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Some Reflections on wise buying (and other skills) by Vic Southern

Just about every day we hear of some poor soul who was swindled out of his/her life savings by a conman. Just this past week I have had two phishing emails attempting to get me to click onto attacks on my PayPal account and my Amazon Prime account. There is no end to them, and we haven’t even touched on the thousands of ways in which some crook gets hold of someone else’s bank details. Overwhelmingly though the most errors are made in the belief that there is a ‘free lunch’, an apparently great bargain which ends up as a costly disaster.

John Ruskin wrote “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.”

In our industry these come up as keys or remotes which are very, very cheap (and very, very poor quality), cheap machines and devices, which have no back-up, no worthwhile warranty, and a built-in assured obsolescence within a short period of a year or so. We see machines costing $2000 or $3000 from China measured against better known products with local back-up and repairs that cost perhaps twice that. Of course, by the time they are landed here and import charges paid the bill is quite different but then many such suppliers will happily provide a false value invoice so that the buyer here pays only £6 in duty instead of £. Of course, sometimes no product arrives at all.

There are some fantastically good suppliers in our industry with local back-up and support in every way but it costs a little to have that assurance that what you buy is fit for purpose. There we come across another matter; our commercial laws give buyers huge rights if the product is deficient. Good luck with trying to enforce that with a hole-in-the-wall supplier 5000 miles away. Would you buy a van on that basis?

Consider the reality. The cheap one costs £2500 and the premium one £5000. Then let us assume that El Cheapo will last five years so it costs £500 a year or about £2.50 a working day. In contrast El Magnifico will cost £5 per working day and will definitely last the pace.

You might not have the cash available but if you have three years solid trading you will probably be able to get a lease and on the current silly low interest rates that £5000 machine will cost you just over £5 a day on a 5-year lease. Try getting lease finance on a self-import.

We quite frequently come across locksmiths who have troubles cutting some key or the other; the cut is too deep or too shallow or is ragged or takes a long time or breaks cutters. 9 times out of 10 we find that is not a key from one of the reputable firms but the cheapest one imaginable with the metal being any old alloy – not brass – and the key too thick or too thin. How much of that can you afford? How much did you “save?

Another problem we encounter often is that mobile locksmiths who run advanced electronic equipment in their vans but whose constant power supply is inadequate. Fluctuating power does not matter much with a drilling machine or grinder but with computerised equipment it is fatal. We came across a guy in the States who bought a 1kw inverter from just under $50 from Walmart but who simply wouldn’t believe his problems were that absurdly tiny and erratic power supply. Locally we saw a new locksmith trying to run equipment off a £115 1.1kw inverter from Costco – he blew a £300 motherboard on the first day.

Finally, ask yourself who can you speak to if there is a machine or device technical problem or a key quality issue and who will sort that out. That is the real question. Great back-up is priceless. Beyond price.