I'm a retired deputy sheriff, and I fell victim to a scam by not following advice that I spent years warning people about: IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS!
Embarrassed that I missed the Red Flags? You bet! But I'm hoping that my experience prevents other people from making the same mistake.
By the way, I WAS a member! And I suspect most of the postings on here are from people who are or were. Either way, there's some good information on this website.
I was invited to attend an open house at the Direct Buy showroom. I along with about 12 other people in attendance were given a presentation which used several examples to show the exhorbant markups that retailers place on goods and that Direct Buy had an exclusive arrangement with manufacturers that allowed them to sell their products at near wholesale prices.
At the end of the hour long presentation, we were told that the membership fee was $3999. I thought this was pretty expensive, but the Direct Buy representatives pulled me aside and asked for a sampling of the items I would need for my home. In every instance they showed me on paper how they could save me enough in the first year to pay for my membership. I asked them to allow me to think it over and they informed me that if I left without joining that I would not be able to ever return to the store and the offer would be revoked.
RED FLAG # 1. Even the Texas Attorney General's Office will tell you that this, while within their rights to do, is still a "HIGH PRESSURE SALES TACTIC!"
Even though they made it sound like a good deal, I told them I could not afford to pay the $3999. When it was finally apparent to them I was not going to be able to pay the full membership fee up front, they offered to split the fee up into 3 payments of $1330.
So believing that I would in fact realize significant savings in my purchases, I decided to buy the membership. However; within several days after doing so, my enthusiasm began to wane as I started to realize that things aren't near as good as they sounded in the presentation.
The primary purpose that I joined this discount buying club was because I intended to renovate my home and I was led to believe that I could receive substantial savings specifically on my cabinets, solid surface countertops and floor coverings.
Misrepresentation of product pricing from their associates:
During the open house following the presentation, I spoke with two Direct Buy reps, Laura and Gabe about my most immediate purchases which included wooden blinds, and cabinets. I had already been told during the presentation that the markup on window coverings was 200 to 300 percent, so I expected significant savings. I wanted to get a price quote on blinds as I had my window measurements with me. Conveniently, the Hunter blinds catalog could not be located and several associates spent about 45 minutes looking. But of course they were unsuccessful in finding it.
A few days later I came back in to purchase wooden blinds for the master bedroom. (Once again the Hunter catalog was missing and I had to leave and come back the next day) I had already received estimates of $109 to $130. (the latter being Hunter brand) from three different sources. My Direct Buy price for the same make and style of Hunter blinds was $99. Add in the Direct Buy handling fee of 8% and the savings isn't that remarkable. Where was the 200-300 percent markup they talked about?
But in the interest of fairness, I went forth and intended to take full advantage of my membership. So I purchased the blinds. I was told that the blinds would take 4-6 weeks to arrive. It was 9.5 weeks before they were shipped!
My next purchase was going to be carpet for the bedrooms. I came in and browsed through carpet samples and made some notes. I scheduled an appt with Gabe the next day (Wed July 7) to discuss carpet and cabinets. When I arrived for my appointment, Gabe informed me that he had to leave soon for a pickup he had to make in Killeen. He would take care of the carpet and another rep, Kareem, would discuss the cabinets with me. Several of the samples that I had made notes on had been checked out and Gabe said that he would follow up and get those samples for me to look at.
I had also seen a carpet style at Home Depot that I was interested in and asked if he could get that style. He said he could try if I could get him the style name and manufacturer for him. I was then rushed off so Gabe could leave. I later obtained the information about the Home Depot carpet style name and number, and left the information with the receptionist to give to Gabe.
That evening I came back in to follow-up with Kareem on the cabinets as he had been very sick earlier. I saw Gabe and told him that I had given the carpet information to the receptionist and he promised me he would call the next day on a price. I told him that I would be off on vacation, but to call me on my cell phone as I wanted to make a decision on the carpet as soon as possible.
Having never heard back from Gabe, I returned to the showroom a week later on July 14. When questioned as to why I did not hear back from him on a price, Gabe said that he had ordered a carpet sample and that it should be in any day. I told him I didn't ask for a carpet sample, that I already had the sample from Home Depot and that he was supposed to have gotten me a price. It was two days later before he provided me with a price, which was only 15 cents cheaper per square foot than Home Depots quote. Again, this is not a very substantial savings. At this point I began to become very wary of this promise of manufacturers direct discount pricing and sought to further investigate. I also bought my carpet from Home Depot because I did not trust Direct Buy.
I also had received quotes from both Lowes and Home Depot on cabinets that were comparable in grade and quality as the brands that DB provided quotes on. Interesting enough, while I was getting the quote from Home Depot, the employee pulled a page from the printer and put it on her desk. She then stapled my quote together and handed it to me. My copy of the quote was approximately $8000. but the figure on the copy that was on her desk was about $13,000. I asked her why there was such a disparity in the two figures. Her response was: oh, that is the manufacturer's suggested retail price. No one ever pays the retail price.
This tidbit of information made me even more suspicious of Direct Buy's claim to exclusive insider pricing. I went back to Lowe's and asked the sales person there about the MSRP of the cabinets and she had to pull the information for me, but that figure was also several thousand dollars more than the quote she had given me previously. She confirmed that they do not sell the cabinets at the MSRP because no one would ever pay that much for them.
At this point I believed that I had been taken for a ride and sent a letter to the Austin Direct Buy store requesting a full and immediate refund of the membership fee that I paid, and also a refund for the blinds that I had purchased. I never received a response from that letter, and they've since refused to refund my money. Interestingly, they've also never made any attempt to collect the balance.
I went ahead and bought my cabinets from Lowe's because they were the best cabinet (Kraftmaid) and less expensive than the cabinets quoted by DB. Besides, I had never heard of the brand that Direct Buy was selling, and having remodeled several homes over the years, I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about products.
I filed a Better Business Bureau complaint, but that's really a waste of time. The local owner responded with a bunch of lies and refused to even discuss a refund. He had no interest in trying to resolve the issue, and never even responsed to the claims of poor customer service.
While there may be savings in some cases, the majority of the time, it's not worth the membership fee. My advice would be to "err on the side of caution" and run as far away from this deal as possible.
U.S.A.STOP! ..before you think about using the Better Business Bureau (BBB)... CLICK HERE to see how other consumers were victimized by the BBB's false or misleading information. Don't be fooled! It has been reported, when there are thousands of complaints and other investigations underway by authorities, the BBB has no choice but to finally give an UNsatisfactory rating to a BBB member business that is paying the BBB big membership fees every year. When a business is reported that is NOT a BBB member, BBB files WILL more likely show an UNsatisfactory rating, then reportedly shake down that company to become a member of the BBB. One positive thing about the BBB is, either way, if a business has an unsatisfactory rating with the BBB, you can be sure, the business is bad. But what about all those BBB member businesses that had complaints filed against them? Consumers never get to hear about them. What about the BBB advertising to the public? Is this a false and misleading perception they are giving about consumer confidence when dealing with a business? Click here to understand more of what consumers and business alike are saying about the BBB. You decide. ..Remember. The BBB membership is not earned, it's paid for!