Sunday 13 June 2010

Better internet advertising please...

I cannot understand the uselessness of South African companies when it comes to advertising on the internet.
There is a huge untapped market out there, yet no-one seems interested in using it.
Searching for materials for my boat build has shown me the futility of using the internet. It basically just creates sadness.
I search for product, find great solutions, the perfect item, then I try to find a supplier in South Africa and I run into a brick wall.

Here are some examples...
1. I searched for oversize carbon paper (or any tracing paper). This is available overseas from numerous sources, one being Glen-L, who supply oversize sheets. After 3 days of searching in South Africa, I eventually found a company who makes carbon paper. They will supply me, if I buy 500 sheets @ R3600.00 ... yea thanks... but no thanks.

2. I searched for a thin kerf blade. If I am going to mill strips for my cedar strip boat, I will need to cut 5mm thick strips. If I can get a thin kerf blade which wastes only 2mm per cut (as compared to the normal blade which wastes 3mm per cut) then I basically get a free strip for every five cuts. Economically this will save a lot of wood, ermmm rands too. Nowhere can you find out who supplies saw blades in South Africa. Three different local hardware stores cannot help. Neither can they get one for me, nor tell me who to contact. The average employee at a hardware store knows nothing about the products his store is selling and basically they want me to use what they have in store.
I finally found Bantam. I called them and got hold of a lady called Vanessa. This lady was amazing. She understood my needs, spent time on my concerns and gave me a list of hardware stores and tool centers that should be able to help me. She gave company names, addresses, contact numbers of six different companies and then told me that if I still had problems, to call her back and she'd sort it out.
Wow. I like that for service. So few and far between. Suffice to say that I finally found someone who could get me a blade. A special order, and I have to wait a few days for it to arrive, but at least the gentleman knew how to help me.
Thank you to Vanessa from Bantam.

3. T-track. This stuff is so common in USA that there is a website called ttrackusa. I want some of this to create a track in my desktop. So that I can slide a fence, or clamps along the face ... or along the sides.. of my desk.
Well, no-one in South Africa knows what this stuff is, nor has ever heard of aluminium such as this.
I went to a shop specialising in non-ferrous metals and although they had huge warehouses full of different aluminium extrusions, nothing was remotely close to what I need.
Eventually I went to Chamberlain's and bought four pieces of 2.5m long 20mmx10mm aluminium rectangle for R40 each. I then went to a guy who makes aluminium windows and asked him if he would cut a strip out of the one side to create my own "t-track". He said no problem, and proceeded to rip me off with the price when I collected next day. Instead of R60 like he verbally quoted me, it was suddenly R50 per cut - more than the price of the original material. Still I was fairly happy in that I had the track I wanted. cost R90 per 2.5m length. The cutting did leave some nasty "burrs" on the inside of the cut, but a fine file, followed by 600grit sand paper took care of that.

Here is a sample of the track embedded in a "desktop"

... and this is what I used it for ... a fence/clamping system for my drill press ...

I will use the T-track for a number of other applications and will post about it when I get round to it.

These examples above are just a few of the multiple examples I have of struggling to find products.
Finding advice on which type of South African timber to use in my boat building project has been just such a mission. Most people or companies who have been approached do not even have the decency to reply. I am still struggling to find out exactly what I am going to use, but at the end of the day, I will solve it... and my project will taste all that much sweeter, due to the struggles in getting it completed.

The bottom line remains, that whilst plenty product is available in South Africa, finding it is the problem. Even companies with websites, do not advertise their product correctly.
One such example is marine-grade plywood. I struggled for many days to find this. The only supplier I could find on the internet was a guy in Cape Town. The transport cost to Pretoria is prohibitive. A few days later I was speaking to someone about lumber at a lumber supply yard and by chance I asked about marine-grade plywood. They told me to call Schallies. Perfect. A friendly and helpful sales consultant called Harold, all the marine-grade plywood I could ever want and cheaper than the Cape Town price. Right now, I just cannot remember if delivery was free in Pretoria or if it was R100. Either way, it's a bargain.


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