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Sourcing steel?

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  • Sourcing steel?

    Well, I had an unpleasant experience yesterday at my local steel supplier here in the twin cities, Discount Steel. The history: I am making a lead smelting pot out of 14" pipe, 5/8" wall, about 10" high. I put on a 1" bottom plate on it. I purchased the parts for it from them about 3 weeks or so ago, and as money is of course an issue, and it isn't structural, I buy it from their drop area, where everything is 55 cents a lb.

    I was nearby yesterday, so I thought I would drop in again, as I was considering building a 2nd one with a little different design, this time 18" across, approx 3/8" wall, and 6 1/2" tall, with a 3/4" bottom this time. Both times I needed them to cut the my section off the pipe, which was currently about 2 1/2 - 3' long, and the stated charge for cutting is $10. I went out into the yard, and picked my pieces, made arrangements for them to cut it, but couldn't wait around for them to do it as they were a little backed up in the cutting shop, so I told them to call me and I'd pick it up the next day or 2. I had spoken to an inside salesperson, and she said that it showed on her computer that that pipe was more than the .55, but that I should go out into the yard to have them measure it and write it up based upon that measurement. When it was being rung up, they had a little difficulty determining the schedule of it, finally settled on sch 20. They had quoted me $5 for the cut, which I thought was nice of them, but I thought that maybe it was because I had recently set up a COD account in my co. name. I had a receipt printed for me, but didn't think to look at it at the time, because it was pretty simple, cut offs in the cut off/drop shed were .55 a lb.

    I got a call from them a couple hours later, I missed it but called them back, and was told it wasn't ready yet, they had called my by mistake. I had grabbed my receipt to get the number to call them back, that's when I noticed the pricing for the tube. I was charged .90 a lb, so while I was on the phone, I mentioned to them that I think there was a mistake, it was a drop and should be priced accordingly, but we could fix it when I come to pick it up. I was told that the larger diameter steel tubing shouldn't have been in the drop area, that it is next to it(?), and after some back and forth discussion, basically was told that I got a good deal by I believe the owner. I disagreed, and explained that I had just purchased the same thing a few weeks earlier for the stated price (.55 lb) and after being put on hold, a mgr came back on the line, and said that with the cut, the pipe was now priced at $70! Hmm.. needless to say, I accepted their offer to just refund the money, and mentioned I'd like to talk to the owner again. Of course, couldn't get thru to him, so left him a VM explaining my thoughts on the situation asking him for a return call so we could discuss this a little more, as they are one of the larger suppliers around here that sells to the public, and I have been buying from them for a number of years. Admittedly not huge quantities, but still, they were my place to go when I needed steel.

    I don't want to burn any bridges of course, but I don't feel we are going to have a positive outcome with this one. Which gets to the reason for this post. Unfortunately, steel is heavy, and shipping is expensive. I did a little looking a year or 2 ago for another local supplier who sells to the public in small quantities, and didn't come up with any good options at the time. I buy almost anything on the net, but I can't imagine that steel would be a decent value, especially as I usually buy drops at a discount. I have tried recently talking to local scrap yards, but most won't sell used steel due to liability concerns... D*mn lawyers...

    So, I was wondering what other people have done, if they have had a single main supplier in the area whose relationship has soured? I may be unusual as I am not a large volume purchaser, nor do I often need anything better than drops, but I have to think that I am not alone in this situation. Anyone have any suggestions for locating another source? I am still hoping to talk with them today, and working it out, but it has left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth being treated like that. Sorry for the long post...
    Last edited by alha; 02-28-2013, 04:17 AM.

  • #2
    I don't think you should damage your relationship with them if you need them. You stated you almost always buy from the drop section & expect a discount. They do everyone a favor by offering this service. $5 or $10 for a cut is cheap to start with.

    So lets see what the costs are. 18" od pipe x 6.5" long x sch 20= about 32#. At .55 a pound it's $17.60. At .90 a pound it's $28.88. There must be something more if they are charging you $70.

    Maybe the $70 includes the 3/4" plate also? An 18x18x3/4" plate would weigh about 69#x .55=$38
    Last edited by MMW; 02-28-2013, 06:33 AM.
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    • #3
      Large diameter pipe is very expensive, The labor for his man to lift a heavy pipe like that, get it to the saw and do a nice cut should have been a $ 20.00 cut.

      $ .55lb is a good deal, All the places around here would make you take the whole lenght of whats in the drop area and not let you cut it off and leave them with a smaller drop.

      Keep in mind, They are almost giving it to you at their cost, The owners not making anything on the cut charge except covering the employees wage, and now you want the owner to call you back and take up even more of his time.

      Trust me when I say your getting a great deal, I just ordered 1,252 lbs of steel today and my cost was $ .695 a lb. and I just had a 15,000lb order less than a month ago.

      My suggestion to you is that if the owner calls you back, Tell him there was a mistake and that his people took good care of you.


      • #4
        What Portable said.

        My advice, get over it. Any steel or pipe supplier that will sell a small piece of pipe, to a low-volume customer, is doing that customer a favor. Remember, one man had to operate the forklift, bring the material to the saw. Another man had to measure, clamp, and cut. Then the forklift had to come back twice, once to remove the piece you need, also to remove and place back in stock the remnant. Then, you show up, the forklift (with operator) has to load it onto your truck.

        In any case, sounds like you don't have any options.
        Obviously, I'm just a hack-artist, you shouldn't be listening to anything I say .....


        • #5
          I usually buy in bulk but every once in a while I will need a short piece of pipe or I beam. The way I got it worked out is I bring the guys that work there a case of beer every once in a while and I am free to grab whatever scrap I need. They scrap some pretty crazy stuff... just last week there was 6' of 8x18 I beam. You definetly don't wana burn bridges with them cuz even selling it @ .55 a # isn't too bad, they could charge you the price per foot. And $10 cut charge was pretty cheap


          • #6
            I have purchased from them before and they have always done right by me before. I have bought some large pipe from them and I was always charged the higher price. So I would say your lucky! I also buy steel from Winnick Supply in Forest lake. They have always been great to deal with.


            • #7
              unless i have a job scheduled with tons of steel, i stock my shop with drops, its not so much the price it is the various pieces that i can stock, a small guy cant stock every piece in 20 foot lengths, so drops are very important to me, but to the supplier, as mentioned earlier, they could care less, they have already made their money, they are doing you and myseld a great service, if i went out of business today, my supplier would not even notice, suck it up and move on


              • #8
                Well, I didn't hear back from him, but I may stop back in and have a quick chat. I guess, from reading your replies, that I got a decent price on it, but my thought was that this piece was most likely going to be scrapped, and the .55 was above what he'd get for scrapping it, though the labor for cutting would be more than what I paid, certainly. Regardless, I'll go back in and talk with him, and say sorry for the misunderstanding. As Kevin said, if I never came in and bought another piece from them, they wouldn't notice, that's for certain. Just a bummer that things aren't what they are labeled as. I'll post what happens once I have a chance to stop in and talk with them, it's better than on the phone I figure. Thanks for your perspective, everyone.

                Oh, and DSL Power, thanks for the suggestion on another local source! Do they sell drops and such?

                MMW, I think the $70 price was a "FU, take it or leave it, buy it or don't, we don't care" price.
                Last edited by alha; 03-04-2013, 06:01 AM.


                • #9
                  its best to not burn bridges, steel suppliers are a welders life line, the smart way to handle this is to find a salesperson there that you feel comfortable with and stick to that person when ever possible, build a relationship, then issues can be talked out before all turns to unnecessary drama


                  • #10
                    ^^^^ amen


                    • #11
                      Well, went back in and had a talk with them, at least with the office mgr. Found out a few interesting things, one was that due directly to my little 'situation' we had, they implemented a new training program for the guys in the yard on how to write up tickets, as well as they are going to be opening up this spring a new 'drops shop' in the front of the place, which is cool, no more issues with mispriced stuff. This wasn't because of me, they had that in the works for months now.

                      The downside of that, which really bums me out, is that they are closing the back shop to customers. I've always been amazed that I could walk thru their prod shop and pick out steel to buy right off the shelves. I guess I have been living in the lawyer infested world too long now, and have been brainwashed into seeing liability issues everywhere. I am going to miss that.

                      We talked about what happened that day last week, and came to an understanding that it was pretty much a misunderstanding. We talked about the piece that I was interested in, and it still came to $70, 35 of it was the cut. I said for now I'd pass, and once the snow melts out there I will take a look around for a shorter piece that may not need to be cut.

                      We talked about pricing, she said the owner explained it to her as she should think of it like she was selling bologna at a deli. If you want a small slice or a full loaf, it is the same price per lb. I agreed, but then said that if the bologna was a little end piece that was getting old, they'd probably sell it to a pig farmer for less, and at least get something out of it before it went bad (i.e. sending the pipe out to scrapped). Not a perfect analogy, but she understood and agreed, but said it wasn't her decision, and that's what she had to do. I said no worries, that was cool. I'd just keep my eyes open for a piece that more closely fit my needs, and avoid the cut chg.

                      All in all it worked out fine, no bridges burnt or hard feelings, and I will still buy stuff from them when it works for both of us.


                      • #12
                        Whether you think a pc. is scrap or not, When they bought it they had to pay by the lb. for every inch.

                        They cant say to their supplier that ( hey I only need 18' of the 20' pc. so charge me full price for the 18' and scrap price for the remaining 2'

                        It doesnt work that way. Usually the drop price may only be a few cents more than what he paid for it.


                        • #13
                          if a shop is willing to sell individual drops to a small guy, it is a blessing in disguise, try stocking a small shop with 20 and 24 foot sticks of steel, one will run out of space and money very quick, i have bought bulk drops in the past, a ton of plate, angle, ect, now thats the way to buy steel


                          • #14
                            Well, sometimes it pays to network, and treat your customers as you would want to be treated. I was at a customers house yesterday, and when I was leaving with him thru his garage I noticed some interesting stuff, large (12"+) powered gate valves, etc. I asked him about them, we got into a conversation about the business he is in, and he said he has access to all kinds of stuff, and after telling him my steel woes and what I was making with it, he asked me what I wanted! I couldn't believe it, so I tossed out a couple suggestions, he said no biggie, he'd be happy to grab a few pieces for me, both tubing and some plate, and even could have it cut! Dang! Not to be greedy, but I had to mention my current trials and tribulations about getting any quantity of lead, he said he runs across it all the time in demolition. I asked if there was any way I may be able to get some from him, and he said no prob! Wow, I didn't know what to say, other than Thanks! Just goes to show, one never knows where good things may come from, but it sure does pay to be curious. It does help that I treated him quite well as a customer, so Karma also seems to be at work...