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The Value of Time vs Money When Buying Tools Online

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I have become increasingly picky about where I shop for tools and equipment, whether because some retailers are delivering poorer customer experiences, or I’ve become more averse to having my time wasted by avoidable problems.

I ordered a Haimer gauge from Zoro, and they shipped it in a thin plastic mailer bag.

Haimer gauges are pricey precision setup tools. They’re calibrated from the factory, and deviation right out of the box is an indicator of very rough handling, possibly to the point of damage.

That’s not the kind of tool you package in a thin plastic mailer. Presumably because of that, the gauge was knocked out of calibration.

I spoke to Zoro customer service rep, and requested that they ship a replacement in a box.

The next one also arrived knocked out of calibration, presumably due to also being shipped in a thin plastic bag mailer.

I could recalibrate them, but if the jostling and handling shock was severe enough to throw the calibration way out of spec, could I trust the gauges to not be damaged?

Haimer Gauge in Perfect Spec from MSC

I ordered another from MSC, at higher pricing. It shipped in a box and arrived with its perfect calibration intact. This is how it’s supposed to look right out of the box.

I ordered a specific digital indicator, and Zoro sent me an older model with a different SKU. That was another return. I didn’t trust that the replacement would be for the correct model, and so I reordered from MSC, also at higher pricing.

Wrench with Sticky Label

I ordered some hand tools from Zoro, and this is how they shipped them – with high-adhesive stickers covering the tools.

The tools were all just thrown a box with no padding material.

When ordering from other suppliers, loose open stock tools are often placed in bags, with packing stickers placed on the bags, also usually with padding to prevent things from knocking around.

Mechanics Hand Tools with Sticky Labels

Zoro’s packers placed high-adhesive stickers right on the tools themselves.

It took an inordinate amount of time for me to remove the stickers from the tools, and not just the ones shown here. I ordered a wrench, ratchets, extensions, and one or two other loose hand tools, and most were given the same treatment.

I ordered a bottle of anti-seize, and besides having an old production date, Zoro placed a high-adhesive sticker over the safety information and warnings.

I will still shop at Zoro, but not as much, and only for very specific tools, supplies, or equipment.

They regularly offer 10% coupons, and 15% discounts on occasion, which is the main appeal. Lower prices are the only reason I keep going back to Zoro.

Luckily, Zoro usually has great customer service, but that doesn’t make up for the headaches they’ve given me over the past year.

This isn’t just about Zoro, they just gave me many memorable frustrations this year. Other retailers have wasted my time as well.

I try to be reasonable. Some problems are unavoidable, others are forgivable. But when nearly every order necessitates a long email chain or call to customer service, I have to ask whether monetary savings are worth the wasted time.

I have been increasingly shopping at other suppliers, and with each headache-free shopping experience, pricing differences seem to matter less and less.

Lower pricing is still a priority for me, but it’s not always worth it.

It used to be that I would go out of my way to save a few dollars. Now, when ordering tools, parts, supplies, or other such things, I’m finding that I’m willing to spend a few more dollars to reduce the chances of time-wasting frustrations.

Part of me wonders if I’m overreacting, but I just like for things to work.

I’ve become accustomed to buying tools that will do their job with minimal frustrations or disappointments. This sometimes means spending more for certain brands.

Still, I have spent so long shopping for the best deals on the same products that the idea of spending more for a better or less frustrating customer experience seems strange to me, and even unnatural.

The notion of spending a little more money for less trouble drove some of my recent purchasing decisions, and will likely do the same in 2024.

At what point do you spend more for the same products?