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In among my plans this year is building a garage and workshop for my Corvette so that I can work on it more easily and also continue to work on it year round, through our long (cold!) ‘off-season’. Although it is currently stored away with some good friends who are taking great care of it, the withdrawal factor has been pretty high and I’d rather not repeat the experience if possible.

As I do all the work on my car, one of the other items on my shopping list is a lift of some description. There are a large number of options out there and it’s quite hard to know what you’re getting, especially as prices seem to vary enormously; so it was quite interesting to see an article on lifts in one of the recent issues of Corvette Fever. In the article they made cautionary note of the quality of some of the lifts (including one of the few that seem to have local representatives here in Canada – DirectLift).

As my ZR-1 is just ever so slightly valuable to me, I felt that I should at the very least check out some of the more highly recommended suppliers and gain an understanding of the differences in quality and price – informed decision making generally being the better part of purchasing valour.

One of the lift suppliers given an ‘honourable mention’ was Backyard Buddy, and I have often seen their name mentioned with acclaim on the various web fora that I frequent. Thus inspired, I fired up my browser and quickly located their site.

The site provided me with a lot of information about their lifts and was greatly disparaging of lesser quality products. I’ve never been one to look for the cheapest option and firmly believe that quality is worth paying a higher price for; in fact I do it all the time on clothes, shoes, tools and more or less everything I buy.

Ahhh yes, and there’s the rub my friends. Although the site talks a great deal about online ordering, I see no prices listed. Even though I can add a lift to my shopping cart, no pricing appears. Even though I am invited to check out and hand over my credit card information – still no pricing appears. “Don’t forget that you can view automotive lift products with prices and even order securely online”, their contact page proclaims. Sadly the link to viewing these products with prices results in a “page not found” error; what’s more the contact form itself produces an error when I try to use it.

By now I’m somewhat irked. Yet another badly designed web site breaking basic design rules that have been known and well publicised for years – check out No. 10 on Jakob Nielsen’s Top 10. I persevere however and send an email to the contact email listed on the site; former experience tells me I’m not likely to get a response but what can I say, I’m just an eternal optimist. Here’s my email in full:

Email 1

Somewhat to my surprise, I actually received a reply. Perhaps I thought, as I opened the email, they are more on the ball than the website suggested. The reply in full was:

Email 2

I was somewhat amazed by the hostile tone in his reply. I can only imagine the results if I responded to clients this way and, working in the IT industry, believe me I deal with far more awkward customers than me on a daily basis. The response also contained a number of assumptions, the biggest being a complete refusal to accept that the site was at fault; so I felt I should respond and point out in more detail just what the problems were in relation to the site, the misconceptions and the tone of the response.

Email 3

A reasonable response I would say – all clear and valid points. Imagine my greater surprise then when I received this:

Email 4

I don’t have any ‘mad’ tools, but no doubt some of mine are of Chinese origin – sadly it’s virtually impossible to avoid these days, even when buying from well known companies. But again, look at the hostility here. I don’t pretend to be an expert on steel prices, but stock markets are pretty fluid and they seem to somehow manage to keep those up to date. Even if, for some reason, the pricing can’t be kept up to date then make that clear on the site; all it takes is a “due to the volatility of steel pricing we cannot maintain accurate prices on the web, please call for a quote”. That’s not great either, but at least you’re not giving me a site that pretends it will give me a price, that invites me to order online, that allows me to add the lift to the basket and that even allows me to check out and enter a credit card and still doesn’t let me know that pricing is not available online (and worse that the basket/checkout etc. isn’t even functional!).

The point he makes about how I would insist on paying the price listed on the Internet is certainly valid – I would expect to pay whatever was advertised. But is it really unreasonable to expect that the price displayed be valid? Or that if pricing isn’t available online, then this should be clearly stated and all reference to pricing, basket functionality etc. be removed/disabled?

And while on the issue of pricing, the accessories for the lifts – all made of steel presumably – are on the site. What about the volatility of pricing now?

The issue here is clearly that the company representatives are too lazy to keep the site pricing up to date and too lazy to properly remove the references on the web site. If I was running this company, I’d also have a big issue with someone in my sales team responding with such hostility to a potential customer, regardless of circumstances. Perhaps Backyard Buddy can learn something about courtesy and sales from the Chinese…

There is also an implicit assumption in his email that I should simply look at the website and then call for pricing. Surely the whole point of having a website is to communicate such information to customers? Why would I take the trouble to look on any site simply to be told “okay, now call us for the important information”. If that’s the way you’re thinking then perhaps you’re better off  not having a website at all…

The last comment in the final email links recycling, quality, and Chinese tools; there really is no link here. As I said in my first response “As long as the quality of steel used is not changed…” in other words, if the grade of steel is the same then the source, recycled or not, makes no difference – it’s still the same grade of steel. Recycling is a good thing because it saves resources (though I can understand how someone from the USA might not understand that point 😉 ) and (usually) helps keep costs down. Keeping costs down, helping the environment, while delivering an equivalent product to the customer at a lower price, all sound like wins to me. Of course, if the quality has changed, then that’s a different story. But I don’t see how US steel is somehow intrinsically better than Chinese steel (or Russian or British or Mexican or Canadian…); if it meets the required grade then that’s pretty much the end of it.

I’m sure that Jason felt really proud of himself as he cocked up the last sentence, crowing about my Chinese tools. No doubt he really thought he put me in my place with that final insult. :-)

I could go on; after all I was just a potential customer looking for basic information and also trying to avoid cheap goods of dubious quality, but here are three final points:

First, here are the screenshots showing the misleading pages on the site.

Screen 1 Screen 2 Screen 3 Screen 4 Screen 5

Second, I sent a similar email to another company, BendPack. They responded with professional courtesy, pointing out that they don’t sell direct and offering to provide me with the nearest dealer (which they did within ten minutes when I asked).

Third, perhaps Backyard Buddy ought to consider a name change. Backyard Bozo, maybe?

19 Responses to Backyard Buddy – or maybe not.

  • Hello Dave. Just ran across your comments about backyard Buddy. It seems you have more time to complain about their website than you do purchasing a lift? I own 5 backyard Buddy lifts and 11 Corvettes, and 9 other collectable cars. At any time when you have a website problem on a product you should use the old personal technology – give them a call. Both Jason (in charge of Sales) and Larry (the owner) would be happy to talk with you and if you were in the area and wanted to be impressed – give you a tour of the factory and facility. It’s cleaner than the garage your car is in now – you would be impressed. I would invite you to my garage and storage area if you were in my area also. The bottom line you missed is what do you want? The best lift or a lift. I had researched ALL vendors available world-wide and toured over 5 factories before buying the Backyard Buddy lift. It is the best. I have $500K cars on them and NEVER, repeat NEVER had a problem with the lifts. If you ever have any questions – you can call them for help and they ANSWER THE PHONE – no technology – just people. I suggest you spend some time and focus on your objective or what you are looking for to lift and secure your vehicle and not waste your time on minor details. You must be waiting for Spring so you can work on your car and have extra time because your comments are excessive and unsubstantiated. Hope you get a lift and move on.

  • Hello EEb

    A name would have been nice but thank you for the comment neverthless.

    It sounds like you have a very nice collection of cars (and Backyard Buddy’s) and I’m glad that you are happy with them. I’m somewhat confused that you think that having visited a website displaying such appalling characteristics as this one, that I should have phoned the company – isn’t the basic nature of the web/internet an interactive one? Isn’t price one of the basic pieces of information that a potential customer is likely to be looking for?

    You are correct in one thing: Jason has undoubtedly impressed me. Though not in a way that I would want associated to any business of mine.

    I’d appreciate it if you could point out where my comments were ‘excessive and unsubstantiated’ – I think my comments were 100% accurate and valid. What’s more I was careful to show the evidence backing them up. I’m also surprised that you don’t find any of Jason’s comments in any way ‘excessive and unsubstantiated’.

    Considering the further comments I have just published in the follow up article, I’m also surprised that someone in your position would want to associate themselves with such innaccuracies, personal attacks and blatant racism.

  • Hell Dave – your comments are again too much!

    I have neither attacked you or anyone – just also stated facts. I think you need to move on and stop making a BIG deal out of something so trivial – it MUST BE COLD up there in Canada and you have nothing else to do this time of year?

    Not sure about the “personal attacks and blatant racism” comment you indicated but your comments – seem immature and not founded.

    It’s to bad you did not pick up the phone or talked to them – you would not comment as you have on this site. I’m sure you critique all the sites you visit in this same manner?

    It’s obvious you don’t understand the difference in steel, welds, and lift construction. Larry – the owner could and would explain the differences to you – NO – not all metal is the same. There is a difference. (I hold a certified welding and TIG advanced degree and teach certification classes at the college level and have a degree in the field – I DO know what I am talking about!) In their showroom they show you the difference and have examples and the testing to back it up – but that doesn’t matter to you apparently.

    If you can find a better product at a better price – JUST GO BUY IT!! Move on! Your problem is about their site and NOT their product. They are NOT in the web/internet business – they are in the LIFT business.

    Just buy another lift, and see what you get. Time will tell.

    I AM HERE with a name, address, and phone number at your convience at http://www.icacc.com.

    Thank you.

  • Hello EEb

    I don’t think I said anywhere that you’d attacked me – Jason from Backyard Buddy has though. Pretty much every email from him is full of open hostility – including the one where he calls me an idiot for criticising his company website and the tone of his emails.

    Have you actually read the emails he sent? I think if you had the “personal attacks and blatant racism” would be fairly clear and I don’t see how my comments are “immature and unfounded”. I criticised their website and his responses, I published both sides so everyone could see, I have published your own comments and responded to them without hostility or personal attack. I published links showing that Jason was 100% wrong about the use of recycled steel (a point that he brought up regularly), I published information showing that Canada has a pretty healthy auto industry (again a point he brought up). I pointed out that the grade of steel is a scientific measurement not a subjective one and as such it made no difference where the steel was made (I also didn’t say that all steel was the same – far from it.). I also didn’t just assume that you were a company shill – which is certainly possible.

    So where in any of this is the immaturity you mention? Perhaps you were meaning Jason’s comments were immature and unfounded and got confused?

    It’s not ‘too bad’ I didn’t pick up the phone – the company chose to offer its products through the web and in doing so they should take care to make their site accurate and they should also expect to get people emailing them. That’s the nature of the web. More pertinent is the fact that if they maintained their website I wouldn’t have needed to email them at all – the information would have been there.

    As to welding, lift construction, etc. what has this got to do with a website that is inaccurate and border-line fradulent (asking for credit card details for something they haven’t given you the price on hardly smacks of being ‘above board’) and a ‘salesman’ who bizarrely thinks that being hostile, shooting off racist comments and calling potential customers ‘idiots’ is acceptable? Nothing that I can see.

    No I’m not particularly interested in looking at examples provided by them on the differences in construction – at one time I perhaps would have been but that was before Jason started his childish nonsense. Would you do business with a company where the sales person responded to you like that? I doubt it. For that matter, you appear to operate your own business – would you be happy with one of your sales people responding to a possible customer in that way? Again it seems unlikely.

    If you are as experienced and qualified as you say, presumably you should also know that a steel Grade is independent of where its made and that steel of the same grade is of equal value regardless of its source. Presumably too you know that as 75% of steel is recycled then you can recognise Jason’s incongruous statements about the use of recycled steel in Chinese products.

    And once again, what does my location in Canada have to do with any of this? If it hadn’t been for the nastiness and unprofessionalism presented by Backyard Buddy’s Jason I’d never have needed to put any of this up and as I haven’t heard anything from anyone else at the company, I would assume that they are happy with his ‘sales tactics’ and support his comments.

    I have lots to do thanks, and if all of this is so trivial and unimportant – why drag it on?

  • save to my Bookmarks 😉

  • Hello Dave,

    Just thought we’d let you know that Jason Wood is no longer with the company.

    Best of luck,
    Backyard Buddy Team

  • Dave,

    Thanks for the insight. I too am pricing 4 post lifts and have been conducting comparison searches to include prices. Although Backyard Buddy has removed the negative employee they continue to neglect their website. I’m just not going to buy from them because I can’t do my own research, there’s not enough information.
    I do the same thing when searching for items sayon Craigslist. If it doesn’t have a price advertised I don’t even bother opening up the add. I was giving Backyard Buddy the benefit of the doubt. But, 3+ years later, still haven’t updated their website. I’m looking to buy 3 lifts, I’ll get them somewhere.

    Bart

  • Good luck with the search Bart. A lot of people recommend Bendpak highly (http://www.bendpak.com/). I used one while doing a flywheel/clutch upgrade just recently and was very impressed. Their hydraulic bridge jack is fantastic as well. You might also want to take a look at DirectLift (http://www.directlift.com/) They’re used by Barret-Jackson.

    All the best

    Dave

  • Gentlemen,

    Felt this was very interesting reading, I too, would have walked away from Backyard Buddy if this would have happened to me. I am buying a lift this spring and Backyard Buddy was going to be it, NOT NOW !
    I have bought and owned Corvettes all my life, only have 5 now, and no longer deal with the dealer here because of how I was treated and ” wasn’t ” taken care of, traveled to OHIO to buy the last one because of it.
    Thanks for the in-site, hope the people at Backyard Buddy understand what they are doing to themselves ! They do have a great lift.

    Ken, ( Wisconsin )

  • I am looking to buy a lift this spring ,I was considering a BACKYARK BUDDY OR MAYBE NOT!!!!!! Thanks for the info. DON

  • Backyard Buddy was at the top of my list. It has now moved to the bottom after the experience Dave has had. I have to side with Dave. The whole point of having information on the website is so I don’t have to take the time to call someone. And clearly the website lacks basic price information. I usually don’t have time to make phone calls until late evening after most sales offices have closed.

  • Wow, I saw an ad for this company in Hemmings Motor News, first thing I though when going to their site was “Where are the prices?” After a little googling found this post. Scratch this company from the list, and too bad I like supporting small business.

  • I was researching lifts myself and I saw the Backyard Buddy. I too saw there were no prices on their site. Having worked in metal foundries dealing with 100s of types of steel I know that the prices can fluctuate, but not widely enough for a product like this.

    Considering the initial posting was from 2008, and it took them over 7 months to fire the sales rep I kind of lost faith as well. Since it is now 2014, and they haven’t updated the site to including pricing I would assume they don’t have the sales force, or the ability to maintain their company, and I don’t buy the “impending steel costs” bull. You can easily factor in a buffer zone, and like you said update the price accordingly if the steel prices increase.

    I guess they can consider me another lost customer. Thanks for the posts Dave.

  • Just went looking for a 4-post lift to go along with my 2-post that I have now. I went looking for Backyard Buddy pricing and came across this thread. No online pricing means something’s just not right. I’ll be looking elsewhere for my new lift.

  • Backyard buddy, your LOST!

  • Sounds like a typical example of a great American product from a company run by people who have very little clue about how to market their product, hire and train their employees, treat their customers and potential customers, and in general, maximize their company’s growth and success.

    After all the research I have done I was close to choosing Backyard Buddy for their superior design, potentially superior weld quality, perceived product life, and made-in-the-U.S. strategy. However, after having all of the same concerns that Dave pointed out, I have chosen to move on to another company for my purchase of four 4-post lifts.

  • Wow I was also looking at Backyard Buddy, but after reading this thread, not so much.

  • Thank you Dave

    You answered some good questions i had. For the money they are asking you can get a quality lift.

    Owning a shop I know a bit about lifts and the pros and cons. I was looking to put a lift in at the house for my home projects. This one will not be in the running

    Again thank you

    Ellis

  • from the responses you have received from the “So called Salesman” and the other owners (?) I personally would not buy from a company with an attitude like that, and that is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak, just imagine if you had a complaint or need service after your purchase. Sounds like a really half fast company to me, take your money and run! and I have NEVER seen this type of lift in my neck of the woods. It would not survive in Ca. which is EQ country. Still, VERY UNPROFESSIONAL. AND by the way, I am in the Lift repair business in Glendora, Ca. 91740, take care, Tom

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