Chapter 4 Topics

4-I: Internet Vendors, Liquidation Outlets, Auction Sales, Big Box Stores, and Traveling Circuses

Internet Vendors

Versus: A Reputable Brick & Mortar Dealer

I don’t blame anyone for trying to save a buck, and it makes sense to consider non-retail-store alternatives, but when it comes to hot tubs, proceed with caution.  Here are some examples of unwise sources when purchasing a hot tub.

a) Big Box Stores:
I do not exaggerate when I say that big box store hot tubs are a terrible long-term investment.  They are uncomfortable, badly designed, poorly engineered, made of low-quality of materials and often have parts-availability problems.  They look nice in pictures and sound good on a spec sheet, but they score very low on performance, reliability, and longevity.  There’s a night & day difference between a well-made hot tub and the stuff they sell in big box stores.  This website addresses these concepts in more detail elsewhere. 

I’m not just bashing the competition, because we too, sell some big box store brands for similar cheap pricing.  But at least we’re upfront about how they compare to other brands, and let the client decide how to proceed.  And if you choose to buy a cheap brand from us, at least we’ll take better care of you when things do go wrong than if you bought from a faceless, soulless big box store.

b) Online vendors:
It’s a bad idea to buy a hot tub from an online vendor.  Spec sheets and pictures don’t do a product justice and the marketing might promote an inaccurate representation of what you’re actually getting.  Plus, there’s little or no recourse when things go wrong, and it’s not as easy as you think to return a hot tub purchased online.  When you deal with a brick & mortar business, you can see the product in-the-flesh and deal with real people who will be accountable to you down the road.

c) Hot Tub “Expos”: (AKA: Traveling Circuses) 
If you do some research, you’ll find that many people consider these expos to an outright scam. I think that’s a little harsh – I think shady and unscrupulous would be more accurate.

First off, their promotions make it sound like there’s lots of vendors from lots of brands represented, but in reality, it’s just one company with one sales team selling their own products under different labels to give the illusion of variety and competition.  

Secondly, team members work on commission, so well-trained high-pressure sales people create a sense of urgency to “buy now”, and will say anything to close as many deals as possible before moving on to the next town.  A significant percentage of buyers report feeling rushed and manipulated, but traveling salespeople aren’t known for caring about peoples’ feelings, and they’ll be long gone by the time buyers’ remorse kicks in.

Thirdly, they make it sound like delivery is nicely “taken care of”, but since they don’t do their own deliveries, they have to rely on finding locals to do it, which can turn out to be a huge problem. It’s hard enough for local stores to find qualified, insured, reliable, experienced hot tub movers.  These traveling hot tub shows have no established relationships with local movers, so they often end up cold-calling non-professionals who have little or no hot tub handling experience.  This can result in very expensive or even cost-prohibitive delivery costs, and there’s a very real possibility of damage due to improper/careless handling.  If you try submitting a damage claim with the company that sold it – they’ll simply blame the movers, and good luck trying to get the movers to pay for it!

Fourthly, keep in mind you’ll never see these guys again.   No matter what the sales people tell you (you’ll never see them again, so they have nothing to lose), warranty and post-sale client care can be an absolute nightmare. (read   4-G: What About Warranty? , 4-H: Post-Warranty Predicament, 4-M: How Credible is the Salesperson? and 2-L: Sneaky Sales Techniques

This isn’t a spiteful personal opinion of mine.  Just Google “hot tub expo scam” to see what others have to say.   

These guys hire reputation management specialist, who know how to generate good ratings and make bad online reviews disappear, (read 2-D: Why so Few Bad Reviews?) but below are links to just a few examples of online commentaries that they haven’t been able to erase:

d) Liquidator Outlets
There used to be a liquidator outlet store in Langley with huge banners promoting “Hot Tubs”.  Knowing a thing or two about hot tubs, I could tell these had been brought in on a container from China, and I could immediately notice all kinds of flaws in their product without even taking a close look.  They stopped selling them soon after.  I can only assume that it turned out to be a bad business mistake.  

e) Auctions:
When you crunch the numbers, it’s obvious that there’s a very small profit margin when a factory sells their “surplus models” through an auction house.  So, I contacted the factory directly to ask why not sell them through my business instead?  Their response was, “Believe me, you don’t want these ones!”.   

The auction house was promoting them as “new”, but I found out these were all actually “returns” from upset clients for whatever reason.  If the factory didn’t consider it worthwhile to fix them for resale and didn’t want them sold through one of their official dealers, it’s safe to assume they were trouble.  Some had no equipment, some leaked, some had hairline cracks and/or delamination problems, and others needed significant work.   So “buyer beware” definitely applies here.

f) Strip Mall Leased Spaces:
A business can quickly set up a storefront in a retail location in a matter of days, and then literally be gone overnight if things don’t work out. A simple rented unit with glossy promotional posters on the wall, some shelving to display products, and a few hot tubs on the floor, can do a midnight move by packing it all up and getting out of there before the sun rises.  I’m not just theorizing – I’ve actually seen it happen a few times.  

We, on the other hand are deeply rooted, and are heavily invested for the long term.  Take a tour of our full facilities to see what I mean by that.