According to its website, DirectBuy allows members to purchase merchandise from manufacturers at wholesale prices. DirectBuy's business model boils down to this: In exchange for an upfront buyer's club membership fee of roughly $5,000, you have the opportunity, over the next three years, to save 25 percent or more on a catalog of home-improvement products and furniture.
Users and reviewers are far from impressed with the DirectBuy experience. From the onset, people are turned off by DirectBuy's lack of transparency -- prospective members are not allowed to see what products are available, preventing them from comparing prices. Users say the showroom sales pitch is overly aggressive, and many say they felt cajoled or even bullied by salesmen who issue severe and absurd ultimatums. (A ConsumerReports.org staffer who visits two DirectBuy outlets is told he had to sign up on the spot or never come back.)
We found reams of negative comments at RipoffReport.com, GardenWeb.com and at blogs like BradsBlog.com, in which a brief comment about DirectBuy elicits 600 or so vituperative comments. An interior designer posting on GardenWeb.com says she's had numerous clients who were initially very enthusiastic and hoped to save thousands with their investments. However, every single one of those clients was outraged with DirectBuy "not just because of 'beyond poor' service, but they were upset their $3-$5K could have been used on real, tangible products."
The only positive reviews of DirectBuy we could find were at ConsumerReviews.org, and the 20 posts here are uniformly ecstatic (especially compared to what we found elsewhere online). Since ConsumerReviews.org hides behind a masked domain name (meaning we can't tell who operates it), it's highly suspect. In fact, this site represents the very worst of what's out there when it comes to credibility.
One plus is that many locations have Better Business Bureau accreditation, so it's worth checking with your local BBB before signing on. We scanned the ratings for many DirectBuy locations, and while we generally noticed a good number of official complaints, most appeared to have been resolved.
It is difficult to find any positive feedback on DirectBuy, but ConsumerReports.org allows that it might be a worthwhile investment if you're planning to spend over $20,000 on your remodeling project -- and if you're willing to sign up for the program without knowing what merchandise is being offered.
WalletPop.com reports on the complaints by consumers about DirectBuy's nonrefundable membership dues, strange customer service policies like no canceling or returning orders, and the numerous lawsuits against the company. The reporter concludes that while there seem to be substantial numbers of satisfied members, there are also many very unhappy ones.
Review: DirectBuy Complaints Mount, but Company Says Its Big Fee is Worth It, Jorgen Wouters, Oct. 11, 2010
ConsumerReports.org staffer Chris Fichera visits two DirectBuy franchises in New York, enduring an extremely hard sell ("we had to sign up on the spot or never come back") that doesn't allow the opportunity to see what products or manufacturers are included in the program. Due to the lack of transparency, ConsumerReports.org is reluctant to say whether or not members actually save money. Fichera notes that "even if you were to save 25 percent on purchases after joining, you'd need to spend more than $20,000 just to recoup your membership fee." Although ConsumerReports.org remains leery of DirectBuy, they do say the program might be beneficial for someone furnishing an entire home or performing major renovations.
Review: With DirectBuy, It Will Cost You a Lot to Save, Chris Fichera, Sept. 13, 2007
At last look, more than 300 consumers have posted complaints here about DirectBuy, and all of them are unusually vitriolic. The consensus is that these companies reap huge up-front charges and fees for a limited amount of savings on the part of the consumer. However, editors report that DirectBuy retained them to conduct an investigation of the RipoffReport.com complaints so that they could improve customer service and resolve the consumer concerns posted. DirectBuy says they have made improvements in their customer service as a result of this investigation.
Review: DirectBuy, Editors of and contributors to RipoffReport.com
In this extensive thread, do-it-yourself home remodelers weigh in on DirectBuy. The consensus is that you'll need to spend a lot of money in order for your investment to pay off. Although a few say they saved a significant amount of money, especially on high-end merchandise, the majority of users are largely disappointed. One interior designer says many of her clients invested in DirectBuy and are absolutely frustrated by their experience -- not only is the customer service "poor," but the quality of the items received is "subpar," as well.
Review: Anyone Used Direct Buy?, Contributors to GardenWeb.com
This blog post is notable less for its content -- a brief, skeptical blurb about DirectBuy -- than for the appended comments, over 600 at last count, which are almost uniformly negative. Complaints echo those found at other sources: prospective members are not allowed to preview what's available, salespeople are rude and aggressive, and the savings are not worth the cost of membership fees.
Review: Beware DirectBuy, "Brad", Nov. 27, 2005
Over three dozen comments here (for this particular California DirectBuy location) run the gamut from intense complaints to some positive reviews, especially from people who remodeled multiple rooms and hired the store's in-house designer.
Review: DirectBuy -- Mountain View, CA, Contributors to Yelp.com
A reader reports that when she wanted to visit the DirectBuy showroom, they wouldn't give her a pass unless she provided her husband's name, saying they only offer passes to a married person if both spouses can be present at the meeting.
Review: DirectBuy Won't Let Me In Their Showroom Without My Husband, Meg Marco, Sept. 15, 2010
Every one of the 20 or so reviews posted on this site is completely ecstatic. However, this website publishes nothing but positive reviews, and it operates under a private domain name -- meaning we can't determine who owns it. There's no information at all about this site. In fact, it represents the very worst of Internet credibility.
Review: DirectBuy.com, Contributors to ConsumerReviews.org