View Full Version : When Distributors aren't Distributors

09-27-2013, 07:57 PM
I order a lot of stuff for my robotics team. Most of the time it can wait a few days, but during the build season we need to have it next day. It seems at least in Minnesota that our distributors have become non-stocking order takers. One of the distributors for a popular construction material doesn't even stock the basic parts for fastening the material together. He said it would be a week for delivery. After calling him I got to thinking that I should just have ordered direct from the factory rather than pay the distributor extra to for the same service as the factory. It seems more and more don't stock parts, but say they can have it in 2 or 3 days. Well, I can order from the same places and have it in 2 or 3 days. It seems like distributors are forgetting what being a distributor means.

Have people been seeing the same thing happen in their area?

- T

Bob Fisher
09-27-2013, 08:13 PM
Try McMaster Carr, they ship next day in most cases. Bob.

09-27-2013, 08:42 PM
The local high school robotics team asked me for some parts
(timing pulleys,toothed timing belts, slip clutches, and bearings)
because their distributor could not ship them in time for their
build due date. So Doozer donated parts from his hoard of goodies
to help the kiddies. Got a thank you in the PTA news letter.
It feels good to help out, and to have a hoard of mechanical
goodies, for which I guess I am well known for in my circles.


Dr Stan
09-27-2013, 09:49 PM
Try McMaster Carr, they ship next day in most cases. Bob.

Ditto. Even with standard ground shipping we receive our orders the next day at work (Owensboro, KY). Two days for personal stuff sent to home.

09-28-2013, 02:08 AM
To answer your question, yes. And I would have thought nowadays that nearly everyone would be scrambling for more business but apparently not...

After calling him I got to thinking that I should just have ordered direct from the factory rather than pay the distributor extra to for the same service as the factory

Found the same thing except often the "factory" will not ship directly to "end users"...just today went into one place known for over-priced items and was told they don't deal with non-business customers...huh?, while what they meant was they do not deal with anyone who is not "representing a business"...was then told it will just get printed out as a cash sale anyway unless there is an account, so to purchase there I have to say I am buying for the place I work at (a business) even though the purchase will go through on my card...I can sort of understand a warehouse sort of place not being really equipped to deal in cash but nowadays if an order can go out via internet order process, surely coming by on foot is no more complicated?

Jaakko Fagerlund
09-28-2013, 02:29 AM
In here a lot of importers and factories only sell to businesses (and usually in bulk) as they can get around consumer laws about returns and warranty. Have seen this happen many times when I have phoned or emailed a place to ask about their products. But if I just walk in casual clothing to such a place during office hours and ask for what I need, they get it to the counter, take money and I leave happy. No questions asked or at most they can ask for a name or reference to print on the receipt.

09-28-2013, 06:44 PM
Customer service only means "how can we take your money" anymore. Where I live the local community has lost almost all industry and the support industry left shortly after.
I get so tired of "we can order that for ya" that I don't bother to look around town for things I need. Too often I can't find any of whatever I need. Like fittings for air or water supply, if any fittings are available they'll be the opposite "hand" from what I want.
Contractors promise to come give estimates and either don't show, show days later, or show but don't quote nor decline the job. Just leave ya hanging. Like they don't need the job anyway.

09-28-2013, 06:45 PM
Are they all just moving to a drop ship model?

09-28-2013, 06:59 PM
Apparently so. Didn't you see the Costa Concordia thread?:p

09-28-2013, 07:10 PM
And suppliers wonder why more people are buying online and doing work themselves.

Ditto here with getting work done even at a business , I wanted a couple of awnings put up , the awnings are here with plans etc , but no-one wants the work.

I'll have to do it myself one week end .

I don't buy much hardware or tooling locally anymore as I was also getting the "we can order it for you and it should be here in about a week", and surprisingly when I order the same stuff from their supplier it arrived in two days.

A lot of this started when accountants started to tell businesses that stock sitting on the shelf was money that could be earning interest if invested in the stockmarket .

One of my ex accountants told me to sell the business premises and to rent or lease them back , cut down on the parts inventory , order parts after a job came in and the customer would have to wait .

Thats why that accountant is no longer used ,I hold around $3/4 million in spares keep two vehicles setup for work trucks , one in maintenance while the other is on the road.
Thats my type of insurance , parts still dont always cover whats required but at least I can start repairs while waiting for a major item to arrive .

I dont understand why customer service is no longer important , most only seem to care about reports and SLA's , not actually fixing the customers equipment in such a way that it keeps working .


09-28-2013, 07:35 PM
The economy is still in the crapper and nobody wants inventory on the shelves because they don't know if or when it will sell.That's been the case since fall 2010.

Forget middle men,when manufacturers and 1st tier vendors don't have product on the shelf,even completely common hardware then it's not the fault of JIT delivery.

09-28-2013, 09:28 PM
Apparently so. Didn't you see the Costa Concordia thread?:p

You have an evil mind.

We need more of your kind around here.

09-29-2013, 04:22 AM
The economy may be in the dumps but not all of us have stopped working and I am just about back to 7 days a week again .
While people want the work done and are paying I'll keep working.

09-29-2013, 04:36 AM
I get so tired of "we can order that for ya" that I don't bother to look around town for things I need..

Auto parts stores are like that here. *And* they have the gall to add "shipping" on top of that... for something coming to their store.

If I wanted it tomorrow and to pay shipping, I'd just order it from the internet. So I'll turn away from the counter and do just that. Sorry, "struggling local business." Just die.

Black Forest
09-29-2013, 05:34 AM
What some of you might be missing is that the internet has caused a lot of these things to happen. People go online to window shop for an item. Then they call or go to their local supplier to compare the price. It is only logical if an online company does not have to have a store front end they reduce their overhead and can therefore sell for less money. Most people don't want to pay for the service they receive. Look at all the people buying Chinese crap because it is cheaper and then whine when the locals don't stock items. You can't have your cake and eat it too! I absolutely don't think you can blame the retailers for all of this happening. Go look in the mirror if you are looking for someone to blame.

The Artful Bodger
09-29-2013, 06:17 AM
Yea, I too am sorry for what has happened to the 'local businesses'.

When I was young anything ordered from overseas literally took months to arrive so the local distributors of machines and vehicles kept a reasonable store and if the local guy didnt have what was needed it would generally be available in a couple of days from the national importer.

Nowadays I can order anything I like from the other side of the world and it arrives in less than a week (except from America) but if I want to buy something at all specialised today I am usually out of luck as there are now few local businesses except big box retail barns.

It used to be that I could by, for example, some electronic component from a local store for $1 but now I can get the same thing for 30c plus $15 post and handling and of course a few days wait!

09-29-2013, 06:24 AM
eBoy is slap full of drop shippers who are clueless what is actually in stock. I only buy from the ones that show actual "in stock' or "8 left". Amazon keeps a fire under the ascz of their "distributors" too. It takes me forever to get anything here to begin with and having some merican waiting for another merican to get the item from an uh merican company waiting for the boat from Taiwan to get through customs......:rolleyes:........They lost the "A" in a recent downgrade.

09-29-2013, 08:30 AM
In todays world there are two types of distributors........ stocking and non stocking, the latter being basically a middle man.
Some times you can order factory direct and sometimes a factory will not sell direct to the customer and will recommend a dealer or distributor in your area. Either way it can be a pain.


09-29-2013, 08:45 AM
Are they all just moving to a drop ship model?

Yes. It does make sense in some respects, but the distributors who choose to stock product locally will still be the more popular with their customers. When it comes the tooling for machine shops, the days of keeping customers happy with a simple stock line of HSS end mills, drills, taps and files are long gone. As commercial shops moved to task-specific carbide tooling, prices of the less-popular (but high quality) HSS tooling rose. The home shop guy then demands lower prices, so local suppliers stop stocking the good HSS and we get 2nd day service on the cheap Chinese crap we demanded.

09-29-2013, 08:59 AM
I stopped buying locally when the woman at the "tooling and supply" company locally was harassed by a customer to the point where she had to leave the job. Actually she was fired over filing a complaint against a multi-million-dollar account holder...

First of all I don't tolerate "old school" treatment of women -- you simply just don't behave that way even if you are a million-buck account.

Second she was the ONLY one in the chain that knew lathe tooling forwards and backwards. Inserts and holders are COMPLICATED but she knew her product-lines forwards and backwards. Simply show her the holder, tell her the application and she'd get you the right insert.

Tool and supply chain lost quite a few walk-in and casual customers, got sued to boot and closed their local branch... But hey that doesn't matter, gotta keep Multi-Million-Dollar account happy.

Now I ask around on the internet (including you folks) and order where I find the best price. Sometimes I order asian other times domestic.

Stuart Br
09-29-2013, 11:52 AM
I worked for 10 years in distribution (not Engineering related). The CEO of one of the companies I worked for said some thing that is very true.
The margin in distribution is what you earn. If you are not adding any value don't expect to make any margin.
That value can come in may forms, pre-sales support, stock levels, rapid shipping, etc. If you aren't delivering on your chosen point don't expect to make any money. Distribution has to have a differentiator, if it's not there, then there is is no need for distribution.

Paul Alciatore
09-29-2013, 11:53 AM
I guess I don't mind the delay if they are up front about it. What I don't like is an internet order that takes 2-3 weeks because it is shipping from China but you are not aware of that before you buy. Is it in stock? YES, in China.

Things are what they are. And it is not just recent, with the internet and all. Years before the internet was even a gleam in a computer's chip, heck, even before there were any computer chips, I had trouble getting parts from some distributors. "We only sell to businesses." I spent many a quarter hour trying to find a way around that. I finally figured out that I needed to be a business. So, now I am. And even as a business, I can have trouble if it is not the "right" kind of business.

As for stocking locally, the bean counters do have a point. It does take money to buy stock that sits on a shelf. It also takes money to buy those shelves. Have you priced shelving lately? AND, it takes money to build or buy the building to hold those shelves. Then, in most places, there are taxes on all of that, just because it is there. Unfortunately, nothing is free. And, if you borrow, that money also costs money. Businesses must watch the bottom line and every other line too. Those that don't just aren't around for long. Sad perhaps, but true.

Those of you with small shops look around. How many jobs that come in the door can you complete without ordering something? I mean, how much brass of every shape and size or stainless (at least two different alloys) or metric screws or different sized ball bearings or whatever do you have on a shelf in your shop for immediate use. Why isn't it there, just waiting for the customer's job that needs it? Why aren't you borrowing money to increase your floor space to add shelving to stock all that raw material? Oh, and of course you will need another employee to keep track of it all. Can you stay in business after raising your rates to pay for all of that? I doubt it.

I am struggling to start up a small business. One of my firmest rules is no debt beyond this month's bills which I always pay in full to avoid interest. I just do not have the ability to pay for such debt. I can guarantee you that I will not have a lot of stock that is just waiting for an order. It won't happen. Not in my lifetime. I may loose some business because of this. But I will not go into bankruptcy due to too much debt. And frankly, I think that most of you who are in business think in the same manner.

Like it or not, it is what it is. Blame what you want, but it is. Learn to live and work with it.

09-29-2013, 12:13 PM
The economy may be in the dumps but not all of us have stopped working and I am just about back to 7 days a week again .
While people want the work done and are paying I'll keep working.

No problem with work here either,infact more than ever for me.The problem is getting common parts and supplies which aren't on the shelf even at large industrial vendors.

09-29-2013, 12:32 PM
Auto parts stores are like that here. *And* they have the gall to add "shipping" on top of that... for something coming to their store.

If I wanted it tomorrow and to pay shipping, I'd just order it from the internet. So I'll turn away from the counter and do just that. Sorry, "struggling local business." Just die.

We used to have a local "Metal Supermarkets" franchise. I would price out the material I wanted on their web site, and find out the shipping cost to my door. Then I would drive over to the local store to see if they had it in stock - and they did. The material price at the counter was the same as the web site price plus shipping cost added in. Cost you the same to pick it up yourself when it's already sitting on their shelves.

I say "used to have" because for some strange reason they are no longer in business. :rolleyes:

09-29-2013, 01:01 PM
80% of sales normally come from 20% of your inventory, so know the bean counters have decided to do away with the 80% not caring you can't do any job missing parts & if you have to chase down or order any parts you might as well get the whole list there,

09-29-2013, 07:34 PM
Well, I have to relate a positive shopping experience of mine:

It’s been known for years that Dinosaur Electronics (http://www.dinosaurelectronics.com/) sells control boards for RV appliances, fridges, furnaces, and water heaters. They’re reputed to be better than the OEM devices, and supposedly cheaper to boot. Here’s my story:

We had a new Suburban furnace installed in our travel trailer a [very] few years ago. As most of our camping is during warm weather, the furnace saw very little use. Even at that, I’m unsure if it worked exactly right. This year, we encountered a LOT of cold weather, starting off in February at Florida, where it went to 40 degrees or a bit below. We’re not talking just one night, either. Our most recent experience was the w/e of the 14th and 15th, where it was once again down below 50. Of course, I’m talking boondocking, where we have no electricity.

And, the furnace wouldn’t work. It would purge, fire, then go out after 5 seconds. “Obviously” a problem with the control board, and the Suburban tech agreed. So, I consulted with a tech from Dinosaur Electronics to be certain of ordering the correct board, then proceeded to buy from an outfit in Lebanon, PA. (Dinosaur doesn’t sell direct) The board arrived in 2 days.

Installation was straightforward, but the furnace didn’t work, albeit with different symptoms. I sent an email to the tech at Dinosaur, describing the problem.

Imagine my surprise when I received a call from the tech, saying it’d be faster to troubleshoot via phone calls than a bunch of email. He guided me through some voltage checks, and when those proved OK, he gave me one more check to make; verify the voltage coming back from the thermostat. As the installer had installed a new t-stat with the furnace, I had full expectations that the test would be OK, but I was wrong. The voltage was low and shorting the t-stat wires made the furnace go through its cycle just as it should! I ended up installing a new heat-only mechanical t-stat from the hardware store, about $19.00, and all is now well.

It’s hard to describe my pleasure with the great service from Dinosaur, I give them my unqualified recommendation. Their board remains in my furnace, with the OEM device relegated to “spare” status.

I have no relationship with Dinosaur Electronics other than as a very satisfied customer. The board sold for something like $93.00 from the dealer, so D.E. probably got $50.00 or so, but still provided superior service.

However, don't ask me about my VW radio antenna, that experience was more like others related above.