Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Tools’
For the final post in this series, I am going to move solidly into the world of my opinion. Sooner or later, no matter what tool you decide to buy or what project you plan to tackle, you have to find some place to spend your money. I’ll give you a preview, I am governed by “you get what you pay for” in more things than product selection. I will also add my previously mentioned view that you should never visit a store, talk to a salesman and then buy the item off of Amazon in order to save a few bucks. If everybody did that, there would be no local store – think about it and be fair. Also, please add comments regarding suppliers you like or ones located outside CT and the US.
Tools, Bits, Blades and Stuff – I have a lot of tools that were purchased from Lee Valley, and if you ever want to experience a serious drool-inducing hour, crawl through their catalog of Veritas hand tools. The really cool thing about Lee Valley is that if your tool breaks, they will fix it, or help you fix it. If your tool just doesn’t work, or if you think it would work better if… They will refund your money and, if they agree with you, they will redesign the tool. I also buy mail-order from Rocker. I have been buying from them since before they changed their name to Rockler, (I think they were the WoodWorkers Store) and they have always been very easy to deal with. They have almost everything a woodworker needs, and I really do believe that you have to support the vendors who serve the comprehensive needs of woodworkers as opposed to the ones who simply cherry-pick a few profitable items. Since I live in CT, I am fortunate to be able to shop at Coastal Tool. These guys are a large mail-order tool supplier that just happens to be located in a nearby town. They have good prices, and a good selection, but we’re talking tools, not hardware and supplies. Also proximate to me are two WoodCraft stores. I like WoodCraft because they carry a wide range of tools, hardware, stains, finishes and wood, and they seem to be totally staffed by woodworkers. You can discuss a project and get advice from someone who knows exactly what you are doing.
Brands – Most tool brands are good these days as long as you realize that a $29 orbital sander isn’t going to be as good as an $129 sander. In general, I like Delta and Porter Cable for the American-made history that they represent and for the fact that I have yet to wear out one of their tools, including the ones I inherited from my father. I like Bosch, although I wouldn’t say that I am loyal to them. I will say that with the exception of my very first cordless drill, every cordless drill, driver, etc. I have ever owned has been made by Makita. There are lots of very good cordless tools on the market, but I don’t think you can beat the feel of a Makita drill. I like Stanley tools and I am a total fan boy of the Fat Max brand. Your mileage may vary.
Wood – I prefer buying wood at one of the few local lumber yards that maintain a good selection of hardwood. Lately, I have purchased wood for two projects at the WoodCraft store in West Springfield, MA. I can’t speak for all the stores in this chain, but these guys manage to stock some nice lumber. I generally stay away from the big box stores because their hardwood is bland, expensive and no straighter than the pine, poplar and birch that they stock. I have also had good luck ordering wood from Niagara Lumber. You have to be careful, because your wood is coming via UPS and you get lengths that will ship and will be easy to package. I like the quality of the wood I’ve bought from them, but I usually buy a bit more than I would locally because there might be more waste. I have also had good luck with reclaimed and repurposed wood, so keep that possibility in mind.
Information – There are hundreds of blogs, twitter feeds, Facebook pages and websites dedicated to woodworking. Search, bookmark, Like, subscribe, follow etc. I have a charter subscription to Woodsmith Magazine and the companion Shop Notes. They also have a pretty nice show on PBS. I periodically read Fine Woodworking and Fine Home Building, and I have purchased some of their specialty publications addressing specific techniques.
All of the vendors and products I have mentioned throughout this series have websites, white papers and cyber resources to draw on, but your best bet in some cases is to search the web for that guy who does often that thing that you are about to do for the first time and who shares that experience in a blog.
I wanted to write a blog post about the miserable customer service experience I am still receiving while trying to fix an error on a company issued Skype account. I gave up on ever actually using that account, and I’ve given up on writing that post. I morphed that attempt into a rant against all the horrible customer service providers I’ve encountered lately – rants are generally among the more popular of my blog posts – but I decided against that too. By nature, I am not an angry person, so the spirit required for a successful rant doesn’t last long. Also, whenever I think about the awful way Skype has handled my problem, I keep remembering last week when I left my coffee cup in the courtesy van at Gengras Jeep, and not only did they set it aside for me, they washed it! So a rant against “the terrible state of customer service in the world today” would be a cheat, I would be sharing bits of my life out of context in order to gain followers.
One of the reasons I wanted to write the post about customer service is because I had experienced a wave of bad customer service from companies as diverse as Skype, The Hartford Courant and Microsoft (not the part of them that owns Skype, the other part). I had planned to draw a reference to one of my favorite Star Trek episodes: “The City on the Edge of Forever.” In that episode, Dr. McCoy wafts back into time in a drug induced paranoid state and ends up altering the future. Once they travel back in time too, Spock explains to Captain Kirk that he expects to find McCoy because “…there could be some logic to the belief that time is fluid, like a river, with currents, eddies, backwash…” I was thinking that these bad experiences are somehow just flowing through my life right now. Unfortunately, due to the proximity of the coffee cup thing, that analogy doesn’t work. My life isn’t awash with bad service, I’ve simply managed to run into a bunch of it and it’s time for an alignment.
So, who goes and who stays? Well, I told the people at Skype that they have become my communication platform of last resort. We will continue to subscribe to the Hartford Courant due to the mercy of my wife, but my advice to them would be not to push that particular envelope too far. I will still seek guidance from Star Trek, particularly in the wisdom of McCoy, Picard, Spock and Commander Data, and I still believe that building a Heisenberg Compensator is possible. At the start of what could be their 21st consecutive losing season, I have renewed my subscription with MLB At Bat so I can listen to Pirates games on the “radio” and there isn’t a cell in my body that would think about supporting any NFL team other than the Steelers. I will continue my seemingly naïve attraction to good marketing, especially when it’s associated with great brands; clearly, I will buy the new Stanley FatMax anything. I will however, work harder to question people, products and brands I have been loyal to, to make sure they are still earning my support. I have ended friendships with negative people, racist and otherwise narrow-minded people and selfish people. I have stopped buying everything from donuts to laser printers from companies that seem to want to extend their good reputation around poor quality products the way the Enterprise extends its shields around a defenseless cargo ship. I will pay particularly close attention to the things that involve my emotional resources and the budgets entrusted to me by others.
My spring cleaning will affect my real and virtual worlds. I have already started to trim the list of people I follow on Twitter of those who only seemed to follow me to gain a follower or who only ever tweet about their superior product. If you can’t tweet about beer, sports, politics, Legos, fast cars or stupid people from time to time, you aren’t worth following. If you can’t support a cause other than your own self-interest, you aren’t interesting to me, and if you can’t say something good about somebody on Earth, then I am done listening to you. I am still trying to limit Facebook connections to people that I have met and liked in person or whom I have come to know so well over other social media that I want to meet them in person.
I just listened to an interview of Robyn Hitchcock on NPR Morning Edition where he spoke about being too old to be reflective. He talked about the need to just move forward with his music. He and I are about the same age, and I found those comments remarkably honest and valuable. At this point, I am concerned about how I will move forward, not how I got here.
Working in the world of technology (I know, this is supposed to be my non-technical blog) I hear a lot about the fact that computers and servers and related services have become commodities. I think this began when IBM decided to stop making ThinkPads, you know the laptop everybody wanted to own, but the commodity mentality has gained momentum in recent years as the economy has added pressure to budget decisions. I have to make these decisions for two very important groups of people, the company I work for and my family. With respect to the company I work for, I have a fiduciary responsibility to make the best choice when spending their money. When it comes to my money, I have a personal but entirely similar responsibility. In both cases, I am not driven by price when buying so-called commodity items. If you tend to consider price first, ask yourself these three questions:
Are you buying a commodity or a product? – Keep in mind that from some vantage point, everything is a commodity; are you buying a gallon of paint or 40,000 tons of pigment? If you are buying a product, your first consideration should be “what do I want?” Of course that question is followed closely by “what can I afford?”, but it still should be the first thing you consider. If there is a misalignment between the answers to those two questions, your next choice is to change what you want or save your money until you can afford what you want. I know, “save my money until…” has fallen out of favor, but it remains a valid approach. Before you start considering substituting something equivalent to what you want, consider whether you are talking about equivalent or similar. I can find cheaper hand planes that look like the Stanley Low-angle block plane pictured here, but planes that are equivalent cost just about the same. Before you start considering “finding what I want at a lower cost”, read the next two questions.
Is there a difference in what you are buying due to the vendor you have selected buying commodities vs. products? – This might be a hard question to answer, since you usually can’t tell what is inside the box and technically, it may just be a much more fine-tuned version of the equivalent vs. similar question. I don’t mean to pick on Home Depot, but the discussion thread linked here illustrates the thinking on this question. I have two personal examples that speak to that distinction: 1) I purchased a faucet from a big-box store and found that the mixing valve was nylon, not brass as in the “same” model faucet at a local hardware store. As the discussion shows, it was a slightly different model number. 2) Well, it’s hard to pick a specific example, but suffice it to say, I buy building material from a local lumber yard. They beat the big boxes on quality and, unless I’m buying one 2×4, on price. I do have an example from a purchase for my company that is on point with the question. Many years ago, when memory prices were extremely high, I bought a large quantity of modules from a low-price vendor. This guy was simply shuffling chips from a container to a small bag, and when I discovered several bad modules, I also discovered the answer to my question. This vendor was not buying for quality, he wasn’t standing behind his product, no, he was simply extending a wholesale purchase opportunity to me at a slight markup.
Is there a difference in the service you receive after buying a product from a vendor who is selling a commodity? – If you expect the answer to this question to be “no”, you live in a dream world. Before you start commenting about great service from a big-box store, re-read the question. I have heard many stories about the high quality of Home Depot service, and I believe those stories because Home Depot buys commodities but sells products. The guy I bought my memory from was buying and selling commodities. I know that I can get a less expensive Internet provider for our company, but it would be through a company that is selling bandwidth, not Internet service. I know that I can find a less expensive source for servers, switches and other network infrastructure, but again, I would be getting a bunch of equipment and not much more. I can register a domain name for as little as $2 or as much as $7.49 (with the mix of vendors I’m familiar with) and even on that simple product, there can be a difference in the service you receive. Every board in the lumber order we bought to complete an addition on our house was straight and all but two were defect-free. The two that were cracked were replaced in the next order, without my ever having to return them.
The perfect mix is finding a good vendor who is selling the exact product you want, at a fair price. Changing any one of those terms without affecting one or both of the other terms is asking the impossible.