I am fairly young, graduated from High School in 1995, at the time, the internet was just developing and access to information was not as easy as it is now.  In the last 15 years, limitless amounts of information have become available in a fairly unregulated platform.  The other night, I surfed the web looking to purchase a product, each manufacturer making their claim of being the best, biggest, cheapest, and of highest quality.  I found myself asking the question, is it even possible? Can all be the cheapest, biggest, lowest price, highest quality? Within a short period of time I found myself tired of the marketing baloney and outrageous claims and decided to call it a night and do a little more research before I made my purchasing decision. Below are some of my thoughts on how you can read between the lines and sift through the marketing ploys to make an informed decision when making your next online purchase.  I will use my business perspective and the vinyl fence industry to illustrate my points.

Writing this article was easy as so many on the internet make statements about their company’s size, product, and ability to service: “Guaranteed lowest price.” “It’s impossible for some one else to sell lower because of our buying power.”  We are the biggest.”  “You can trust us” (you might want to think twice about trusting someone who has to tell you to trust them). “We sell the highest quality.”  “We are the factory or we are factory direct.” “We have the best service.”  “We sell the thickest profiles.” “Lifetime warranty.” “Free Shipping.” etc.  Some of these claims may be entirely true so…I will discuss the indicators to help you determine whether they indeed are, when buying vinyl fence online.

Here is the truth about online shopping as I see it:

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WHO IS THE BIGGEST?

Many claim to be the biggest and I wonder how they came to this determination.  Did they call their competitors and ask them how big they are? They did not call us.  If they did call us, we wouldn’t tell them how big we are and neither would anyone else.  I am always amazed when companies claim to be the largest and yet they don’t have a picture of their facility, operations, and even an address to verify their location.  My other thought is biggest what?  Biggest facility, biggest sales, biggest inventory, or biggest truth stretcher for that matter.  We have been in business long enough to know biggest is not always best, especially when it comes to overhead expenses.  We don’t really know if we are the biggest, but we know our size is adequate to sell at a low price and take care of our customer’s needs.  We are happy to show you a photo of our facility and inventory. Hopefully that is enough to convince you we can take care of you.  I am always leery of a company that promotes themselves as the biggest and has little or no information about their facility or history, just a thought.

GUARANTEED LOWEST PRICE?

Can everyone guarantee they will sell at the lowest price?  This is probably the highest utilized marketing tactic on the web.   I translate this statement to really mean, the online retailer is not going to offer a low price to begin with, they are hoping that people are dumb enough to believe that they really do have the lowest price and pay their higher published prices. I have found the best way to read through this marketing tactic is to read the “fine” print.  The greater the amount of disclaimers, the less of a chance that they have really shopped the competition and really offer a low price.  Chances are the price quote you got from a competitor (Us) is not going to meet all the “disclaimers” they put on their so called Guarantee.  We will tell you this, we shop our competition regularly and sell our products at a lowest price, the lowest price we can sell and still make a reasonable profit to ensure we will be around tomorrow to service your needs again. If you somehow find a lower price from a competitor we will do our best to find a way to beat it, but we are not going to sell it for less than what it cost us; we could not stay in business and do that, and neither can the competition.   After all, only the government thinks they can do that?

YOU CAN TRUST US

I always get a little skeptical when someone says trust me. Trust is something that should be earned, not something you brag about.  Also just as the image above with “Free Candy” written on an old beat up van…would you buy from that guy?  I don’t think so, so why would you buy online from an outdated website, if they don’t have the money to invest in using the latest in e-commerce platforms why would you trust them with your credit card number?   I think I have said enough on this.

WE SELL ONLY THE HIGHEST QUALITY

The truth is almost all the vinyl fence produced in the US is of good quality and if you live in the central or eastern states, you would probably be fine with about any supplier you chose. Out in the west or in high heat climates, its a different story. Arizona, where we are located, is about the harshest climate for vinyl. The combination of extremely high temperatures, low humidity, wide temperature swings and constant sunshine makes it a very good testing ground for vinyl.  If it can survive here, it can survive anywhere. Almost every major vinyl producer tests their products here. We have been to their facilities and have seen firsthand the results. All vinyl fence products do not all hold up well in this harsh climate and so we sell only those that do. You can be assured that if you buy it from us, your vinyl fence will perform well wherever you are located.

WE SELL THE THICKEST PROFILES

The truth is anyone who tells you that ranch rail will hold in a cow or horse that is determined to get out is not telling the truth no matter how thick the material may be.  It goes without saying that if you take a one ton Chevy truck and run it head on into a Volkswagen; the truck is going to win. If you have a horse that is a leaner or is determined to get to the greener pasture on the other side of the fence, no matter how thick your post and rails are, you had better have a Plan B to keep them in.  This may include a hot wire or no-climb fence to put on the inside. The owner of our company has a three-acre pasture with two horses and a 2000lb bull. One side is 3-rail 2×6. 160 wall post and .110 wall rails. The other side is .130 wall post and .80 wall rails. Nether have had any problem with the horses but the bull is another story. Even after installing no climb to the inside of both, an occasional rail has to be replaced on them both.  All in all, the replacement cost is minimal for the beautiful, low cost, low maintenance fence that he has enjoyed through the years.  The truth is, thickness is good, but the difference is so minimal that it likely does not make a real difference on most applications vinyl fence is used for.  If you are concerned about this, call and discuss it and get all the information you need to feel comfortable with your decision.

WE ARE THE FACTORY

Vinyl is kind of like furniture in that most furniture manufacturers by bulk lumber profiles from a mill, which purchased it from a timber company, and then they manufacture it into furniture. They then generally sell the furniture to a furniture store who in turn sells it to the public. Generally, a three or more step process. There are several major vinyl extruders that purchase raw material that vinyl is composed of; they are often referred to as extruders.  They combine those materials and extrude it into the various bulk vinyl profiles much like lumber. (link to bundle pictures)  This is the company that generally warranties the products from defects. The fabricator, as we are sometimes called, or manufacturer if you prefer, buys it from the extruder, then fabricates the profiles into the various fences, railings, gazebos, pergolas or whatever you can imagine. The Fabricator then sells the fence to the public over the internet or directly to other fence companies who in turn resale it to the public or over the internet. You should be able to purchase your fence cheaper if you buy directly from a fabricator or manufacturer and bypass one of the normal mark ups.  Many companies on the internet have purchased from a fabricator and are reselling the product at an additional markup.  One good way to sort through this is call and ask, or if you don’t want to go to the trouble, look to the lead time that it takes from ordering to receiving the product, most fabricators can turn the product within a few days and have it shipped quickly.

LIFE-TIME WARRANTY

What does that mean? Your life, my life-time. Is it like the group of young men who went to the all you can eat buffet and after three trips to the buffet the owner comes out and says its time for you boys to leave. One of the young men protest saying the sign out front says “All you can eat.” The owner responds and says that’s right, “And I say that’s all you can eat, now get out.” If you read most of the companies life time warranties you will find enough wiggle room to drive a semi moving a house through. The truth is that a good quality fence installed properly under normal conditions will last a really, really long time. It will experience a slight change in appearance do to its exposure to the elements, but you probably would never notice it unless you add some new fence right next to the older fence. Don’t worry in a short time it will adapt as well and all will look the same, beautiful.  Don’t let warranty be a big deciding factor, read the fine print and you will find most companies offer a very, very, limited warranty.  My recommendation is buying from companies that have been around for over 10 years and know the industry.  My personal plug is to buy from Buy Direct Vinyl Fence, a company with a long track record of successfully selling product (approx 1 million linear feet) in the harshest climate in the nation, Arizona.

I hope this has helped you as you make your online purchase decision.  Become informed and try to look past all the marketing tactics designed to trick you.  When in doubt, call and ask questions, by doing this you will feel confident in your online purchase.