Tags: harbor freight usa

12-Slat Park Bench (#42364)

07/22/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Outdoor Living

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com

Park Bench
Item: 12-Slat Park Bench
Item number: 42364
Retail price: $69.99
Frequent sale price: $59.99
Target price: $39.99
Item Link (not available)

Our 12-slat Victorian-style park bench has survived two Buffalo winters thus far, and therefore deemed to be rugged enough for most people's use. It's a "Hot Buy" only when purchased on sale, with a coupon, or a combination of both that brings the price down to our "target price." It's probably a good buy even at the regular sale price, but better quality benches can sometimes be found locally at around the same price.

Using a 20%-off coupon with the usual sale price of $59.99 brings the price down to $47.99. Still too high to be what we consider a "Hot Buy" but good enough for many people to be a "reasonable purchase."

It comes with a clear varnish coating that sufficed for our first Buffalo winter, but repainting even with light sanding and primer followed by Sear's best Weatherbeater™ paint left it peeling with a few cracked slats by the third summer. Therefore, a good coating of Urethane or outdoor paint is recommended the FIRST season unless you like the weathered look on your outdoor furniture.

FYI: The Buffalo winter test for durability is quite rigorous. We leave the item uncovered throughout the Buffalo winter, often with several feet of snow followed by freezing, thawing and refreezing. We even use the item during the winter months! Thus, any item that survives more than two cycles is deemed "Buffalo tough" and likely to hold up quite well with normal use.

The bench is comfortable and rugged enough to withstand our 'field' testing with nearly 260lbs. And it's large enough for two people but better yet for "Sasha and me." Assembling woes are typical for Chinese-manufactured items, and you may need to replace a few broken bolts here and there unless you're careful not to over tighten them. Most holes were properly aligned and assembly can be easily accomplished by one person in a leisurely afternoon or evening.

Bottom line: A good value when purchased at or below our target price. An OK purchase when purchased slightly higher, but comparable or better quality benches can often be bought on sale from other local retailers.

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Harbor Freight™ Strikes Out this Month!

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

Link: http://www.HarborFreightReviews.com

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.

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New Discussion Category--Harbor Freight™ Store Policies

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

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com

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.

Advertising

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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32 Piece Screwdriver Set (#90764)

07/16/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com

Screwdriver Set
Item: 32-Piece Screwdriver Set (with case)
Item number: 90764
Retail price: $7.99
Target price: $4.99 (with coupon)
Best price: $2.99
Item Link

What can you say about a cheap little set of screwdrivers? Well, that they're cheap enough and convenient enough to merit purchase, even if you already have screwdrivers, screwdrivers, and more screwdrivers. And this set is only "little" in its stature not in its completeness. It covers common slotted and Philips screw heads including miniature sizes. It even has a pocket screwdriver circuit tester (100-250VAC) and a flex shaft driver. An assortment of other screw heads (e.g., hex) rounds out this collection which is all neatly contained in its own case.

The usual sale price ($4.99) of this item encourages the purchase of several to keep in various spots where screwdrivers are often needed. The convenient storage case insures that the full assortment of screw heads is readily available. And the small Phillips-head screwdriver fits Harbor Freight's own stainless steel solar lights even better than my comparably sized Craftsman screwdriver, making battery replacement in defective solar lights a snap. (Perhaps the Craftsman screwdriver is well worn.) In fact, the set is inexpensive enough to 'break-up' and leave individual components located near often used applications. Overall, this set is best considered a bench-top accessory most suitable for light- to medium-duty work on the bench and on small appliances. We consider its quality inadequate for even emergency automotive repairs.

Bottom line: Another sharp value (for light-duty work) from Harbor Freight Tools™!

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10 Piece Stainless Steel Solar Light Set (#66249)

07/14/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Outdoor Living, Lighting

Link: http://www.HarborFreightReviews.com

Stainless Steel Solar Lights
Item: 10-Piece Stainless Steel Solar Light Set
Item number: 66249
Retail price: $39.99
Target price: $24.99 or less
Best price: $19.99
Item Link

Their stainless steel construction with a dull copper finish compliments most yard/entryway decor. The light output is from a white LED bulb (13,000 micro candelas) powered by a single rechargeable 1.2 volt (600 mAh) AAA NiCd battery located in each fixture. This puts off a nice, soft, bluish-tint illumination characteristic of this type of LED light. The output seems somewhat lower than that found with some of the more expensive solar lights, but they are perfectly adequate for most path/entryway markers and for soft accent lighting.

Price warning: With the summer fully underway, our local Harbor Freight outlet is again pushing these solar lights for the FULL retail price of $39.99. At this price we do NOT recommend purchase of this light set because of its high failure rate noted in the review which continues below. Buy at the target price or below, and they're a good deal; otherwise, hold-off purchase until they go on sale for $25 or less later in the season.

The solar lights have a convenient auto/off/on switch easily reachable underneath their caps. This is especially important for charging the NiCd batteries to their full capacity before allowing them to discharge through their normal cycle (NiCd batteries have a 'memory effect'). We typically allow our batteries to charge via the solar cells for two to three days before using them in their normal function, or we remove the batteries and charge them directly with a NiCd battery charger to insure maximum charge before first-use. Most of the lights work throughout the night until morning during a typical Buffalo summer and last at least half-way through the night during our overcast winters. Be careful with the plastic stakes that break-off rather easily in hard or frozen soil (don't try to straighten them during the winter). Otherwise, they are physically sound except for the lens fogging issue noted below. (Hint: if you find that the lighting duration has become unacceptably short after use and you don't have a battery charger, you can switch the lights "off" and let the solar cells recharge them for a couple of days to regain a full cycle if the batteries are still good. Running through a few fully discharged/fully charged cycles often rejuvenates the battery's capacity.)

The lenses covering the solar cells on many of our test lights clouded-up after only a year and some of the rechargeable batteries failed prematurely (batteries should last two or three years with solar lights). In fact, of the several sets we purchased at a local Harbor Freight retail outlet about 20% have failed right-out-of-the-box and nearly 40% have various problems by the second season. At the low sale price of under $25, we simply purchase additional sets for replacement rather than return the lot for another batch which may have the same failure rate. And the replacement batteries we buy directly from China are inexpensive and boast a higher mAh capacity (e.g., typical nominal value of 2,000 mAh but actually 1,000 mAh or less) than that originally supplied with the lights.

Other online reviewers have been uniformly pleased with these solar lights, a few noting problems but most asserting they were trouble-free. It's interesting to note that many of the people that haven't had problems are from California. Perhaps the drier climate and the milder winters prolong the life of these lights. The low humidity could be a factor in why others haven't seen the lens fogging, or perhaps the outdoor air quality is just better than what we experience here in Buffalo, New York (EPA Air Quality Rating of 3 out of 10 being the best). Overall for the cost, these solar lights are the best value around if they fit your need. The quality control issue is somewhat frustrating, but the value remains in the low purchase price which allows economical replacement of defective units.

Bottom line: Not a bad buy but not the best Harbor Freight has to offer. Aesthetically pleasing the first year but reliability falters after only one season outdoors. We still recommend their purchase because of their low price (only when on sale) and their aesthetic appeal. You won't find a better value on a stainless steel solar light anywhere.

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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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