Box vs Local

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  #1  
Old 12-09-08, 03:24 PM
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Box vs Local

Please everyone take this in the spirit it is intended...ok?

I seem to see a lot of posts and replies that bash Big Box stores in general, either directly or indirectly.

I worked at one for 5 years right after I retired from the Navy, and I saw many more people than not, who tried to learn and do the very best by their customers. Of course there were always people who came and went, as with any other retail job.

I spent hours and hours "off the clock" researching information that was not available to me through the store systems or training courses. I picked the brains of factory reps til they hated to see me working when they came in.

I'm not saying they are the best place to go, but I have been in plenty of local hardware and specialty stores where they were no more helpful than a Box.

I worked with guys (and ladies) who had been in the hardware business for years. Carpenters, General Contractors, Plumbers, Pipefitters, Electricians, etc etc. Many had quit working in the Trades due to health, age or had sold their business and gotten bored sitting around ( wow! not me!).

I worked with one guy who had been a logger, then worked in a sawmill, then a molding mill (is that the right term?) then a wholesale lumber yard before going with a national company for the benefits. He could almost tell the type of wood by the smell....seriously!

I guess what I am saying is that every store is different, be it local, national franchise chain, or corporate Big Box. You have to evaluate what is available to YOU before deciding what is the best place to go. Here in my small town, I know more than any of the guys in the local HD Millwork department, and I've been away for almost 3 years and in a completely different market. I've even taken employees (when they were clueless) and given them short courses in what they were selling (which my wife calls rude).

One of the local franchise hardware stores is even worse. No one even offers to help when you walk in, and they are always (in my experience) just standing and talking. I've had to wait and interrupt conversations to get any help. The other local franchise is just the opposite. Barely out of my car before someone is asking if they can help me find anything.

Finally, if you buy the same model/stock number/UPC in a Box, Wally World, KMart, Sears, ACE, True-Value, Joe's Plumbing, etc, etc, etc, it's going to be the same item. Yes, the big places get a discount due to volume buying, but you can buy the same cheap products in a Trade supply store as you can anywhere else. Seen it myself with 100 Moen faucets from the largest plumbing supply company in the country.

WOW...I really ran on and on....sorry. Again, everyone, please take this as I meant it. Some folks who post don't have many choices. Lets try to help where we can.

Comments welcome, just no attacks on my opinions...ok? I didn't intend to denigrate yours.
 
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  #2  
Old 12-09-08, 04:52 PM
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I’m not trying to brag or be a show off but I may be the most qualified person to respond to this post of the people who regularly contribute to this site.In 1949 my Father bought a struggling hardware store in Richmond Virginia which began a 50 year career for him and a over 30 year career ultimately for me.I began working in the business as a teenager in the early 70’s and went full time after high school until we closed the business in 2000.I then worked for a several store hardware local chain.I have worked for Ace and True Value stores.I have attended a number of training classes and seminars given by corporations and companies for their products as well as a number of Ace sponsored training sessions for various products and brands.I have attended a number of hardware “shows” and spoken to manufacturer reps and salespersons as well as company reps and employees for many products and brands all within the hardware category.

When you are in the hardware world to the degree that I have been you have access to a great deal of inside information and much of this comes from the actual manufacturers and companies that produce major lines within the business.they all have as their customers the big box stores too.

First it should be clearly understood that independent hardware stores are just that,independent.Corporate identities like Ace and True Value are dealer-owned Co-ops.Each retailer owns a piece of the wholesaler and all profits are returned to the dealer through a rebate program.It is up to each individual retailer to manage their store as they see fit.Ace etc does not dictate management style or training levels.The level of service and how you are treated will vary at each individual location and is not a reflection on the store brand or on the business category.

As for big box,I applaud any employee of one that goes beyond the call of duty and especially the company requirements as far a effort and knowledge level is concerned but those activities are a reflection of an individual not a big box store.The corporate mentality of these companies does not encourage extra effort and if you receive some consider yourself lucky.I have heard a multitude of horror stories and stories of apathy and ignorance concerning the experiences of customers in big box stores.These days profits and lowered expenses are the order of the day and it’s cheaper to hire inexperienced people.Lowe’s in particular regularly hires and staffs stores well with knowledgeable people when they open a store but then 6 -12 months later cuts the staff by at least 50% once the store is established.That has been told to me by former Lowe’s employees more than once.

As for product quality,I can tell you that many items sold in big box stores are not the same as elsewhere.No,this is not 100% but is a hidden secret of theirs in many product categories.I have been told by a variety of people associated with a wide range of well known products that they manufactured a specific version of their products for big box retail that was produced in a way that cut costs so the retailers could sell at lower price points.The bottom line is you are playing Russian Roulette.And model numbers,UPC codes do not guarantee product equality.As a part of the business I know this for an actual fact and have gained this knowledge through unquestionable sources.Big box not only uses volume as a weapon but routinely uses threats to carry less of a brand,less of a companies lines,not to advertise their products and product location in stores to get what they want.

Finally,I’ll wrap up an also too long post by saying when you buy from a local hardware or other independent retailer you are buying from your neighbor and the money you spend stays in your area.Big box has it’s place and purpose and it’s good at it.The problem seems to be a desire by these companies to use any method possible to completely dominate the retail landscape.

It is a matter of choice and it is true that every retail experience is different.Depending on your needs big box may be a fine choice for you.Just don’t forget that your neighborhood retailer may have a better selection,better knowledge and give a damn whether you shop with them or not.

I've been around retail hardware a long time a frankly it's a shame what's happened to the business.A lot has to do with multimillion dollar advertising campaigns the litterally fool people into thinking that superior levels of service,selection,quality and value exist in big box stores.Ultimately this is true only on a case by case basis and in many cases is not true at all.I can walk a big box store and point out retail price after price that is the same,just barely below and sometimes above what it sells for in an Ace store.

And it's unfortunate that people choose to fund 9 dollar an hour jobs instead of local businesses.

One day unless you live in a rural area your only choice may be big box.Trust me,you do not want that to happen.
 
  #3  
Old 12-09-08, 05:44 PM
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usually you will get to know your local guy better, but big box stores employ locally too. so both are great.

I always recommend shopping where you get the best deal, if its not a heavy item, 9 times outta 10 its gonna be online. So I'd take that over both. . . unless you need lumber, then go where its cheapest
 
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Old 12-09-08, 07:15 PM
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Dont' expect journeymen at retail wages! You want knowledge, pay a journeyman to come shopping with you!

Remember this isn't a career job for many. Its just a way to make a living. Be happy when you get someone like spdavid who has knowledge. But if they are that good, they will be moving on to bigger and better things. Unless they just like their jobs and can't argue with that. People thought I was demoted once because I took a job with a lot less pay but it seemed really neat to me so I did it for a few years cause it was exciting.
 
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Old 12-10-08, 03:51 AM
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I shop at the big box stores when that's the best place to go for what I need but would be leary of any advice given by a big box employee. While it's great that a few will expand their knowledge base about what they sell - most of them don't. A lot of the times what is stocked at a big box is there soley based on price..... and it is usually true that you get what you pay for. It's also been my experience that the smaller store's help is more inclined to assist you where they can because they depend more on repeat customers. I believe in supporting the local 'mom and pop' stores when I can - but often my pocket book wins

I'm a painter and if it would save me money to spend less for paint from the big box, I would. A cheaper priced gallon of paint doesn't = money saved. Coverage, ease of application, consitent color matching and my reputation all make it in my best interest to buy from a real paint store. Not to mention, a better selection of what I need. At a paint store, the help should be better trained and they have the benifit of all the feedback they get from the numerous pros that shop there. I assume the same could be said about other specialty trade stores.
 
  #6  
Old 12-10-08, 06:33 AM
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When I moved to our present location, we were absent the convenience of any big box stores. I was accustomed to using the Pro Book on my computer, which updated me on the pricing at our local Orange big box daily if I needed to make an estimate at 10 oclock at night. Relocating, I still used the pricing, but bumped it by 10%, thinking the local building supply would be higher. After a few jobs, I determined the locals were right in line with big box stores. We now have an Orange big box, and I use it as well as the local lumber yards. It depends on what I need and where I am in relation to their location. Prices being competitive, I go for quality. Our lumber yard will occasionally get a "deal" on #2 lumber. Well, being graded on two sides only, the other two sides leave alot to be desired. I pass. Likewise, the big box will get 6x6's that you couldn't support a dog house with. So you have to shop around to get the best lumber, not necessarily price. If it were free, it would be worth every penny of it. Shop price, but get quality. They don't always go hand in hand. Larger selection - big box. Better service - local. Not a rule, but my findings.
 
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Old 12-10-08, 07:05 AM
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Talking I think this will be a never-ending thread.

My experience with "big box" ranges from a well meaning high school kid that suggested it was ok to use lamp cord to wire a light switch, to a retired flooring installer who saved my life by selling me the right additive for a ceramic floor I was installing in a walk-in freezer!

Three years later after suffering countless frozen turkey falls those tiles are still holding fast.
 
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Old 12-10-08, 09:34 AM
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One big issue is that most businesses, either big box or mom & pop, usually aren't going to pay much more than minimum wage for store help. Thus, you're going to attract those folks who can live on minimum wage salaries, notably high school kids who have limited experience. Even at the local Ace hardware store in the small town I live in, I can't find knowledgable help from most of the clerks, as they don't have a clue, as most of them are high school kids working after-school jobs. Most mom & pop stores can't afford to pay the wages and benefits required to attract an adult that has to support his family. Only if you're lucky enough to run into the owner or store manager can you usually find good info. Another down side to dealing with mom & pop stores is that they move so little merchandise that they can't come close to meeting the prices at the big box stores. Most folks where I live gladly make the 40 mile round trip to the local orange big box, because chances are you'll find what you're looking for, and more. The days of knowledgable sales people, whether at large or small establishments, are long over.
 
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Old 12-10-08, 12:27 PM
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As a member of Ace the store in question benefits from Ace's pricing structure.One of the main reasons any store is a member of the co-op is to be part of a group of purchasers that create a volume level capable of taking advantage of volume pricing.The level of a stores sales have no bearing on it's pricing at point of purchase.

Ace does not regulate or enforce what any store prices it's merchandise at.It also of course has no bearing on salary levels.I suggest that a major contributing factor to both in this case is the apparent sway HD has over the customer base in that area that they would actually travel 40 miles rather than patronize a local retailer.

I find the idea of burning 2 or 3 gallons of gas going to and back from an HD hard to rationalize considering any possible benefit from it when you have a local retail alternative.

The objections raised are individual to this store and not a reflection on any other.They likely are at least partially related to factors mentioned.In my area every single Ace store has a number of trained and knowledgeable salespersons in each location.

I suspect the Ace store in question will not survive.Then there will be something I've heard before,the lamenting of the loss of the store once it's gone for what was lost with it.Too little too late.
 
  #10  
Old 12-10-08, 04:00 PM
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I do 90% of my purchases at the local home centers. I seldom ask advice from employees except for a plumbing guy. He's a guy that was a plumber for 30+ years, got hurt and now works for HD. He really knows his stuff.

There is an ACE hardware nearby. They employ mostly pimple faced teenagers that don't know what day of the week it is. The same is true of one of the local paint stores. Benjamin Moore still has guys working that know paint. After a couple of bad experiences with Behr paint I now buy at BM. Although I have to admit that I also had good experience with Behr.

A few years ago I heard the same rumors about HD and the quality of the stuff that they stocked. I was doing a bath reno at the time and I was concerned. I wrote a letter to the company that supposedly made an inferior version of the same part ( a kitchen faucet) to sell cheaper at Home Depot. All I wanted to know was if there was any difference between a specific faucet at HD and the same one at a plumbing supplier. They adamantly denied it, saying that the product they sell to HD is identical to the product sold to plumbing supply houses.

I've also bought wood from lumber yards that was no better than stuff at HD/Lowes.
 
  #11  
Old 12-11-08, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by spdavid View Post
As a member of Ace the store in question benefits from Ace's pricing structure.One of the main reasons any store is a member of the co-op is to be part of a group of purchasers that create a volume level capable of taking advantage of volume pricing.The level of a stores sales have no bearing on it's pricing at point of purchase.

Ace does not regulate or enforce what any store prices it's merchandise at.It also of course has no bearing on salary levels.I suggest that a major contributing factor to both in this case is the apparent sway HD has over the customer base in that area that they would actually travel 40 miles rather than patronize a local retailer.

I find the idea of burning 2 or 3 gallons of gas going to and back from an HD hard to rationalize considering any possible benefit from it when you have a local retail alternative.

The objections raised are individual to this store and not a reflection on any other.They likely are at least partially related to factors mentioned.In my area every single Ace store has a number of trained and knowledgeable salespersons in each location.

I suspect the Ace store in question will not survive.Then there will be something I've heard before,the lamenting of the loss of the store once it's gone for what was lost with it.Too little too late.
When you live in a rural area like I do, no one gives a thought to a 40 mile drive for hardware or groceries. The money saved shopping in a larger box store (whether hardware, groceries, or general merchandise) more than offsets the gallon or two of gasoline. Most of us where I live commute a long way daily (myself, I have a 100 mile daily commute to work), so 40 mile round trip to get a quart of milk or a screwdriver is a breeze! Plus, the local stores shut down at 5 PM and aren't open on Sundays, so that severely limits shopping opportunities.
 
  #12  
Old 12-14-08, 10:20 AM
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In my own personal experiences buying pertaining to on line purchases, I have NEVER determined I have saved any real $$$$. Often comes out to more! WHY?

Shipping & Handling Costs!!!!

WHY should I repay over once again any shipping costs when the merchandise is already in the on line merchants store or wherehouse....???? Especially when it's a merchant that already has a retail store???

When I can buy the exact same product(s) locally at the same or almost the same retail price, which already includes shipping....????

Then comes re-paying for on line purchases for handling??? The merchandise is already handled & re-handled in all retail stores as well as warehouses, etc. It's right there on a shelf and included in the retail price in a retail establishment of any kind....

On line purchases require no sales persons helping out or one being on the floor in the store. Lower overhead costs. Only someone to get the product(s) and package and ship it. At my expense once again to handle & ship it???.......

Merchants LOVE on line sales.

Less overhead costs ='s more PROFITS!!!

IMO I save nothing (ZERO) buying anything on line based on my past experiences and in my opinion, when I can purchase the same item(s) locally and also support the merchants in my area...........

Compare prices before assuming any savings really exists. Figure in ALL costs and compare. I save ZERO buying fishing, hunting, boating or shooting supplies on line.

Any so called savings, sometimes a slightly lower price for an out of state retailer, are all lost in shipping & handling costs and/or fees etc. IMO. Unless shipping is FREE...

What I always suggest to members in my topic is to buy at any local appliance parts store. Those parts that are required to fix an appliance. Not necessarily generic parts.

WHY? When you're not sure exactly what part is required or a possible cause for any specific problem or are not a service tech or handy enough person with tools, knowledge or skills to do the job, etc.

A local appliance parts store very likely has someone on site to provide both helpful info, advice, suggestions and/or technical assistance, etc. WHY? Because they want you as a customer, hopefully a repeat customer and someone whom tells friends and family, (FREE word of mouth ADVERTISING) if they are savvy merchants.

Much of which and in some instances, simply cannot be obtained in many "BIG" Box stores. Know what you need? Buying at a BIG Box store is okay.

Need technical help, info and/or advice or repair parts? Shop locally. IMO best possible solution. Easy returns too.

Especially if a return is required too! Like when you buy the wrong part!!! or part does not fit, etc....

No return shipping costs involved buying locally...

All My Dimes Worth.....
 

Last edited by Sharp Advice; 12-14-08 at 10:38 AM.
  #13  
Old 12-14-08, 06:26 PM
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I don't buy many things on the web.........
I do buy pc components & DVD's-------our local big box really does not have any
competition.
I get the same high quality DVD's on line--watch for sales--150 disks ( printable )
for the same price as 50 at big box.Includes frt.--no tax...............
PC components are way cheaper on line.............but you better know what you are buying---returns are a hassle.............
I did buy a lot of reloading items--but today--prices
are sky high......................
 
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