I’m going to start this post by saying that buying online requires certain traits from the buyer. Do you learn easily from videos on YouTube? Do you have the necessary skills, tools, or friend/spouse needed to put something together without assistance from a professional? Can you make your way through an instruction paper or booklet to get it up and running? Do you have the patience you’ll ultimately need so you and your spouse don’t kill each other during the build?
I’m not judging; I’m just saying. Be honest with yourself and if this isn’t you, then pay the extra cost for your local dealer to deliver, install, and get you set up because that part of it is worth every penny if you need it. If this IS you, then the cost savings of buying online might be worth the loss in personalized customer service on the front end.
I recently purchased a King Quilter 18″ Longarm machine with a 10″ tablet, a Grace GQ Frame with Luminess overhead lights, and Quilt EZ Butler robotics from SewingMachinesPlus.com for $13,365.
While $13k sounds like a lot, it’s about half of what I would have paid from a local retailer or dealer. SMP is a middle-man sales distributor between Tin Lizzie (maker of the King Quilter), Grace Frames, and QuiltEZ who manufactures the robotics. Now, I say “recently” but I actually made the purchase over the phone during the weekend of the Houston Quilt Festival on Nov 4, 2016. I already have a mid-arm Tin Lizzie and I love her so I’m very familiar with the machine. Buy USA!…Tin Lizzie is made in Utah and Grace is in Colorado. I’ve done an enormous amount of homework both online and in-person to determine which machine and set up were right for me. When you get down to it, a machine is a machine but Tin Lizzie offers more bells and whistles for the price. I’m certainly not knocking you APQS or Gammill fans, to each his own, but the sticker shock of those brands gave me the willies. The boxes arrived on-time within 10 days.
We didn’t set it all up right away because we were waiting for custom windows to arrive from Lowe’s so we could convert the screened-in back patio into an enclosed quilting studio. They took two weeks over the Thanksgiving holiday to arrive. Here we are loading up the trailer with 8 new windows and 2 doors. That’s hubs managing the tie down straps. His over 4,000 hours as a Loadmaster on Air Force C-130’s comes in VERY handy in our lives! Do you see why I love that man? No, that’s not my Audi darn it.
Today is Dec 18 and I’m still not quilting. So I’m six weeks into this and I’ve already received my first monthly bill on the 0% interest for a 4-year installment plan ($278 a month) and my intent to quilt for others to pay for it isn’t possible yet. Fortunately I have a day job so I’m not relying solely on the quilting business. That is the idea though. I eventually want to finish quilts for customers so it pays for itself and then gives me some pocket money for new fabric after I retire-retire. It took my husband and I about 6 hours to build to the frame – it took 30 minutes just to unpack it all and inventory the pieces. All present and/or accounted for here.
Then another 5.5 hours watching and re-watching YouTube videos and twisting the direction sheets back and forth to make heads or tails out of them.
When we got to the part of installing the robotics unit and mounting it to the bottom of the carriage, we ran into a major snag. My top carriage wheels sit at a 45 degree angle to the bottom half of the carriage but the mounting brackets fit a top carriage with wheels at a 90 degree angle. We received the wrong carriage hardware for the frame.
It took a dozen calls and emails over several days to figure out the problem and there were a couple hours of frustration and more than one pissing match between hubs and I trying to figure out why it wouldn’t fit. That robotics unit was around $5,000 so I didn’t want to screw it up, ya know? My “Tim the Tool Man” husband was all, “Give me my drill. I’ll make that #$%* fit.” ACK! NO! I had to remind him this was a finely tuned piece of equipment that needs precise fitting to operate properly.
In the middle of all this, my SMP customer service rep was off for a couple of days (more delay) and then I discovered that the Luminess lights had never been shipped to me so that was another two emails. The lights actually arrived before the right mounting hardware made it in from QuiltEZ. Now the lights are up and oh goodness what a difference! It’s like pure daylight in that room now. Love the new windows? I measured the one in the corner too narrow so hubs had to trim it up. That thrilled him no end. lol Paying the extra $35 per window for tan frames vs. white was totally worth it. I usually don’t skimp on things I’m going to have to live with for years and years.
Due to family obligations over the holidays, working full time, and no daylight after work, the machine still isn’t on the frame. We went to a niece’s wedding in Arizona (that’s hubs performing the ceremony and no, he’s not a rabbi), went to two funerals (one for a neighbor’s infant and one for a retired veteran), hosted visiting family at the coast one weekend (cold as all get-out on that water), lost a bull to pneumonia so we had to quick immunize the rest of the herd before we lost any others (so far so good), and did a Santa hayride run with friends through a local poor neighborhood to spread cheer to impoverished children. So we’ve been kinda busy. Never a dull moment my friends.
Would I have had less trouble if I’d made the 3 hour drive to Houston to purchase all this from a dealer? I’m not sure. I’ve heard horror stories from customers of dealers too. The hardware SNAFU was from the wrong frame being listed on the invoice sheet that went to QuiltEZ. That could have happened locally too. The customer service from SMP has been exceptional and they have been very quick to make every attempt to assist me. Even during the absence of my main customer service rep, a stand-in provided support. I do know that I saved thousands buy purchasing from them and overall the process has been fun and exciting even if it has been a bit frustrating here and there. Did I mention that patience is another virtue for buying online?
Once I get this all up and running, I’ll post about the experience of the machine install and room remodel finish. Hubs promises it will be today. Right now I’m just trying to teach the dogs the new doggie door set up. My old dogs are having a tough time learning new tricks. I had to cover the clear glass on the sides with some fabric temporarily until they get the hang of going through the center panel. More to come!