/ Home & Energy

Gardening tools using confusing branding

Pruning a tree

If you buy a branded item you expect it to be made by that brand, right? Not necessarily, as we found out when we scratched the surface of some top gardening tools and discovered that all’s not what it may seem…

American investor Warren Buffet said it can take 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to ruin it.

So I was surprised to learn that a couple of famous British brands have decided to risk their reputation by allowing products they haven’t made to be sold bearing their name.

What’s in a name?

Two big names in gardening tools – Spear & Jackson and Qualcast – have both sold licences to the Home Retail Group (Argos and Homebase).

This means that Argos and Homebase can use these prestigious brand names on their own-brand products. Not only that, but the companies that own the two brands continue to make and sell their own products through Argos and Homebase.

In other words, if you buy, for example, a Qualcast mower at Argos or Homebase, it may not be made by Qualcast. In fact Qualcast may not have had anything to do with the product – but it will bear its name.

Branding could mislead buyers

We only discovered this practice when we were testing a new Qualcast Lawn Rake for the November issue of Which? Gardening.

We discovered that the machine isn’t manufactured by Qualcast but is sourced and supplied by the Home Retail Group for Argos and Homebase. But to all intents and purposes it looks like a Qualcast product – it says Qualcast on the box, and when you ring the customer helpline you’re welcomed to Qualcast Technical Support. It’s not clear at any point that you’re buying a Home Retail Group product.

We also bought two Qualcast-branded mowers from Homebase, one manufactured by Bosch and one made by the Home Retail Group. We thought both products looked very similar – to the untrained eye it would be impossible to tell which one is genuinely made by Bosch.

Think before you buy

While others may be concerned about the risk to the Qualcast and Spear & Jackson brands, here at Which? we’re more concerned with how this could mislead consumers.

We know that many people buy products based on the strength of the brand in the media or their own experience of buying and using a branded product previously.

Do you feel that this practice could mislead you into buying one of these ‘branded’ products? Do you care? Maybe you’ve bought one of these products, only to discover later it’s not what you thought it was.

Comments
Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I share Which?’s concerns over this practice. A few year’s ago I bought some Wilkinson Sword-branded gardening products believing them to be superior to other makes and expecting them to be manufactured from higher-quality steel. Quite shortly after purchase the spade bent during some ordinary digging tasks – work for which the product appeared to be designed. I took advantage of the 10-year guarantee and discovered that the Wilkinson Sword brand was licensed to Fiskars who made the tools; I received a replacement spade but was out of pocket because of the high cost of returning the original. There is no doubt that consumers attach strong values to brands [which is what makes them lucrative to their owners as licensable property] but in the long run it is harmful to the original brand. In gardening tools and equipment there are innumerable poor quality [but expensive] products which we have all bought at some time or other so now we look for durability, strength, sharpness, performance, and reliability – qualities which firms like Qualcast, Spear & Jackson and Wilkinson Sword have invested heavily in and spent decades cultivating. To know that look-alike products made elsewhere are being sold under their name is very disappointing and makes one more likely to distrust other good names. I would not say it was deceitful in the same way that counterfeiting clearly is – although the thought did cross my mind – but nor would I describe it as honest either. I suppose we have got used to this kind of commercial behaviour in other categories like cookware and clothing [somebody once gave me some socks marked with the famous Pringle brand but I discovered that they were not made by Pringle of Scotland and were clearly inferior to High Street chain store socks] but to rip gardeners off is decidedly below the belt.
I think it is unrealistic to expect this practice to be made unlawful so the way to deal with it is through publicity and I hope Which? will use its authority and influence to make sure that everyone knows that Homebase and Argos are taking us for a ride.

Profile photo of Louis
Member

I’m surprised that you did not claim back the cost of returning the faulty spade. My understanding is that you were in your legal rights to do so. If you have the receipt, you should still be able to claim.

Member
ron bates says:
26 October 2010

This ‘mis-branding’ definitely should be instantly made illegal – we are being lied to, and in more potentially dangerous areas such as food. We should be not interested in the sly prevarications of industry and commerce. If any part of anything is not made in this country then this should be made clear, as it should if not grown in this country. Packing only is obviously not a legitimate claim on ‘made in the UK’ if the product is made, grown/processed etc anywhere else – this should apply within the/a country to products not fully made by the company supplying and/or selling it. Simply putting a sticker/label on a product naming a company that has had little or no part in its munufacture is a lie. Perhaps the buying public should start purchasing these products on false debit and credit cards or with forged money – and claim it’s the genuine article. Lets see if they then get the message!

Profile photo of dave d
Member

I absolutely agree with Which?’s concerns and with the comments already posted by John and Ron.

“Badge Engineering” (which I understand is the ‘official’ term for this practice) has gone on for decades but in modern times it appears to be exclusively at the peril / cost of the customer. Way back into the 60’s and 70’s Hoover made appliances that were “exclusives” for the Electricity Board and the Co-Op (and probably others). These items were identical in build quality and standards to the “standard” ranges by Hoover, and could usually be clearly told apart by a simple cosmetic changes such as a different coloured fascia or bag. In most cases the model number was suffixed by “E” (for Exclusive).

Many high-end Hi-Fi manufacturers also made products equal in quality to their “standard” ranges, but sold them under a different brand name for a lower price via chain stores and so on rather than specialist Hi-Fi dealers.

These practices were OK for the customer in terms of getting a good product at a competitive price, but now, as illustrated withe the Qualcast / Bosch / HRG and Wilkinson Sword examples above, we are being conned into paying a Premium price for inferior goods.

Sadly, because we didn’t shout and stamp our feet when earlier examples existed (presumably because they worked in our favour) we’ll be on an uphill struggle of Kilamanjaro proportions to get this practice stopped now.

Profile photo of Louis
Member

My view is that this is deceit and that it should be punishable under trading standards law as being misrepresentation. Perhaps the legal team at Which? should say something in this thread.

Member
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy says:
15 April 2012

Considering the economy struggling its challenging to locate help or buy new toys. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully in a couple years I’ll be in a position to put the information to use.

Member
Brian says:
10 May 2012

I purchased a “Qualcast” lawnmower from Homebase in April last year. I chose it because it had a reasonable sized motor, 33cm cut , a double control lever and was reasonably strong. However I can’t get a new blade for it. Qualcast disown it as it was made under licence and Homebase have no spares of any sort. I did source a blade from an independent supplier but it wasn’t the correct size. Apparently the model has changed since first introduced.

Homebase have offered to exchange it for me as a good will gesture (!) but can’t give any assurance that spares will be available for any other Qualcast mower I have in its place. Not a good situation at all.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Unless the blade has been seriously damaged, it should be easy to sharpen. If you do need a new blade a lawnmower engineer should be able to provide or modify a blade to fit. 33 cm Qualcast blades are available from online suppliers, so it might be worth doing a Google search.

Member
Brian says:
10 May 2012

As I said, I found a blade for that model of mower from an independent supplier but it doesn’t fit. It appears that “Qualcast” changed the design part way through.

However, I shouldn’t have to go to this trouble with a machine that is just over a year old – parts should still be available. I expected better from a machine made by Qualcast and supplied by Homebase.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

This has been a problem for years and it is not helped by the fact that manufacturers frequently update their products. You obviously have rights under the Sale of Goods Act but lawnmower blades are probably excluded because they will regarded as items that may need to be replaced as a result of use. That is no help if replacements are not available.

Member
Brian says:
10 May 2012

Quite right – I don’t expect to be given a replacement blade but I do expect spares to be available. Am I supposed to bodge the machine if a part goes? Or throw it away even though it is only just over a year old?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

As far as I know, there is no legal requirement for manufacturers to hold a stock of spares for a fixed length of time. If they cannot supply spares it is likely to damage their reputation. Trade associations may have a code of conduct for members.

This is not the first time that non-availability of spares has come up on Which? Conversation and I suspect that premature failure combined with lack of spares is a major contributor to our mountains of consumer waste.

The traditional solution, used by both amateurs and professionals, is to find an identical model with a different fault and make one good machine out of two. Fair enough for antiquated equipment but not reasonable for a product one year old.

Member
David says:
31 May 2012

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Brand names are traded freely and what is a reputable name one minute can be quite worthless the next. The camera lens maker Vivitar, for example, used to make top-quality opticals often used by photography professionals. But the name was sold to another company which simply uses it to badge cheap point-and-shoot cameras from China.
Nothing illegal about that, but it’s certainly trading on past glories.
As for Qualcast, I can find no information on the current owner since Bosch disposed of it.
A reference “who owns who” website would be a start.

Member
Stephanie says:
6 January 2013

I came to this page after buying a Spear and Jackson Select Stainless Steel Soil Rake from Tesco Express. The rake had received good reviews in the press and on the web and at £11.95 it was apparently significantly cheaper than the same rake selling on Amazon and other retailers. However on receiving the tool I noticed that the join between the head and the head differed from the one on the photo. I suspected something fishy and your report confirmed my suspicions. I have now lost all faith in the brand and am considering returning the rake.

Member
Stephanie says:
6 January 2013

Sorry, I meant the join between the head and the handle, of course. And I bought the rake from Tesco Direct for £11.97.

Member
Jim watson says:
22 August 2013

I have been a victim of this last year. I bought a Spear and Jackson hedge trimmer at Argos which lasted a day, yes ONE DAY. I took it back and got another which lasted not much longer and they then gave me another which I reckon has lasted about an hour or maybe an hour and half but I forgot to use it before the warranty ran out so it was a month out of warranty and they basically said tough. Spear and Jackson have admitted that they licence their name but they seemed interested in my case and I think they are worried about their reputation being ruined by cases like this..

Profile photo of wavechange
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Jim

Even if Spear and Jackson are no longer selling high quality products, they should be reasonably durable and fit for their purpose. Your rights are against Argos, the retailer, and not the manufacturer.

Have a look at the current Conversation about the Sale of Goods Act. I suggest you print a copy of the information provided on the Which? website and show this to Argos. The fact that you have had the hedge trimmer replaced twice could be good evidence that the product is substandard. After this time the hedge trimmer might be obsolete and you could be offered either a different model, a partial refund to allow for use, or if you are lucky a full refund.

Member
Brian wh. says:
19 October 2014

Spear and Jackson? no leave it. Badge engineering again.It would appear that Einhell are involved in some way in the marketing of as many as six different labelled trimmers. If like me you are capable of taking apart and finding the guilty fault,forget it if you want spares. I had an S&J 600w Hedge trimmer. After doing 6 hedge cuts it failed on big end pin &bearing inside of the gear assembly. [Not repairable]. They are inferior materials,ie. the steel is not properly hardened.
This is why Makita cost twice as much for the same size and power.You only get what you pay for.

Member
Jim watson says:
23 August 2013

Hi Wavechange, thanks for that. The model is actually obsolete now and if I go to the trouble of getting an independent expert to verify it is of poor manufacture they did say I would get a refund due to the obsolescence of the item. I nearly offered to buy a much more expensive Bosch item if they gave me a full refund as part exchange so to speak but I do not really want to buy anything from them ever again. However I will probably go back with a print out of that Sale of Goods act, cheers for now, Jim.

Member
John Lee says:
28 April 2014

About 2 years ago I purchased what I thought was a Qualcast strimmer from Argos. After just over a year of use the base of the spool housing stared to wear through. (This is a bump feed model so such wear is a feature.) I visited my local Qualcast agent for a replacement and was told that from the model number they knew it was an “Argos Special” and they could not supply a spare part. They suggested I try Argos. No spare part for this model is listed on the Argos Spares website. I managed to bodge a repair which enabled me to use the strimmer to the end of last summer. The spool cover has now failed completely and I have now had to purchase a new srtimmer, this time a Bosch model. This is also a bump feed design but has a metal plate to protect the spool cover from wear.
I think that this type of false branding should be made illegal. It is totally misleading to consumers.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

It is disappointing that this topic has not resulted in many comments.

I see it as FRAUD to market a product under a brand name if that company does not own the brand. This practice just shows how little respect well known companies have for the consumer.

It is time for consumers to push for ten year warranties on most ‘consumer durables’. They can carry on playing their silly games and the consumer would be protected from buying second rate products. If manufacturers are responsible for the cost of repair of goods (assuming they have not been abused), product quality will have to improve to avoid them having to face the cost of repair/replacement of insufficiently durable products.

Member
Old school says:
30 June 2014

I purchased from Argos “Qualcast” strimmer. Having problems with the feed I thought I would contact Qualcast. On the web a Homebase window opens saying “Oops” something is wrong. I thought it was a fault that would be rectified but but no, it seems impossible to contact Qualcast. I cannot believe that this “passing off” can be legal because in effect my strimmer is counterfeit.

Has there been no explanation by either Argos or Homebase? Surely they should publish a warning – that the product you are buying is not “Qualcast”? I chose Qualcast on the strength of their past reputation!

Profile photo of philthunder
Member

I think Which is just as bad at misleading. In the recent review of lawnmowers Which states ”

“The Qualcast brand was started in 1920 and is still going strong”.

What is not mentioned is that Qualcast started out as a British company but is now Chinese owned and manufactured! And many of the other products mentioned are not British anymore. With new EEC directives requiring Country of Origin surely Which can inform us of the companies which are British owned and/or manufacturing in the UK. Japanese company Makita has a big production facility in Telford and German company Bosch make their mowers here. With the resurgence of Made in Britain at least Which should be supporting it even if our Government does not.
The Bradshaws are a British family who spent a year trying to exist on British produce. They are now trying to get support for Made in Britain. Many manufactures have signed up but the Government has not! You might like to support our manufacturing and sign up your support too, [link removed, thanks mods.]

Member
Alan S says:
8 April 2015

If you want quality well built British made garden tools then the only real brand is Bulldog.

Member
Marie says:
5 June 2015

After almost 20 years the time came to buy a new lawnmower. I opted for a Qualcast and purchased one from Homebase. At the checkout I was offered a 3 year warranty for £14.99, which I declined as it stated on the side of the box that it was guaranteed for 2 years. There was nothing inside the box or in the instruction manual to verify this, so I decided to contact the phone number thereon to ask about it. Very disappointed to discover the phone number belonged to Homebase. I then discovered the article about Homebase using the Qualcast name. It should state on the box that Qualcast products are now made by Homebase. Fortunately we have a big loft to keep the box in.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

According to Which?:

“Qualcast is an English brand, based in Derbyshire, that started making lawn mowers in 1920. Its first mower was a hand-push cylinder and the brand is still well known for cylinder mowers, including the Atco and Suffolk Punch range. Qualcast is now owned by Bosch, which in January 2011 signed an eight-year licence agreement with the Home Retail Group (Argos and Homebase) for exclusive use of the Qualcast name.

In May 2011, UK lawn mower brand Allett acquired the design and manufacturing rights to the former Atco and Suffolk Punch branded petrol and electric push-cylinder mowers. These have now formed the new ‘green and gold’ Classic and Expert cylinder mower ranges. If you have a Suffolk Punch or Atco mower that needs parts, it may be worth looking to see if an Allett part would do the job.

The Atco and Suffolk Punch brand names have been sold by Bosch to Global Gardening Products (GPP). GPP launched a new range of Atco lawn mowers in 2012.”

When we trust a brand name it seems wrong that the name can be transferred to someone who may, or may not, uphold that names previous standards. It seems like deception. I hasten to add that in this case I do not believe Bosch and Allett to be acting deceptively; it is the principle. I could argue against that because even if a trusted brand stays in the same company, that company can be bought, or the original company may change its standards. So perhaps the only safe way is not to trust brands, just a properly tested product.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

I think the Brand at the top should be part of the product name.

In your example Atco should be called Bosch Atco, Allett Atco, GPP Atco.

You might like products made by Bosch but not GPP and using a brand name to pass off what might be cheaper products is deception.

Member
John Gibbings says:
21 July 2015

Having purchased a Qualcast 1600W x 37cm Electric Rotary Mower, I discovered the Blade had been ground incorrectly reducing it’s efficiency. Trying to contact Qualcast only got me Argos, where I had made the purchase. It struck me that firm with so much experience should make such a fundamental mistake, now I know why, it is obviously a substitute, and not up to scratch, so I believe Qualcast/Bosch have made a serious error of judgement in allowing this public deception, I can’t understand why there is no law infringed here.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

It is without a doubt a scandal of major proportions that there is the passing off of duff stuff.

Which? I consider has been negligent in not making this a major plank in consumer rights. The answer to the problem would appear to be publicity and actually boycotting or running a campaign against Bosch for being party to this business practice.

I am a fan of Robert Bosch and I know they had as a conglomerate financial pressures but as it stand we are being manipulated. In the US the famous name of Polaroid ended up with a Chinese firm and they used the name to dump some of the worst TV’s ever tested on the US market.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Product branding is has become rather meaningless these days; the only brand you may rely on is a company that puts things right when they go wrong. But that is not enough. Products are bought in complete and rebranded – John Lewis’s and Marks and Spencer’s appliances that score badly for example. LED’s sourced from the Far East and marketed under different brands in Europe. Cars made in cheaper factories in countries other than the one you had assumed (MB for example). Japanese cameras made in China. Not all necessarily bad, but it is misleading in my view.

I do sympathise. As European labour costs have increased, products with substantial work content need to be made cheaper elsewhere, it seems, to satisfy our requirements on price (I’m not a subscriber to that view – I’d rather pay for quality than save money but get a less-good product). But what about automated production – why is that cheaper in, say, China? I remember buying plastic injection mouldings and aluminium pressure die castings from the Far East significantly cheaper, in a process where the main costs are material, expensive machinery and factory overheads – not much labour. So it’s about subsidised industry.

Which? has a problem in how to assess branded products because of their variable origin. Individual products need to be assessed on their own merits, rather than as a product from a known manufacturer. Perhaps they should state whether products are manufactured totally in the supplier’s base factory, or are rebranded imports. This is one reason I am against Which? making money form a “Best Buy” product by allowing the “producer” to advertise as such; I believe many people will link the best buy status with the brand, rather than the product. This may not be justified. Try Sony – Xperia Z phones for example.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Malcolms right Bosch whom I had in the past a high regard for has gone down the “globalisation ” road ,if you want to get the truth go to America they value their hard earned tax dollars and boy do they condemn Bosch products .I didnt realise they were “into ” so many kitchen products which according to many there do not come up to the standard of US built products at first glance you say –well they are manufactured in the US -WRONG ! they are assembled in the US from -thats right the four corners of the earth and Bosch power tools well apart from 2 made in Germany/ Switzerland all the rest are manufactured in =Malaysia/Mexico/Taiwan/and of coarse China . The only real deal ?? the good old Allet now owned by UK manufacturer =Turfmech Machinery -a good company it seems. Malcolm you are on the money with your suggestion to Which back it all the way.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I have been concerned about the variable quality of well known brands for years. Even within a product category, it’s not uncommon to find good and bad. For example Which? currently has a number of Samsung TVs listed as Best Buys, but there’s a couple of Don’t Buy TVs from the same manufacturer. There are plenty of other examples. In my view, it’s best to look at individual products and not just brands.

Malcolm mentions products sold under the John Lewis and Marks & Spencer names, but there are many household appliances and other electrical products may be sold as two or more well known brands with only cosmetic differences.

Whether goods sold under European or US brand names but manufactured in China etc. are good or poor will depend on quality control, and anyone who brands all products from China as rubbish might be well advised to check where their favourite products were made.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Nothing in my house is made in China. My top end hi-fi is manufactured by a well know English company who designed and built it -in house. My vacuum isnt Chinese nor is my old Philips flatscreen all my test equipment is either British built or American built -yes made/designed in the US . MY PC is British built with Japanese parts my bed is UK manufactured . MY light bulbs (edison screw ) are made in Europe my shoes uk made my clothes uk made my watch Japanese . My radio,s UK made my car UK made None of my hand tools are madec in China . I do not buy Chinese even when labeled otherwise to con the public . I have a masive amount of technical (electronic /mechanical etc ) books none are made in China . My electrical wiring is UK made as is my sockets as is my main supply box . All my garden tools are well know manufactured in UK /Europe components . MY car tires are European my cooker made in Poland can supply the district if required my paper shredder is 100 % US made/manufactured (very well known company -high quality ) Do I have anything made in China =yes 2 broken tin openers made to a very low standard of mechanical build quality and third grade steel.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Duncan – I used to buy goods made in Europe, preferably in the UK. Unfortunately companies have either disappeared or their goods are now made in China and other distant countries. It’s disappointing that former British brands are now used to encourage us to buy these goods. I am even more concerned that other countries now have so much control over our energy industry.

Anyone buying online may not have a clue of where products are made. I am concerned about the problem that is the focus of this Conversation, since choosing products is to some extent governed by our past experience of a brand.

I’d be grateful for your recommendation of a decent quality shredder. I have had two domestic ones fail in the past year and I doubt the third will survive long.

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We have a Rexel V-15s that must be at least 10 years old now that was made in China.

Still going strong with regular use. Don’t know what the newer ones are like though.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thanks Alfa. For many years I used to do my shredding at work in one of the large office shredders. The worked fine for years without oiling or other maintenance. If you look at users’ comments on the Which? website and elsewhere you will see that I’m not the only one struggling with domestic shredders.

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I’ve a Rexel V35WS made in China (it was a Christmas present!). Capacity 5 sheets (not really, it struggles). Duty cycle 1 min on, 10 min off. It clogs fairly easily. Tedious to use so really a toy product.

However I have a number of things made in China – not from choice, just as it happened. Clothes, a couple of power tools, camera, etc and cannot fault them. Japan was once like China, but look at how they produced superb cameras, electronics and taught us how to make cars and motorcycles .

No doubt costs will increase as the labour pool becomes more powerful. Then manufacturing will shift again. Africa must be a future contender.

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I forgot it clogged up if you put too much in at one time. We are so used to only putting 3 layers of paper in it that clogging is not a problem.

We tend to shred as we go so it doesn’t pile up.

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Wavechange this is the Gestetner -type -ZGA this company makes them in Germany/USA and lately Japan . This company had products in every big /quality business that I entered in a major city to repair business Call-Connect telephone systems because it was reliable very well made -durable etc .Mine is made in Germany . I bought it from a printing shop that closed down but took some of the stock to a car-boot sale-cost ? £5 it has never let me down in the years that I have used it. If you manage to jam it ,it has a reset (switch off remove jammed paper switch on )

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Thanks Duncan. You are referring to a commercial machine rather than a small domestic model. One of the perks of my job was that I could always use the large commercial shredder to get rid of my own financial paperwork.

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Wavechange this is one of the smallest in their range =43CM long -11CM tubular rubber band ends to stop marking desk-top ideal small office/home .

Profile photo of wavechange
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I now have ‘shredder envy’, Duncan. 🙂 It seems that Gestetner were taken over by Ricoh. I’m very familiar with the higher build quality of some goods that are designed primarily for the non-domestic market.

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@wavechange

Are you still looking for a shredder? No idea what they are like but there are a few on early Amazon Black Friday deals, one is marked down from £1174 RRP to £299. No idea what it is like though.

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Hi Alfa – I was keen on a fairly compact shredder to keep next my desk. I managed to kill two shredders in a matter of months, despite taking great care not to overtax them. The first one should have been returned to the retailer but I decided to take it apart and try to get it working again. On this occasion I was unsuccessful and had invalidated the warranty by dismantling it. The second one belonged to my neighbour, who had not kept the receipt.

Which? members’ reviews did not give me any confidence, so I bought a shredder with a 2 year guarantee from John Lewis and oil its bits every time I empty the bin, yet it does not sound happy. I doubt it will outlast the warranty. If it does not, I will invest in a proper office shredder and store it somewhere else.

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As others have noted, “Brand” or “Badge” engineering is a long established practice. Beer enthusiasts, including CAMRA members, will know all about how this operates in respect of that most important commodity: BEER and its “inferior” competitor “lager” 😉

“Caveat emptor” is an even longer established practice though. So is reading, e.g. to look for words like “Made in the UK” (or its absence) on any packaging. In “software engineering” they have an FLA (four letter acronym): RTFM – “read the fine manual”.

I guess if you want cheap but serviceable tools, go to a normal shop and use your skill and judgement to check them out. But if you need robust quality tools, find out where your friends in the trade get theirs and do likewise.

So of us, old ‘uns will even remember the days when Austin, Morris, Riley and Wolsley cars were all made in the same British factories.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Maybe it would be helpful if the manufacturers of garden tools and other products offered us some reassurance of the pedigree of products sold under their brand name

I recall when Kelloggs started advertising that ‘We don’t make cereals for anyone else’.

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I think the trouble is that, in the UK, we have, ahem, “progressed” from being a manufacturing economy. So, in a lot of cases, we no longer have “manufacturers” as such. They all closed down their factories years ago, sold-off and redeveloped the land for housing and sold on their “brands” to conglomerates (and to the likes of Argos).

So, whether it is “smelly” kettles or cheap gardening tools, these now almost all come from big factories in China.

Some brand owners do work hard to maintain the “cachet” of their brands. When I used to be a very active member of the Harley Owners Group, I got to know many of their permanent UK staff, including their brand enforcement team. In those times, it was said that the Motor Company actually made much more money from the licensing of its brand for use on “authorised” products (e.g. clothing and fashion accessories) than it did from the sales of its motorcycles.

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Derek -you mean we are now a “service ” industry -correct, courtesy of our once “great ” leader -quote- I dont understand engineering — and she didnt so closed it down from Lands End to John O, Groats . Its good to know there is another “biker ” here since I was 16 I have owned many well know British bikes I still have my 59 club badge and members card when it existed on the North Circular Road even went for parts to the “Twickenham Graveyard ” a place where old bikes were kept just like a car scrap yard I have one of their steel badges, too many accidents so in the 70,s bought a car ,not the same when journeying from London to Brighton in the 60,s I broke down with girl-friend on back a car stopped and helped us -he said -quote I only stopped because you are a biker- a lot of loyalty in those days.Remember my first baked potato on Brighton Pier.

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I rely on reputation of decent brands. I am shocked that this practice is permitted. It should not be allowed. It feels like deliberately fraudulent behaviour to me. I am about to buy something to replace an item which lasted 30+ years. I would prefer buy Wilkinson Sword as it is the same brand as this but I cannot be sure who has made it!

Member
julia says:
17 May 2016

guys, I have just bought a lawn mover (Qualcast) and not opened it yet-reading all these comments is making me nervous-is my lawn mover Qualcast or Argos brand?
Julia

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Argos is a selling agent for Qualcast products ,which,as far as I know was an English company in Derby. Bosch now owns the company but signed a contract with Home Retail Group so their products although labeled Qualcast are their own brand . Allett manufacture the Suffolk Punch etc

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Julia maybe I havent been explicit enough your Argos lawn mower labeled “Qualcast ” will NOT be the original company but a “brand labeled ” product made elsewhere by third parties not necessarily in this country. Allett is the company to deal with .

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In my experience their is nothing wrong with Argos own brand power tools, so long as you just want a cheap item for light domestic duties.

On the other hand, if you have several acres to mow, then you want to seek out the sort of kit that professionals use.

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Choosing the quality to suit your purpose is vital. I wanted a pair of loppers for pruning roses etc. that were too heavy for secateurs. I bought a cheap set in Lidl in the knowledge that they were lightly built. They were fine for their intended purpose.

I have been recently been doing some work on shrubs and trees and not having decent loppers to hand I thought I would try the Lidl ones in case I had underestimated their capabilities. They broke today. Now to buy a set that is up to the job.

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An allegory wavechange ? if so one that I agree with. I always save up and buy good ,lessons learned in life.

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dieseltaylor says:
18 May 2016

The Honda petrol mower I have was made in 1993 in France . You can currently buy one second -hand for £250.

Building quality products seems not impossible.

My Dualit Toaster is over 20 years old. The Bosch washer around 18. Buying products actually made by the genuine firm seems a good idea in my opinion.

I think someone has already suggested then empowering consumers might mean we being told when the famous name is being used by another company – who might buy the name to pass off cheap and nasty products. Which? would be the natural place, you would think, for subscribers to be able to check this out with a ready reference Wikipedia.

Which? only pay laboratories to test for short periods when the product is new so for their reliability tables a pinch of salt is needed as they are based on poor questions.

In the Which? Connect survey this month they ask about my electronics. My DVD for instance, [Sony] , they ask have I had any problems. Well I think I have used it once this year and other than that has been unplugged. I can assure everyone it is 100% reliable. Very slightly more reliable than my Humax which is on 24/7 and recording hours of TV shows daily.

A great shame that Which? does not ask the relevant questions. Particularly where some people can have such varying usage times as with gardening equipment. Or even DVD players.

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Good old-fashioned mowers can last for decades. The newest of my three dates from about 1997 while the other two are about 10 years older. I think all were made in the UK by Flymo and none were particularly expensive when purchased new.

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Long-term testing of many products would be of no use because they would have been discontinued by the time Which? published their tests. In my view, the best approach is to look for longer guarantees and encourage everyone to do this, creating a demand.

The worst advertising I know is by Miele, which claims “Tested for the equivalent of 20 years equivalent usage”, yet gives a guarantee of only 2 years on many of its products. They were taken to task for this in Australia.

When low energy lighting was introduced the manufacturers started claiming that their products will last for years, but without a guarantee to match. This is based on use for 2.7 hours per day rather than total use. We knew where we were when old fashioned light bulbs were designed to last 1000 hours, on average.

Let’s have decent products backed by decent guarantees. That’s what will convince me a product is worth buying.

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I do try and do the Which? Connect surveys but when asked how long I have had the product, it usually goes on to the next product as it is not interested in older reliable products !!!

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Miele products last a long time because, in the main, they are well built and well designed with quality components. They test them for the equivalent of 20 years to highlight any deficiencies. To condemn them by saying they only offer 2 year guarantees is a bit disingenuous – they frequently offer 5 years or more.

The German consumer association tests washing machines in a way that simulates a long life; a pity we don’t get that same information so we could choose more durable products.

Product durabililty depends, among other things, on good design, good quality components and well-controlled manufacturing quality. I want to see more durable products and recognise that they will cost more. But is it better to buy a £600 machine that lasts 10 years, or a £300 one that might last for 3? The consumer can choose. I’d like information on durability to help make this choice.

Many light bulbs in the main last a long time now. Guarantee or not.

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Long term testing is of great value, but is done on a compressed time scale to evaluate the likely life of a product. Accelerated life testing is a widely used and soundly based method. Many products are open to this technique. There are also many reputable manufacturers who do not change their modus operandi, such as degrading quality.

I paid a good chunk of money for mrs r’s Felco secateurs, and they work as well now as when they were new. As someone pointed out you can buy spares; I lost a small part and replaced it fairly cheaply.

I’ve had long-lasting Miele procucts. I’ve a 20 year old Honda lawnmower that starts every time and my knowledge of owners of current ones find the same.

The EU and BEUC support durable products. We should demand information on durability when products are tested. The Germans do it.

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Yes diesel Humax is a good make , my 2 sat/freeview boxes are Technomate bought direct from the importer in Edmonton , London N 18

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Malcolm – Bosch used to be a decent brand but they have moved downmarket. As we have learned in another Convo, they are now making sealed tank washing machines that prevent bearings being replaced and they now have introduced ‘sealed doors’, so a faulty part means a very expensive repair. Hold on to your Honda lawnmower as long as possible because the build quality of Honda engines fitted to lawnmowers sold for domestic use is nothing like as good as it was.

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Good advice wavechange.

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Bosch Washing machines – as far as I know not all Bosch have sealed drums and doors. This is information Which? should be giving us to help decide what we should be buying. However, if Bosch provide good quality bearings and doors then this may not be an issue.

Honda seem to be offering 7 year warranties on lawn mowers. I support that.

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It’s good to know that Honda are offering 7 year guarantees. The old engines were better made and many old Honda generators are still in use. I have one but it’s only used during power cuts these days.

To quote our washing machine guru Kenneth Watt (10 months ago): “All Indesit Group, now Whirlpool are now all sealed tanks.All Beko are sealed.Most Electrolux Group are sealed.Many, if not most Bosch Group are sealed.All Candy Hoover are sealed.In the mass market you will struggle to find models now that do not have sealed tanks.” Of course it would be good to know, especially now that the repairability and build quality often declines rather than improves.

Meanwhile back on garden tools, I have been many garden forks with bent tines. One made of the correct grade of steel is well worth having if you have heavy soil.

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I decided many years ago that as a guide you get what you pay for (providing you use a bit of common sense and investigation). Tools in my workshop for example I’ve decent saws, chisels router bits, circular saw blades, that stay sharp and can be resharpened. I’ve tried cheaper versions, and they don’t stay sharp and may be not worth resharpening. the good ones last a lifetime – and will be good to pass onto children.

I’ve been more than happy with Miele appliances, i’ve had good
service from Bosch washing machines – we’ve not bought cheap but we’ve paid less per year in effect because they have lasted well.

I think Which? need to pay much more attention to build and design quality, repairability and durability so that those who are in a position to be choosy, and who recognise real value, are given the information to make a properly considered decision.

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Thoroughly agree with you Malcolm but it is hard finding tools to last a lifetime these day.

Our 10 year old Bosch washing machine broke down at just over 2 years old and was an expensive repair. The Bosch fridge freezer is still going strong at over 15 years old.

All our best tools were stolen from the shed some years back and good replacements have been hard to find. We also don’t buy cheap but have still bought several garden shears, several garden forks, several loppers as they have proved not up to the task. They just don’t make them like they used to any more.

Manufacturers seem to take a lot of notice of Which? So if build and design quality, repairability and durability were major considerations in reviews, it could have a positive impact as companies strive to be better than their competitors.

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With tools there is considerable variability in quality. When I was younger I tended to buy the well known brands but have been dismayed to discover better quality cheaper products that are obviously much better value for money. Which? and other tests have often shown this, yet the power of advertising means that many stick to familiar brands, even when they are no longer owned by the same company.

I have even seen quality variations within brands. For example I have a Bahco adjustable spanner I bought in the 70s and it is still in good condition despite considerable use. I bought different size of Bahco adjustable from the same shop soon after and it was soon apparent that it was much inferior.

One way of improving your chances of buying quality products is to go for ones that are sold for non-domestic use, such as Felco secateurs, and it’s not always necessary to have an account with a distributor these days. Most professionals would not tolerate substandard goods.

I would love Which? to do more advance testing covering repairability and durability, but there is not much sign of this happening.

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Wavechange,

I got fed up with useless loppers some costing around £50.

I already had Felco secateurs that I was very happy with, so about 5 years ago, I decided to invest in Felco loppers that cost around £120 and don’t regret it. Can’t remember why, but I went for the carbon handles and they have been excellent.

The beauty of Felco is all parts are replaceable. My secateurs needed a new spring when they were about 15 years old and it was no problem to get one.

I have used World of Felco online several times and their prices are rather better than garden centres.

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I bought Felco secateurs because I use them regularly. I find my Wilkinson Sword ones more comfortable but the pivot bolt has to be tightened periodically because they don’t have a locking adjuster like the Felco ones.

There was no point in buying expensive loppers when they were used once a year for light work. Now that I will need to use loppers regularly it’s time to get a decent set. Back in the 90s I used to do conservation work and our group had a pair of cheap loppers that were very heavily used, often abused, and carried on working.

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At our previous house we had a lot of trees and shrubs and I did a lot of lopping and pruning. I gradually built up a range of Wolf tools and they have performed exceedingly well. I use them less often now but will not part with any of them because of their superior quality and durability. I also have three Bosch electric lawnmowers of varying sizes and they have served me very well with no difficulty getting replacement blades. I recently bought an excellent pair of secateurs in Sainsbury’s for light work [£6 if I remember correctly] and worked with them for over two hours today chopping up a bamboo plant which had overgrown its position. I didn’t want to use my best secateurs on it and the Sainsbury’s ones performed very well . . . I now need a decent tool to get the root out – a day’s work perhaps with the replacement Wilkinson Sword spade [made by Fiskars] that I wrote about at the top of this Conversation.

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dieseltaylor says:
19 May 2016

I think the main point is that we do not have any other testing organisation other than Which? in the UK. Obviously Which? like other media employs people to do the testing. The difference is that Which? is the non-commercial charity working for its subscribers and therefore should be more trustworthy and also more receptive to what its subscribers want.

Unfortunately it appears to be run by people who are happy to weaken the testing side and happier in becoming commercial and gaining column inches. And also duplicating Citizens Advice website consumer advice and letters

This might be acceptable if Which? actually worked smarter by utilising the good work carried out by enthusiasts and available through YouTube, Vimeo and websites. However Which? seems to have a rooted aversion to mentioning sites beneficial to subscribers.

There is a site pavingexpert which is authoritative, there are people showing how to use wago, a man shows how useful various makes of wallplugs are in plasterboard walls. There is a so much good information that subscribers could be directed to, or warned off from.

So as I have outlined previously in the thread durability and good testing are important to many subscribers and yet we do not seem to get it. I have a friend who is probably the UK expert on all tool companies and who bought out who and when, and what tools are worth buying.

Can I post this information on Which? . No because there is no facility [or desire] to use the collective wisdom of the subscribers.

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dieseltaylor, I totally agree. I wish we could have a proper discussion with Which? about such matters. The New Conversation might be appropriate, but as it basically involves members it could be better on the Which? Member Community – if only that were more functional and better used. Or, of course, they could involve Which? members through Connect, or even invite an open discussion with a proper survey through their magazine. After the EU referendum – though I hope we don’t copy the tactics of either side.

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Hi Diesel, if you think the link would be useful you can post it here. I’ll keep a look out so that I can approve the comment. Also happy to share it with the Gardening team

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dieseltaylor says:
19 May 2016

The site is: pavingexpert.com which is run in the UK by a professional who loves his work and the site is vast and well worth a read if you are interested. It doe have practical applications if you are looking at commissioning work.

It is not encyclopedic as I have used cheap polypropylene jacks for supporting a 300 sq.ft garden room on a slope and AFAIR they are not something he covers.

My experience of using plastic grid, gravels and railway sleepers would I suspect be of interest as it is a very useful alternative to the omnipresent brick pavers [pavours]. It is very easy to pay [as a neighbour has] well north of £10000 on a patio where functionally a similar result could have been had for 20% of that.

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Thank you diesel, I’ve made it into a clickable link for you.

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@patrick
People post many useful links here which get lost after a very short time.

Any chance we could have a section of useful links posted by registered users?

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Hmm it’s an idea Alfa and a fair point. It just might require vetting etc. I’ll mull it over

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…and suggested in 1998 but turned down. We did try it ourselves, but one issue is that links don’t seem to stay ‘active’ for all that long.

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dieseltaylor says:
19 May 2016

I can vouch for pavingexpert being around for at least a decade ….

And with a larger active community and a curating system of some sort it could be a goer. Reader reports duff link or a suspect piece of information …

In fact the duff link problem surely can be covered by having a prog that advises of changes to the watched page.

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I have just replaced my old Yeoman secateurs (do they still make them?) with a smaller Spear & Jackson pair which are much easier on my grip but I am still experiencing the same problem releasing the open/close lever which is always very stiff to push up and down.. The old Wilkinson loppers are not working as well as they have been used for cutting metal as well as wood! My old electric Flymo Hovermower still works but is rarely used these days as I now employ a gardener to cut the grass. The old strimmer still works although it’s shield has long disappeared so have to wear long boots and eye protection on the few occasions I use it. My two garden rakes, metal one for scarifying and plastic for clearing leaves occasionally decide to part company with their pole much to my annoyance. Can anyone tell me how to make them stay together? I have a very light and handy Wolf-Garten battery operated hedge cutter which causes the shrubs to shiver and shake a bit when they see me approaching as I tend to go a bit crazy with it once I get going! I also have a small but lovely garden which I will miss when I move to another one,

I hope to move soon to another ready established garden, so can’t wait to get started on it, but I will probably need to invest in some more new equipment, plus another gardener to cut the grass!

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I’ve in the past bought a couple of Wolf handles that accept interchangeable heads – a rake, cultivator, hoe and lawn rake. They were (are) not the cheapest but have lasted very well. A bit of WD40 on the handle release and the tool spigots keeps then working nicely.

I assume you get what you pay for with gardeners as well. Good luck and hope your new garden is not so established you won’t add to it. 🙂

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Beryl as regard garden implements parting company with the operating end and the handle you have several options . # 1- is to screw either wood-screws into the two parts leaving an inch or two place between them or drill holes right through both when pushed together and fit bolts with screwed ends for nuts. #2 – is to use some type of proprietary glue that will glue either or all wood/plastic etc and leave to set but make sure its expensive high quality stuff . Personally being an ex engineer I use the first method . I also wholeheartedly approve of buying high quality implements like garden tools and in regards to wavechanges comment on sharpening them cheap ones use inferior grade metal as well as metal unsuitable to sharpening ,which although look shiny and sharp are poor value in the long run . High carbon steel is a good one to use but some stainless steel wont sharpen properly .

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The lopper and saw on the end of the longest Wolf handles come in very useful for high branches so Wavechange might be interested in them. They do wave about a bit at full height though.

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I have a collection of Gardena tools (same set as Malcolm) and a couple of detachable handles. They were pricey and obviously not selling. The local DIY store decided to sell them off at less than half price and I was lucky to be there at the right time. I wondered if these new-fangled tools would prove durable but they have done well.

My favourite hoe is one that belonged to my grandfather.

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Like Alfa I have enjoyed using my Wolf telescopic handles to reach quite high branches with either the saw or the rope-operated pruner. When I bought them I also bought a helmet with faceguard and always wear it when doing work with the extension pole. A way of improving the manual control of implements is to wear gloves with rubber facings on the palms and fingers. I rarely use any tool, even a screwdriver, without wearing gloves because of the increased control as well as the protection. I have a high regard for Gardena products and have many of their interchangeable heads and handles, as well as a very long hose that does not kink and is easy to coil up after use. Many of my best tools were bought in 1976 when I first bought a property with a garden and are still in use today.

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Thanks Alfa. I will have a look at the Wolf loppers. I don’t think I can justify paying Felco prices for ones that I might not use very often once the garden is under control. Like John, I am very happy with my Gardena hose, which has had a lot of use.

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Perhaps, Wavechange, you will be able to change the amount of waving about that Alfa reports with his loppers.

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I cannot think of an easy way to stop a long pole waving about, but I do enjoy improving everyday products. A relevant example was the addition of a couple of metres of length of flexible garden hose to the hedge trimmer cable where it was at risk of being cut accidentally. The diameter of the hose is larger than the gaps in the blades. Orange Gardena hose does not look out of place on an orange cable. I deserve no credit because I copied the idea from a friend who had protected the cable of his electric planer in this way.