Wood Thoughts #3: My Harbor Freight Experience from H-E-Double Hockey Sticks

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Blog entry by Fr. Thomas Bailey, OSB posted 03-28-2014 02:21 AM 2357 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Yuz got skillz Part 3 of Wood Thoughts series Part 4: Dear Diary ... (A Day in the Life of a Hobby Woodworker) »

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Did He Just Say He Went to Harbor Freight?!? I know … I know what you’re all thinking: “You get what you pay for.” – Actually I was thinking, “What a cheapskate.” The old HF – great now he thinks he’s one of the kids using acronyms – gets a lot of excrement for low-quality products. I’m definitely not being a commercial here, but if you look at their consumable goods (no, I stopped eating glue in first grade) or the basics such as screw drivers, hammers, drill bits, etc., you can’t beat the price for what you’re getting. I think when most people associate Harbor Freight with poor quality it is in their power tools. In my opinion, it is the lack of quality control. Looking online I’ve seen people Really, that's where your mind went?rave about how great their tools are and others "rage, rage against the dying of the light" (or the shotty craftsmanship). Its hit-and-miss. I bought two cordless drills from them for $15 each and both of them conked out after one battery charging. I also bought a half-dozen rachet bar clamps; one failed after a couple of uses, but the others are still going strong 6 years later. They also have a decent return policy.

Anyway … back to the story – you haven’t even started yet. Given my personal experience, I decided that if I needed something that did not have complicated internal parts or mechanics I would check out HF. I get their weekly email flyer and read it. (A philosophical inquiry: Is junk email really junk email if you actually signed-up for it and read it? Let’s toss that one to the philosophy faculty, and they will have an answer for us in 7 and a half million years.) Something about subtlety not being my strong suit.As they often do, they were running a big sale at the beginning of March (Insert funny joke about Spring Cleaning … or not.) One of the items was the “4 Piece Anti-Fatigue Foam Mat Set,” and was listed as $7.49. I have spent the majority of my working life standing on hard concrete floors, the only exception was the 3 months I spent doing janitorial services at a stair building shop my freshman year of high school. (That means I know something about having lower back pain.) Here was my opportunity to alleviate the discomfort and not spend a lot of money. Besides Praying, What Else Do You Have to do All Day?!?I splurged and ordered 10 SETS! I wait. I wait. I wait. And I wait some more – you make it sounds like decades.

I finally decided to contact them, and I call customer service. It turns out that they simply cancelled my order. A bit odd since I had received a follow-up email on behalf of the president of the company thanking me for my purchase. Naturally I asked why? – Ask him about his tone. The customer representative (I wonder if they are truly representing the customer or the corporation) said that it should not have been on the website, as it was an in-store only item. Okay … by the time all this had occurred the sale was over and the price had reverted to the presale price of $9.99. So it was going to cost me an additional $25 and 120-mile round trip to the “local” Harbor Freight store. Not a happy customer. I asked to speak with the supervisor. Put on hold. I wait. I wait. – DefCon 3 – I wait – Oh come on, it was 7 minutes. The customer representative returns and tells me that he spoke to the manager and that they were going to offer me a $10 gift card for the inconvenience. So I explained that it still left me paying $15 more for the item and a trip out-of-town. “Sorry. You weren’t charge on your credit card. Its all we are going to do.” – DefCon 2 – I asked to speak to the supervisor. I wait. I wait. I wait. (You get the picture.) The customer representative returns to the line and says that the supervisor is on another call and so I cannot talk to her, but the offer of a $10 gift card is still presented. I tried to explain again that the difference was still $15. To the customer representative, it did not matter because the item should not have been available online. An Idea for a MBA Thesis: No Touchies, No Take BacksThough because I refused the $10 gift card, he would forward my complaint to the HF corporate office, and I was told I would receive a response in no more than 24-hours. 48 hours passed and no response. A hotly worded post on HF’s Facebook page elicited an invitation to write an email to Jack (the official complaint department of Harbor Freight).

After a few emails and phone calls with someone in the corporate office. I was offered the 10 sets of anti-fatigue mats at $6.49 a set, free shipping, and a $10 gift card for use at a HF store. Ze Mats! Ze Mats!In the end they did what was right, but boy was it hard to get them there. – It probably didn’t help that they had a stubborn German/Irish/Scotsman arguing against them. (Yeah, you already made that joke before!)







Euge serve bone, et fidelis, quia super pauca fuisti fidelis, super multa te constituam, intra in gaudium domini tui

Oh … and the anti-fatigue mats are back on sale again via their website. (So much for them not being able to be purchased anywhere else but at the store.)

-- Fr. Thomas,

6 comments so far

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3809 posts in 4488 days

#1 posted 03-28-2014 02:34 AM

Love this story.. well written.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Chris McDowell's profile

Chris McDowell

645 posts in 3203 days

#2 posted 03-28-2014 09:37 AM

Funny story! There is a harbor freight nearby to where I live, but I’ve never been. I’ve heard that it’s great for stuff like latex gloves and the sorts of things you mentioned. One day, I may stop by and just have a look.

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

View garbonsai's profile


154 posts in 3006 days

#3 posted 03-28-2014 06:15 PM

HF is actually quite good for a lot of things, as long as they’re not bits or blades or sandpaper (there are exceptions to this, too). I’ve had great luck with their brass threaded inserts, more expensive pipe-clamps (with feet), more expensive oscillating multi-tool, polishing compounds, tie-downs, blue-handled bar clamps (not the best, but you can do much worse), pocket-screw jig, some of their hand tools (lifetime warranty—take ‘em back to the store and they’ll replace ‘em, just like Craftsman), air fittings, mobile bases (these, in particular, are a great deal), dust collector, nitrile gloves, casters (hit or miss)... I’m sure I can come up with more, and my needs may not be as great as others’, but, honestly, I have nothing bad to say about HF, especially if you have one close by.

-- Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3740 days

#4 posted 03-29-2014 12:28 AM

I admire your tenacity!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View squaretree's profile


160 posts in 2622 days

#5 posted 03-29-2014 03:27 AM

I gave my local HF a try last year (Indianapolis). I called with a question about a product they were advertising. The person said “I dont have time for this”. That was after one question! The call lasted about 15 seconds. I will not be visiting their store so that I can sift through their junk and try to figure out which products might last more than 6 months. “I dont have time for that.”

-- if you can't find me, just follow the extension cord

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26056 posts in 4156 days

#6 posted 03-29-2014 08:10 PM

I buy stuff at harbor Freight and they do have some good stuff for the average guy but I feel that some of it was designed okay, but it was not finished to a usable state and therefore you have to complete the manufacture of it. An example is the sheet metal drill that is tapered to open holes to any size. When I bought it, it just went round and round in the hole and never cut a chip. All I had to do was sharpen it on the belt dander so the cutting edges was the highest point and the rest tapered back from there. Now is cuts real good!!!

The half blind dovetail fixture is another one. I replaced all the screws with socket head cap screws and use a T handle allen wrench to tighten them and I added a shim to the back of the horizontal edge so the top board is very square with the vertical one now when it is all tightened down. The fixture works like one 3 times the price now…...Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

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