Seeking FACTS about variable machine quality

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Forum topic by Lee Barker posted 11-26-2010 06:00 PM 1179 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2820 days

11-26-2010 06:00 PM

Years ago, shopping at Sears for major home appliances, it was common to hear phrases like this: “This Kenmore (appliance) is actually made by (Hotpoint, Westinghouse, GE, etc.). That sales comment was meant to give you confidence in the product at hand.

We didn’t stop then to think that quality brand name companies could easily build a cheaper, less reliable product and put a different badge on it.

Now we know there are sophisticated diagnostic process which can reveal a lower quality part which can be removed from the assembly line and used to create a lower quality tool (with or without the same badge). An example would be cast iron tops for woodworking machines, some of which are very flat and some of which aren’t. Motors would be another component which could have variable quality characteristics. Cast parts such as trunnions could have variable degrees of precision.

We also know that large retailers have significant clout when they deal with suppliers who want to sell to them because of the potential quantity of the sale. The retailers can set their wholesale price. The manufacturer has some decisions to make: whether to meet that price, and if so, how exactly to do it.

My question is, does a manufacturer ever produce, say, two grades of a specific machine, one for the “regular” outlets and one for the “discount” (big box) outlets?

I am asking for facts, not anecdotal data. It is so easy for us to hear a lot of anecdotal evidence and smoothly convert that to fact.

I am asking for comments from those who have worked in the actual manufacturing of machines like major home appliances, HVAC units, and woodworking machinery and from those who have been involved in the sales and purchase of these products where this kind of “double quality standard” could exist and affect us as consumers.

My question, then, is: What facts can you contribute to the theory that a given manufacturer can create and sell two or more grades of an identical machine, with each grade specific to the type of retailer to which it is sold?

Thank you for honoring the specificity of my request.

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

12 replies so far

View Manitario's profile


2629 posts in 2852 days

#1 posted 11-26-2010 06:54 PM

Interesting question Lee. There have been a number of posts on this same subject here, but as you’ve probably read, they are mostly anecdotal. I’m curious to see if your post will dig up any hard evidence, although I imagine most companies would guard that secret pretty carefully.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3029 days

#2 posted 11-26-2010 07:24 PM

Yes, it’s called de-spec’d.

Originally Posted by slickshift
It’s CPV

Lets say Porter-Cable has a framing saw, you see it in your local tool shop for…say $189
It’s quiet, light, strong, and has a great blade
You shop around a bit and see it in HD for less
It’s only $159…what a bargain!

Hold on there partner, here’s what happened
HD brass saw the P/C saw and said great, we want to carry that, but we want to charge less than $189
P/C says we can’t lower our price to you, it’s a great price

Now comes the CPV
Customer Perceived Value

Big Box says well, our average customer won’t see the value (extra $) of that magnesium guide…can you make it steel?
Our avg. cust won’t perceive the value of those fancy motor bushings, or that fancy blade
Make your saw for us to these new specs and we’ll carry your saw
And we’ll sell it for $159

If P/C says no, then Big Box won’t carry a P/C framing saw

Voila, Home Despot has a de-spec’d P/C saw that looks like the one at the local tool shop

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3029 days

#3 posted 11-26-2010 07:25 PM

If you see a Jet tool in Home Depot, Lowes, Sears, it’s defiantly de-spec’d.

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3261 days

#4 posted 11-26-2010 07:36 PM

The fact is, though, that every manufacturer denies doing that. They claim it would actually be more expensive to have two separate manufacturing lines. How does “Slickshift” know for sure?

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10383 posts in 3398 days

#5 posted 11-26-2010 07:42 PM

I posed a similar question on another forum. We often see a manufacture’s stock number at one place and the same number followed by a letter or a dash and another number, at the BORG.
I imagine that the replies I got, all assuring me that there were no differences, were from folks who bought at the BORG and couldn’t bring themselves to admit that they bought a de-spec’ed item.
Now, here is a FACT: A few years ago we had two identical 12 volt drills. Bought about a month apart. One from HD and one from a locally owned hardware store. When one lost torque, we tore it apart to see if we could fix it. The gearing was plastic and stripped. We broke the other open and those gears were metal. Guess which one was the HD purchase.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Manitario's profile


2629 posts in 2852 days

#6 posted 11-26-2010 07:55 PM

Gene; one of my good friends works installing home entertainment systems; he buys all of his powertools from the Dewalt repair center in town. The repair center mostly sells refurbished powertools. The difference he says is that he has found the refurb. tools have metal internal components, vs. the plastic components on identical tools bought from big box stores…
Steven; you make a good point. One of the Canadian tool retailers consistantly sells brand name tools cheaper than elsewhere. They mostly look identical and unless you do your research it would be easy to buy.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View newbiewoodworker's profile


668 posts in 2796 days

#7 posted 11-26-2010 09:23 PM

Wow…. I guess next time I buy a tool, I am going to pay the extra dollars to get something that is actually ON SPEC… lol…

Maybe thats why my Lowe’s Special Bandsaw decided it was gunna kick the bucket….

-- "Ah, So your not really a newbie, but a I betterbie."

View knotscott's profile


7985 posts in 3345 days

#8 posted 11-27-2010 01:07 AM

There’s definitely some rational thinking going on in this thread, but I don’t think you can accurately assume that a drill with plastic gears from HD vs one with metal gears from the local dealer was de-spec’d specifically for HD (or whatever retailer sold it) could be just a matter of date of manufacture, and where it was made. As items get cosmetic updates, feature updates, and/or manufactured in different factories, they also tend to experience some cost cutting measures across the board wherever they think is feasible, so a Binford Super Widget XL made in 2002 could be very different from the same model made in 2008.

It can be less expensive for a factory to produce one version of a product vs trying to manage different specs and inventories for variations of a particular product, but there are a lot of variables in play, so every situation is different.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3029 days

#9 posted 11-27-2010 03:38 AM

Most De-spec’d products are rejected items from the factory, the other made cheaper products
half, I don’t have a answer.

The local tool store cannot carry the de-spec’d items. Only the Big Box stores can.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3146 posts in 3078 days

#10 posted 11-27-2010 03:45 AM

So, far it’s all pretty anecdotal. Anyone with hard facts? I understand your point, Lee, there are a lot of stories and “He said, she said” stuff.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View bunkie's profile


412 posts in 3116 days

#11 posted 11-27-2010 03:51 AM

There was an article a few years back in one of the woodworking magazines (I think it was American Woodworker) about the Taiwanese factories where so many tools are made. One of the points it made was that the specific quality control was a function of the people working for the purchaser (Delta, Jet, etc.) who were on-site. What wasn’t said was what happened to parts and tools that didn’t make the cut.

-- Altruism is, ultimately, self-serving

View extremehobbiest's profile


42 posts in 2956 days

#12 posted 11-27-2010 03:46 PM

My wife and I used to own a sewing machine store. We closed it about 4 years ago. We carried two brands that were owned by the same company. The upper tier brand was European made and they would only sell to authorized dealers. The upper tier brand was not sold to nor marketed in any big box retail store. If they did, there would be the biggest lost of small business dealers ever seen as we would have sought out other brands to carry. The lower tier machines had specific models that were available to their small business dealers and they also had models specific to the retail giants. The retail giants could only sell those models available to them and the Mom and Pop dealers could only sell the other models. The machines were not identical and were not of the same quality IMO (I was the service guy and saw many more big box machines than I did the models we sold). Ironically, I made more servicing the big box machines than they did selling them so it was OK with me. Sadly, most customers will never know there is a difference until after it is too late and their money is gone.

The company also made lower tier machines for Sears under the Kenmore name. While these were good machines, Sears also spec’d different parts so only Sears parts would fit. These parts are not available to any dealer other than through Sears. I do not hold Sears in high regard for parts availability as in 11 years of business, I was never successful at getting any parts needed from them.

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