Category: Store Policies

Notes for the Novice Shopper: Everything has three prices!

07/25/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Store Policies, HFR Forum User Guide, Announcements


This posting is still 'under construction,' so check back frequently for updates. Also see our Guide to Using this Discussion Forum.

This version was revised: 02 August 2010 03:57 EDT.

As the savvy Harbor Freight™ shopper already knows, everything has multiple prices. In fact, it's not unusual to find the same item selling for three or more different prices at the same time. (We refer to this as their triple-pricing policy.) It all depends on which coupon you have to redeem. And "Inside Track" members are reputed to get even better offers.

Even the savvy shopper occasionally comes to the store armed with the latest coupon only to find that the item is actually on-sale for less money than expected. Usually, the lower in-store sale price is honored. Also be aware that quite often the sale price is NOT posted on the shelves. Use the current sales fliers and coupons as your guide to special sale prices.

One of the most useful features of this discussion forum, and indeed our Harbor Freight Reviews website, is the price comparisons--we list the "regular retail price," usually a "frequent sale price," a "target price," and sometimes even a "best price" that has been found for the item within the past year. Keep in mind that the better prices are usually purchases made with coupons and even with a coupon applied to a deeply discounted sale item (see below). Part of the 'game' played by many Harbor Freight™ customers, including us at Harbor Freight Reviews, is to buy their products at the lowest possible price. The object is not just to fill your home shop with the most tools but to do so at the most economical price: "he with the most toys [assembled at the lowest cost] when he dies, wins!"

Buy ahead: anticipate your needs so that you can make use of Harbor Freight™'s frequent deeply discounted sales and special offers. Use our "target prices" to guide you to the best value for the money. Extra money to spend this month? Browse our "Hot Buys" category to find items you might find useful that we considered especially good buys. Be prepared for a long list of "Hot Buys" because we consider most of Harbor Freight™'s extensive inventory to be good-quality items and great values when purchased at our target prices. And have fun assembling your tools.

Harbor Freight™ Coupon Redemption Policy
Harbor Freight™ is usually very generous with their coupon redemption policy. We have had no problems at our local, Buffalo-area (New York) store. Coupons received in the mail, clipped from magazines, and printed from their websites have all been honored without incident. Of course you can't combined coupons on a single purchase, but the usual 20%-off coupon is honored even on deeply discounted sale items. Sometimes, the resulting price has been ridiculously low; usually it's just a 'sweeter deal.'

Never make a large purchase without at least using the 20%-off coupon found in several national magazines and often in newspaper inserts. And for the best savings combine this coupon with a deeply discounted sale price whenever possible.

Hidden Inventory? Ask for Help!
Sale items are sometimes difficult to locate, depending on which actual retail outlet you visit. The staff can be very help in finding that special item or checking their inventory online. A lot of the larger items don't even get shelved but remain in the back storeroom. You have to ask for them. Recently, I discovered that a 9-LED mini flashlight that has been repeatedly offered for free with a coupon is kept behind the cash register in an unmarked brown paper bag. Bad sport:(, but at least I now know the trick. At our Buffalo area stores the staff always seems busy and often difficult to track down. Nonetheless, find a "sales associate" and ask if you can't locate a sale item.

The store's current inventory can be accessed from any of their cash registers/computer terminals. It won't tell you where the item is located in the store, but it can tell you if the item is listed in the store's current inventory. If it's a hot item that you're chasing down, insist (politely but firmly if necessary) that they check their actual store inventory online. And remember that Harbor Freight outlets will usually issue rain checks for out-of-stock items.

Harbor Freight™ Warranties & Satisfaction Guarantee
Harbor Freight™ boasts the best warranty in the business for all of their hand tool lines, matching the famous Craftsman™ hand tool lifetime warranty. They also have a 30-day 100%-satisfaction guarantee whereby any product may be returned for any reason within the first month. And recently, they claim they will price-match for up to a year after your purchase. It just can't get any better than this! (These policies were accurate at the time of writing, but check their websites and their retail outlets for any changes.)

Be sure to take your purchase out-of-the-box and give it a thorough run-down during the first month. If you're not happy with the item, take it back for a full refund as per their 30-day satisfaction guarantee. Don't get stuck with an unboxed lemon that you only discover to be junk after it's sat around for several months. Try the product out; be a happy Harbor Freight™ customer and don't burn yourself by not returning items that don't live up to your expectations or at least close enough to merit purchase. And remember their lifetime warranty on all hand tools. Let us know if you have problems with them honoring this published policy.

Bottom line: Shop knowledgeably at Harbor Freight™ and you'll be a "happy camper." Check both of their websites online (i.e., Harbor Freight Tools™ AND Harbor Freight USA™) for their latest coupons (links are usually at the top or side of their home pages; look carefully). Check local newspapers for advertisements and inserts and check national magazines for coupons including the ubiquitous 20%-off coupon. Be a savvy shopper and spend money (on the best deals) to help keep them in business so that we all continue to have access to this fabulous low-cost tool outlet.


Harbor Freight™ Strikes Out this Month!

07/21/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Outdoor Living, Store Policies, Lighting


Well, at least with me and at least in their Buffalo area stores. Three super-buys seemingly unavailable except in theory. Three items that I wanted but two of which I was unable to get (no more this season as of mid-June) and the third one I finally found hidden behind the checkout counter after months of searching the shelves. Three items apparently set-up as loss leaders which the local store may have had no intention of fulfilling. And here's what they were:

  1. Unfinished Fir Adirondack Chair: With a generously proportioned seat and sturdy construction at an unbeatable price for those willing to assemble and finish it, this chair is one of our "Hot Buys" of the summer. They were on sale recently for their target price ($29.99 down to $23.99 with an additional 20%-off coupon), but none were available. This was worth the rain check, so I stopped by repeatedly over the next several weeks to see if I could redeem my rain check. Finally, a sympathetic clerk informed me that "no more will be available this year." I have one which has survived its first Buffalo winter and I need three more to complete my set.:'(
  2. 3-Piece Decorative Solar Light set: A good buy gone sour by advertising at a ridiculously low price (i.e., $7.99 for a "$29.99" item) and then not stocking the item in their local stores. Once I calm down, I may still purchase another set when they are available again for our target price of $14.99. For now, I'm fuming over this >:XX BS which seems intentional to entice me into the store.
  3. 3.5" 9-LED Mini Flashlight: This would be a good buy even for a couple of bucks, but for free (with coupon) it's a killer of a deal! Unfortunately, I've never been able to locate even a single one on the shelves at Harbor Freight over the course of several months of searching. (Two other models with the exact same description but with different part numbers were usually stocked on the shelves.) I had even given up looking for a while, figuring that no such 'animal' existed. When I finally asked a clerk to check the inventory on his cash-register/computer-terminal, he politely replied that wasn't necessary, he had them under the checkout counter. And there they were, in an unmarked brown paper bag hidden from sight.:no: (FYI: to make the "free gift" look even more generous, they list the normal retail price for this item as $7.99. We all have come to expect inflated retail prices from Harbor Freight, but this one is off the wall ridiculous.)

Sorry Harbor Freight™, but like America's other favorite pastime, "three strikes and you're out" at least for this inning (eh, month). Harbor Freight™ often pushes the limits with their triple-pricing policy, and difficult to find lost leaders are expected. A non-existent loss leader, however, is simply not acceptable, and having three hot items advertised but seemingly unavailable in the same month makes the situation appear to be the result of very bad management or of an unscrupulously planed sales tactic. (Is this what they teach in business school these days?!:roll:) A very disappointing ploy, indeed, from one of my favorite retailers.

Bottom line: Harbor Freight may be slipping into using unscrupulous sales practices increasingly often. Watch closely for what 'tricks' you can discover in your local retail outlet.


New Discussion Category--Harbor Freight™ Store Policies

07/18/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Store Policies


We're adding a new category to the list of topics covered by this discussion forum, one that specifically addresses store policies and related issues including advertising, management, warranties, and customer service. If the primary emphasis of your remarks is regarding one of these topics and not a specific product, please post your comments here under the appropriate thread in this forum category.


Harbor Freight™ advertises a lot and their adds are often misleading, claiming excessively high normal retail prices and deep discounts that aren't nearly as deep as someone in the same market may be offered the same item through a different advertising flier or insert. Still, their prices are usually lower than that of their competition and the products they offer fill a somewhat unique niche in the tool market (i.e., low cost, medium quality items, see Notes for the Novice Shopper). Bottom line: we still love our Harbor Freight™, but one must be wary of their advertising ploys. Tread carefully and knowledgeably and you're likely to come out a winner.

Rating Local Retail Outlets

Separate threads should be started for individual stores, covering different regional markets. General comments can be left here, but if you wish to interact with others in your region do start (or request the start of) a specific 'thread' for your specific store. An example of the commentaries that may be useful or at least interesting to some readers follows below.

One of our two local Harbor Freight™ outlets (i.e., Tonawanda, New York) has had a 'mature' woman who seems to be running things on a day-to-day basis. Although she's not the friendliest person in town, she has kept things running smoothly and been very helpful in locating items (e.g., where's this advertised item selling for a ridiculously low price?) and resolving problems (e.g., my coupon won't work!). In all fairness, her curt manor may be related to the fact that she seems constantly busy keeping things running and the shelves stocked. With the typical staff (associates? :-/) she has to manage, that keeps her very preoccupied! She has been absent the last couple of times I visited the Tonawanda retail outlet, and I can only hope that she's on vacation or that I simply visited on the wrong shift. The store has been "run" by a kid-manager-for-the-hour:crazy: and her absence is sorely noted. For example, I had to ask two different "associates" to check for the Adirondack chair in the stockroom before one would even pretend to check the stockroom shelf (and nobody actually checked the online inventory which is the usual procedure for determining if stock is available!). Yuk, they better get her back soon or clone her.

Warranties and Returns

Harbor Freight Tools boasts a warranty policy on their hand tools that rivals that of Craftsman™ hand tools:

"Lifetime Warranty on Hand Tools! We guarantee this Hand Tool to be free from defects in material and workmanship for the life of the product. Limitations apply."

What's YOUR experience? Do they faithfully honor their stated warranty policy? At least one reader using their high-speed metal saw reports that they have been honoring their 30-day warranty on that item faithfully through a number of failed units.

Bitch, Gripe, & Complain: Customer Dumping Area

Of course not everything is always perfect at Harbor Freight. A separate thread in this category has been created for those who would like to share their experiences as customers at Harbor Freight's retail outlets. (Employee and ex-employees, please use your own dumping ground found under a different thread in this category.) Complimentary remarks are also welcomed, although we live in an era where few seem to take the time to say something nice. (I guess anger motivates, while contentment moves neither pen nor mouth.)

Bitch, Gripe, & Complain: Employee Dumping Area

We receive e-mails occasionally from disgruntled employees who apparently find it therapeutic to vent their raves here and elsewhere. A separate thread in this category has been created for those who would like to share their experiences as employees at Harbor Freight's retail outlets. (Customers, please use your own dumping ground found under a different thread in this category.) We fully realize that the pay scale, benefits, etc. are not likely to be among the best found in major retailers; after-all, Harbor Freight is a deep-discount, medium-quality tool outlet fighting to maintain their niche is a very competitive business (e.g., Home Depot™, Lowes™, and even Sears™ are buying some products from the same Chinese manufacturers these days, albeit selling these products at substantially higher prices). The employee turn-over rate, at least for the 'grunts' stocking the shelves, seems very high and only a few faces remain familiar month-after-month. Still, they could make the job fun, offer substantial employee discounts, and be all-round 'nice' people to work for which would compensate for the financial incentives that are more controlled by the extremely competitive market (e.g., retirees who like tools work cheaply and well for the right management, high school and college kids are still seeking summer and part-time employment at a decent wage that is not too physically [or emotionally] demanding). If central management doesn't understand this point or if they aren't already fully capitalizing on it, time to get on the boat or sink at Harbor Freight:roll: (There seems to be some sort of bad pun there, but I'll let it go without further comment.).

Bottom line: You now have a specific area (i.e., category) to post general comments about Harbor Freight, so use this category, instead of the individual product listings, as appropriate.

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This review and discussion forum was created for those of us who love Harbor Freight(tm). It's well known to those who frequent the store that the prices are always cycling up and down, and most of us usually accept it as a personal challenge to get the lowest price possible. It's also well appreciated that some products at Harbor Freight are good, even very good, but that many others are also substandard, yes, even junk. This review and discussion forum is dedicated to the savvy Harbor Freight shopper and is intended to provide some guidance to the best and the worse buys. Similar products from other retailers will also be reviewed from time-to-time. Please be advised that everyone's experience is unique, and what works well (or doesn't work at all) for the reviewers here may or may not suit your personal needs. With this caveat and with notification that Harbor Freight Reviews assumes no liability for the accuracy of information provided here for educational purposes, enjoy the forum and good 'sa(i)ling' at Harbor Freight!


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