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Topic: Shopping frustrations, Difficulty of seeing before buying< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 7:11 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Wow, I'm surprised at how hard it is to actually see a tent in person before buying.

First, I can't find the tent I want to buy within travel distance. I would be willing to travel pretty far, but as far as I know the tent I want to see isn't anywhere around. (Alps Mountaineering Hybrid CE 3).

Second, it appears that the vast majority of suppliers of this tent are nothing more than internet warehouses. You can't call them up and say, "Have you ever seen this tent set up and can you tell me about it?" Many of them don't even list phone numbers.

Plus I have no idea which of the 65 internet retailers that come up on a google shopping search are trustworthy.

Third, most manufacturers don't give you enough photos so you can really picture the tent, especially if it has a complicated shape. A front view doesn't give you a sense of the volume seen from the end. Walk-around videos would be so helpful.

So what what do people do? Do you just order sight unseen and send it back if you don't like it? I've been doing that for quite a while. It's a drag.

I would order a sleeping bag sight unseen. It's a simpler object and the specs can tell you most of what you need to know. A backpack is very risky, tents also.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 7:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Personally, I would not buy any tent from a bargain supplier without seeing it in person.  I might not have the same problems with high end suppliers, as long as their customer service was good.  ALPS may make some OK low cost items, but I would want to put it in my hand before committing to it.

As for what I do, I live within an hour of several good stores, and if they do not carry what I am looking for, I order from a reputable place with a good return policy.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 7:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Living in the boondocks, I have accepted the fact of trial and return (when necessary).  That is why I prefer to buy from internet stores with good return policies.
I also look for reviews everywhere I can and BGT, especially, does an excellent job with good pictures, etc.
Maybe someone here has the tent you're interested in and can send you a video, pics, etc.
I'd do it but I don't have that tent.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 7:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I search the reviews...and more reviews, both professional and personal reviews. I look at the pictures as closely as I can and ensure it's got the features I want. Then, I ask this forum in regards to their feelings on them...and then I wait until the tent hits the price I'm willing to pay and I've got the funds in my coffers at the same time. My last tent took me four years before the stars aligned.

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 7:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Tigger @ Oct. 12 2012, 7:36 pm)
QUOTE
I search the reviews...and more reviews, both professional and personal reviews. I look at the pictures as closely as I can and ensure it's got the features I want. Then, I ask this forum in regards to their feelings on them...and then I wait until the tent hits the price I'm willing to pay and I've got the funds in my coffers at the same time. My last tent took me four years before the stars aligned.

That's pretty much what I do.
I also take the provided measurements and make a mockup so that I can get a better idea of dimensions.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 7:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I agree -- and also search the tent name on YouTube, you often can find multiple videos from users giving you their "inside scoop".

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 11:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Ayuh, I've done all that. It's resulted in two keepers out of about six tents ordered this year. The hardest ones are the asymmetrical tents. A dome tent is easy to visualize. Some tents are different on all sides.

I have one more frustration: customer service people who really don't know much about their products beyond the specs listed at the website. They've never seen most of the products in person. They see their role as reciting the specs to you and preventing you from talking to someone who does know about the product, as if those product guys are too busy to talk to lowly customers. REI is pretty good about this---you can usually talk to a product specialist if you ask nicely. Other manufacturers are hard headed about it. I want to say to them, "Look, what do I need to do to know exactly what I'm buying, before I send you my money?" I would buy this Alps tent immediately if there were a video of it. Don't manufacturers realize they could increase their sales by having more photos, better photos, and videos? Wouldn't it be worth it to spend an hour making a video?

In fact we rely more on user reviews and user videos than on manufacturers for product information. That's odd. Imagine a car company saying, "Sorry, we don't have a photo of the front of the car. And we also don't have an actual car for you to inspect."
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 12:03 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

But would you pay full price in a store for one that had it set up?

Putting on my professional hat here as a Buyer for a brick and mortar outdoor specialty retailer here:

Myself and pretty much every other Buyer for a non-internet retailer won't touch Alps with a 10 foot pole. Why? Rampant internet discounting- even by Alps themselves with their "Scout Only" site.

Not gonna showcase for them. Can't afford it. Committing $$$ to inventory, square footage to display, training employees- can't do that and compete with some internet discounter that doesn't do that. Simple economics.

Taking my Professional hat off and returning to my beer...


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 8:24 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(obchristo @ Oct. 13 2012, 12:03 am)
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But would you pay full price in a store for one that had it set up?

That's a moot question because the tent is nowhere to be seen in a store, and that's really the focus of my original post. Pricing and supporting local stores is a totally different question that has been discussed here at great length.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 8:33 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

If you need help visualizing the tent, look up the dimensions, and using masking tape, tape out the shape and size of the tent and the vestibule on the floor. Lay your sleeping pad/s in there and hang out for a bit. It really gives you a good idea about living space.
Otherwise, yeah like above, youtube is the place to go.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 1:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TrailTramper @ Oct. 13 2012, 5:24 am)
QUOTE

(obchristo @ Oct. 13 2012, 12:03 am)
QUOTE
But would you pay full price in a store for one that had it set up?

That's a moot question because the tent is nowhere to be seen in a store, and that's really the focus of my original post. Pricing and supporting local stores is a totally different question that has been discussed here at great length.

Just wanted to let you know why there is little support for the brand by retailers and the manufacturer. It's a low margin brand. It sells on price, not service. Decent quality, just no support.

Good luck,
Christo


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 3:37 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(treelinebackpacker @ Oct. 13 2012, 8:33 am)
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If you need help visualizing the tent, look up the dimensions, and using masking tape, tape out the shape and size of the tent and the vestibule on the floor. Lay your sleeping pad/s in there and hang out for a bit. It really gives you a good idea about living space.
Otherwise, yeah like above, youtube is the place to go.

The floor size is not my problem. Take a look at the tent. You will see that it's very asymmetrical. "Living space" includes everything above the floor, and that's what I want to know about. There are no YouTube videos other than the silly ones that consist of photos from the website or the box plus music.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 3:45 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(obchristo @ Oct. 13 2012, 1:10 pm)
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Just wanted to let you know why there is little support for the brand by retailers and the manufacturer. It's a low margin brand. It sells on price, not service. Decent quality, just no support.

Good luck,
Christo

OK, that's fair, I get what you're saying about retailers. I'd like to know from others whether they share this opinion.

But you're not explaining clearly why any manufacturer would not give support to help people buy their tents. That doesn't make sense.

There are a lot of other tents that are hard to find in stores. Mountain Hardwear for example. It sounds like you're singling out Alps Mountaineering as being a bad apple. I find it hard to fault a company that makes a good, cheap tent (setting aside the question of cheap Chinese labor).

Please identify yourself so I know where you're coming from. Retailer?
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 4:02 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

obchristo has identified himself as a retailer rep for quite  a while now, and makes a great effort to show us when he is "putting on his retailer hat" and when he is just posting as a backpacker.

My take on all of this is that if you are selling merchandise on the cheap, it may not be in your best interest to invest in advertising and pictures that make it easier for customers to recognize the flaws.

You are most correct in your assumption that just floor dimensions tell us little.  Slope of the walls could infringe on the floor area, making several inches unusable.  

This is a 3 person tent we are talking about.  Is your intended use to be 3 people, or 2 with a dog, or just 2 people who like roomy palaces?  


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 4:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(obchristo @ Oct. 12 2012, 9:03 pm)
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Putting on my professional hat here as a Buyer for a brick and mortar outdoor specialty retailer here:
(snip)...

Taking my Professional hat off and returning to my beer...

As he did here...  


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 5:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I just bought a North Face Rock 32 tent and am very happy with it.  If budget is a concern, I would rather buy a lower price model from a top brand company that provides good service and support after the sale.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 6:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I think the same could be said of shoes and boots. Different sizes in the way they were constructed making them hard to shop for. Someone with my feet (narrow) makes it hard to find boots in a shop let alone order them online. Most shops don't even stock any narrow boots to even try on, so it's making do with what you can find and not what you want.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 8:32 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(ol-zeke @ Oct. 13 2012, 4:02 pm)
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My take on all of this is that if you are selling merchandise on the cheap, it may not be in your best interest to invest in advertising and pictures that make it easier for customers to recognize the flaws.

Is that really fair? Alps has an awful lot of fans in this forum. And many other manufacturers have poor presentations at their websites with incomplete specs, lousy photos, etc.

I don't know Alps very well. I've only bought one product from them and like it. Their customer service was mixed---poor in the CS department but much better in the product department, although it took some wrangling to get there.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 13 2012, 8:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(bigredd @ Oct. 13 2012, 5:04 pm)
QUOTE
I just bought a North Face Rock 32 tent and am very happy with it.  If budget is a concern, I would rather buy a lower price model from a top brand company that provides good service and support after the sale.

Have you had experience with their customer service?
I bought two sleeping bags from them that were obviously manufacturing errors (20 degree bags that we froze in at temps in, at the lowest, the 50's) but they would not make it right.  I emailed, phoned and sent snail mail to no avail.
I hope their customer service has improved but, personally, I would not buy from them again.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 14 2012, 5:39 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Posted in wrong thread, sorry.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 14 2012, 8:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The next time you're in the NYC area stop by Campmor in Paramus NJ.  You'll find a crapload of erected tents ready for your inspection.

If you live in the middle on nowhere as I do, just do your due diligence and research the hell out of the tent before you order it.  I have yet to be disappointed using that method.


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(TrailTramper @ Oct. 13 2012, 12:45 pm)
QUOTE

(obchristo @ Oct. 13 2012, 1:10 pm)
QUOTE
Just wanted to let you know why there is little support for the brand by retailers and the manufacturer. It's a low margin brand. It sells on price, not service. Decent quality, just no support.

Good luck,
Christo

OK, that's fair, I get what you're saying about retailers. I'd like to know from others whether they share this opinion.

But you're not explaining clearly why any manufacturer would not give support to help people buy their tents. That doesn't make sense.

There are a lot of other tents that are hard to find in stores. Mountain Hardwear for example. It sounds like you're singling out Alps Mountaineering as being a bad apple. I find it hard to fault a company that makes a good, cheap tent (setting aside the question of cheap Chinese labor).

Please identify yourself so I know where you're coming from. Retailer?

As Zeke pointed out, I do identify when I am putting my professional hat on and speaking from that point of view. But you want to know, so I'll say it again.

Putting my professional hat on....

I am the Senior Buyer for Adventure 16- a Southern California  based Specialty Outdoor Retailer with only brick and Mortar Retail locations at this point in time. We are employee owned. I have been with Adventure 16 for 13 years- starting as a Salesperson and going up from there. I have done every position in the Store and in the Buying Department. Prior to that, I worked at other Outdoor shops and as a guide in both backpacking and Kayaking.

You won't see me hawking my companies wares here- that is a clear breech of the TOS of this site and my own personal ethics. The only time I have approached somebody on this site about Adventure 16 is when they had a potential service issue with us- I asked them to come in and I made it right.

I ment no disrespect to Alps- and what I stated on this site is exactly what I told them at Outdoor Retailer more than once. I think they make decent gear. Lot's Outdoor Companies do. I was just trying to give you some insight into why you won't find their gear in Retail Stores.

Once again, it has NOTHING to do with the quality of their product- it's decent stuff. If I were not involved in the Outdoor Industry and were looking for a tent- I would give them a lot of consideration- I think you get great value from their products. Probably should have said that in my original post.

As far as what manufacturers put out for information about their tents- I have spent a considerable amount of time with several of them asking for the same thing:
Pictures of 6 foot tall people lying down and sitting in the tent. 2 people in a 2 person tent, 3 people in a 3 person tent etc. That way a person could get a reasonable idea of how "habitable" a tent is.

You may see that coming from some manufacturers soon- but don't hold your breath.

Taking my professional hat off....


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 15 2012, 10:25 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Obchristo, thanks for the information. I didn't know anything about you. I wasn't challenging you, really just inquiring.

The most useful sales tool is a video. Since thousands of ordinary people post gear reviews on YouTube, I'm wondering how hard that can be, really. Seems like it would take an hour or less for the manufacturer to do it and it would be so helpful. Sierra Designs makes a reasonable effort to create videos. That Zappos video guy is dang irritating.

A couple of manufacturers have set up a tent for me and sent me photos with a person or a cot in the tent. Very, very helpful, but I don't want to ask for that too often. It's a burden. But if they can do that, why not just post those photos at their website?

I'm thinking that very few companies would be willing to post a photo of 3 people in a 3-person tent. E.g., the tent is claimed to be 60" wide and the floor diagram shows 3 rectangles with plenty of space between them. Ha! Simple math tells you that three 20" mattresses are not going to have any space at all between them, plus we know the tent isn't really 60" wide in the first place. But photos would allow the honest companies to stand out against the others.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 16 2012, 9:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(obchristo @ Oct. 13 2012, 12:03 am)
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Myself and pretty much every other Buyer for a non-internet retailer won't touch Alps with a 10 foot pole. Why? Rampant internet discounting- even by Alps themselves with their "Scout Only" site.

OK, I'm starting to see your point. I can't afford the full retail price ($280) of the tent I want. It's available at 68 internet retailers. Lowest price is about $145, which I can afford. BUT: upon checking several of these retailers I discover:

1)Many don't give any address or phone number. One even says, "Don't call us. We don't deal over the phone."

2) The return conditions are lousy: "If you open it you own it." Or "Returns may incur a substantial restocking fee plus shipping."

As far I can recognize, there is no brick-and-mortar store on the list.

To their credit, the Alps product specialist did go way out of her way to take photos of the tent, so I now at least have a good idea of what I would buying. Question is where to buy it.

I guess the choice is to pay full price from Alps or rock-bottom price from an internet retailer incognito. Not good choices.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 17 2012, 10:34 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Interesting post. I'm not sure I've ever spent over a few minutes debating a tent before buying it. I usually wait longer on the cash.

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(TrailTramper @ Oct. 12 2012, 7:11 pm)
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First, I can't find the tent I want to buy within travel distance. I would be willing to travel pretty far, but as far as I know the tent I want to see isn't anywhere around. (Alps Mountaineering Hybrid CE 3).

So, what made you want to buy this tent in the first place?  (I'm not challenging your choice, btw, just truly curious.)  For big items like a tent/pack/bag, I usually get interested because I've seen it or someone I know has it or it's a common/well-known model.

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 17 2012, 11:44 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(obchristo @ Oct. 13 2012, 12:10 pm)
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Just wanted to let you know why there is little support for the brand by retailers and the manufacturer. It's a low margin brand. It sells on price, not service. Decent quality, just no support.

FWIW, I've had excellent experience dealing directly with that company on a couple issues (one a sale, one a customer support issue).

I had to replace a fly on one of my ALPs tents once. They were going to replace it for free, even though I was very clear that it was not equipment failure. (It's a long story--I ended up spending the night in the storm with just the fly--the tent body was in my son's pack and we were separated by flood waters. I tried to rig a shelter using the fly and eventually ripped it.)

I said I was perfectly willing to pay--they ended up charging me $25 bucks. They were very easy to work with and helpful.

I understand your complaint about low margins and why retailers aren't interested in the brand. But I think your "no support" statement isn't really accurate/fair.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 17 2012, 11:47 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm a bit puzzled why you've only gotten "fly-by-night" type internet sources as hits. A lot of the more reputable on-line places sell ALPs tents: backcountry.com, STP, REI, etc. Do none of them carry the model you are looking for?

Also, call ALPs and ask if they'll match a price on a direct sale from them. I wouldn't be shocked if they would.
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(cweston @ Oct. 17 2012, 11:47 am)
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I'm a bit puzzled why you've only gotten "fly-by-night" type internet sources as hits. A lot of the more reputable on-line places sell ALPs tents: backcountry.com, STP, REI, etc. Do none of them carry the model you are looking for?

Also, call ALPs and ask if they'll match a price on a direct sale from them. I wouldn't be shocked if they would.

Nope, REI et al. don't carry this specific tent.

Wow, you can ask a manufacturer to price match??? Hmm . . . never heard of that before but okay, I'll try it.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 19 2012, 4:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE


(cweston @ Oct. 17 2012, 11:47 am)
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call ALPs and ask if they'll match a price on a direct sale from them. I wouldn't be shocked if they would.

OK, I took your advice and asked them if they would price match. The answer was no. What do you figure that means? "We really can't afford to match those outrageously low prices"? Or do they have a noncompete agreement with their distributors?
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