The fun part of any home renovation project is shopping. We try to shop locally when we can, but honestly, it's hard to beat the deals you can find on the Internet.
We recently went to a bath and kitchen showroom in Chicago to get a firsthand look at some of the items we were coveting. The service was great, and the salesman was able to educate us on what to watch for when buying fixtures from different manufacturers. (Plain ol' white porcelain, for instance, is not an industry-standard color.)
During our visit, the sales guy told us how the staff had all accepted pay cuts to keep the company afloat, and how one of their competitors—who had been in business over a hundred years—had to close its doors this year due to the bad economy. Like everything right now, the kitchen/bath industry looks pretty grim.
He typed up our quote, telling us the bid was good "forever," and not just for their standard 30 days, and we took it home to discuss; we never make such large purchases without going home to mull it over a bit. And, admittedly, to comparison shop online to see if the prices are at least in the ballpark of what they should be.
So I do feel bad that we can't go with the local guy this time, who was so nice and who works on commission. But when an hour or two of my time surfing online cuts our bathroom renovation costs by roughly 35%, it's kind of a no brainer; we're watching every penny in this economy just like everyone else. Even if we have to order from four different merchants to get everything we need, the savings are worth it to us right now.
On another note, I think we found a company in Chicago that takes donations of old bathroom fixtures for resale. I'll check them out, see if they'll take our old things, and post the link later this week if it looks like a good thing.