I’m not going to go in to the whole “support your local shop” debate (that’s a topic for another day that I’ve been brewing on) so for now let’s just say that your local shop doesn’t carry the brand/product that you’re trying to buy. In these cases you’re kind of forced on-line and the allure of low low prices might start to pull you in.
Focusing only on price is short-sighted
Even when discounted, you’re still dropping a ton of money on something. And what happens if it’s not right? What if you get on it, and it doesn’t fit the way you thought it would, or the board doesn’t carve or butter or press the way you expected?
If you went with a discounter and got the absolute lowest price, you my friend, are officially boned.
If you’re not getting the best price, what are you getting?
A lot of brands pay lip-service to the whole “superior customer service” spiel. But do they back it up? Most of the discounters can’t. So you’ve got a tradeoff between low price and good service. When you’re dropping thousands of dollars on equipment, you should probably go with the company that stands behind what they sell you and not the one who scrapes the thinnest margins on discounted gear. Here’s two that I routinely shop:
- REI is a pretty popular consumer cooperative (membership is like $20 for a lifetime) that focuses on outdoorsy activities like skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, hiking, and all that other weird granola shit. They don’t have all the brands but most of the big ones. Join the club, and get 10% cash back at the end of the year. An added bonus is that they do have large brick & mortar stores in most metro areas.
- Another is Backcountry.com/Dogfunk.com & related companies. You’re probably all familiar with them, and they carry pretty much all the brands and all the gear, but their prices are never the lowest of the online retailers.
What these companies have in common is a superb return policy. Basically anywhere, any time, for any reason, used or unused, you can return something you bought from them. It’s the equivalent of a lifetime satisfaction guarantee.
Will that big-box online equivalent of a snowboarding Wal-Mart offer you that sort of guarantee? I doubt it.
Am I hesitant to drop $500 on a mail-order snowboard? You bet. But it sure is nice to know that if it doesn’t meet my expectations, I can send it back or walk it in to the store and exchange for a different size or a different board.
Price isn’t everything, and especially when you’re spending lots of money, paying a little extra for great after-sales service is worth every penny. Think of it as an insurance policy: you hope you’ll never have to use it, but that one time you do makes it worth it.