Limited Time Availability, and other random thoughts

Frank Sergent

Hi Alan and group,

It is true as Alan has surmised that assembled couplers are being phased out. Once current stock of the assembled couplers is gone, they will only come back under special circumstances. Availability of kits has not changed and likely won't for a long long time. 

Please don't assume this says something about the health of the business, because business is good. It says more about different directions that I would like to take the company in the future. 

Assembled versions were offered initially as part of a plan to attract new customers. The goal of the plan was to become the standard coupler in the HO scale world. Then I would quit my day job, buy an island somewhere, and retire. It didn't turn out that way exactly. At nearly the same time we started offering assembled couplers, we launched an advertising campaign, and we started approaching retail shops to get product on their shelves. We even came up with some really nice packaging that any retailer would be proud to display. Unfortunately, there were very few shops that agreed to take on this new product and I respect their decision not to do that. However in the meantime, the online business really took off. So, the effort to get Sergent couplers in the "mainstream" of the hobby sort of died, but that was OK because I was still selling all the couplers I could make, and could sell them directly at full retail price instead of selling to dealers and half retail. That wasn't the way I planned it, but it is kind of nice to get to know your customers directly and the fact that I was getting a fair price for my labor kept me content.

The problem with how this "plan" worked out is that I still can't quit my day job, buy an island, and retire. In fact, if I could buy an island, I couldn't enjoy it because I'd be too busy assembling couplers. For the last ten years or so, business has been slowly growing through almost entirely online sales. We are stuck in a place where business is good, but not so good that I can sit back and pay someone else to do the hard work. I came to this realization probably five years ago, but have continued to offer the assembled couplers because I hate to admit defeat. I am more than happy to continue selling kits, but after personally assembling nearly 30,000 couplers, I've decided I have better things to do. Sorry.

Assembled couplers have historically sold pretty well verses kits. Still, the vast majority of the couplers sold are as kits. This is no doubt mostly because of the price difference and the fact that it doesn't take a nuclear physicist to assemble them. (Care to guess what my daytime job is?) Maybe some young entrepreneur out there can fill the need for assembled Sergent couplers. If you think about it, you can buy bulk couplers from me at $0.58 each, spend about two minutes each assembling them, and then turn around and sell them for $1.75 each. That's about $35 per hour. If you can assemble them in one minute, that's $70 per hour. Not bad for a part time work - if you aren't looking to quit your day job, buy an island, and retire. It takes me about 45 seconds to assemble one, but I've built 30,000 of these things and I'm pretty sure I've done it while I was actually asleep!

Bottom line is that I'm really sorry for folks that really prefer the assembled version, but I can't justify continuing to dedicate a significant portion of my time assembling the couplers in hopes of explosive business growth that is simply not going to happen. Thank you for understanding.




Defeat? Nonsense. You're far from it and your efforts are applauded: 30k is a lot of assembled couplers. Sometimes, you got to give up the high ground you fought tooth-n-nail for, as it offers no more strategic value and adjust the mission.

To the less mechanically-inclined, if you can't assemble them, find someone who can for you. It's worth it.

Jeff Young

Hi Frank,

Saw your comment regarding nuclear physics. You wouldn’t happen to work at ORNL would you?

I grew up in Knoxville; my step-dad (Orlan Yarbro) worked at ORNL in the Fuel Recycle Division till he retired roughly 15 year ago.

(None of which quite explains why I’m modelling Colorado narrow gauge railroads in Ireland now, but there you have it.)


David R. Olsen <drolsen@...>

Frank, thanks for sharing the background on the assembled couplers. I probably have about 100 of those 30,000 that you assembled, and I completely understand your reasons for phasing them out. However, I just want to say how much I appreciate you offering the assembled couplers, which have allowed me to tinker and enjoy them when modeling time is limited. Between work (I'm an Army officer) and little kids, I'm lucky if I get 2-3 hours per month to spend at the workbench, so the assembled couplers have been a real benefit for me, allowing me to work on building kits and kitbashing other models. I started off assembling your original couplers about 15 years ago, and I have plenty of your current kits on hand, but I just haven't gotten around to assembling any of them recently. The big holdup for me is that I want to airbrush the parts first, but with two deployments in the last four years, I haven't gotten around to dragging the airbrush, spray booth, etc. I certainly don't mind painting and assembling them myself - I just haven't gotten around to it.

One good piece of news that I learned at a recent RPM meet - Butch Eyler, who does weathering clinics at a lot of meets every year, has started using Sergents on his models. That will expose a lot more people to them in the coming years, which I think will help generate a lot of interest. I'm pretty pleasantly surprised to see how many people are using them on various newsgroups and forums that I frequent.

Dave Olsen
Alexandria, VA

Scott Atchison <eightnotch@...>

Well I guess its my turn.
Engineer for the NS

Scott Atchison