5 reasons NOT to buy a wood burning stove online
Online stove retailers are naturally keen to drum up business, and because their marketplace is also their medium, they tend to be ahead of traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers in putting their message out. This is a shame, because, in our opinion, it is a false and misleading message, which needs de-bunking.
Here are good reasons why five arguments recently put forward for buying your wood burning stove from an internet retailer simply don’t stack up.
- False argument # 1: “you’ll get the best price online.”
The argument is that price transparency and savings on overheads will allow the online retailer to offer the best possible price. This is an attempt to conflate a generally undisputed truism about market efficiency with the considerable complexity of the stove market and the suitability, use and operation of wood burning stoves.
Firstly, there is no real price comparison because stove shops don’t generally sell the same stoves as the ones you can buy online. Bricks-and-mortar retailers, as static, local agents for stove manufacturers, have a vested interest in only selling stoves that they really believe in and which are best-suited to the end-user’s requirements, because they will be responsible for making sure they work as promised and for after-sales service.
The reality is that most decent stove manufacturers do not allow their stoves to be sold on-line, because they don’t like having their products discounted, or trying to provide after-sales service to customers hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away, when that service should properly be provided by a network of local agents. Their worst-case scenario, which happens all too frequently, is having to deal with online customers who have had the wrong stove poorly installed and who are angry because it doesn’t work and they don’t know who to blame, who then go on to write a terrible on-line review. Most of the half-decent manufacturers who have been tempted by the allure of high-volume sales to go down the online sales route are desperately trying to backtrack out of that situation and claw back selling control.
Additionally, stoves are not like socks or books. Once all the costs of installation have been factored in, they are significant investments, and it is not worth running the risk of getting it wrong just to shave a small percentage off the cost of one component of the job. Stoves are also expensive to transport and if you have to return one for any reason, you’re going to get a nasty shock at the cost.
- False argument # 2: “You can find more variety online.”
As if that’s really a good thing! As a long-established stove retailer who gets to cherry-pick from the best manufacturers around and to try out a huge variety of wood burning stoves, it can sometimes be a challenge for us just to be familiar with the specification and performance characteristics of the hundreds of models we offer. Multiply that number by ten, strip out all the best stoves on the market, leaving only a mixed bunch of mediocrities, add in minimal product familiarity and a dearth of guidance and expertise, and you have a recipe for your essential online stove-shopping experience.
It is far better to go to a well-established stove shop like the New Forest Wood Burning Centre, who have selected the very best wood burning and multifuel stoves in all price categories from the full breadth of the market, and who are able to help you find the stove best-suited to your requirements. There is no substitute for inspecting the stove before you buy, preferably in operation, so that you can see for yourself how responsive a given appliance is, for instance, or how the build quality looks and how the controls and door mechanism feel to use.
- False argument #3: “Quick price comparison.”
This is in essence a repetition of false argument #1. Basically the online retailer, having steered you into a tunnel of limited bogus choices from suppliers who have been forced by lack of demand to slash their prices, then offers you a price slightly lower than, albeit extremely similar to, all the other online retailers for the same product, to try to persuade you to make a spontaneous and superficial buying decision based on psychological price-point manipulation.
- False argument #4: “You can read customer reviews.”
There is nothing wrong with reading customer reviews, it’s just not an argument for buying a stove online.
There are some good non-retail websites trying really hard to offer comprehensive consumer reviews from across the full width of the stove market. However, there are a few stove-specific observations to make about the limits of the usefulness of such reviews, which it might be helpful to bear in mind. One trouble is that most consumers generally have (unlike with books or socks) only one wood burning stove at a time, and tend to keep it for its useable lifetime. Given what a massive improvement any stove is generally, compared to an open fire, most people are thrilled with whatever stove they have bought. However, they rarely have the experience to make informed comparisons with other stoves.
You also can’t rate a wood burning stove as a stand-alone item in the way that most consumer products can be rated. Stove enjoyment entails a certain amount of application and proficiency from the user, and performance can be hugely affected by the method of installation, the condition of the chimney, the quality and type of wood that is burnt, and even localised atmospheric conditions. It can be tricky from online reviews to weed out all the variables and gauge the fairness and true usefulness of the review.
A well-established stove shop like the New Forest Wood Burning Centre will be able to give you the full benefit of their extensive experience when it comes to making your decision, based on all the relevant criteria.
- False argument #5: “buying online represents convenient, no-hassle shopping.”
This is a really specious argument for many reasons.
Buying a wood burning stove is always a lifestyle choice. The costs and complexities of installation are probably greater than for the alternatives, you can’t program a stove to go on and off, you have to manually re-fuel it and deal with the debris, and the preparation, storage and manipulation of the fuel can be time-consuming and physical.
These aspects are also part of the attraction, and the benefits and end result are myriad and (we and thousands of our customers think) spectacular, life-affirming and wonderful.
But the process is not one to approach lightly. There are many factors to consider quite seriously, and frankly if you are too lazy to get out of your pyjamas and get some proper advice, then you are probably not the kind of person who is going to enjoy having a wood burning stove.
Next to the cost of buying and installing a stove, let alone the crushing disappointment and potential years of frustratingly poor performance if you get it wrong, it would represent very poor prioritisation to worry about the cost of the petrol to make it down to a decent stove shop during opening hours and to possibly have to wait a few minutes for staff to become free to talk to you.
And it’s especially galling for a no strings-attached online retailer selling a stunted offering of second-rate stoves with no mention of the potential pitfalls of poorly-planned installations, to suggest that bricks-and-mortar retailers should be avoided because they are going to apply ‘hard-sell’ tactics to their customers. One of the joys of being an independent stove retailer is having the liberty to listen to what self-motivated customers want and helping them pick the right stove for their needs. Our experience is that good stoves sell themselves, and that dealing with professional, genial and well-informed human beings is infinitely preferable to customers than executing a disembodied transaction with a remote database with a warehouse full of cheap stoves.