Bargain Buyers Often Get Stung
The Editor’s Opinion Page
Recently, a friend of ours who is a chief in a small department called us up to complain about a piece of portable fire fighting equipment he had bought. There was really nothing wrong with the equipment, the difficulty stemmed from the conditions under which it was purchased.
Seems like our friend got such a terrific price on the item that he couldn’t resist buying it. But he bought it from a guy whose salesroom was in the trunk of his car and whose office probably was in his hat. And after he had made the sale, the guy rode off into the sunset— never to be seen again.
There was nothing wrong with the product the chief had purchased, but eventually it developed some minor kinks. Then our friend found out that he had no one locally to turn to.
So, he started corresponding halfway across the continent with the manufacturer. Letters, however, do not lend themselves readily to the solving of technical problems. The chief had neither the mechanical background, nor a parts catalog to decide what he needed (the thingamobob on the whatsis that rides on the little shaft on the lower left).
And based on the limited information available to him, the manufacturer could not take prompt and proper action. For a while the accusations flew one way, the apologies the other. But the problem was solved finally, and the equipment went back into action. Not, we might mention, without some lingering rancor on both sides of the fence.
Whom to blame for this situation?
A reputable salesman will put a fair price on his product, thoroughly demonstrate it, and if necessary train the chief and at least a few of his men in its use. He will also make all reasonable guarantees relative to parts and servicing, and will be available to carry out such guarantee.
So it would seem that the blame lies on the chief. He bought a fairly expensive piece of equipment on the spur of the moment. He bought it at a bargain price. And, finally, he bought it from someone he didn’t know, or at least know of.
But the chief is a customer, and right or wrong, the customer should always be right. So it would, therefore seem that the blame lies with the manufacturer for not policing his sales outlets. In the long run, the salesman who makes a sale at a ridiculously low price is doing the manufacturer considerable harm. Imagine if all salesmen acted like the one in the above situation.
Fortunately, the situation does not happen too often; neither is it a rare case. But rather than blame anyone, let’s review some good practices to be used in purchasing fire equipment.
First and foremost, purchases should be planned and not carried out by impulse. Second, be suspicious of bargains. A bargain is not always what it seems and in the long run might cost more than if the regular price had been paid. Third, don’t buy from a stranger unless you oan check out his credentials and his claims.