Discount "Safes"

Seems like I'm hearing it more lately . . . "you want more to open it than I paid for it!"

Mostly this comes from people who bought their (now broken or forgotten combination) "safe" at some big-box store. Often enough, they're right. No apologies from this quarter, however. Some companies currently making and selling what pass for safes have their products made in other countries where the labor costs are very low in comparison to what Americans have to earn to keep their families fed. Couple that with the ferocious competition among safe makers to sell products in quantity. The only effective way to do it is by selling cheaper. It becomes the race to the bottom, in both price and quality.

Case In Point: Last week I was hired by a safe maker to repair a gun safe. The owner bought it at a discount house, but discovered a problem with it as soon as he tried to use it. He found his way to the safe maker's help line. A company rep told him he thought he knew what was wrong and would send a local service company to fix it after sending the needed part.

That was where I came in. The rep called, asked me to handle it, then faxed me information and shipped me the part. When the part came, I contacted the safe owner and scheduled the repair. The problem hadn't really been clearly described, but was obvious when I got the service panel off the door: Without getting overly technical in the description, the problem was related to extremely cheap materials, poor design execution, and what looked to me like nearly zero quality control. That safe should never have left the factory.

It would have been very hard to make a believable argument that the problem I saw happened after the safe had passed post-assembly inspection. Obviously it simply hadn't been inspected or had been inspected in a very lax manner. The owner had already left for work when I arrived, so his wife was detailed to show me to the work. However, after I began, the owner called from work and asked his wife to put me on the phone. He began asking a few questions about the safe. The thrust of his questioning was to the effect of "is this a good safe that I bought?"

Wrong question, asked to the wrong person at the wrong time! His questions epitomized the height of dumb consumerism. The man paid $499.00 for his safe. A good to excellent safe of the same size would realistically start at around $1,500.00 or more at a real safe dealer's showroom. Some before-purchase comparison shopping and info-gathering would have told him this. Logic and common sense would suggest that a safe purchased at a discount house for a rock bottom price would not be top-of-the-line quality-wise. The time to find out that sort of information is before, not after paying $499.00.

I was also the wrong person to ask. He wasn't my customer, the safe maker was. I earn my revenue by doing work for safe makers from all over the place. They pay me to do the work, not evaluate their efforts or to speak disparagingly about their products. Think about it . . . sort of like your restaurant waiter confiding to you that the food you already paid for wasn't as fresh as his employer advertised. When people do this sort of buying and then have problems, someone like me comes to fix the problem (if possible). I/we charge the factory, not the end users for what we do.

My solution to being put in quandaries like this is to deflect, not indict. I gave him a more or less standard type of answer: "The company that made your safe produces safes of various grades and levels of protection. This is the one they designed for (discount retailer name here)." Leave it to the asker to figure what level he bought at.

Oh yes, and par for the course . . . the replacement part the safe maker sent was very poorly made. The all-steel one-piece set of door bolts was missing a critical hole that needed to be there for the thing to be installable, let alone functional. I had to finish the manufacturing job and measure and cut the steel to make it fit, turning what should have been a half hour of work into two hours' worth. When I was done the safe was "functional" at best. I wouldn't have paid $4.99 for it, even without the warranty problem. If only he'd asked me first.

Not all safes are low quality, but you gets what you pays for.


Note to readers: Please feel free to comment and post your thoughts about this and any of my posts. Don't worry, I'm pretty thick-skinned. Thanks.


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