Monday, July 30, 2012

“Budget” in the Name? Be Cautious!

by Kate Collins

This is a cautionary tale about being misled by advertising. It’s a true story about my venture into buying window coverings that can apply to just about anything sold by a company with the word Budget in their name.  
By definition, a budget is an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time. But combined with another noun, such as the word car – i.e. budget car -- one would expect to see a car at a lower than normal price. So a company selling window coverings that incorporated the word Budget into its moniker would seem to sell a product at a lower cost. Right?

Not so much.

I was told that this company, let’s call it Budget Company X, sold shades and blinds at a discount. I arranged a meeting with the salesman and found that he operated out of his van. Fine. Obviously a franchise. No overhead costs thus lower prices. Made sense to me.

He measured my windows, I selected various styles of blinds, and later that day he emailed me the estimate. First he gave me the MLP (manufacturer’s list price), in this case, Hunter Douglas’s pricing. Then he gave me his price at a 30% discount. Wow. What a difference! From $8565 MLP down to $5752.

And even though this seemed like a terrific deal, a little voice in my head kept saying, even discounted, that’s a lot of money for not a lot of windows. Yes, they’re Hunter Douglas, which is a good brand, but still… that much?

After a day of tossing it around in my head, I visited my local decorating/paint store, where they also sell Hunter Douglas blinds and shades. I took in measurements from a sampling of windows and got quotes. I was stunned! The charge for one window at Budget Company X was $446, while at the local store the same window was $195.  And down the line it went. I asked for measurements for all the windows and got a grand total of $3770. That’s a heck of a lot less expensive than Budget Company X’s quote.

So much for the “budget” window coverings. I’m saving  $2000 because I trusted that little voice in my head.  

Have you had a similar experience or been caught up in the hype and later kicked yourself for not double checking?


Aurian said...

I had someone measure my house for new double glazed windows and artificial casings. And when I told him I would be shopping around, he never even bothered to send me an estimate.

Marilyn S. said...

As the owner of a small, local men's clothing store, I'm glad to hear that you learned something here. Shop the little guy. It always drives us nuts to have people bring in a suit (or 3) that they purchased at a store who shall remain nameless but whose initials are JAB (or possibly MW). "Buy 1 get 2 free!" and they end up paying more for the 3 suits than we would have charged at our regular price, since we don't play any games, marking it up to mark it down. And we include alterations, which they are now paying us to do on their new bargain suits. We're always amazed at how many buy into the hype, but at least they only do it once after they find out how it works. Thanks for passing the word on your end!

Amy W. said...

Do I have a story for you! We had our furnace looked at a couple of weeks ago. They told us it was 25 years old and that they don't make the parts for it anymore and that they don't make the freon (sp?) for the a/c anymore. So they sent out a guy later that day that was such a smooth talker that I believed him when he said that it would cost $8,200 to replace both and do a duct cleaning. But my husband and I thought better and we got two other quotes. I was shocked because the next quoted we got was $4,200. I was stunned, especially since they were using the same exact equipment of the previous company. And then we got one one other just for fun and he came in around $6,200. Needless to say we went with the company that was $4,200 and saved $320 on the duct cleaning by going with the company with the $6,200 bid. So I roughly saved $3,500. Words of advice, shop around, get at least 3 different quotes and feel comfortable with your decision because it can cost you $1,000's. So, Kate I know exactly how you feel. Rule of 3, always get 3 quotes!! :)

Linda McDonald said...

Great reminder for us to shop around and get quotes from different places. It's sad to think how many people end up paying the enormous price for the blinds/shades. I'm glad you listened to your inner voice.

Amy W. said...

One last thing! I completely agree with Marilyn! Shop the little guy! When you see a lot of advertisements for something, they have to pay for it some how and that's where we went wrong with the first quote, they were the big name in town, there advertising is all over the place. On the radio, on the front cover of Dex, a whole page in the phone book, billboards. That should be a red flag in some aspects because there over head is going to be much higher, over someone who is locally owned and can only afford to do a small blurp in the phone book. :) I'm sure it's not always true but it all boils down to shopping around. I'm a big fan of mom & pop businesses and keeping it local!! :)

Debra said...

The hardest items to figure out are window coverings and mattresses.
When buying.a new mattress, comparison-shopping is impossible. It is set up that way. We went with the store where we bought our sofa, RFlan. with our budget (your first meaning Kate) in mind. Very happy with it,four years later.
Window coverings are impossible. I know exactly what I want for my kitchen, roman- blinds in a yellow and blue toile. I have ten windows in my kitchen,including foyer and door and don't have $5000 to cover the windows in one room. I so wish I could sew! If anyone can provides lead, I will pay a bounty.

Kate Collins said...

Marilyn, I shop local whenever I can. Our town square has no empties now, and in this economy, that's something! Amy, you were so smart to get those other quotes. I've sure learned a big lesson. I hope everyone who reads the blog and all the comments will too. As my character Grace would say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.