Let me start this story with a bad analogy. If you went to a car dealer and was offered the choice between a Toyota and a less expensive Toyota look-alike which would you choose? The salesman would invariably tell you that there’s no difference because they are made in the same factory. Furthermore, that because the manufacturer didn’t put the Toyota label on the car, it is 20% cheaper. How could that be? All things being equal, it stands to reason that there has to be a qualitative reason for the difference in price. If not, then the reason for the difference in cost is that the name brand stuff is marked-up way too much. So much, in fact, that the manufacturer can make the same stuff, offer it as a private label and still make a decent profit. Or, maybe the look-alike Toyota was made by a car company you’ve never heard of.
To continue my argument on the first point, that being there’s a quality difference between the two. I wonder what the quality difference is between a no-label window blind and a well-known brand like Hunter Douglas, or Levolor. Do they use cheaper mechanisms and materials? That seems unlikely because it would cost them money to run two separate production lines to produce approximately the same blind or shade. I was shopping online for new vertical blinds and noticed a fairly significant price difference between what looked to be identical blinds – the brand name and the no-name. So I called their toll free number to inquire who made their signature line, I was told that it was a company called Springs. I have never heard of Springs unlike the Hunter Douglas brand which I have heard of. Few people could name more then two brands of blinds and shades at least I couldn’t until I started shopping for them. But, odds are, Hunter Douglas and Levolor are brands people know. They are huge companies and make all kinds of window treatments and fashions.
The plot thickens. It turns out that most, as far as I know, of the well-known blind manufacturers don’t sell a private label variety. They are more interested in preserving their brand integrity. So it would seem that the validity of my initial hypothesis has suffered some erosion. But all I really did was come full circle and back to my original question. Is there a quality difference between a well-known brand and a private label? If not, then the cost savings is probably not worth it. That is unless they come with the same warranty. For the most part they do.
I started reading the customer reviews to find out if there was a noticeable difference between ratings of the brand name blinds versus the private label blinds. Interestingly, and somewhat ironically, I noticed that the average rating was slightly lower for the Hunter Douglas blinds as opposed to the signature (private label) blinds. Maybe this was a case of increased expectations. People know Hunter Douglas, spent the big bucks and had correspondingly high expectations. Kind of like if you bought a Mercedes and the doors rattled or they used a cheap plastic for the climate control buttons.
In the end, I figured that between the high customer ratings, the cost savings and the similar warranties the private label blinds would do just find for me. I went ahead and purchased some vertical blinds and so far have been happy. I may be a tough customer but you know what they say, Caveat Emptor – Let the buyer beware.