Shop Floor Talk  

Go Back   Shop Floor Talk > Welding and Metalworking Forums > Fabrication

SFT Search:   
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 06-16-2014, 07:25 PM
houstonch73 houstonch73 is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: May 2014
Location: Houston
Posts: 13
Default buying steel? variable prices?

I'm new at welding and have built a couple shelves and such but nothing major. I'm definitely still learning. I need to ask if my experience buying steel is "normal".

First I called the closest steel supply (that I know of) to my house. Steel Supply in NW Houston. (http://www.steelsupplylp.com/) I asked how much a piece of 16ga, 1" square steel tubing costs. Btw, it comes in 24ft lengths. The phone salesman immediately said "$15 a piece". I explained I was drawing something up, just more simple shelving and needed to know for that. Later on I went to the NW location to buy the steel.

Any time that I have been there in the past, I've noticed that nothing in the storefront is priced. And anytime you ask one of the counter guys about price, they click on the computers, click around some more, hesitate, think and then say a price. It seems like they don't have a price sheet they refer to but instead maybe check cost and then size you up and determine what to charge. Today pretty much played out that way. I told the salesguy I wanted 5 pieces of 1" square 16ga. He clicks, clicks some more, hesitates and finally I say that I had called earlier and was quoted $15 a piece. He immediately says "oh, ok, so that's what you were quoted? That's cool". And then he punches it in. I laugh and tell him "nah....maybe it was $14 a piece" and he pauses and says "let me see what I can do".......more sighing, clicking around and finally says "I can give it to you for $14.90". I laughed and said "wow......really appreciate the 50ct price break on the 5 piece order your'e sliding me". He then says "well hang on.......ok.......I can do $14.20". At this point I'm convinced he's pulling numbers out of his head. I said thanks and that I appreciate it as every little bit counts."

Get my ticket and on the way to the pickup area I see some welding machines, carts and such. I spy a nice little cart that I could use and sure enough, no price on it. I ask another salesguy. He starts punching around on the computer and (pointing to the screen I can't see) asks another guy "is this that cart over there" and asks how much is it. The older guy walks over looks at the screen, the cart, then finally at me before looking at the screen again and says "It was on sale last week for $110 but its $130 now. We can still give you that sale price though." Well I didn't come for a cart so I said thanks and let me get this job done. While waiting for my steel to be loaded I look it up online and see it almost everywhere for $75 normal price and with some research I finally find it for $50. I understand just like ammo at the gun range, things like this will be more expensive but I seriously believe I was sized up and the price was pitched.


So to get to the point........is it normal for a place to have a price sheet that they can refer to? Or are all steel sales like buying a used car? Is there somewhere online where I can see what is the going rate (generally) for steel? The way it is now, I ask a price and short of driving around and finding some other shops, I have no way of knowing. The guys there seem nice enough but I really feel like I'm getting screwed. And more specifically, any recommendations for steel supply places in Houston TX?
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 06-16-2014, 07:56 PM
dubby's Avatar
dubby dubby is offline
Twice the size--half the man
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Lubbock, TX
Posts: 9,716
Default

The easy answer is that your experience is typical anywhere in the country. It's how the business works, though your salesman probably isn't very good at hiding it.

All metals are sold based on their weight. It doesn't matter WHAT size/shape piece you bought to them. What all that typing was doing was adding up the weight of the pieces you were purchasing. Metal prices are also revised regularly (some lots even daily) based on their overall market trading price. If steel supply is short, cost will be more. Steel supply goes up, price goes down. That's why there's no price tags on anything.

And, yeah, like buying a car they're gonna do what they can to make the most money. If you walk in off the street and pay for something as a "Cash" sale in their computer--you're going to pay more and the price will vary every time. You want to get your name in there, so when you walk in the door they know who they're dealing with. More importantly, they'll know you want to come back, and they can remember what you bought last time and remember how far backwards they bent you over .

When I go into my metal supplier to buy aluminum, it's based on how much they anticipate me to buy throughout the year--and they give me a price break for it. It's the same as buying in bulk, but they let me spread it out. They know I'm good for 300# every time I pull in the drive, and twice a month I'm gonna stop in.

As to that cart, I bet some guys got that cart off that lot for $75. And some of 'em probably said, "Hey, that's a nice cart...I sure would like to have one". And the salesman said, "Well grab one and put it in your truck". Me, I'm only up to koozies, bottled water, yearly calendars, and bottle openers
__________________
I've always had more time than money.

Wade's Custom Kydex
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 06-16-2014, 08:10 PM
GWIZ's Avatar
GWIZ GWIZ is offline
SFT Historian
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 7,285
Default

As dubby stated.
Most of the places don't go by shape but price per pound.
when you call just ask what price per pound and you can figure the rest.
remember hot rolled and cold rolled are priced differently.

using a calculator your sq. tube is about 18.19 lb.
$15.00 รท 18.19 = $0.824 lb.

That's about the price I'm paying.

Yes a sliding price list if you had an account and promised to purchase say 2500 lb. a year they would likely bring down the price around $0.67 lb.

Some times they will punch in some one else's account number and give a discount.
__________________
*
*
The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment. ~Warren G. Bennis
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 06-16-2014, 08:37 PM
Shade Tree Welder's Avatar
Shade Tree Welder Shade Tree Welder is offline
Grumpy Bastard
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Kankakee County, IL
Posts: 21,033
Default

Open an account with them make up a business name. Pay with cash or
credit card when you buy. But being in the computer makes you a return
customer and not a one time walk in. It gets you out of column A, and likely
into to column C or if you are lucky D.

I do not buy much steel but I still show up with a dozen donuts one a year,
I am sure it saves 100 times that much in a year.
__________________
Shade

"Prepare to defend yourselves."
-- Sergeant Major Basil L. Plumley, Ia Drang Valley
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 06-16-2014, 09:26 PM
Camaro Zach's Avatar
Camaro Zach Camaro Zach is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Alvin Texas
Posts: 765
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shade Tree Welder View Post
Open an account with them make up a business name. Pay with cash

I do not buy much steel but I still show up with a dozen donuts one a year,
I am sure it saves 100 times that much in a year.
Around here there are no mom & pop steel suppliers. The suppliers here serve donuts and coffee every morning to staff and customers.



I agree however, create an account. Or at least have them input your name/address so there will be a record of your purchases. (Most "business" titles require a tax ID# I have found)

Also in the Houston area I try to avoid SteelSupply at all costs.. Every time I buy steel I drive about a mile right past SSI south to www.sss-steel.com south location

A few years ago I was buying quite a bit of material from them and had a great sales lady that would work the numbers and assist with any problem that came up but she has since moved on. Back then metal was between $.25-.50/lb looking at my receipts from this year I have paid between $.49-.83 / pound. Least expensive being angle iron and most expensive being cold rolled round tubing.

From what I understand the sales people have access to the amount the company paid for the material. due to fluctuating markets they may sell for a loss or major profit depends on the salesman and customer.

Sent from my iPhone using SFT
__________________
Buggy
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 06-16-2014, 11:00 PM
dubby's Avatar
dubby dubby is offline
Twice the size--half the man
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Lubbock, TX
Posts: 9,716
Default

As an example, I'll throw this out there for kicks.

The guys in my supplier's office Monday-Friday know me, one was even a friend in high school that I lost touch with until I started buying from them. When I call on the phone, they know my voice and my account without me telling them. I usually tell them anyway just to make sure we're all on the same page, I know they deal with a lot more folks besides me as well so no reason for any confusion.

A few weeks back I called up and ordered some rectangle tubing, and got it at "my" price. I was happy, and budgeted a following project using those quoted prices. When I started the project, I went in on a Saturday morning --when they were all gone--and the lady inside didn't know me. I about fell over when she gave me my total, as I'd figured the material at $.54/# and she hit me with over $1.25/# for import crap. We did some discussing and she found the previous PO and got it all fixed so it all worked out. When I walked in the door she had no reason to look me up in the computer, so charged it as a walk-in. Had I called first, it probably would've been avoided in the first place--plus they'd have had it cut to fit in my truck and banded to load all at once as soon as I pulled in.

Even if you're a regular customer, it helps to learn how they play the game. It'll save ya some money. Being nice is the first lesson. If you walk in with an attitude or in a huff, expect to pay extra for it.
__________________
I've always had more time than money.

Wade's Custom Kydex
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 06-17-2014, 12:13 AM
Walker's Avatar
Walker Walker is offline
Standard of Excellence
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Cave Creek AZ
Posts: 4,671
Default

Ditto, set up an account. Call around first and find out who gives the best walk in price, then set up an account there.
__________________
Walker
Chief slag chipper and floor sweeper, Ironwood Artistic
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 06-17-2014, 01:53 PM
houstonch73 houstonch73 is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: May 2014
Location: Houston
Posts: 13
Default

Thanks for all the input guys! Disappointing to know it is that way but at least I know the game now. I really appreciate the advice and help.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 06-19-2014, 09:41 AM
Roundrocktom's Avatar
Roundrocktom Roundrocktom is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 742
Default

If you belong to any groups..... get together and see where everyone buys from.

We basically all worked through the same salesman. So he would write up as "Metal Club/Cash Acct". About 20% discount, which worked out nicely. Since there were 20 folks, but two to three month, it was still able to show activity and decent volume.

Oh, for scrap prices... Houston is much better than Austin. Sign shop will have a good pile.... 5000 pounds scrap aluminum. About 15c/pound more in Houston (seaport access). Ya, for $750 it covers four hour round trip & fuel.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 06-19-2014, 10:18 PM
JBFab JBFab is offline
Elite Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: North Central Wisconsin
Posts: 1,515
Default

As dubby was explaining, steel is a commodity and is priced as such. We purchase a little over 5,000 tons of steel a year at work. Most of it is shapes, tube, and plate. As was said everything is priced per pound or cwt., but the price varies by shape and family.

For instance, compared to standard shapes sheet is a little higher because there is typically a high demand (think auto industry). HSS is considerably higher because it is nothing more than coil (sheet/plate) that is processed more. Some of your heavier "jumbo" shapes usually command a higher price than standard shapes (which completely baffles me). Grade of steel can make a difference in price too; A588 is more than A500, A572-50 is more than A36 etc.

You are probably best off going to a service center than a fabricator for raw material. We do sell to walk in customers, but we usually have a considerable mark up. We get the steel cheaper than you can, but we have cost into unloading the truck, stocking the rack, pulling the material etc. Cutting, drilling, bending, machining is by the hour, but sometimes its worth it if you don't have the means to do it any other way.
__________________
I believe the appropriate metaphor here involves a river of excrement and a Native American water vessel without any means of propulsion.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
houston, pricing, steel price, steel supply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Web Search:

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:20 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions Inc.