Tuesday, October 12, 2021

$50 tool chest

This Summer, I got an unsolicited offer for a massive tool chest/cabinet for around 6% of something smaller at Harbor Freight (like this base and this topper ~$850US as of this writing). Curious as to what $50US can actually buy in terms of a new tool chest/cabinet, I ordered one. This post covers that mini-adventure, as well as some thoughts on tool cabinets, now that this adventure has me thinking about it.

What They Said
Let's start with the product description. They said a lot, but the key points were
Milwaukee 56 top
and bottom cabinets
  • Ship within 24 hours after payment, Free Worldwide Shipping
  • Assembled in La Palma, California, USA
  • 150 lbs. rated drawers
  • 2-deep bottom cabinet drawers have double drawer slides, offering a 300 lbs. load capacity
  • 18-Gauge steel frame and drawers with reinforced 6-Gauge angle iron cabinet base finished with rust-resistant red and black powder-coat finish
  • digital locking system, no need for keys
  • 6-outlet/2USB power strip mounted inside chest till and on exterior cabinet side wall, cord hooks included to wrap the power cords for storage
  • Assembled dimensions with casters installed (approximate): 56 in. W x 22 in. D x 64 in. H and weighs 643.8 lbs.
Company Policies
First, it should be noted that on the anthead.club (seller) website, it is indicated that all shipping is done through 4PX, order processing can take 3-10 days (as opposed to within 24 hours as mentioned above) and delivery time is 3-4 weeks. I translate the 3-4 weeks to 21-28 days from their warehouse to my driveway. Last, it says worldwide shipping is free.

So, all of that sounds really great, right? Like, within 38 days after placing an order, you get this massive tool cabinet/chest combo for $50US. But, of course, how could this possibly be? And, free shipping on almost 650 pounds? This can't possibly be right. For just $50US, though, seemed like it was worth spending the money just to see what would happen. Besides, I figured this might make a good post. So, I ordered one.

The timeline for my order is below. We should probably start with the fact that the website said that this was "Assembled in La Palma, California, USA". Not sure how that works if it is shipping from Guangzhou, China. For the benefit of the doubt, let's pretend that it ships as a pile of bits to an assembly space in La Palma where it is assembled into this final shape before continuing on its way. As I document this, it would not be fair to at least recognize that supply chains are a mess around the world. So, delays could be attributed to that. Still, the data is the data:

12-Aug: ordered, paid for
20-Aug: (8 days later) order accepted and shipped out of warehouse in Guangzhou City, China by China-Post (not 4PX). This is within the policy time window, just not the designated carrier.
23-Aug: arrived / departed Chinese port (Shenzhen) on a ship
 5-Sept: (13 days at sea) arrived in USA. Port unclear, but let's assume Los Angeles, since they're the biggest US port for ships from China.
29-Sept: (24 days in US, 41 days since left china warehouse) Message from vendor rec'd. Cabinet still not arrived, current shipper unknown. Could be languishing in a warehouse, shipping container, customs, or maybe it's with USPS and they didn't know how to provide a tracking number to me. Yeah... right...
12-Oct: (54 days since left China warehouse) posting published. No further updates from vendor nor on the trackers.

After over 40 days days of waiting and multiple requests-for-update, I finally heard from the vendor. They indicated that there was a "problem with logistics" and that they would cancel my order, returning my $50. I wonder if it will be another 40 days before I see my $50, if ever. So, what did we learn from this? Well, I learned how to track a shipment from China using AfterShip and Track17. I think we all also learned that no, you cannot get a 56"W x 22"D x 64"H, 645 pound tool chest shipped to you from "La Palma, CA" (read: China) for $50.

Husky 52 top
and bottom cabinets
I do wonder what was actually shipped from China, where it US-landed on 5-September, and what its final destination was / will be. I mean, the tracking number was valid for something leaving China for the US. I suspect, whatever was sent will not go back to China. Instead, will end up in a LA-area warehouse for local sale, covering the real cost of manufacture and shipping with some profit cooked in. Maybe it was pre-arranged swiped off the dock a-la the second season of HBO's "The Wire". But, why the internet ruse for $50? Perhaps there are import limits placed on the local-to-LA-area seller, and this is an end-run around that? Maybe what was shipped was something else entirely, and they just needed a cover story for customs. I don't know, but there is a reason the too-good-to-be-true tool cabinet/chest combo experienced a "problem with logistics" when I have never had that experience with Alibaba or other clearly-direct-from-China orders from, like, eBay or whatever. I did discover, however, that this exact tool chest set up is available from Home Depot for $1500, and most of the images on the 2 websites are identical. Before you ask, yes I have been watching the account I used to place this order, looking for suspicious activity, and no, there has not been any.

Cabinet Options
Husky 41 bottom
I realize that I will have to break down and buy a real tool cabinet (maybe a topper chest too) if I intend to get my tools in order. The combo bottom/top "red rollie" I have now is too small (27" wide), to the point where I have tools sitting on storage shelves.... or worse, sitting in a pile on the crowded garage floor. In short, the current-state is not sustainable. I learned that too: thinking about tool storage opened my eyes to one of the underlying factors to my garage disarray. So, what are the real options out there?

Like I said, Home Depot has this exact unit for $1500. Home Depot has a Husky (this, pictured alongside "Learnings" above) that's 2/3 the price (at $1000US) of the Milwaukee brand, but 52" wide rather than 56. Of course, for 1/2 of that, I could just get the bottom 44" deal from Harbor Freight I linked at the beginning, and get the upper later, if I feel the need for more. For that matter, I could look at Husky's 41" (picture on the right) for about the same price. The Home Depot models have things like integrated power strips, a bottle opener and soft-close drawers. I figure you're paying for those, so if the prices are otherwise close, where is that difference getting made up?
US General "44" bottom
I have been unable to find drawer spec's on these US General "44" cabinets. So, I went to Harbor Freight with a measuring tape. The cabinet is genuinely 22 inches deep but only 42" wide, not 44. I know. It puzzled me too, so I measured twice. The image on the right here has the measurements I took. The drawer width measurements are the inside space, between the sidewalls. For height, I measured the distance from the deck with the rubber mat installed to the bottom edge of whatever is above it, be it another drawer or part of the cabinet. By measuring the actual usable space, I hope these measurements help others. I expect that as I plan my shop tool storage upgrade, these will be useful.

As a way to consider the various options, I took the published "cubic inches" of storage and divided that by the price to get square inches or storage space per $1US. In all cases, when just the lower cabinets are considered, the square inch per dollar is lower/worse than when the top is added. For example, the upper for the US General "44" costs $330, but adds 11700 cubic inches of storage space (35.45 square inches per $1US). Since I don't know if I need an upper, I just considered lowers. In order of most to least (square inches per $1US) with some other data bits:
  1. Husky 52           - 22934 cu in -  9   drawers (35.28)  - $1000US
  2. Husky 41           - 17221 cu in - 11  drawers (34.44)  - $500US
  3. US General 44   - 14000 cu in - 13* drawers (28)       - $500US <- $600 as of 6-Nov
  4. Milwaukee 56    - 23583 cu in - 10  drawers (26.2)    - $900US
  5. US General 56   - 21500 cu in - 11  drawers (25.3)    - $850US
Unless you are just going to throw everything in your cabinet with no organizational thought, overall capacity is not terribly informative. The number and shapes/sizes of the drawers really speak to use more than an overall number. So, I need to consider that against what I need. For me, overall footprint and how well it will compliment my existing "red rollie" are also factors. I intend put hands on examples of the Home Depot offerings before making a decision, but I am leaning towards the US General 44 (asterisked) because of the 2-3/4" most-shallow drawers compared to the 2" most-shallow from Husky and Milwaukee. And because there are more of them. Impact drivers and some larger wrenches would not fit the smaller 2" clearance without laying them down, defeating some of the storage "gain". Also, those other cabinets offer a few large drawers that the US General does not. For me, those big drawers may not be very useful, or space-wasteful, attracting something that could just as easily sit on a shelf (like my MityVac or Dremel, still in their plastic carrying cases). Last, I have seen negative reviews about the plastic bits in the soft-close drawers breaking in a couple years, so that might be influencing my thinking too.

That's it for today. When I get to solving my tool storage, and sorting the garage, I'll post on it. I do have to spend some weekends organizing in there. You'll know when that's happened by the lack of interesting car-related posts... like this one. Hahaha. Thanks, as always, for following along-

1 comment:

PdxPaulie said...

6 weeks after promising to return my money, this line appears to have been prophetic: "I wonder if it will be another 40 days before I see my $50, if ever". Answer: yes, it will be more than 40 days, and no, you won't see that money ever. Their product sale page is still up, though. Ain't that neat.