The Skinny On DirectBuy And Uniway Memberships

by Andrea

Grocery Shopping, Membership Clubs, Popular Stores

a-showroom-floor-not-directbuy-or-uniway-by-wishiwerebaking.jpg At DirectBuy, you can make purchases on any number of electronics, home remodeling materials, and other items for the home. 

Once you become a member, you are able to make purchases directly from the manufacturer (practically), paying the wholesale price plus a processing fee. 

Direct Buy has a high-pressure membership recruitment process.  They lure prospective members into the showroom and show them how much they can save on different services.  At the end of the presentation, they extend you an offer to join the club.  However, this offer is a one-time-only deal once they’ve shown you confidential pricing information.  The recruitment process can best be compared to a timeshare purchase. 

DirectBuy is in many ways well worth the membership fee which is somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000, depending upon location.  In addition to the membership fee, there is also a yearly renewal fee.  Even with all of the money that it costs to be a DirectBuy member, most members would agree that if you are planning to build, remodel, or furnish a home, you will quickly recoup your costs. 

Of course, there are detractors as well.  For one, the iVillage Gardenweb has a thread that discusses people’s DirectBuy experiences.  They are overwhelmingly negative. 

My personal experience is with a very similar company called Uniway

Uniway is built on a similar model where there is a warehouse, a presentation, a decision, and the ability to order from catalogs. 

Many of the things that people have said about DirectBuy directly mirror my experience with Uniway — with one exception.  Uniway costs less, but not a whole lot less.  I paid $1,200  for a Uniway membership in 2003 and $100 a year to renew, until I decided to not renew this past year. 

I saved money by shopping at Uniway when I furnished my children’s bedrooms in my new home, purchased flooring for the church, bought chandeliers for my home, and bought some things for my kitchen. 

I certainly got my money’s worth, but the longer I was in my home, the less I needed to purchase. As a result, I also needed this service less and less. Even at $100 a year renewal, I decided it was not worth it because, for the last few years, I have been able to find deals just as good outside Uniway through clearance sales and diligent savings. 

Other downsides I experienced with Uniway (which DirectBuy members also complain about) are:

  • Markup on wholesale prices:  You can pay from 6% to 20% over wholesale costs. 

  • Shipping:  You need to pay your own shipping fees from the manufacturer. Plus, you have to ship your items from the warehouse to your home, and you are responsible for any shipping damage. 

  • Customer service:  Customer service is awful.  Starting with the fact that I requested they not put my husband’s name on the account from the beginning, and yet they never removed it in almost 5 years, to long waits when you want to order.

  • Long waits for merchandise.  Unless you are purchasing an item in the showroom (which is rare), you could end up waiting 6 weeks to 6 months for an item.  When it comes in, you will need to inspect it thoroughly because if you find a problem once you take it off the premises, it is your problem.

Should you buy a DirectBuy or Uniway membership?  Only if you plan to spend $20,000 or more on household items in the short run, and only if you are willing to work hard for a good deal.