Buying online vs local

tkripalaMay 28, 2013

So, I am doing a house remodel and am redoing all 3 of my bathrooms. I have been researching fixtures, toilets, sinks, etc. and narrowed the list down. I have priced the items online and also locally and for most of the items, the pricing online is anywhere from 10-20% less. The biggest surprise were the toilets, Toto Carlyle II. I have found them online anywhere from $470-$550 and the local stores are selling this for $650. My contractor says that I should be buying them locally just in case that there are any problems he can get the units replaced easily. My counter to that is if the units are the same whether I buy them online or local, why shouldn't I buy them online and save myself a few hundred dollars? He counters that returning items to an online store can be a hassle and it may end up costing more in shipping charges.

So, I am in need of a reputable online Toto reseller that has a decent return policy just in case.

Suggestions or comments?


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I would recommend faucet direct. I didn't return a toilet , but two light fixtures that were deffective . They emailed me the prepaid ups labels, no question ins asked . I believe Amazon is very reputable too .
I think you can do better than the 10 to 20% on faucets and shower fixtures . I got my hansgrohe ones from quality bath , which is an authorized dealer for hansgrohe, for almost 40% less.
Good luck

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 11:44PM
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First you need to figure out which online places are authorized dealers, and if that affects your warranty. Some brands I looked at would not honor a warranty if you purchased from anywhere that was not an authorized dealer.

I ended up buying most stuff locally from one place. I knew what online authorized dealers were selling for. I did pay a little more than the least expensive online places, but all my warranties are intact, I have a real person/location to go to if something goes wrong, and someone to deal with the company if needed that buys more than one consumer would.

I they were roughly competitive with online authorized dealers, but would not price match. Since I was working with a contractor and placing a large order I asked about contractor pricing. They did give me contractor pricing, which was better than the online authorized dealers. I paid, and my contractor had to pick up the order. Easy.

I didn't want to worry about shipping, returning a broken toilet, etc.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 12:33AM
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Our contractor encouraged us to order things that might ever need repairs (faucets, valves, toilets, etc,) through the plumber because his warranty covers labor as well as the product. I thought I would be paying a lot more for this benefit, but the bid including the plumber mark-up was actually quite close to the prices I found online. I went ahead and ordered major fixtures through the plumber and other things on my own. For those other things, I was able to get contractor pricing when I shopped at suppliers recommended by the contractor. In most cases, the prices were not that much higher than I could get at other stores or online.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 6:51AM
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Did you touch any of these items in your local store? Did you even LOOK AT these items in your local store? If yes, then you need to buy local! What do yo think will happen when all the local places go out of business, or at the very least close their showrooms, due to lack of business? It is not fair to the local businesses (who have higher overheads because they have actual showrooms) to use their showrooms to shop around and compare physical products, and then go ONLINE to order the same product, WHICH YOU COULDN'T SEE OR TOUCH IF IT WEREN'T FOR THE LOCAL PLACES!!! I have found that most local places will match, or come very close to the online prices. Sometimes they are even lower. Remember, MSRP does not mean that is what the store will actually sell it for.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 8:47AM
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I am at the tail end of my master and hall bath renovations. I made both online and local purchases for materials. I would have liked to purchase all locally, but my budget would not allow it. I only purchased from reputable online stores (seems to be a lot of spam on GW lately). Luckily I did not have any return/damage issues with my online purchases. I bought 2 Toto Carlyle II toilets online, but was very concerned about the toilets not fitting because the Carlyle needs extra installation room. My online sales rep told me that if the toilets didn't fit, it wouldn't make sense to return the toilet (shipping plus restocking fees, better off selling on craigslist). I was willing to take the chance and in my case everything was fine. I did end up having to return 2 sets of light fixtures which was a pain and waste of money. I'm just glad my return was not a big ticket item like a vanity or medicine cabinets.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 10:41AM
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Ask the local places to price match or at least lower the price.

A local contractor does home improvement radio call in show in my area. About a month ago he talked about this issue regarding plumbing fixtures. He said things are about to change. I don't know if its laws or rules and regulations or what. Reportedy manufacturers of plumbing fixtures are setting minimum prices their products can be sold for. Apparently they will be able to do something about any seller selling below the minimum price.

I don't know anymore about this. Has anyone heard this?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 1:01PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Kohler recently reigned in all of their authorized resellers and established the UMRP that their products can be advertised and sold at. Other retailers are following suit. They also made it a condition of being an authorized seller that they cannot sell to a reseller. No more selling a shipping damaged product to a wholesaler to put on Ebay or buying in bulk to resell to a non authorized seller.

It's about creating a level playing field with level prices and stellar customer service for all. And keeping the Chinese product infiltration to a minimum. And yes, it will cut out a LOT of online bargain resellers that can't meet the manufacturer's financial and customer service obligations in order to become an authorized seller. However, it will create a level of expectation from an authorized seller than a customer will be able to rely on that they will be taken care of if any issue ever arises.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 2:23PM
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I have bought several faucets / sinks / thermostatic valves / Toilets all on-line from Faucets Direct and National Builders supply. If you buy enough there is no freight charge and no sales tax to boot.

Believe it or not I have even purchased tile on-line and even with the freight - it was cheaper than the local supplier.

A manufacter's warranty is good anywhere. As far as the plumber having his own warranty? I wouldn't bank on it.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 4:44PM
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@hollysprings: "It's about creating a level playing field with level prices and stellar customer service for all."

I couldn't disagree with you more.

The 'level playing field' sounds like a socialist idea, where we have to 'manage competion'.

This was done many years ago by the electronics and appliance industry. It failed.

"keeping the Chinese product infiltration to a minimum" .

Are you kidding? Toto is a Japanese company, Kohler has much of their stuff made in China.

"And yes, it will cut out a LOT of online bargain resellers that can't meet the manufacturer's financial and customer service obligations in order to become an authorized seller."

Actually the on-line stores have the best customer service - it's immediate, by phone or email. Many sites have the specs and drawings right on line. The on-line store doesn't need a fancy store - just a warehouse. This lower's the price of the product.

"However, it will create a level of expectation from an authorized seller than a customer will be able to rely on that they will be taken care of if any issue ever arises."

My experience (in Minneapolis) with some high-end plumbing fixtures we wanted to buy: Go to 'authorized' dealer. Ask sales clerk about product - they no nothing - they have never used/installed any of the products, nor do they have knowledge of plumbing. They rummage for a catalog and show you the picture. Then they say they will order it. They say it will take two weeks to get it. Notice everything is 'two weeks'. Pay sales tax.

"a customer will be able to rely on that they will be taken care of if any issue ever arises."

An issue arises? What can a retail store do about that? Can't the user just email or pick-up the phone and call the manufacturer - the one who warrants the product in the first place.

On-line - never waste a gallon of gas, view pictures, download specs, do google search and find reviews from individuals that use / install the products. Pay no sales tax, get it delivered right to your door.

With the advent of quick shipping and computer systems there's no reason why a wholesaler can't sell directly to the public - and cut out the retailer.

The bottom line is the local stores (for most retail items) are going to become fewer and fewer.

Ever buy shoes from Zappos? Free shipping - both ways - always have your size.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 5:12PM
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*****never mind - I will keep my mouth shut (but I completely agree Holly)

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 7:36PM
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I bought my tub online because they don't have it in showrooms, but all the fixtures I bought from a local supplier who bid on my list, then I shopped online and the local company met the online price. Give the local company a chance. Pay your share of local tax for schools, roads, fire and police protection.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 8:13PM
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Exactly oly, give them the chance or before long there will be no showrooms to even look at product!!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 8:32AM
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"My experience (in Minneapolis) with some high-end plumbing fixtures we wanted to buy: Go to 'authorized' dealer. Ask sales clerk about product - they no nothing - they have never used/installed any of the products, nor do they have knowledge of plumbing. They rummage for a catalog and show you the picture. Then they say they will order it. They say it will take two weeks to get it. Notice everything is 'two weeks'. Pay sales tax."

I just went through this exactly. The salesman couldn't even bother to put his glasses on so he could read the information on his computer screen. I asked him to move over and I looked it up for him.

The only reason I bought the tub locally is because I'm not sure when our demolition/construction will start and I wanted a temporary place to store it. There was no price matching - from the beginning, he said he couldn't compete with online though his prices were a little cheaper than some of the other local retail places I had looked at which is why I went with his shop. At least they weren't gouging.

Yes, these local plumbing store fronts are definitely on their way out. Doesn't really matter if we buy on line now or not. The horses have already left the barn (or whatever that saying is).. too late to close the door even with new contract agreements from the big plumbing guys. That just means the Chinese will infiltrate even more.

I have faith in Capitalism, which can be both good and bad. There will be some kind of a new storefront, maybe they won't have any storefront locally but just a huge warehouse/showroom 50 miles from downtown to look at the product and then go order on line in their back room. No salespeople except the ones you talk to in India whom you reach also by calling on the line in the back room, probably even use a Skype equivalent.

It will be a new world or a continuation of what is going on now. 3d printing will most definitely have some place in this new world. Don't even need to ship fully manufactured appliances - can make three different refrigerators using the same metal for the interior racks but just have a different recipe on the "printer". Might even be able to pick your order up same day.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 5:37PM
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All I can say is check that you get a receipt from an authorized reseller. Contrary to what others have said, not all companies will honor the warranty otherwise. Even if you get it from your contractor, make sure you have a receipt stating it's a new product. Grohe and Franke specifically state they only warranty products purchased from authorized reseller, and only for original owner.

Frankie's website has a list of websites that are on the naughty list. They say "buyer beware".

In my case, our local plumbing showroom has an excellent salesman who spent hours helping us decide all our fixtures, and gave us excellent advice. His prices were 30% of MSRP. That was better than some online places, and not as good as some others, but the advice and service is worth the cost. We wouldn't have been able to pick our fixtures without seeing and touching them in person.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 10:13PM
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Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. My preference is to buy local but in the end for smaller items like valves and fixtures, lighting, etc. I'll likely order online but for larger items I'll probably order locally. My reason is primarily for storage. With the remodel, I have little to no place to store large items having already used up my unused place to store flooring (which I did buy online because it wasn't available locally)

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 12:29AM
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I tried shopping at a couple of local high end plumbing fixtures stores, the experience was exact as Geoffrey_B and elphaba stated.

It wasted my time to make appointment with the stores. All I received is a list of hard to recognize part numbers each has a crazy high price; they tried to prevent customers to shop for better prices. I was told that they would give contractor better price but it is up to the contractor if he/she would share the discount. Right there I felt I was a secondary customer totally subject myself to price gouging. I just cannot handle this kind of insecurity and none transparency business practice.

Luckily we have a Pacific Sales across the town that offers great plumbing fixtures selection. The person who helped us is very knowledgable. We got fastastic pirces on both Toto toilet and Toto bath sink that are lower than any online deal. In general, each item may be a few dollars higher than the lowest online price we could find. We are willing to pay the difference in exchange for easier return.

Pacific Sales also offers high end appliances, when we are ready to purchase kitchen appliances we will definately look at their selections.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 4:47AM
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We bought all of our remodel products locally. It involved an addition and gutting our entire downstairs....not a small project. I cannot tell you how many issues we have had with the local dealers .......and don't get me started on competitive pricing. I know we have been royally screwed and if we ever do say anything about price checking online, I swear, it's like we are taking away their last dollar. We expected to pay more....but not be gouged like we have been through this whole project. I understand wanting to support the local businesses. That is why we can't just expect people to come to their store and not receive good service. I'm sorry to say we would never do it this way again. We are nine months in and have a couple of months left. What a nightmare......

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 7:13AM
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Like any store, B&M or online, you have to find a good one.

One place I went was all high end stuff and a little hard to get prices until I had spent a ton of time there. No thanks.

One was ll high end stuff, fancy displays, etc. they were very helpful and priced my list. They weren't a franke dealer though, so my sink would have been special order through their other location and full MSRP. I told them I was visiting a few local supply places with my list. She said to stop back with my quotes and they would be able to match most prices. But the quotes she gave me were only a little below MSRP and much higher than the place I went with.

The place I used had ok prices. They couldn't match the online authorized seller's sale, but I expected that. They did give me contractor pricing when I asked, so that saved me a bit. Their prices were decent to start though. And they were low pressure and very friendly.

I think places that deal mostly with builders and contractors are you're best bet, at least around here. This place had a showroom where you can look, but I got the impression they do most of their sales to the trade in one way or another as their pick up location is an industrial warehouse in a different location. Because my contractor was perfectly content to let me buy everything (saved him a lot of time), I was able to shop around and if needed give his name as my GC. As long as he picked up the order, which was fine with him, I paid contractor pricing and he didnt do a markup.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 10:35AM
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My dad owned a small hardware store and as a result I am a fervent supporter of local businesses. For my recent bath remodel, I attempted to purchase all my plumbing at my local plumbing supply house. The total came to about $300 more than it would have had I purchased online, but I was able see the products, to ask questions, get advice from the CS rep and have everything ready for one pick-up time (they advertise their consultation services as a benefit).

I spent at least an hour meeting with the CS rep with a to-scale schematic to discuss my wants and what fixtures would work.

On install day, the plumber starts working on the shower valve, then looks at my schematic, and says the valve I selected won't work. He called the company, they agreed, then the CS rep, who reviewed everything and then said "Oh I forgot you wanted a tub spout" despite the fact that I ordered a tub spout.

I got an offer of an additional valve for a very small discount and no apology while my plumber is waiting.

I called Faucet Direct and spent a long time on the phone with a very helpful CS rep. She found a valve that would work, agreed to ship it from CA so it could be overnighted at no additional cost and sold me everything else I needed and saved me over $300 even with an upgrade to a Grohe handspray.

I returned everything else except the already installed toilet to the local place. Had they been more apologetic, or offered a bigger discount they would not have lost the sale. Instead, I returned even the partially soldered valve and told them if they would not accept everything I'd contest the charges because it was their error. Faucet Direct deserved every cent I spent and I'll be using them again for my next bathroom.

I still support my local businesses, but in my opinion service is the name of the game, and if they want to compete they need to offer true service, not lip service.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 12:09PM
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Last house we did a total remodel of the bathroom. Ordered everything from a local fixture supply place. A few WEEKS later was told the tub was delayed but would be in the next week. Went ahead the day before it was due to arrive and had the contractor tear everything out. Found out the following day they hadn't even ORDERED the tub from Kohler, who in turn didn't have it in stock either. Traipsed up and down to the basement bathroom for about 3 weeks while waiting for the damn tub to show up.

Fast forward to my current house and kitchen renovation. Ordered almost everything online from sink, faucet, flooring, hardware and fridge and had no issues. Maybe it was a fluke but I do enjoy shopping in my pajamas at my own pace at home rather than wandering around a store looking for help or trying to dodge pushy salespeople...

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 6:43PM
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As one of our local hardware stores has on their sign
Buy local or bye bye local.

Almost everything in our kitchen came from non-chain stores - although some were in various cities - I bought a few items when visiting DM.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 8:03PM
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Mabel, if you order as many things as I have online, you will have wrong items, defective parts, etc. to deal with there also. Some can/will handle any issues quickly, some will not. It took me 6 weeks to get a defective Hansgrohe part replaced, less than a week of which was actually Hansgrohe (including cross country shipping) -- the rest was the vendor's incompetence.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 2:21PM
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