Membership-based warehouse clubs have become a permanent and well recognized retail sales channel for the hot tub industry especially in the last 5-10 years. Warehouse retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club (Walmart) sell hot tubs 24/7 directly off of their websites to members who have little hesitation spending $5000, site unseen, because of the value and flexible return policy. Sam’s Club carries Lifesmart Spas and Everlast Spas which offer well equipped spas ranging from $2200-$7500. The burning question here is whether or not these spas are all they are cracked up to be? On the one hand, it’s a race to the bottom with respect to pricing when it comes to these types of retailers who are always looking to deliver the best value for the dollar but on the other hand the lowest prices don’t always mean the best quality or best support. Without being able to show and build value, in person (showroom), as to what a potential buyer would be getting for different levels of hot tubs, the manufacturer and warehouse retailer rely directly on specifications, photos, and price (perceived value). Of course, online reviews help reinforce a buying decision and provide useful feedback however it’s more opinion and less assurance and there’s enough bad reviews to make someone think twice before making a purchase. So let’s consider the pros and cons of buying from Sam’s Club versus a traditional hot tub dealership.
Pros of Buying from Sam’s Club :
1. Great Price – One of the primary reasons people purchase from Sam’s Club is value. You get a “great bang for the buck” becuase Sam’s Club doesn’t mark up products the way traditional retailers do especially since they don’t have to burden showroom costs and carrying costs associated with inventory. They do this because their business model is based on smaller profit margins and higher sales volumes. This is why you will find well appointed hot tubs rich with features for price points between $2200-$7500. Hot tubs with similar features can be found between $3500-$10000 at traditional hot tub dealers in most markets.
2. Easy Returns – Another significant advantage of buying from Sam’s Club is a super customer friendly return policy that allows you to return a hot tub within a reasonable amount of time for a full refund. In the event of a return, a customer does have to burden the cost of transporting the hot tub back to your local Sam’s Club which can be difficult and inconvenient due to the size and logistics. Furthermore, Sam’s club doesn’t reimburse for any of the expenses or costs associated with the installation or removal. For example, hiring a professional electrician to connect or disconnect the electrical or installation of concrete pads, wooden decks, or other foundations would not be costs that would be covered in the event of a return. These items are all costs associated with intstall or removal but are not covered by the retailer.
Cons of Buying From Sam’s Club:
1. Little Variety and Little Customizations – A local hot tub dealer showroom typically features a dozen or more models in various colors, sizes, shapes, and seating layouts. Once you’ve selected a model then there’s several add-ons or upgrades you can do like stereos, WiFi wireless monitoring, water management systems, and colored lighting to name a few. These options and upgrades may end up costing more than a similar spa from Sam’s Club but at the end of the day you end up with the right spa (size, shape, fit, finish, and features) and hopefuly within your budget. Sam’s Club hot tubs typically come preconfigured and packaged one way which is how they are able to offer value.
2. Poor Post-Sales Support (Warranty) – Sam’s Club hot tubs warranties are probably one of their biggest weaknesses. To start, the warranties are generally shorter than similar spas sold through traditional hot tub dealers. It’s hard to say exactly why but one can assume that warranties are shorter so that the manufacturer has less exposure in covering future repair costs which helps them reduce their overall costs associated with the selling through this type of sales channel. Furthermore, there is shorter labor coverage on the warranty or in some cases no labor offered which means if you have a problem with the hot tub then you have to hire and pay a local hot tub service company to provide the labor for the repair and the manufacturer only covers the part. Also if you have a warranty claim then you have to call a warranty support hotline and troubleshoot the problem with a customer service person over the phone which can be frustrating if you’re not mechanically inclined or familiar with the inner workings of a hot tub. Once you are able to diagnose the problem over the phone then parts are mailed to you and they must be installed. Lead times for getting parts can be long and downtime with using your hot tub can also be a source of frustration. It is important to consider that when purchasing a hot tub to not overlook the warranty as even the best hot tubs can require 1-2 service calls annually for maintenance or repairs. By contrast, traditional hot tub dealers typically have a service department which takes care of all customer warranty and non warranty issues. Most reputable dealers have factory trained technicians and stock parts which means your hot tub is fixed quickly and efficiently.
3. No Ongoing Maintenance and Care – Sam’s Club does not provide post-sale care or support for testing hot tub water or assistance on how to maintain a spa. On the other hand, if you purchase a hot tub from an established local hot tub dealer then you can walk into your local store for water testing, chemical questions, maintenance questions, technical support, hot tub supplies, hot tub accessories, or parts and speak to a knowledgeable professional.
We left “quality” off of the list above as it is difficult to say with certainty that you are getting a better or less quality hot tub when buying a Sam’s Club hot tub. One could assume that because the prices are lower then the quality of materials are lower too but it’s hard to say for sure. In fact, many of the brands being sold on SamsClub.com are actually manufactured by respected hot tub companies who sell their premium hot tub brands through traditional spa stores. Below is a list of Sam’s Club hot tub brands and their parent manufacturers;
- LifeSmart Spas – $2200-$4000 – manufactured by Watkins Wellness (brands include HotSpring Spas, Freeflow Spas, etc)
- Everlast Spas – $2200-$7500 – manufactured by Strong Spas
For more information on how to research and compare hot tubs before purchasing please visit our hot tub buyer’s guide pages. You can also click on the pink boxes at the top right of every page to get a free local quotes from dealers in your area.
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