With the promise of “manufacturer-direct wholesale prices on practically everything you need for your home,” DirectBuy is an Indiana-based membership buying club. It allows consumers to buy products at a discount directly from the manufacturer or supplier through their website members.directbuy.com or mobile app. To boost the accessibility and grow their membership base in the mobile application, they have recently added a new feature called “I want that.”
They offer a wide range of products from home furnishing, entertainment, outdoor, flooring, electronics, appliances, Apparel, cabinets as well as design services. DirectBuy has a high member-centric business approach with over a million members.
Initially, DirectBuy was restricted to a brick-and-mortar store model. It was in 2016 when it shifted the focus to e-commerce. It also expanded beyond home products to travel, launching DirectBuy Travel in 2014.
DirectBuy’s Membership Recruitment Process
DirectBuy also offers a free visitor pass to familiarize you with their stores and features. They own over 130 private members-only showrooms in North America and have access to 700 branded manufacturers and suppliers in the US and 500 in Canada. You can attend an ‘Open House’ event, after which you will be asked for your decision to join on-spot. You can also join the franchise through members.directbuy.com.
However, consumers agree that their membership recruitment process is very high-pressure. Once they have shown you their confidential pricing information, they offer a one-time-only deal. The process may seem persuasive.
The whole deal looks ‘too good to be true’ and promises HUGE savings. Online and offline, you will see glowing reviews from people saying they have saved thousands of dollars. But you will also see people complaining about their sales techniques to super-high extra costs and loss/waste of money.
So, is DirectBuy a scam? Does the lack of price transparency mean you are being fooled? You will get the answer by the end of this article. The membership fee costs $1000 per year and $300 every year after that, with some variations depending upon your location plus additional charges of yearly renewal. It was almost $5000 for three years before 2018, which was decreased later.
DirectBuy Legal Issues
Before anything else, let us first look at their history of legal issues.
In January 2016, an Attorney General from West Virginia filed against DirectBuy Inc., alleging that it engages in deceptive and unlawful sales practices. The lawsuit stated that the company follows ‘now or never’ rule wherein if you deny to join the membership they offer after a tour of their store and walk out of it, you are barred from becoming a member again. The Attorney General stated that it was a misleading and false threat.
Again, Consumer Reports claim that the product prices mentioned in DirectBuy’s catalogue are higher than online and even some offline retailers. Also, hefty discounts were given only in high-end furniture. Consumers also state that they received intensive promotional e-mails from DirectBuy even when they did not become a member through members.directbuy.com or offline stores. They believe that consumers share contact information in exchange for extra discounts.
Recently, they have started offering a ‘lottery’ competition, which makes all the people attending Open House for club members eligible for winning a San Diego vacation. If the free tickets are distributed, they cannot be redeemed as they carry a lot of restrictions (and costs). The gifts are vouchers and gifts, which are neither available for free.
It is very clearly mentioned in the contract that you cannot return items or cancel orders. You are also not allowed to terminate your membership. Club members are also required to pay a 6% handling fee, shipping fees, and tax that can be up to 25% of the product price itself.
Suppose you find a defect in the product after it gets delivered to you. Now since DirectBuy specifies a ‘no return’ policy, you cannot return it even when you complain via members.directbuy.com. They do not provide any assistance either, so you must contact the manufacturer directly. The middleman, in this case, is DirectBuy, so the manufacturer will keep directing you to DirectBuy. This becomes frustrating and extremely disappointing. Read a review here:
“We had a DirectBuy membership for a long time but will not be renewing it. We recently bought an expensive Bosch appliance, and it arrived defective right out of the box. DirectBuy did not provide any support or assistance whatsoever. We were told to deal with Bosch, but since it was defective out of the box, Bosch kept directing us back to DirectBuy.
Eventually, after several weeks, we were able to resolve Bosch (although not a very good one). But what was surprising and disappointing was the lack of concern or even the slightest bit of help from DirectBuy’s end. Any other store – even Walmart – will let you return defective items. Meanwhile, DirectBuy charges exceptionally high membership fees and provides zero customer support in exchange.”
Customers also claim that DirectBuy does not offer the same kind of deals as they did earlier. Becoming a long-term member may not sound like a good deal now. Here’s a certified customer’s review:
“We’ve been DirectBuy members for 15 years now. Back then, becoming a member sounded like a good deal. We bought a whole house full of furniture from them. We remodelled a house using their products and furnished a condo using all their furniture. So, the membership has paid off in the long run. However, we used to go into the showroom and look through the stuff, and now they don’t have that which is disappointing.”
Also, if you are dissatisfied, you cannot write anything against DirectBuy. They sent a cease-and-desist letter to informercialblog.com when they wrote negatively about them. They had to withdraw the letter since DirectBuy copyrighted it. Here is what a non-profit organization said about it:
“DirectBuy is a company that claims to offer a deal on furniture and home supplies by letting consumers buy directly from the manufacturer. The company doesn’t want you to hear from customers who don’t think the deal is such a good one. The company’s law firm, Dozier Internet Law (which specializes, among other things, in using copyright law to “get websites pulled down without notice”) sent a strongly worded demand letter to the owner of InfomercialScams.com, claiming that consumer complaints on the website are defamatory because they refer to the company’s direct-buy plan as a “scam” and a “nightmare. “
To conclude, DirectBuy membership may be a perfect option if you are starting from scratch or if you bought a new home and plan to spend thousands of dollars furnishing your home entirely from the catalog. You can quickly recoup your costs. Like this customer:
“We’ve made Direct Buy work for us. We have been members since 2007. We saved back our membership plus thousands! It is NOT for those who are not tech-savvy. All is done online now. We have purchased furniture, rugs, appliances. Lighting, plumbing, flooring, bedding, mattress, tile. Granite, decor, exercise equipment, window coverings. We also use their discount at Sherwin William’s.”
But if you make big purchases in small parts or want to buy bits and pieces of furniture, you may lose money instead of saving it. You will find better deals in local shops if you are prepared to dig a little. You have to make DirectBuy work for you. You need to work hard for a good deal. You need to be smart and calculate the costs beforehand. Keep a list ready of what you want to buy precisely.
DirectBuy is not an evil company, not a scam. It is for a set of users. Once you understand that, you can enjoy the vast benefits they offer. You can register online through members.directbuy.com