I usually write about cost/benefit for IT but today I am ticked off by electrical parts suppliers. I think they have either made a terrible mistake or they are ripping off consumers. I am not writing about a small error. It’s huge.
In my home there is a hallway between the common areas, bedrooms, washrooms and the garage. At both ends is a “three-way switch”, a single-pole-double-throw switch that permits turning on/off the lights in the ceiling from either end. In the middle, near the connection to the garage is a “four-way” switch, a double-pole-double-throw switch with crossover. It has four connections and basically switches the power from one wire to the other of the pair of wires running between the two three-way switches. That describes the performance.

The price is another matter entirely. At, the price for Leviton 05604-R42 is $31.98. At (US), the price for the same item is $11.97. Other similar devices have nearly equal prices between the two sites.

What’s with that? I suspect the problem is not with the retailer because, in Canada, every on-line site for retailers that sell that item has a price ranging from $29 to $33. One possibility is that retailers see the cross-border shipping as prohibitive. lists the thing as $4.99 from USA plus $22 shipping… I don’t want to pay $22 for shipping. Surely some retailer must have been able to buy a case of these. One supplier on charges only $4.24 for shipping. Here’s a supplier in Quebec who will ship me ten for $71…

I will order for the lowest price+shipping on, about $10.19 USD. I made a phone call to HomeDepot at the “contact” number on the website and I filled out a consumer survey pop-up on the matter. I normally like shopping at HomeDepot and was glad to provide the feedback.

In IT, if you could save 2/3 the price by using FLOSS, wouldn’t you? I recommend Debian GNU/Linux because, by saving the licensing fee and getting maximum flexibility, you can save that kind of money on capital cost and on maintenance.

UPDATE The 4-way switch arrived today, 2011-11-8. I cannot say I was impressed. One of the screw-terminals was defective with the nut inside the switch being loose and rattling. I had to hold the switch just so… and use gravity to hold the nut in place while I turned the screw. That finally worked but I could not use the internal clamp for the wire. I had to wrap the wire around the screw. No big deal but we now have 3 locations where we can turn the lights on and off in the hallway. Peachy. Now, when I come in from the garage, I don’t need to stumble around in the shadows but can blink in the glare of all those LED lights on the ceiling. Pure luxury and I am worth it… 😉 Shipping was two weeks. I am impressed. Way to go USPO and Canada Post! The item shipped from New York. This surely beats the long trudges I am used to the airport or the Northern Store at -40C on slippery roads. All I have to do is order stuff small enough to fit in the mailbox.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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