What store has the best prices and best service? Amazon? Best Buy? Lowes? The local Mom & Pop Appliance store? The answer may surprise you.
Our icemaker finally died after 12 years. Such appliances are designed with a 15-year design life in mind, so it was a few years too early. Hard water really eats these things up, as they are constantly on and constantly spraying water about the innards, and scale builds up quickly.
So I go online to find a replacement. Most undercabinet ice makers are 15" wide, and ours was 18" wide. Not wanting to re-build our cabinets, I search for an exact replacement. These are not cheap. The retail price on a replacement is a staggering $2599. Ouch. These are toys for the rich, or at least people who like their martini ice just so.
So I check Lowes and Home Depot. They can order one, with two month's notice, for $2159. That's somewhat better, I guess. But having seen all the dented appliances at both stores, I am reluctant to order. They hire kids to work at these places - kids who basically don't give a shit about anything.
I actually found a used one on Craigslist that needed a new pump. I just replaced the pump in mine, so I could swap that part out. Sadly, it was sold by the time I called. That might have been a big savings, but then again, if ours burned out at 12 years, how long would a used one last?
I go online to all the other places - Compact appliance, Amazon, etc. They have 15" models, or ice makers that are just freezers with conventional refrigerator ice makers in them (that make half-moon shaped cubes, not "clear ice" like a real ice maker). Or they have 15" models which have pretty half-hearted ratings. So much for Amazon taking over the appliance business from Lowes.
I keep searching online and find pretty good prices at some appliance stores. But since I am out of their area, they can't ship to my house. Then I think a minute. The local Mom & Pop appliance store, Coastal Appliances, furnished all the Kitchen Aid appliances that came with this house. We bought the fridge, washer and dryer from them as well. I call up and they are $100 cheaper than Lowes or Home Depot, and will deliver, install, and remove the old ice maker as well.
And unlike Lowes and Home Depot, I trust these folks not to drop the damn thing off the back of the truck, put a dent in it and say, "Gee sorry!" the way the chain store lackeys do.
Now, sure, you could say I could have bought a cheaper model, or paid a carpenter to narrow the cabinet opening. But that's comparing apples to oranges. When it comes down to it, when I searched online, the best price available for this particular make and model was at the local appliance store.
Not Home Depot.
Not Best Buy.
Not Compact Appliance or Amazon.com - they didn't even stock such an item, only pale imitations.
The heralded demise of brick and mortar and Mom and Pop may be further off than we think. Sure, Amazon has great prices on some things. But if you want a specific thing, they largely don't have it. They will have some crappy made-in-China substitute that no doubt is cheaper, but not quite as good. And granted, half the time what they have is adequate.
But in terms of buying a specific product, the big-box stores and online sites all fall down when compared to the local Mom & Pop appliance store.