There have been a lot of good points made.  I have the issues and concerns that most everyone else does.  So many of the new items, especially engines, that we buy these days seem to have quality problems right out of the box.  So that begs the question:  How important is it to have someone backing up your purchase?  What do you expect them to do?  How much are you willing to pay for that service?  It's not free, it will cost the dealer or retailer to provide it to us.

 

I suspect there are still retailers that are willing to backup everything them sell with either replacements, refunds, or acting on our behalf with the manufacturer if we are willing to pay for it.  It would be helpful to them if they could find out who we are.

 

Art

Last edited by Chugman
Originally Posted by New Haven Joe:

There aren't any good 3-rail train dealers in my area.  I order nearly everything online.  A good website is critical with a good return or repair policy if the item doesn't work.

 

NH Joe

Same here.  When we actually had a "LHS," I patronized them faithfully.  But it's been closed for over two years (no, he wasn't driven out of business by online dealers), and except for our area's twice-a-year train shows, I have no choice but to shop online.

 

As for online dealers, there are two things I look for: first is, does the dealer actually have what's on the web page in stock?  And second is, how secure is the online ordering?

 

Passion for trains.  Although this will not set you apart from the best, it would be hard to be the best without it.

 

I choose my sources because they provide something more, knowledge that they readily share, stories or historical knowledge, accuracy of models, layout tricks, designs, personal experiences, technical knowledge, etc.  And the best do this in a way that encourage me to have my own opinions, be creative, and share my passion and ideas with them and others.   They have the ability to and consistently do, enhance my enjoyment of this hobby.

 

Then again, I'm not running a store.

Last edited by Ironhorseman

I always say, "People buy from people they like."  And here's a true story...

 

Earlier this summer, I made a spur-of-the-moment, impulse $500 purchase at one of my LHS's.  (We've probably ALL done this at one time or another.)   Took the product home, and for a variety of reasons that I don't need to go into here... the locomotive remained unopened, completely sealed for a few months.

 

Today, I finally got around to visiting the store again... with plans to buy the newly delivered Lionel Pennsy M1A coal set along with a bunch of matching GLa hoppers and another N5b caboose.  A sizable purchase for sure.  Well not only did I get a fair price on all the new stuff (i.e., no game-playing by upping the prices closer to inflated MSRP's once items hit the street -- a practice which is becoming increasingly more common these days), I also received credit for my purchase earlier this summer which I returned with its receipt.

 

Now THAT's good customer service.  Good will at its best -- not to mention a PERFECT example of how a LHS can set itself apart from online dealers who only lead with rock-bottom pricing and would most likely never entertain a return like this.

 

For inquiring minds, the store is Nicholas Smith Trains here in southeastern PA.  In the 1980's and 1990's, I lived about 15 minutes from the store, and I can't tell you how many evenings I'd stop in for hours (on my way back home from Philly's airport).    These days I don't live as close, so I only get there a few times a year.

 

Chris and Joey are stand-up guys, and they always have a nice inventory.  So plan your visits accordingly! 

 

David

Last edited by Rocky Mountaineer

I thoroughly agree with the comments regarding Nicholas Smith Trains. Chris and company know how to treat a customer and have a truly remarkable store. I never saw Madison Hardware but having heard the stories about stuff from floor to ceiling, Nicholas Smith may be a close second! They are also a forum sponsor-give them a try and you will be in for a pleasant experience!

I think 'availability' is also important. If what I want is there in front of me in the store right now, I'm willing to pay a bit more for it and walk out the door with it. This happens to me at Chicagoland Hobbies all the time.   After driving 50 miles to get there...

I also appreciate the chance to ask questions and get answers...

Last edited by Doug Murphy

Had Eric of ericstrains.com not done such a great job with his train reviews starting a few years ago... this would have been an excellent way for a dealer to stand out from the pack -- reviewing (and subtly promoting ) newly released products.  People don't always like to be "sold to" directly, but when sellers provide TRUE added-value to the cause, they build a following of sorts which could eventually lead to increased sales and revenue.

 

I recall Legacy Station often being mentioned as a "sponsor" of ericstrains.com videos, and I wouldn't at all be surprised if that garnered them some extra business over time (which hopefully sent Eric a few discount dollars toward his next purchases as added "good will").  Audience reach is everything on the Internet , and Eric certainly seems to have a strong, well-earned following.

 

I've noticed a couple isolated instances where a dealer or two may produce a video highlighting new products in-house, but as things go in advertising... consistency and well-paced regular productions are important when making connections with potential buyers.  As folks find increased value in these productions, they may be more inclined to send $$$ your way for that next purchase.

 

David

 

 

Last edited by Rocky Mountaineer

If we are going with the fast, cheap or good standard, I'll take cheap and good. Unfortunately, that standard disqualifies all of my LHS. I've been buying from the same place for more than a quarter of a century, because they're cheap and good.

 

I know what I want and I buy it. Service never really enters into the picture except in as much as I place my order and it shows up reliably on my doorstep. That said, I just got a notice yesterday from Fedex that something is coming this week. The train has left the station. I have no idea what it is. Two boxes, 32.5 pounds. I'm calling it Christmas in September.

Originally Posted by graz:
The term "good service" sounds nice but I'm not seeing anything that really amounts to a reason to sway someone away from price being the primary factor.

I have been to a few hobby shops over the years, where the guy at the counter is holding court at his own private clubhouse, and you practically have to fire a flare to get their attention.

Seriously, at a shop in CA, I actually waved my hand in front of the face of an employee to get his attention and even then he was still just talking 'what if' layout concepts with that one customer you always see at a shop who wants to talk but never buys anything. I walked out in disgust, even though I wanted to buy something with a three-digit price tag. I wouldn't go back even if they were giving stuff away, for that reason.

A couple of now-gone local ones had the same problem. Customers were an annoyance to them, it seemed. One had an old guy who just wanted to pontificate to people about... stuff. Forget asking him to order anything. The other also sold gaming stuff and it was nothing but a gaggle of 20-somethings (none of whom had ever kissed a girl in their lives, I bet) who totally ignored anyone looking at the non-gaming stuff. I quit going to both and they both folded not long after I gave up on them. I'm convinced that reception was a big reason behind it.

Today, there's really only one decent LHS (local? It's about 50 miles from me) in the area. It's Tacoma Trains if anyone cares. They've opened early for me when I've gotten there before they were supposed to open, so I could get something I needed. If they didn't have something, they'd always be willing to order it. That shop? I'll pay full retail there, with a smile on my face. Most of my track and much of my rolling stock came from there.

Last edited by p51

On on the other extreme, the new approach of " I don't really need the dealer, just give me the lowest price and I'll go to the manufacturer with any problems " seems to be growing.

 

If this is the direction the hobby is headed, which manufacturer will be the first to abandon their dealer network, sell direct to the customer and control their own pricing?

 

 

 

this already is happening with 3rd rail. As I read another thread, no one bought from LHS and every one agreed on getting direct From Scott.

I could not resist, I had to comment. I own Patrick's Trains and we offer better customer service than you can get from any other large retailer. When you call our store you can talk to me not a clerk who knows nothing about Toy Trains. We have a service department that is as good as it gets, we service Lionel, MTH, Railking Trains old and new and all other 3 rail trains. We have a huge inventory and offer competitive pricing. Patrick's Trains is one the Top 10 MTH-Railking Dealers in the United States. I hope you guys will give us a try. If you liked dealing with Jimmy Sutter you will enjoy dealing with us, we may not be as great as Jimmy Sutters' but we are very close. We have been in the industry since 1978 and will be here I hope for at least another 10 years when I retire.

Thanks

Pat

PATRICK'S TRAINS

142 29TH STREET

WHEELING WV 26003

304-232-0714

WWW.PATSTRAINS.COM

E-MAIL PATSTRAINS@AOL.COM

Originally Posted by aussteve:
Remember when Sears tools were guaranteed for life?

 

Craftsman branded hand tools still are.

 

A modern, easy-to-use website with constant inventory updates is critical for any Dealer with an online presence. MB Klien's site does a great job in this area. Their products information includes the remaining quantity in stock and available for every item. 

 

Other dealers have taken my order, only to realize later that they no longer have the product. The customer should never receive an email canceling an order because the item was not in stock despite being marketed on the website. That's a Dealer credibility killer.

 

The only worse website mistake is to have no list at all of available merchandise. Simply publishing "We sell MTH and Lionel" or "Call with specific inquiries". This is a complete waste of a Website.

 

Emile

Hi Derek

    Brick and Mortar. I have three first class train shops, within 65 miles of my train room.

They are all first class organizations.  They all seem busy to me and I hope they are all making money. Would hate to lose, any one of these shops.

     Do me they all stand out and each one has several specialties, that the other shops do not have.

That is what stands out in Michigan.

     I also use many of the Forum Sponsors, and never had any issues. They too, are first class Model Railroad Shops.

Gary

• Cheers from The Detroit and Mackinac Railway

Originally Posted by TheBigCrabCake:

The only worse website mistake is to have no list at all of available merchandise. Simply publishing "We sell MTH and Lionel" or "Call with specific inquiries". This is a complete waste of a Website.

Oh Dear God YES, I so badly hate that.

Dear vendor: If you write, "call or send a want list" and not listing anything you have for sale, you won't be getting my business.

Originally Posted by p51:
Originally Posted by TheBigCrabCake:

The only worse website mistake is to have no list at all of available merchandise. Simply publishing "We sell MTH and Lionel" or "Call with specific inquiries". This is a complete waste of a Website.

Oh Dear God YES, I so badly hate that.

Dear vendor: If you write, "call or send a want list" and not listing anything you have for sale, you won't be getting my business.

This is one of my pet peeves as well.  But I gotta say I know of TWO train stores I've visited every now and then that fall into that category, and TWO more train stores that still don't have websites at all.    One of the shops in the latter group has very limited hours, and the owner told me he's more than content to use the MTH product finder as his online presence. 

 

I don't understand how these shops do it, but they seem to be hanging in there... and perhaps even prospering.  

 

Ironically, these are often the places you can find hard-to-locate items, 'cause they DON'T have broad exposure.    Granted... you may need to physically visit the store to SEE the stuff.  But I haven't crossed them off my list of favorite "hidden" train shops, 'cause they've come through for me more than a few times over the years.  

 

 

David

Last edited by Rocky Mountaineer
Originally Posted by graz:

I'd like to know what everyone's definition of good customer service is?

 

You pre-order a new loco from a local dealer and it's dead when you get it home.

What level of service can you expect from this local dealer that may not have any extras in stock to allow for an immediate swap. At that point, you're shipping it yourself back to the MFG and the dealer is out of the picture. Yes, they can pre-test it at the store but again, if they have no extras, it doesn't really help. 

Excellent question. The only dealer from which I order and spontaneously buy in-stock engines is Walker's Hardware Store. Why? Two scenarios:

  • ordered a scale Lionel FEF in grey. Got it home and all it would do was hop hesitantly down the track, and even that only when it was inspired. I took it back to the LHS, and he replaced it immediately with a black one that ran, which still has its place on my layout. Good enough for me.
  • bought a Lionel Santa Fe ABA from the same LHS. It would only wiggle and struggle when powered-up. Returned it to the LHS, and it was immediately replaced with the same engine but in PRR livery. Still runs continually on the layout.

Good enough for me.

However, I am not buying engines any more - several dozen+ is enough for me.

Originally Posted by PATSTRAINS:

I could not resist, I had to comment. I own Patrick's Trains and we offer better customer service than you can get from any other large retailer. When you call our store you can talk to me not a clerk who knows nothing about Toy Trains. We have a service department that is as good as it gets, we service Lionel, MTH, Railking Trains old and new and all other 3 rail trains. We have a huge inventory and offer competitive pricing. Patrick's Trains is one the Top 10 MTH-Railking Dealers in the United States. I hope you guys will give us a try. If you liked dealing with Jimmy Sutter you will enjoy dealing with us, we may not be as great as Jimmy Sutters' but we are very close. We have been in the industry since 1978 and will be here I hope for at least another 10 years when I retire.

Thanks

Pat

PATRICK'S TRAINS

142 29TH STREET

WHEELING WV 26003

304-232-0714

WWW.PATSTRAINS.COM

E-MAIL PATSTRAINS@AOL.COM

 

Originally Posted by MrMuffin'sTrains:

Jimmy Sutter set the standard, IMO..... I wouldn't have gotten into this if he hadn't retired....

 

I have recently done business with both of these retailers. I would have to say they both did extra work to set themselves apart. Thank You to both of you! I look forward to more dealings with either!

 

 

 

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