Mass Merchants

So, there you are, shopping for a toilet at your local Home Depot, Costco, or even Walmart store and there they are… Hot Tubs!!! They look great! The price is decent! Next thing you know you are thinking of spending your hard earned money on a hot tub from a Mass Merchant.

hun like hell

While I am sure there are exceptions… somewhere… in a galaxy far far away… the truth is you should run like hell.

Folks trust me here… I supplied the largest mass merchants in the world with hot tubs for over a decade. I went through the whole deal from negotiating with buyers, to finalizing a line to setting the build specification.

Here is the real scoop on mass merchant hot tub programs.

Mass merchants do an abysmal job at these specialty products, they always have and they always will. The internet is full of stories of cheap poor quality hot tubs dumped on the poor unsuspecting buyer, and equally full of a litany of issues from abysmal service and back up, to an inability to offer even the most basic level of advice and after sales care.

The truth is the poor bastards don’t have a hope in hell. This is a specialist product. It requires specialist knowledge and the mass merchants just do not have a clue when it comes to the hot tub industry.

Because they don’t have a clue and they know it they are reduced to the lowest common denominator… They have to try and be the cheapest, and here is where it all starts to go horribly wrong.

Here are the top reasons why the mass merchants don’t deserve your hot tub business.


  1. Despite what you might think mass merchants do not get good prices on hot tubs: Mass merchants simply do not sell enough hot tubs, and they are a high risk, high maintenance contract for a hot tub manufacturer. Consider that one good dealer will sell more hot tubs in a year than any 200 or 300 store mass merchant. For every hot tub sold through a mass merchant the manufacturer gets hammered with big overhead costs. They range from up to ten times the shipping price because they are shipping individual units, to having to use sub contractors for the service work. Because of these and other factors mass merchants just don’t get a good price on hot tubs.
  2. Because mass merchants pay too much they have to cut corners to get the price cheap enough: When a mass merchant buyer buys a line of hot tubs they come in with their big money chest and and tell the manufacturer “You need to build this hot tub with these features and you are getting this amount of money” Because the manufacturer has to build with all the features the buyer is demanding into the hot tub the only thing they can do to get the price down to the level that the mass merchant buyer demands is to cut the price of the parts. So the manufacturer cuts a couple hundred dollars out of the insulation package and uses cheap Chinese made parts, and maybe does not put as much fiberglass on the shell. The spa looks great! Specification wise it reads great! But the truth is it is no longer a good price on a good hot tub, it is just a high price on a cheap hot tub.
  3. The mass merchant price is not competitive: Its not… do some comparison shopping and you will find out I am right. You need to price compare the mass merchant hot tubs against the cheap internet spas, at the end of the day they are all the same ilk. Cheap no name parts, cheap perimeter insulation systems, and no back up or support. If you take the time to compare the spas to this end of the market you will find that most, if not all of the hot tub direct suppliers sell cheaper than the mass merchant. Hell a good local warehouse direct supplier can usually beat the mass merchant price, and offer a better quality of build, and an infinitely better back up and support structure.
  4. The product description is often utterly misleading: This goes back to the mass merchant not having a clue. Right now on three of the biggest mass merchant sites in North America there are spas with really misleading information like spas listed as having 2 pumps while the reality is they have one pump and an air pump (basically a blow dryer that blows bubbles into the tub) The mass merchant has no idea because the manufacturer told them there are two pumps… They just didn’t bother to mention that one is a water pump system system worth a thousand or more dollars and one is a cheap air pump system worth $200. Another one of the mass merchants is selling a line that says “Made in Canada with Chinese parts” on a line of hot tubs that us 100% made in China, with the cheapest junk parts you can buy. Others have specifications saying 100 jets because they counted every single nozzle in the hot tub whereas everybody else in the industry counts the main fittings, which contain up to 20 nozzles each! It goes on and on and it isn’t even the mass merchant lying to you, they just don’t have any idea about the complexities of the product they are selling.


  1. my new saratoga spa has a buzz from the motor.
    i hate it.
    i want a tub like my old one that only makes a noise when you turn the jets on and when the heating thing has to turn on for a few minutes here and there.
    my old one was silent
    any suggestions.
    its just me…and i’m 5’2

    • take the bolts that hold the pump in place out, if that does not do it put a vibration pad under the motor mount like a chunk of rubber or even a heavy duty mouse pad.

      Or get the retailer to replace it as a noisy pump…

  2. This was interesting. I have been looking at the American Spas – Glory lounger waiting for them to drop it to $3000 again. It’s made by Cal Spas which I would consider fairly reputable. Are you implying to stay away? I’m assuming that they will just be drop shipping from the manufacturer of which I pay shipping and it is likely just a rebranded stock hot tub Cal Spas already makes so there shouldn’t be any lesser quality materials. Is this accurate?

    • Sorry. I didn’t clarify. This is sold at Home Depot.

      • The only issue with the mass merchants is that is a gamble the reality is if you are going to forgo a local dealer and rely on a local repair guy then you open the market to anything including Tent sales, State Fairs and Expo events or even dealers selling out of their area. These low overhead options can sometimes get you a great spa at the right money… Once you decide to go the route of not having a local dealer then you open up a lot of options that are better value for the money.

    • Hey jeff

      I am not saying to stay away, CXal spa does all the right things on paper it’s just the reputation they can’t seem to shake, the 2 dealers here that dropped the line simply said they had too many issues with the factory taking care of issues, and that theme seems to be consistent across the board but who knows… the reality is a lot fo the reviews and ratings are bullshit, there is no control and no accountability.

      I could generate a pile of email accounts, use a VPN and post on all the ratings sites and all of a sudden a brand would have awesome reviews or crap reviews based on my whim…

  3. Debbie O'Dwyer

    HI, thank you for all the information you kindly share with everyone. I’d appreciate your opinion about Artesian hot tubs. It appears no one carries Master Spas in Ottawa, Ontario! So I’m wondering if Artesian spas are a close 2nd or 3rd, 4th…lol

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