Buying material from the big box stores. Good idea or not? Top five reasons not to

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by johnfrwhipple, Jun 6, 2013.

  1. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    material

    The main reason why the materials are "inferior" assuming you are buying a name brand item, is that the inspection process for the store's material is either cursory or nonexistent. They buy "everything" and then let the customer be the final inspector. If he brings it back, no problem it was going to be thrown away anyway, but if he doesn't then you made a profit and the item was an asset instead of a liability.
  3. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    On things that have a shelf life, you need to be very careful to ensure what you buy is still within the products usable timeframe. May not be a problem on fast moving stock, but on slower moving things, it certainly can be!
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    One thing going back to reason #1. Quite often a customer will have a defective item and just return it. Then it is put back into stock for the next customer, but by then parts could be damaged, exchanged, or missing. I have had customers purchase an item, and when I opened it, the box contained a used, or obsolete, version of it.
  6. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  7. DougB

    DougB Member

    #3) Material that is mishandled. Recently bought some L copper - apparently someone wasn't very gentle in the handling - had to take it back - all out of round - a PITA trying to get into a fitting.

    #4) Parts in wrong bin - you gotta watch like a hawk - fittings / electrical. I once came home with an almond switch, biscut outlet, and ivory face plate - all slightly different colors of 'off white' - I didn't see it until it was wired!

    #5) What you don't see: There are many better components / solutions / products that might help you do a quality job or enhance the job. But if they're not on display how will you ever become aware of them?

    I've extensively remodeled our home over the past 10 years. I research all sorts of components on the internet. You'll never find them at a big box store.
  8. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Top Five Reasons NOT to shop at the BOX OUTLET

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  9. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    6) Boxes that have been returned and old parts have been swapped out. I've had customers supply brand new tub shower faucets, installed them and they leaked. Pulled the cartridge out, and it didn't have the same date as the body of the valve. Kohler dates the cartridge and the body for just that reason. Some of the stuff you get at a big box has been returned, sometimes because parts were stolen first.
  10. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  11. DougB

    DougB Member

    My grandfather owned two refrigeration/heating wholesale stores. I worked in both when I was in school. I was the 12 year old who knew Nibco fitting numbers wrought and cast, Jarrow Brinda flare fittings. Knew most of the Honeywell numbers too. Was a better edumacation than Engineering at Lehigh U.

    One of the reasons these 'big box' stores exist, is because local suppliers were not available / known / nor try to market to the local DIY'er.

    I see several problems with buying from local suppliers:

    #1. They don't have Saturday hours. A DIY'er can't shop when most wholesaler's are open. 7:00 am till 5:00 pm doesn't work.

    #2. Stand-offish counter help. I've gone into suppliers and if they don't know you, you get treated like a leper. I've really had problems with tile wholesalers. If you don't know how their store works - well that's tough.

    #3. Lack of web site / advertising. It's hard to find a source for say Grohe faucets, when you Google 'Grohe' and 'Your city name' ( ie Minneapolis) and you get no hits to anyone who sells the product.

    Grainger has done a really good job with their catalog and service in their stores.

    Suppliers / wholesalers need to improve in many ways if they want local DIY/retail business.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  12. DougB

    DougB Member

    I bought a 10 pack of RJ-45 connectors - I needed 10. It turns out there were 7 :)

    I guess someone opened the package carefully, used 3, and returned it.
  13. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  14. DougB

    DougB Member

    Look at the logic: HD and Lowes gets a lot of business. If you want the DIY business, then you have to create an atmosphere to cater to these people. Maybe you have a "Retail Desk"?

    Larger items like: sinks, bath tubs, faucets, tubing, fittings, may sell well. I'm sorry, but in this age of the internet - you have to have a presence - you have to have a catalog with pictures - and a friendly, welcoming sales staff.

    The Luddite's busted all the machines - but they did not win.

    My experience, walking into wholesalers in Minneapolis is: Duh, whaatdayawant? Duh well, duh.... I didn't treat customers like this in 1967, and I don't expect to be treated like this today.

    This is why Grainger is so sucessful - even though it's prices are obscene: They have it in stock, and they will deliver it within two days, and they have great, polite <with awareness, completely lacking at the wholesale level> customer service.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  15. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Since I'm a contractor, I prefer the wholesale desk.
    I send one check at the end of the month. Often times my order has been pulled. I work with people that know the product and the reps. They don't sell me damaged, defective or missing product.
    They on the other hand don't have time to educate. They are there to sell to those in the field, who already know what they want.

    But it's not retail. Retail means dealing with "end users"
    The end user will always need more education and hand holding. I don't need my hand held. I buy in quanity, much of it by the case. I don't have to spend time peeling price stickers off and I get to choose a better product. When you live this stuff, you gravitate towards the stuff that cuts your time and your call backs.

    I do enjoy walking through a home center every so often. It's kind of like going to the candy store.
    Though if I'm thinking carpet and tile, there are pro places that I shop at. I can't afford home center pricing and their lack of variety.
    I don't like to buy lumber there either. I prefer a yard that sells the good stuff. That way I dont have to pick through all the crooked stuff.
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    One thing the pros have to consider is that their pricing is generally much better at their supplier's store verses some non-pro walking in off the street buying the same thing. This is where the big box stores can be a good thing. For example, I was in my local plumbing store and their price on a WM shutoff valve was over 2x what I paid for it at HD - same brand, same part number, and as far as I can tell, the same quality. ANyway, it works. I last was looking for some duct insulation sleeves - their price for the same R-factor was twice as much as at HD, and they had to get what I wanted from their 'other' store...HD had it - walked in and walked out with it, and did it on a Sunday when I wanted to go out, not the limited hours of the supply store. There is a place for them - you do need to recognize when the quality may not be equal, and watch the prices, just like anything a smart buyer should be doing.
  17. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  18. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    qutoe; their pricing is generally much better at their supplier's store verses some non-pro walking in off the street buying the same thing It had BETTER be, or I will stop buying at that supplier's store. If YOU can come in and buy it at my price, why would you pay me what I have to charge to make a profit. If they sell it to you at my price, they are my competitor and I don't do business with my competitors.
  19. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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  20. DougB

    DougB Member

    Having grown up in a family that was in wholesale business – I think I have a good view of where it was and where it is going:

    Yeah, in 1965 we had ‘dealer net’ prices, and list prices (usually double). This was supposed to discourage normal ‘stiffs’ off the street from buying all our ‘secret’ merchandise, and support our trade customers. Like fittings, motors, tubing, controls, were proprietary items? – hell the sign on the building didn’t even say what we sold – just ABC supply.

    The revolution is because of communication, transportation, and distribution. The internet is really just a big indexing service, where you can get connected to goods and services offered by people who want to do business. And with transportation you can get goods delivered without running around all over town, or coming back cause it’s at our other store, or waiting for us to back order it (when I think about it, it's been a long time since I needed to back order something - there's always someone who has it in stock). That alone saves all the labor / time wasted running for parts.

    The wholesaler’s / suppliers that want to operate in a 1965 business model are going to be fewer and fewer. Here in Minneapolis, a very large plumbing supply, and lumber yard have gone under in the last 10 years.

    The problem as I see it, is that the big box stores have somewhat focused on ‘discount’ / cheap merchandise. I predict that there will be an upscale big box chain where you can buy better quality sinks, faucets, water heaters, tile, etc.
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