What You Need To Know
What every awning and shade consumer needs to know before deciding on where to purchase their sun control products. Protect yourself by recognizing & avoiding unethical "Bait-and-Switch" deceptive advertising business practices.
What is a Bait-and-Switch?
In our industry the accepted definition of Bait-and-Switch is the act of promoting quality products that appear like a bargain: The Bait, with the intent to substitute inferior less expensive goods without the consumer's knowledge: The Switch
Accent Awnings® replaces thousands of awnings and awning fabrics made by other companies each year. Before scrapping these old awnings we inspect the hardware, motors and fabrics in order to know what our competitors are actually supplying. We estimate as many as 75% of local awning companies are using cheap off-shore hardware. Additionally we estimate as many as 40% of local awning companies are using off-shore fabrics when solid colors are selected.
How Bait-and-Switch Affects You
Consumers want the best products on the market at the best possible price. Unfortunately a Bait-and-Switch victim will most likely not realize they have deceived until they encounter a service or warranty claim. Cheap & inferior imported products are less reliable and typically don't offer the same warranty as American and European materials. One way to know if you're dealing with a Bait-and Switch company is to ask for their warranty in writing.
How It Started
Although the Bait-and-Switch problem isn't limited to Southern California, we first started seeing the influx of off-shore awning products shortly after a free-trade agreement deal with a Far East country. Even though the first local company to use these sub-par products was able to quickly gain a foothold in the market based purely on price, they folded in a few years. Offering a high-quality warranty with inferior quality products predictably resulted in excessive warranty costs which the company couldn't afford to cover.
How It Grew
The next incarnation of the company supplied the same inferior products with a new twist: deceptive warranty practices. Although the Federal Trade Commission's Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act requires manufacturers and sellers of products conducted inside a consumer's home to supply a detailed written warranty, this awning company continues not provide a written warranty to consumers or post one on its website. By being able to refuse warranty claims and not providing warranty documentation, the company was able to continue selling low-quality items for substantially less than its competitors.
Examples of the Bait-and-Switch
1. The Somfy® Motors & Electronics Bait-and-Switch:
The Somfy® motor is housed in the shade product's roller tube, and therefore isn't visible. Bait-and-Switching the motor and electronics saves $300 to $500 each time an awning company gets away with it.
2. The Sunbrella® Fabric Bait-and-Switch:
Did you receive a "Certified Sunbrella® Tag" sewn into your Sunbrella® fabric? If not, you may be a victim of a Bait-and-Switch! Customers demand quality Sunbrella® fabric on their awnings, so no awning company advertises the use of awning fabrics other than Sunbrella®.
Off-shore fabrics use colors that mimic Sunbrella® solid fabric colors. These off-shore fabrics cost roughly 40% less than quality Sunbrella® fabrics and carry a wide range of warranty disclaimers to avoid delivering on warranty claims. The most commonly used Bait-and-Switch fabric is pro-rated & isn't covered for "damage to fabric from aging and normal use".
3. The Hardware System Bait-and-Switch:
Most awning companies have a sewing department, but they don't make the hardware they sell. Since the majority of costs are in the hardware, the advantage of using low quality hardware is in being able to offer a significantly lower selling price.
Use of generic awning photos in brochures or online allows a company to hide differences in hardware construction when they change suppliers.
Off-shore components often cost 70% less than quality American & European components. Based on our experience of taking apart the old awnings we replace, the two largest off-shore suppliers of the hardware into the southern California market used by most Bait-and-Switch companies are located in Ningbo China, Qingdao China, Linhai China and Zhejiang China.
Ironically, not a single awning company promotes or admits to using an awning system from any of these geographic areas.
This broken aluminum casting is made in Ningbo & Qingdao China. We Googled the Fax number to find out where the hardware came from. The casting should be cement-glued into the hollow aluminum arm. However, since such a technique is costly, the crucial component was screwed into the casting to cut costs. As soon as the awning was deployed, the casting broke where the screw is located.
Powder Coating fixed awning frames is a costly quality improvement over spray painted awning frames. Accent Awnings spends over $200,000 a year on powder coating alone! You'll never receive a spray-painted awning frame from us. The below photos show a spray painted frame and the powder coated awning frame we made to replace it.
Tack Welding Awning Frames:
The fastest way to cut corners on a stationary awning is to tack-weld frame intersections instead of fully welding and mitering. Tack-welding leads to open holes in the metal, which results in the frames rusting from the inside out, leaving the customer to replace the frames in just half the time they would have if the frames had been properly constructed. The below photos show a broken tack welded frame and the awning frame we made to replace it.