I had no idea what kind of following Harbor Freight Tools had when I joined the company. Now whenever I mention where I work, though, I hear, "I LOVE Harbor Freight!" Always with a big grin, as if they're happily admitting a guilty pleasure-- like watching the Ice Road Truckers marathon, or when the family goes on a trip and leaves them behind. It didn't take long surfing the Internet to see just how widespread the love really is-- way beyond the weekend tinkerers or 'burb Dads with their "honey-do-ready" toolboxes. I quickly found a slew of niche websites whose members rely on HFT's low priced, hard-to-find and odd hardware-- not to mention the huge selection of essential tools and supplies. Numbered among these groups are survivalists and emergency preppers, solar energy enthusiasts, BBQ trailer builders, teardrop trailer builders, Pinterest crafters, RC model builders, paranormal investigators, AR builders, go kart hobbyists... as well as your garden variety woodworkers, welders, car restorers, four-wheelers, motorcycle wrenchers, compulsive DIYers and all manner of tool-wielding madmen building better mousetraps.
In all of these blogs and forums the question inevitably always comes up: "I need to get a _____________.What about Harbor Freight?" Someone informs their group about a proud purchase they made of a tool cabinet, a winch or an abrasive blaster. Another member posts a photo of their latest DIY project (like the one above). A full-blown discussion ensues, more photos and links are posted, and ultimately others get inspired to "go and do likewise." These sites also serve as war drums for whatever Harbor Freight Tools sale or coupon comes out and, truth be told, they spread the store's advertising as much as the store itself.
It struck me that Harbor Freight Tools' fan base, all spread out across the Internet, is like a big, open secret-- each niche group sequestered from the others, each possessing information the others could use. Wouldn't it be great if they could all come together to one forum, to exchange questions, views, projects, etc.? Dare to dream.
In the meantime, we'll be looking at these niche groups and websites. What is it they get at Harbor Freight? What do they do with the products? What, if any, innovations have sprung from their purchases? The first group we'll start with-- the Survivalists-- will be explored next week.