Quality vs. Quacks

Quality vs. Quacks - Shopping for Custom Blinds

When shopping for custom blinds how do you know if you are getting a real value?  When the salesperson (or website) says this blinds is just as good as "x brand" only cheaper - can you believe them?  Here are a few tips to help you quickly sort things out.

   "Custom Blinds" are not all created equal.  The $60 cordless honeycomb blind at the local big box or department store is not the same as the $120 cordless brand name blind the local decorator sells.  To further confuse the issue, fabricators may sell the same blind under different brands or labels with the only difference being the name of the color choices or fabric selections and branding stickers on the bottom rail (and the price tag).   So without getting into too many of the technical details or getting bogged down in lengthy descriptions, we shall briefly share a few key points.

   The term "Custom blinds" refers to those which are specifically made to fit the ordered size window.  How they are customized varies from the "cut/chopped to fit" cheapies in the box store or in some value lines to the fully custom blinds which are made from scratch specifically to the ordered size.  If the rails are plastic, vinyl or a boxy lightweight steel, then prices and long term performance are likely to be well below what one should experience with a blind that has sturdy aluminum or steel rails.  Are the pull cords nice, round, tightly-woven synthetic cords that are going to wear better and not be as prone to strinkage or stretching (and twisting)? Or are they made from the rougher, more losely woven or braided cords used by fabricators who were trying to save a few cents on materials?  Look at the spacing of the supporting ladders or cords in the blind or shade.  Are they evenly spaced and adequate for the size of the blind? For instance, a 90 inch wide shade should have more than two pull cords.

   Learn how to interpret the warranty practically.  If the cordless blind is only guaranteed for 1 year, then you know the manufacturer probably isn't confident that it will last much more than 2-3 years.  A $200 blind with a 5 year warranty costs less than 8 cents a day if it lasts 7 years but a $70 blinds with a 1 year warranty that lasts for 2 years costs almost 10 cents a day.  It is a given that the pull cords or lift system will eventually wear out, however, can it be fixed by a local vendor or will you be shopping for a new blind because it was actually made in China or by a box store that switches to cheaper suppliers every few years?  How about cleaning?  If there is no recommended deep cleaning method (washing, ultrasonic, injection/extraction etc.) listed, then when it gets dirtier than just vacuuming will resolve, what will you do?  You'll either have to buy a new blind or assume the risk for cleaning, as the manufacturer will not (Hunter Douglas and a few other fabricators list approved deep cleaning methods for their products).  Is the store, decorator or internet site you are buying the shade from going to be in business in 3-6 years when you may need some product support?  Finally, if you are shown one product (with an strong record of manufacturers support of their warranty like Hunter Douglas or Graber) and then pitched a "similar" or "the same" shade under a store brand name or private label ask, "Is the written warranty coverage for this blind/shade the same?" 

   If you are considering buying on the internet or at a box store to "save money" on custom blinds do your homework.  Some "shop at home" decorators or blind retailers will come to your house and work with you to select blinds and colors appropriate to your windows and decor at rates that are often a better value than you'll realize with the box store.  The box store typically operates with independent subcontractors for measuring and installation who are paid per blind rather than being a regular employee or contractor for the decorator.  If there are problems with your order, are you going to be a client to them or just a number or a problem pushed off to another department?  Don't be fooled by pricing gimmicks.  Buy one, get one "free and sales offering 70% off (suggested) retail price or coupons for $100 OFF aren't saving you money, if the vendor is working off the inflated retail pricing.  Get several quotes from reputable companies or designers for the same products.  Finally, if  someone walks into your home, looks around at your decore and quotes you a price for window treatments before measuring your windows, save yourself some grief and simply show them the door!

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