When you decide to buy a new washing machine, fridge or power tool, it may seem only natural to make your local superstore your first stop. But purchasing a complex piece of machinery is not the same as picking up some paint or wallpaper, and you may not be getting the same good deal. Here are some things that you should consider before buying at a large retail outlet or superstore.
1. They don’t always have the lowest prices
Consider the potential benefits of buying from a small local dealer – you’ll get dependable service and accountability, and you’ll be supporting the local economy. But if you do decide to buy an appliance from a large retail outlet or superstore – perhaps because you want to purchase everything for your new kitchen in one place – bring the top competitor’s lowest price quote with you. Most will match, or beat, it. But remember that quality of service may not be their main objective and, when it comes to large appliances, good service is important. This is what the large retail outlets and superstores don’t want you to know about how their businesses operate:
- They are typically too short-staffed to be able to handle service well – remember that, to make a profit, they have to keep overheads low.
- They will give you a number for a customer-service department rather than the name of a person in charge, so it will take longer to deal with any problem that you may have.
- Their organizational structure means that it is very difficult to communicate with either your original salesperson or an individual customer-service representative. Besides, employees in many superstores are far too busy trying to deal with all the other customers to be able to give you their full attention. It’s best to think of large retail outlets and superstores simply as retailers.
2. Most large retail outlets and superstores do not have their own installers
When you purchase a large appliance that needs professional installation, it is not employees from the shop who will come into your home, but people who are probably employed by an installation company that the shop has hired on contract. The large retail outlets and superstores simply act as the middleman, charging you the installation fee, plus a mark-up on the cost of the goods. Sometimes these installation companies are new businesses that aren’t able to generate enough business on their own and need the extra work for cashflow. The whole set-up can create a gap in accountability that may make it hard to solve any problems that crop up.
3. Buying tools that are exclusive to one retailer is risky
Some brands of power tools are sold at just one retail chain and large retail outlets and superstores often have their own brand-name tools. This can spell trouble for contractors working long distances from home and for people who move to an area where there is no branch of that particular shop. Without easy access to the outlet that sells your brand, you might not be able to buy suitable replacement parts or accessories for your tools. Before you choose a brand, find out where accessories and parts for that brand are available, where repairs are made and then consider if it’s convenient for you. Ideally, choose one that is widely available everywhere.
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4. Power tools that use one kind of battery are a great idea
The battery is typically the most expensive part of a new cordless drill, saw or other power tool. And it’s always a good idea to have a back-up battery. Buying several power tools that use the same battery will allow you to keep one that is already charged up and ready to use at a moment’s notice, without having to buy a spare. It also cuts down on the number of battery chargers you have around the house, which reduces clutter and saves you money.
5. Renting tools can cost as much as buying them
Renting a power or garden tool can cost nearly as much as buying the same tool new. If you are going to use a tool more than once or twice and have space to store it, it makes sense to buy, rather than rent. Even if it only takes you an hour to aerate your lawn, you may have to rent the tool for a minimum time period, for instance 4 to 24 hours. Instead, if you need expensive lawn tools such as a ride-on lawnmower or tillers, ask your neighbors if they’d like to pitch in so you can buy one and share it.
6. Get the dealer to install it
There can be a lot of finger pointing between the customer and appliance salespeople if a new appliance doesn’t work. The dealer may say it’s the installer’s fault, while the installer may claim the retailer is responsible. Prevent this by asking the retailer to install it. When the same business sells and installs your appliances, they will usually take responsibility for problems that occur.