Join Date: Jul 2002
Thanked 4 Times in 4 Posts
Rep Power: 14
Costs of Sailing merchandise
Based on the comments I read here and elsewhere, we make purchase decisions based on one or more of the following: price, reliable prompt delivery, and service. Together these constitute value. Sometimes we only need the best price; at other times we need technical or application advice, which can end up adding to the value of the purchase. Since our need for these 1/2/3 things varies, blanket statements about ''cost'' are difficult to make.
Based on some pretty intense buying during two pre-cruise prep periods (1999-2000 and 2002-now), here''s how I''d categorize the choices available to me:
Defender-service is available if you seek it; prices usually very competitive; more recently, their shipping efforts (timeliness & accuracy) have noticeably improved; on-line service includes personal follow-up by email and allows 24/7 shopping flexibility. They''ve ended up being my primary vendor (tho'' not intentionally so on my part) due to price & prompt, acccurate delivery, but then I usually don''t need much service.
West Marine-quality vendor I''ve especially appreciated when I need obscure info dug out, when a 3rd party call to manufacturer would help (on WM''s nickle), when I''ve been outside the country, and when I need a specific item (model/brand) the other guys don''t carry (not uncommon; WM has a huge inventory). Their pricing drives me nuts - some marine gear is grossly overpriced (forget about generic stuff, which is there for our convenience, not for best price) yet most items seem reasonable given a store to which I can ride my bike from either boat or condo. Finally, I value their rebate program and often use their ''free shipping'' feature by ordering parts at the store which it can''t carry due to limited shelf space. I think they are an especially valuable vendor to new(er) boaters, where their technical competence is noteworthy via Product Specialists...and whom among us hasn''t used the technical write-ups in their outstanding catalog?
Boat/U.S.-they just never seem to compete well when I''m shopping for gear and, over time, I find I now rarely consider using them. My local store is distant and does not seem to support sailboat cruising needs well, which is ''my'' niche need. Perhaps I should give them another shot.
Sailnet-after lots of promises about consolidation bringing improvement, I''ve placed 5 orders with Sailnet based on price alone. Only 50% of the combined items were delivered promptly and accurately and even a return (of what I didn''t order) was handled inaccurately. One CSR has been superb, while others disappointing. Items represented as being ''on order'' (suggesting shorter backorder periods) were not. Generally, they''ve continued to be a big disappointment for me so their discount *really* has to be deep for me to use them. I realize there is a lot of loyalty on this BB for them but I don''t find their on-line services an adequate substitute for the good retail service that should be their core competency.
Home Depot-because Stormer mentioned them, I''ll just add that they carry Ancor wire & terminals (great marine products), and of course a bazillion plumbing fittings, generic thinners, tools, etc. that can save us money over buying at the local WM or B/U.S. store. But they aren''t automatically ''cheap''. I just bought several Ancor wire spools at HD and paid exactly the same as at WM.
Specialized Vendors - I should mention that some small and/or specialized vendors have been especially valuable to me and, without them, I''d have lost lots of valuable time and probably much money. The local Goodyear Rubber store has every fitting and hose known to man - repowering and a new fuel tank without them would have been very painful, indeed. A local ''old fashioned'' hardware store has at least one of everything made in the last 50 years (and the nice folks who will help me find it, the antithesis of my HD experiences). PYI (on-line and via phone, way out there in the Northwest) must have some of THE most helpful, knowledgeable people in the business. The point I''m making is that we should all try to develop such specialized resources as one or two ''marine'' sources can''t meet all our needs well.
Product choice and service have improved immensely in the last 27 years (my frame of reference). This has been especially true in the 90''s with West Marine establishing a benchmark standard on product choice and service, and then on-line shopping at the decade''s end. Today, we are very fortunate, indeed.