, nor would the dealer. The skydiver did have a legal right against the dealer, but he was afraid of causing problems with his instructor and he didn't want to move to another drop zone. Unfortunately, just like rogue traders, you also get rogue dealers who won't want anything to do with you after they've got your money. Choose your dealer carefully. If an instructor or anyone else helps you to order directly from a manufacturer then they are probably registered as dealers who will earn a profit from the sale; maufacturers generally don't deal directly with customers.


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