Direct Buy Canada – Is It Worth It?

I went searching for a couch this past summer and vowed not to spend more than I had to.  After all, as a personal finance blogger just by buying furniture that isn’t used or stolen from the garbage dump, I’m basically committing a sin in some of my peers’ eyes.  I’m pretty frugal in day-to-day life.  I don’t eat out very often, I buy maybe six coffees a year from Timmy Ho-Hos, and my entertainment budget is smaller than most people’s phone bills.  That being said, I like the odd video game and sweet HBO series (we’ll just say I get those very cheap and leave it at that).  I also tend to do a lot of reading.  All that to say, I will likely spend a fair amount of time (like most North Americans) sitting on my couch, and I don’t spend a lot of money frivolously.  With that in mind, I set out to get the most comfy, and most durable sectional or couch set that I could get my hands on for a reasonable price.

“Buy Straight From the Source”

My search led me to this distributor known as DirectBuy.  They market themselves as having over 150 franchises in the USA and Canada.  The main concept behind DirectBuy is that they are an “insider’s club” where members can purchase brand-name goods directly from manufacturers’ warehouses and by doing so avoid the large retail markups that we see on most products.  The main catch is that membership is certainly not free.  It is impossible to say what a membership will cost anyone specifically because each DirectBuy franchise is independently owned and operated and sets their own price.  Most media sources I looked into reported the probable membership fee at $3,000 to $7,000.  Needless to say, that pretty much ruled out my interest, but I was kind of curious about this consumer model and if their prices really could beat those in a cut-throat retail world by enough to justify that hefty membership.

Good… and Bad?

What I found when I looked into DirectBuy in various online hangouts was a ton of complaints and a lot of praise as well.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen less consensus about a consumer business online before.  DirectBuy was roundly criticized for its pressure-based sales pitches that routinely stated, “You must buy your membership now or we will never give you the opportunity again.”  Yet, but the same token the company boasts a fairly impressive rate of membership retention.  DB defends itself on this account by saying, “This policy is in place out of respect for our members, manufacturers and the retail industry. It prevents consumers from asking traditional retailers to match DirectBuy prices.”  Some people claim the service and support they received as a member of DB was great, while others reported it was terrible.  It could be as simple as the fact that different franchises operated within a large spectrum and some were just better than others.

Price Comparison

When it got down to the nitty gritty of comparing numbers, it appears that DirectBuy’s prices did live up to the claims they make in most cases.  This was especially true in the more “high-end” items that would obviously have the most mark up.  DB claims that if you can find the product somewhere else for a cheaper price, they will immediately contact the manufacturer to resolve this issue.  While I admire the principle behind this, doesn’t the idea of comparison shopping promises sort of put you right back at the level of retailer?  If the promises of buying direct from the source are true, shouldn’t there be no logistical way that a retailer should be able to drop their price below yours?

From what I could tell from multiple consumer websites and forums, it seems that Direct Buy was able to offer a 20-25% average discount to most customers.  This means that one would have to be purchasing around $20,000 worth of home furnishings to make it worth the memberships.  I should note that DB management claims that members should count on savings numbers close to 40%, but that number seems pretty dubious.

Is It Worth It For You?

I think that at the end of the day a Direct Buy Membership could be worth the substantial fee if you are furnishing a house from scratch and prefer higher-end brand names.  If you take the plunge be prepared for some weird sales techniques and having to wait a couple of months for your orders to come in.  Finally, online orders aren’t allowed – all DM orders must be placed through a showroom.  From what I can tell, it is best to check with someone you know is a member of a specific franchise to see what the practices are in that area.  As for me and my couch, I decided to take a quick run to the USA and picked up a great reclining sectional for $1,700.  Is it a little more than I could have got something for on Kijiji? Sure, but it’s a luxury I can only justify by saying I enjoy it every day!


25 Responses to Direct Buy Canada – Is It Worth It?

  1. My impression of DB was that it is a bit of a scam (you’re never going to save what they say you’re going to). I think you’re correct in your assessment, that if you’re going to entirely furnish a house completely from scratch it might make *some* sense. Perhaps money-wise it’d work for somebody who’s furnishing several houses.. Also, to me, a lot of the positive reviews you read out there seem like astroturfing, but that’s just my two cents.

  2. Even if you furnish an entire house, their selection will never have exactly everything you want. And at this price range it’s not like Ikea, you want to pay for what you want… not what they offer.

    I have read a ton of articles on them and I would not deal with them even at half price.

  3. Is Direct Buy a scam? I would say yes. I have been in furniture retail management for 23 years. Direct Buy like to give the impression there is massive margin on furniture, appliances, electronics and major home improvement products, unfortunately this isn’t the case. The retail environment is VERY competitive and margins are as low as can be. Occasionally when Direct Buy do advertise big discounts on sofas for instances, the pricing is the same or more then major furniture retailers. They take advantage of people since most just trust this quoted savings is real, it’s not. If only we could charge customers thousands of dollars just to be called members!! This borders on evil.

    A smart shopper will shop around and confirm this to be the case and not spend $3000-$7000 (OMG!!) just to be a member and trust there will be savings to cover this rediculous fee. If a fee of the amount isn’t a red flag I don’t know what is!

    As Direct Buy is discovering people won’t make major purchases based on a picture so they have to add brick and mortar stores to do business which alas is exactly what they claim to be avoiding. Of course with people paying huge fees they can afford to lease buildings can’t they? So they are a retailer arn’t they with showrooms you have to buy through, so how is this different exactly? You pay a fee whether you buy anything or not is the difference.

    Please take some advise, shop around at retail get the best price on the best products you can afford from a reputable dealer and save the $3000-$7000. You could furnish numerous rooms for that amount.

    One last point why is it when customers get cold feet and want their $5000 back they have to fight to try to get it? This is a company you want to do business with?

    Some customers act like being a Direct Buy member is quite the status but to people that really understand the numbers they are labeled “suckers”.

    Don’t be a sucker.



    • Direct Buy is NOT a scam. The people that complain about are mainly non members. I have been a member for almost 10 years. It is well worth the membership if you are refurnishing your home, building a new home and have family members doing same. I don’t know what they charge today but I paid $5000 then and you have a 3 payment installment plan is what I did…so you don’t put the whole $5000 up front. That $5000 gives you a membership for 5 years if I remember correctly and then its $250 for every year after that. It really pays for itself. I have bought tonnes of furniture at exceptional low prices, art work, accessories , lawn furniture, etc. My children have bought furniture for their homes, bedrooms, etc, ….you can buy for immediate family. You can buy and give people as gifts. And as compared to retail at stores…HUGE HUGE savings…half price or more on all furniture. Art work that stores sell for $450 + you can get for over 150+ sometimes cheaper…accessories stores put on for $300 you can buy for huge amounts less…I have NEVER received anything I did not like, oh, sorry, one mirror and 2 pieces of Art that did not go with my décor. But they were beautiful, but I was able to sell them to other friends of mine for what I paid for them. I have NEVER received anything damages unlike stores that once they get your commission some stores customer services sucks…now all of them but “some”. I bought a piece of Furntiure at one store and I waited 1 month to get it and when it did come the whole 2 sets of bedroom furniture all came damaged…After 5-6 trips to the store and lots of arguing and headache, I finally got it resolved in 3 months. That does not happen at Direct Buy. You check your furniture right there and I personally ordered about 100 items have had 1 arm chair come in with a bit different color code only because I ordered the same chair 2 months apart. They ordered me a new one after determining which I color I wanted and they let me KEEP the other chair for free… My daughter ordered 100+ items and had 1 night stand damaged. They immediately ordered her a new one and that was resolved and they took the damaged one. THey are extremely well to deal with. So Mr retail store, don’t knock the company if you are not a member. I will knock the retail stores because I had HORRIBLE service, and lots of damage and POOR customer service on to many occasions. They are not here to compete with Retail stores they are here to offer customers who want wholesale rather then retail and its does come almost at cost from manufacturer. If you cant afford then don’t go into it but don’t knock it and say its a scam, because I as a member for almost 10 years love the savings you get and it is HUGE. Example, I seen a patio set I loved at the garden centre. I checked the price it was $8000 regular, on sale for $5799.00…GIVE ME A BREAK…who needs that kind of a mark up. I bought the same furniture at Direct Buy for $2200. 400% mark up to original price as are most retail furniture. If you like high end, if you like middle of the road or cheaper styles you will not regret going with Direct Buy….buy 2 bedroom sets and you member ship paid for itself.

  4. I have to admit that the $5000 membership fee is a lot and would not work for someone looking to buy a single couch.

    I have purchased several items and the average savings is 25% or higher on the larger high end items.

    A simple way to look at it is if you are going to spend more then 25k then you will make your money back and save on everything after that.

  5. You know, when a guest is invited to a DirectBuy open house and decide not to join, that’s fine. It’s an invitation because it’s a “Private Membership Club” Many made the choice that it wasn’t for them. There are hundreds of thousands of people who made the decision it was for them and I am one of them. I would also like to clarify that you don’t have to be a home owner in order to benefit from the savings. I joined 7 years ago and was a single mom renting an apartment. Guess what? I have to buy household items just like the next consumer … bedding, dishes, window treatments, furniture, gifts for weddings, birthdays, christmas, mothers day, fathers day, etc, even tires for my car. If I wasn’t a DirectBuy member, I would not have bought some of the things I did because I couldn’t afford a lot of those purchases retail. Even my husband purchased my diamond through DirectBuy. So DirectBuy is not just for someone who builds or renovates their home, its for anyone who consumes products.
    It’s also interesting how some may insist that it’s a “scam” … what about retail? People complain everyday that they hate retail prices … things are too expensive. I used to manage in retail …. that’s a scam. How many times do people run from store to store trying to save $50.00 on a single purchase? And yet they’ve spent that much in gas,driving around and stopping for lunch so where’s the savings in retail? I work hard for my money and I want as much of it in my bank account as I can possibly keep so I would rather shop this way. For those who gripe about DirectBuy and don’t like it, get over it … you were given a choice you never had before … either buy at cost just like a retailer does or buy from the retailer and pay the marked up price.For those “savy” shoppers in the retail world … do you really think a store will sell things to you at the same price they paid? They would be out of business in no time. If you’re wondering what the fees are at DirectBuy, then go check it out for yourself and if you decide it’s not for you then don’t join but at least you make the decision, not your friend or collegue who went to an open house and didn’t like what they saw. Maybe your view will be different. I was talking with a member who joined last week and they were pissed that they listened to a co-worker who went to an open house a year ago and told this couple the membership was $5000 per year so the couple didnt check it out until last week. They were pissed at the people who mislead them because they got the truth that the membership is in fact NOT $5000 a yr and realised they could have saved thousands of dollars on their renovations. How many people like to have other people tell them what to do? and tell them how to spend their hard earned dollars? Step up and decide for yourself, if you don’t like it, walk away. I’m sure with the existing members ( hundreds of thousands of us over the course of 42 years ) we can’t all be stupid. If it was a scam, do you think that all the name-brand manufacturers (who you currently buy from in the retail world) would put their confidential information at risk just for fun? Don’t think so.

  6. DirectBuy pricing is competitive. I’ve been a member since 2004 and we’ve saved more on our purchases than we’ve spent on our membership. Since we joined a long time ago, the membership fees weren’t steep so we really have benefited and really like the club we belong to. There are two customer service people we especially like :) For new members, I personally do feel that the membership is a bit steep if you’re not going to be buying a lot of items or doing some major renovations in the house. What you get from DirectBuy in my opinion is quality brands for the same price you would pay for average brands in a retail environment. In the end, I don’t think it is the “frugal” way to live, but if you like higher end brands and don’t want to pay retail prices, you’ll end up saving in the end.

    A couple of points to take note of:
    * I have not been impressed with the extra handling fees that have been tacked on to the prices of goods over the years that we’ve been members. This effectively increases your final price by 4-8%. I think this is the franchises way to earn some steady income apart from new membership fees and renewal fees.
    * The other thing they’ve done is increased the cost to members for home delivery of items. (This is mostly for appliances.)
    * For most other orders you do have to arrange your own method of delivery to your home. This becomes difficult when you order a number of things and they don’t come in at the same time, so you have to travel a couple of times (and pay someone in some cases) to get the items to your home.

  7. I joined as a Directbuy member because I was doing a massive home reno project. My experience is that dB has way over advertised the savings. And their selection is extremeEly limited. I often find online pricing within 10% of dB pricing after shipping and handling fee and other potential manufacturer fees you are pretty much not saving anything. Plus most items are only shipped to the warehouse so for big items you will need to figure a way to get it to your house. If purchased from a store you can usually get them to delivery to your house free of charge. I definitely would not recommend anyone to join dB to save money because it would be extremely difficult and time consuming in order to recuperate the $6000 members fee.

  8. I have been a member of Direct Buy for nearly 10 years. Great company, great savings, worth the money. Don’t listen to retail stores tell you there is no such markup….save and get your OWN furniture for the price that Retail stores pay. Save on the mark up. Its not a scam. I could not have bought what I did had I had to buy from the retail store. Check it out for yourself, go to the presentation, if its not for you, leave, its not for everyone.

  9. My wife and I joined about 12 yrs ago.
    Must admit we had some buyers remorse right off the bat,but over the years we have saved a ton of cash.
    We paid $2300 for our membership and on our first major purchase of a dining set we saved about $4000. We checked out the set we wanted at the local dealer and best on sale price was $10500. We got it for $6500 including all freight and delivery charges etc, through D.B.
    Yes there are some headaches to put up with but the saving can be tremendous.
    We have bought stuff for our kids homes too.
    We furnished his whole condo for $3100 (albeit a small 700 sq ft unit). Retail on sale the furniture was priced at $10000.
    No question from our point of view it has been well worth the initial expense.
    Yearly fee is now $299. Believe me you won’t have to buy much to cover that.

    • Thanks for giving an update Bob. It seems like it is a good business model, just some weird quirks in the distribution channels right now. I can see if you had kids that would be moving out soon it would really be worth it!

  10. Directbuy is not a scam. I have been a member for approximately 10 years. I have built 3 houses and saved easily $30k-40k. But it is more than the savings. I enjoy not having to work over a sales guy or feel like I’m getting ripped off by someone. You know the wholesale cost and pay it. There are products that do not have a ton of margin and sometimes you can find lower cost products than DB, however, they now guarantee the lowest cost and will beat anything by at least 10 percent. I think their sales tactics are a little slimy, however, it is a good investment if you are looking to buy more than a TV and couch. I would say over my 10 year membership the experience continues to improve. Is it perfect? No. Is is a good deal? For some yes, for some no. Is it a scam? Definitely not.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Brian. The 10% guarantee is pretty cool. If you are furnishing houses in bulk (say three in 10 years) I think you would likely get peak value out of the membership hey?

  11. I worked at a big box retail home improvement store where Direct buy customers could get a discount with thier membership. It was always hillarious to deal with a DB customer because they always seemed to think they were getting some “insider deal” that no one else knew about.

    In reality the DB discount was just the regular contractor discount (10-15%). Which is free to sign up for and literally anyone can get. All DB did was sign up for a contractor discount (again a free program any person can sign up for) and then charge their members for the right to use it.

    Think about that when you are paying thousands a year for a membership.

    • Can ANYone really just sign up for a contractor account though Edward? How does one go about doing that? I think that could be a post all on it’s own!

      • Yep. Its just a matter of asking and filling out a sheet in the store.

        Its called a “contractor program” because thats who it is aimed at (repeat sales and such) but there is no stipulations for signing up.

        The only rule is that you have to spend at least $5000 a year to keep your discount active. If you do that they dont care who you are. If you dont they will just turn it off at years end. But having said that they are extremly leniant
        With that rule. And Even if they do turn it off people just had to come in and ask and we would get it reactivated (the ease of this probably varies by store).

        • Hmm… that is really interesting! It would basically benefit anyone doing renovations or outfitting a new house to call themselves a contractor for at least a year then. Good to know.

  12. I am a member of direct buy, 10 years ago I paid $3000 for 10 years membership. ($360 a year for yearly subscription or renew again for $5000 for 10 years).

    There are pros and cons with direct buy. If you “only” buy the high-end you will save lot of money from the “regular” retail price. (pay attention to retail price, DB retail price is bit higher).

    But no one buys or pay the regular price, we always bargain, so saving with direct buy isn’t as they claim. I say in average 15%-35% from the regular retail price.

    For example, a furniture that cost $1100 will cost you $500 at DB price, then there are all stupid additional fees.
    – Handling fee
    – Vendor fee
    – Duty
    – Shipping
    – Brokerage fee
    Most items there are non Vendor fees but handling fee is outrageous. The cost is $500 but by the time you check out it will almost $800+ (Here I say + because they don’t deliver to your place, it’s the shipping to their warehouse). You pay additional $$$ for the shipping to your house or rent a truck by yourself, or you can use their delivery service, about $100-$150 per load)

    Note that Direct Buy apply tax on top of (Handling, Vendor fee, duty, brokerage and shipping fees). This is outrageous !!

    2nd issue is that, when your item arrive at their warehouse you have to pickup within 3 business days, there are exception, you can call the manager and ask for an extension. So make sure you don’t plan to go on vacation while your order still in pending.

    3rd issue is that I believe that they still make money out of any item you purchase. I know this because friend of mine work and she told me that the manufacture price or price to retail store is lot cheaper than what Direct Buy price is. So again you are not saving a lot.

    4th issue is that most items you cannot buy from DirectBuy online website, you have to go their office and wait for the line (if any) then purchase with the sale agent. This is very annoying as I need to leave office before 2pm. Direct Buy closes 4:30pm on weekdays.

    5th issue is that again most items you see on DB member website do not have the price information, if they do they don’t have price for each different finishes, types, different model etc. You really have to phone or write an email (usually they are good, 1-2 days before they get back to you).

    To conclude, if you are the new married couple and want to purchase the high end stuff I recommend DB, you will save money if you purchase $30K of merchandise.

    For the average household it’s not worth it. And don’t even think about you will save money with remodeling your house with purchases from DB. It’s a nightmare.

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