Selecting A Good Local Welding Supplier
We’ve touched on this subject before, but I think it’s worthwhile to revisit this topic. One category of phone calls I get from customers are a result of simply not developing a working relationship with their local welding store. Many people opt to purchase their welding supplies from auto parts stores, and home hardware box stores. This is a terrible mistake. The knowledge that many of these store employees have is very limited, and usually geared toward getting you to walk out of the store with whatever they have in stock. Honestly at times, I myself have queried an employee, asking “dumb” questions, and marveled at the “dumb” answers I received. It is not to say that all employees of these stores are inexperienced, or blowing smoke, but a great many are. As a new person interested in the welding field, do you want to take that chance with your money and ultimately your patience? No, it is likely you aren't.
I believe that one of the problems that most people have with going to a true welding store, is that they just don’t know where they are, or IF there are any locally. Sure there are. Most towns, even small ones, have at least one, if not two, unless you are in an area of the country where it might be 100 miles to the grocery store. With the day of internet information, and shopping, it is surprising that most of the local welding supply dealers haven’t caught up to that level of technology yet, making them even more difficult to find. But generally, they are listed in that old thing called the phone book. If you are out and around town, take a drive over to your industrial park, and you’ll likely find a small free standing welding store surrounded by gas cylinders. This would be it. Yes, they will sell to you. You don’t have to have an account (though they will be glad to set you one up with the right credit) to buy. A credit card is nice though because you’ll want to spend your entire paycheck as soon as you walk in the door.
You’ll be surprised at how knowledgeable most guys are. Many of these guys have worked in the field for some time, and seldom leave their jobs. They know enough about the various forms of welding to get you started, and many are capable welders themselves. Prices will also be lower. I have had customers pay over twice the price in the large home box stores for items that they later went and bought in the local welding supply store (LWS). One additional advantage and one serious reason you need to develop a relationship with one is that they will often give you samples of product to take home. That’s right…free swag. Or, if you need a small quantity of something, they are usually willing to break open a package and sell you just what you need. Or if you run out of something and need say 2 or 3 pieces of filler rod, they are more likely than not to just let you walk out the door with it, and they will tell you “we’ll catch you up next time.” I’ve even had an emergency need for something and called their emergency number on the door and got after hour service. This is AFTER I developed a relationship though, and don’t expect to come in green and get that kind of treatment. That’s why I stress DEVELOPING a relationship with your local welding supplier.
One thing worth mentioning though, come in armed with the knowledge of comparable prices. Don’t make them mad by saying “Hey, I can get this cheaper online” at every item you come across. Many times they do post a “list” price, and have a second discounted price that they actually charge. Realize that you are paying for a service as well, and also you are paying for a better quality product as well. But if it is too steep, just say thanks, I need to think about the price, and go on to the next item on your list. It’s a beginning of a beautiful relationship.