(Written by James Goulding III)
I would like to give my opinion on the debate about whether or not to buy your next ball, bag, shoes, etc. on-line or through your local pro shop. There are many different factors that contribute to a bowlers making a decision to buy new equipment, and I will try and break down a few of them to show that it is beneficial, overall, to patronize the local pro shop over buying on-line.
This is almost always the first and most important determining factor in a bowlers decision to buy new equipment. The argument has been made, and can be backed up through research, that overall you can probably find a certain ball you are looking for cheaper on-line than through the local pro shop. This is especially true of brand new releases where the pro shop may be locked into map pricing through the distributor(s) or when ball companies decide to discontinue a popular line of bowling balls. In these instances, the pro shop can only hope to stay competitive with pricing, but most of the time can not compete with the cost of an on-line dealer.
But what do you get for your super discount? Do you get a warranty against damages or defects like you get with your local pro shop? Maybe, maybe not, you better find out before you buy on-line. Also, were you able to get exact pin, top weight, and ball weight specifications with your order on-line (this is almost impossible to request with closeouts)? With your local pro shop, if you request exact specifications on a ball, and it is not satisfactory when it arrives, you will get a replacement without question. Lastly, did you check with your local pro shop to see what their price was before buying on-line? Being around, and doing work in, a local pro shop now, I have a new respect for, and a better understanding of, the difficulties local shops face when it comes to competing price-wise with on-line retailers. But, if you go into your local pro shop and talk to the driller / owner, you will be surprised sometimes just how competitive the prices really can be to on-line retailers.
For example: The shop I work in has a Hammer Psycho that you can walk out the door, drilled, thumb slug, finger inserts, for $175. I went to www.buddiesproshop.com, who is one of the major on-line retailers, and they have the Psycho for $114.95 shipped. Now, you have to go get it drilled, which averages around $40-45, then pay for finger inserts, another $5-6, and a thumb slug, which averages around $10. So, the drilling cost is about $55-60, which you add to the price you paid for the ball and your final cost is between $170-175. You might save a whole $5, and that is providing you find a shop to drill it properly for only $40, most are more, probably closer to $50. Then, if you have any problems with the ball, you have to contact buddies pro shop and send the ball back to them (because the pro shop who drilled it won’t warranty a purchase made elsewhere), wait for them to get it, get another ball back, and hope it is o.k. Then you have to get it drilled again, and if you’re lucky the local pro shop you chose won’t charge you again to drill the ball, but don’t bet on it because they are only making their money on the drilling service they provide, since you chose NOT to buy locally. This is not a knock on on-line pro shops, or the service(s) they provide, I am just stating that the price differences, when broken down dollar for dollar, are not that different on your average bowling ball out there for sale.
Here is where the local shops win bar none, in my opinion. If you buy locally, and the ball you bought cracks after only 10 games with it, you can go back to the pro shop and they will contact the ball company (or distributor) and get you a replacement, and re-drill the new ball for you without a problem. If you buy the same ball on-line and get it drilled locally, you are responsible for contacting the on-line retailer and seeing what the replacement procedure is (if there is one), and sometimes they refer you to the actual ball company (which happened to me, so I know it occurs) to get a replacement. This can be a huge hassle, and then you have to pay to have the ball drilled again if it is covered by a warranty. If you had the ball drilled by the on-line retailer, they may eat the cost to drill the replacement if you bought it through them, but if they refer you to the ball company for your replacement, then you have to go find a person to drill your ball, since it will be sent to you directly. Of course, this is only after you send the defective ball back to the ball company and wait for them to send you a replacement. All of that hassle can be avoided by buying the ball locally, and the pro shop would take care of all that hassle for you, and drill your replacement ball without any questions asked.
Also, you can always get advice on different drilling techniques from your local shop, as well as always having a place there when you may need new finger inserts, or need a new slide heel because you just stepped in water. All those things are the intangibles that make the local pro shop the clear choice over buying on-line. The service you get from a good local pro shop can never be outdone by an on-line dealer who specializes in getting out large quantities of inventory as fast as possible. That is something you can’t always put a dollar value on.
3) RELIABILITY / ACCOUNTABILITY
I have heard many bowlers state that their local pro shop doesn’t listen to them, they get frustrated with the service, and that the prices are too high. Almost every time I have asked those same bowlers if they ever went to the pro shop operator to tell that person the things they didn’t like about their pro shop experience, they all tell me they never said a word. Well, how do you expect your local pro shop to do things differently if you never tell them what they did wrong? Everyone can make a mistake, but the only way a pro shop can learn form the mistakes they make is by bowlers coming back and being honest with them when it comes to their experience with the pro shop. Many bowlers like the Internet since they have so many places to choose from to buy equipment. If you have a bad experience at one place, you just move on to another one. There is no real accountability.
The local pro shop needs feedback, positive and negative, to grow with the bowlers in a community. You should look forward to your pro shop experience, not fear it with dread. Most local pro shops are very good at listening and taking your suggestions, after all, you’re the one who will be throwing the ball, not the pro shop operator. If you are proactive in your approach to buying new equipment in conjunction WITH your local pro shop, you will find it an enjoyable experience to get work done there. Also, ask the local pro shop if they have anything going on special or clearance in the near future. You may be able to find a deal if you are willing to ask. I know a friend of mine who was able to get an Ebonite Clash for $100 drilled, simply because he was willing to ask his local pro shop operator if he had any balls on sale. Those balls go for around $95 from on-line retailers, and that is before drilling cost(s). My friend actually SAVED money buying locally, to the tune of about $50 on a bowling ball.
Also, your local pro shop is always there for you, and they know your game like nobody else. They can perform services for you like finding your PAP so that you can have a bowling ball fit specifically for YOUR game, and not generically drilled to what the ball “should” do. They can give you tips and advice on things ranging from the proper wrist brace for your body type, to the correct kind of shoes for the amount of bowling you plan to do. All these factors, along with the many I listed above, are the reason(s) I feel that bowlers should always look to their local pro shop first before buying online for ALL equipment choices. If there isn’t a reliable pro shop at your local bowling center, ask around to your fellow bowlers to find a good pro shop even if it’s a little further away, you’ll be glad you did.
– James Goulding III