Warnings about buying appliances at a home superstore

November 18, 2015

When you're out to buy a new appliance or power tool, it's only natural to make your local home superstore your first stop. But purchasing a complex mechanical device is not the same as picking up a new faucet or some paint or wallpaper — and you may not be getting quite the same good deal. Here are some things that you should consider before buying that washer or router at a big-box outlet.

Warnings about buying appliances at a home superstore

1. Lowest prices? Not always

After entering the appliance-selling game relatively late, big retailers don't command the same volume discounts that they do on commodities like lumber and drywall. Nor do appliance manufacturers want to alienate the thousands of mom-and-pop appliance stores across the continent, stores that still offer competitive prices.

Consider the potential benefits from buying from a small, local dealer — dependable service, accountability and supporting the local economy. And if for some reason you buy an appliance from a big-box retailer (maybe you want to purchase everything for your kitchen remodelling in one place), bring the top competitor's lowest price quote with you. Most will match (or beat) that price.

2. Quality service is not their game

When it comes to large appliances, good service is important. Here's what the big-box stores don't want you to know about how their business models work:

  • They are typically too short-staffed to be able to handle service well.
  • They provide you with a "customer-service department" rather than simply the "guy in charge."
  • Their organizational structure makes it very difficult to communicate with either your original salesperson or a single customer-service representative. Typically, there's no receptionist. You call in and must navigate your way through a huge phone tree, with no individual employee e-mail or voicemail boxes for storing messages. Besides, the employees are too busy playing customer pinball to really give you their undivided attention. Think of big-box stores as retailers, period.

3. Big-box stores do not have their own installers

When you purchase a large appliance that needs professional installation, it's not store employees coming into your home — they're employees of an installation company that the store has hired on contract. The big-box store acts as the middleman, charging you the installation fee, plus a markup that's usually in the neighbourhood of 25 percent.

Sometimes these installation companies are start-up outfits that can't generate enough business on their own and need the extra work. The whole setup creates a gap in accountability that can make it hard to solve any problems that crop up.

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