I believe that in many ways, the development and growth of the Internet is the greatest invention of the 20th Century. I know, I know, things like the telephone, aviation, television and even the personal computer are powerful and life changing advancements, but the Internet has combined the thinking power of the World into one huge powerful tool that you can access in your study at 3:00 in the morning – and many of us do. It lets you communicate in real time with people all around the world, seek information from the greatest minds of our time, and research far more deeply than the Encyclopediae ever could – and the prices!! Everything is cheaper on the Internet!! But as always, when discussing pricing, the cheapest is not always the least expensive.
I remember the first time I was blind-sided by the Internet. I had priced an automatic pool cleaner to one of my customers. I had priced in a profit, and I thought I was being aggressive in my pricing. I had a call from the customer telling me his secretary had found the exact same product on the Internet at a much lower price. In fact she had found a price that was lower than my cost! I stumbled, and blustered and finally allowed that he should buy the cleaner from the Internet because I couldn’t even come close to that price.
Immediately, when I disconnected from the call, I called the manufacturer and asked how it was possible to buy from the Internet at less than my cost. I was told they bought thousands of them and got special pricing. More shocking to me was that he never touched the product – never took possession of the cleaner, but simply had it drop shipped directly to the consumer when the order arrived. Their total profit on a $1200 cleaner was $80 – less than 10%. But when you multiplied that by the hundreds of items on the site, and no overhead other than the site maintenance, it was very profitable indeed.
There are times when I recommend you buy pool related things on the internet. The things you should buy, are things that will never require the services of a pool service or pool repair technician. Things like pool nets, brushes, some chemicals, loungers, pool toys – all these things are usually going to be much less expensive online.
Some equipment and equipment parts will also be less expensive (usually, but do your research) and here is where warning flags should go up. One of the advantages of buying from your local pool builder is that if there is a problem, you can and should expect your dealer to resolve the problem through warranty, repair or replacement. If you purchase an expensive automatic pool cleaner online, and it fails, the manufacturer wil recommend you bring it back to the dealer who sold it to you. If that dealer is an online presence with no office, warehouse, repair facility or technicians, they will suggest you return it to the manufacturer. Now it must be packaged up, sent via UPS, (we recommend you insure this valuable product), and wait for it to be returned to you – you pay the freight – now the cheapest is no longer the least expensive – and you’re out a pool cleaner for a couple of weeks. And here is a significant heads up – some manufacturers have taken the decision not to warrant products that are purchased online. While I believe this is not a good strategy, it does happen, and you must be careful.
If you purchase a pool cleaner from Able Pools and Spas, we will be able to repair your cleaner in our office. We have the testing equipment, the technical training, and the parts to get you back in business very quickly. Being a warranty station for your cleaner, we can take care of the warranty paperwork for you, and make the whole thing painless. Our profit on the whole transaction is just about what it would cost you to package things up and send them via UPS both ways to New Jersey for repair.
Contrast that scenario with this real life incident we experienced last year. We received a call from a consumer telling us that her Salt Clorinator wasn’t working. We are a repair station for that product, and she was directed to us by the manufacturer. We asked when we had installed the product and she told us that she had purchased the system on the internet, and her neighbor had done the installation. Now things get problematic. Because we did not install the product, nor did we sell the product, we have no record of the purchase. When we asked her for proof of purchase, she had to find it in her files, but would we come look at it now. Yes, but we will need a credit card to cover the cost of the service call. She gets very upset and states that it is on warranty and we should just come fix it for her. I know you can see where this is going.
The customer called the people she purchased the product from, who sent her a proof of purchase showing it was within the warranty period, and asked again if we will come fix the unit. Yes, but we still need to be paid in advance, because we don’t know if the installation was the problem. After getting really upset with us, we got the card number, ran through a charge for one hour’s service and went to inspect the product. The main unit was certainly our product, and was working fine. The problem was that the people who sold her the unit, combined it with a cheap Chinese made cell, which had failed. Not only no warranty on the cell, but because it had been used on the new Electronics unit, it voided that warranty as well. We recommended she replace the useless cell with the manufacturer’s cell and connection cord. We sold her the replacement cell, and because the system worked properly, we asked the manufacturer to reinstate the warranty on the main unit, which they did. Now she was our customer and our responsibility, and even though she was out a few hundred of dollars, she will be able to call us for service and warranty claims.
We are slowly seeing the manufacturer’s costs to their dealers get in line with their costs to the Drop-Shippers, and this is to the benefit of all concerned – except the Drop-Shippers. But even if it is more expensive (within reason) to buy from your local dealer, remember that included in the purchase is their telephone number, their good will, their desire to keep you happy and their ability to handle all matters related to the care and repair of whatever it was you purchased from them. In our opinion that kind of customer service is priceless.