I think it's no understatement to say that element14's probably my favourite place to shop, of all places. A wide variety of parts, tools and test equipment - it's pretty much most of what I need to repair and test things as part of my hobby. It's been a while since I ventured to their doorsteps, but just last week and again today, I decided to pay them a visit.


One of the biggest perks of living in Chester Hill is being less than 10 minutes walk from the element14 Australian headquarters. But since I last visited, things have indeed changed. I'm standing in front of what was, the trade counter - a place where someone could order something in an emergency, hand over the cash and get going in a short amount of time. I had no idea that since around October, this had been shut. The decals and trading hours are still on the door, but the entrance is shut and the blinds are down. Instead, it has been turned into a collections counter in the warehouse loading bay.


Imagine my surprise when I first rocked up to go and buy a MOSFET to fix my Varta 15 Minute Charger ... just strolling along confidently up to the door, grabbing the handle and ... denied! It's locked shut! Nobody around the loading bay area either so I decide to check the time - it's still in the trading hours. Maybe I'll head around to the reception and see what's going on ... that's locked too! Luckily, a helpful element14 employee explained the situation and suggested I phone in the order. No thanks!


It's lucky that I had my student account and my phone with 3G cellular connection. I placed the order via the website on the 5" screen of my phone, sat in the chair, and waited for an hour as they picked and packed it. At least I've learned better for next time - order it online no matter how much of an emergency rush you're in!


Then came another big surprise ... I've been a student account holder with element14 since last year when the scheme was introduced. One of the big (or little) perks was a 10% discount, which almost conveniently means that we can cancel the GST on our purchases. Every little bit counts when you're a student (yeah, I am a student) and you want to make your dollars stretch. It's not always I can convince my uni to order something in on their eProcurement accounts and then pay them back for it. Anyhow, lately, I found that the blue star wasn't coming up next to the prices and the discounts themselves weren't coming up anymore.


Not the first time I would have seen glitches in element14's contract pricing system, I waited a day and still no change. What the hell was going on? I gave their hotline a call, and the operator was initially clueless. She helped enquire with the marketing team which informed me, sadly, that the scheme is no longer offering discounts anymore. Oh well, it was good when it lasted. They said I should have received an e-mail about it (I didn't), but needless to say, I am a little disappointed. If anything, it's a small bonus which made us feel a little more comfortable about putting in that "next big order".


Regardless, I'm happy that they're still serving me, rather than closing their doors to smaller students and hobbyists. Having access to such a large catalogue is a lifesaver when it comes to repairs and experiments, and they're still down the road, and I can have things in a few hours rather than a few days with no minimum order requirements.


Why was I there today?


As it turns out, I placed an order over the weekend to collect today. I should remind myself to order more carefully, because I'll have to go back on Wednesday and grab some stuff that I missed out. Anyway, so why was I visiting element14 so soon. Well it's nearly Christmas time, and I have to get myself a Christmas gift right?


As it turns out, I've got myself something which I think I'll really like. But you'll have to wait (maybe until after new year) to find out what it is and just how much I do or don't like it! Feel free to take a guess though ... but there's no prizes for guessing right.