When shopping for your allowance items there are factors to consider other than just price. Of course you want to get the best value you can, but it’s important to understand that there may be hidden costs and/or project complications that should be taken into account. Things to consider when choosing where to purchase are: cost, availability, customer service and warranty.
Obviously cost is a big factor in selecting vendors, but there can be more to it than just the price tag. Things like delivery costs, storage fees, and return policy can add to the cost and must be factored in. It’s also important to make sure you're comparing costs on an apples to apples basis. There can be little differences in model numbers or accessory items that affect the price. Bottom line: read the fine print.
Availability is not just important for initially getting an item onsite when you need it, but also when something unforeseen happens, such as damage to the item, or the need to order more, and you need to get that onsite in a timely manner to avoid delays. Initially you may have plenty of time to order an item with a long lead time, but if you end up needing to get more on short notice you don’t have that luxury. Also important to consider is the ability to get more if you need it. Buying closeout items or items on the secondary market can be a good way to save money, but you have to be sure you can get the right quantity, as you may not be able to get more if you need it.
The importance of having access to customer service should not be overlooked. Access to good customer service and tech support can make the difference between doing something right the first time, and delays and repairs caused by inadequate information about a product. Especially in today’s globalized world, items may (and most likely are) coming from around the world. Instruction sheets may be poorly written, codes and practices are different in different areas, functions may not be readily discernible. For these reasons, the value of being able to get someone on the phone or email to explain things can be invaluable.
A good warranty can be worth its weight in gold. While obviously we don’t like it when something shows up damaged or malfunctions after installation, the reality is that it happens. Maybe it’s the shipping companies responsibility, maybe the manufacturer, maybe it’s unclear who is responsible. Make sure when purchasing products that you understand their warranties, and confirm with your contractor that they are adequate. This will provide peace of mind throughout your project and even down the road knowing if something goes wrong you’re covered.