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Home Remodeling & Maintenance

As Seen on TV: Savings at a price

You can buy straight from the factory, but it will cost you.

From the vantage point of your own couch, the furniture, cabinetry and other household items seen on Direct-Buy commercials seem attractive. So do claims that you can save thousands of dollars on your purchase. Don’t take the bait until you find out how much you’ve got to ante up before you can realize any savings. That number is frustratingly hard to nail down, but it, too, can be in the thousands.

DirectBuy is a shopping club, mainly for home-improvement items, with about 160 locations in North America where members shop straight from manufacturers, avoiding retail margin – the percentage of a retail sale that ends in profit for the retailer (47%, on average, for home furnishings and 28% for appliances in 2007, according to the Census Bureau). Can you save that much at DirectBuy? Hard to say--you don’t see actual prices unless you’re a member or are deemed “truly interested” after attending a 90-minute open house. And the price of a membership is also disclosed only to those who attend an open house.

Membership fees are different at each location, and plans vary, too. But in one example, a ten-year membership runs about $5,000, confirms DirectBuy. Along with their other plans, DirectBuy is currently running a free 30-day trial, which gives you access to information on all their brands and pricing (but as a trial member you may purchase only from a limited number of manufacturers and spend no more than $1,000). At an open house, you’re expected to sign up for one plan or another on the spot. That’s the kind of high-pressure tactic we avoid. So should you.