Hot Tub Dealers are happy to do whatever it takes to make a sale, but there are also 3 things hot tub dealers don’t want you to know. When you are shopping for a new spa, ask the salesperson these 3 questions and pay close attention to what they say. Better yet, make sure they SHOW you the proof. Question Number One- “Where are your spas manufactured?” HOT TUB DEALERS DON’T ALWAYS SELL SPAS THAT COME FROM MODERN US FACTORIES. Typical Answer- “Our company is located in California and we have a beautiful, state-of-the-art factory.” What They Don’t Want You to Know- Many of the biggest name brands in the hot tub industry do have beautiful buildings in the US that once manufactured their complete line up of spas. Unfortunately, over the last 10-20 years, several factors have caused these companies to shift most, if not all, of their manufacturing facilities to Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened the floodgates for companies to relocate their assembly lines. The cost of doing business in California is high and that is where most of the older spa companies reside. Environmental regulations have made it difficult to manufacture products using fiberglass, a key component of most spas. Product waste disposal is highly taxed and regulated along with electricity usage and emissions. This adds a cost increase that hot tub dealers pass on to the consumer. By shifting spa production across the border, labor and wages are much less expensive in Mexico. This allows the manufacturer to increase their profits. Health care benefits and many other expenses incurred in the US are reduced in these foreign factories which, again, increase the bottom line for these companies. A less skilled labor force translates into a lesser quality product but with more profit for these hot tub manufacturers. How to Find Out What You Want to Know- When considering purchasing a new spa, simply ask the salesperson to remove the equipment door and let you look inside. There will be a sticker which contains the serial number, model, and country of origin. Be specific by requesting to see inside the exact spa you are considering as some of their models are Made in the US and others are Hecho en Mexico. If they are reluctant to do so and you believe the hot tub dealers are not being straightforward with you, then consider shopping elsewhere. This leads us directly to… Question Number Two- “What does the equipment compartment, plumbing, frame, and base of your spa look like?” HOT TUB DEALERS ARE NOT ALWAYS WILLING TO SHOW YOU THE INSIDE OR BOTTOM OF THEIR SPAS. MANY OF THEM LOOK LIKE THIS. Typical Answer- “We use pressure treated wood just like companies have been doing for years. The bottom is a rock hard layer of foam insulation backed by several layers of closed cell foam. Our spas are plumbed with diverter valves which allow you to adjust jet pressure.” What They Don’t Want You to Know- Yes, most spa companies still use pressure treated wood just like companies have been doing since the 1970’s! Think about it…that’s like hot tub dealers saying “we still use rotary dial telephones, 8 track tape players, and slide rulers” instead of smart phones, digital music, and computers. Wood frames ROT and are susceptible to damage from termites and carpenter ants. Why do spa companies still use wood? Because it is CHEAP! Period. The bottom of many spas are just coated with a thin layer of foam. This offers very little protection from rats, mice, and snakes that can easily burrow through the bottom. Behind that, there is sprayed-in expanding foam insulation. When a leak occurs inside the spa, the wood frame begins to rot and the foam soaks up water and turns into a big, soggy mess. This is typically very expensive to repair and your spa can be out of commission for up to 2 months…not acceptable. Almost every spa has hundreds of feet of plumbing underneath the shell. Along with all of the pipes, there are unions, junctions, and many 90 degree angles. All of these reduce jet pressure which precipitates the need for diverter valves. Every jet cannot be operated optimally at the same time, so diverter valves will “steal” jet pressure from one person’s seat and divert it to another. Many relationships have been ruined over the years due to diverter valves! (Just kidding, but it isn’t a lot of fun when your fellow tubbers steal your jet pressure). How to Find Out What You Want to Know- Very simple. Again, ask to see inside the equipment compartment of the exact spa you are considering. You can see the frame and some of the plumbing. Ask to see the bottom of the spa or at least a photo of it. Do a test soak in the spa and see how the diverter valves work with the jets running. Don’t accept what the hot tub dealers tell you…make them SHOW you. Question Number Three- “What are all these awards and superior ratings that your company claims to have won?” NOT EVERY HOT TUB DEALER PROMOTES THEIR MAJOR AWARDS, BUT MOST OF THE ONES WHO PURCHASE THEM DO. Typical Answer- “We are the only spa company that has been chosen to receive this special award every time it has been presented. We have plaques and logos that show we are a certified best buy top notch highly rated hot tub dealer.” What They Don’t Want You to Know- Virtually every “consumer’s best” award is purchased. The company promoting the award will request information from the spa manufacturer and their team of ‘experts’ will review the data. Sometimes, they will even physically inspect and compare various spas, but this is rarely done. After the evaluations, a package will be sent to the manufacturer congratulating them on being a ‘best buy’. BUT, if they want the rights to promote/advertise the award, they must PURCHASE the licensing rights. The spa companies that have enough money to spend on these awards are the ones that are most proud of promoting them. If a company doesn’t purchase this license, they run the risk of having shoppers believe they are not a quality manufacturer, even though they may have been given the opportunity to buy the same licensing package. Spa and hot tub ratings are typically bogus. One company will create a ratings list and give their company the same (or higher) ratings as the more well-known name brand spa manufacturers. This ‘legitimizes’ their brand against the most popular hot tub companies. 99.9 % of them are not legitimate. How to Find Out What You Want to Know- The internet is your friend! If you want to find out the legitimacy of a consumer award, start at the awarding company’s home page. Read about their criteria for selecting award recipients. You will have to navigate through the legal speak, but it is all there in black and white. The same goes for spa ratings sites. Look at the “About Us” page or, better yet, the meta data that is present on the page. Then look up the company that is behind the website. You might be surprised to find that the company who originated the ratings site is the one that has the highest rated hot tubs! There are some great spa companies and some very nice quality hot tubs being manufactured. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of sleight-of-hand being performed at some hot tub dealers. With just a few questions and a little research, you can save a lot of time, money, and grief by purchasing a top quality product that will give you exceptional value.