|Founded||Merrillville, Indiana USA, (1971)|
|Headquarters||Merrillville, Indiana USA|
||This article appears to be written like an advertisement. (November 2011)|
DirectBuy is a membership buying service headquartered in Merrillville, Indiana. It claims that it is the largest franchiser of members-only consumer buying centers in North America. Members pay a significant fee, which then entitles them to buy merchandise "directly from the manufacturer and its authorized suppliers".
Product categories include home furnishings, home improvement, entertainment & outdoor, flooring, and accessories.
DirectBuy was founded in 1971 in Merrillville, Indiana by James L. Gagan, and the first Canadian franchise was founded in 1996. The company was incorporated as DirectBuy in 2004. United Consumers Club (UCC) remained the holding company for DirectBuy until December 19, 2007, when DirectBuy was acquired by Trivest, a private equity firm, and Allied Capital Corporation (stock symbol: ALD) with $83 million to support the buyout.
Initial membership costs vary by franchise location and have two or three year terms. In 2007, Consumer Reports reported that memberships at some DirectBuy locations in the New York area ranged from $4,600 to $4,990 for a three-year membership and then $190 a year for the next seven years. In 2009, the Star Tribune reported that enrollment fees are $4,700 and then $99 a year after 30 months. The customer must decide at the time of their Open House visit, before leaving the showroom, whether to join DirectBuy after receiving a presentation of services. DirectBuy states that a customer may be shown confidential pricing during the Open House, and its "policy is in place out of respect for our members, manufacturers and the retail industry. It also prevents consumers from asking traditional retailers to match DirectBuy prices." Some franchises are offering 30 day trials to certain potential clients, valid for up to $1,000 in purchases.
Awards and Partnerships
In 2006, DirectBuy was ranked #42 on the Franchise 50, a list of the top 50 franchises as rated by their owners, published by Franchise Business Review and ranked #1 franchise in the Miscellaneous Retail Business category in Entrepreneur Magazine.
In 2007 and 2008 DirectBuy of Ottawa received Consumers' Choice Award for Business Excellence in the category of "Blinds and Shades". In 2008 DirectBuy locations in Vancouver and Coquitlam won Consumers' Choice Award for Business Excellence in the category of "Kitchen design and Bathroom design".
Consumer Reports' 2007 review is that "the lack of price transparency makes it hard to evaluate whether you’ll save by joining DirectBuy. But even if you were to save 25 percent on purchases after joining, you’d need to spend more than $20,000 just to recoup your membership fee. DirectBuy might save you money if you’re furnishing a house from scratch or doing a major renovation" but cautioned its readers that "since you can’t shop around beforehand, you’ll be joining blind."  Prices for items such as electronics are higher than available from online retailers; the "deep discounts" were found on flooring and high-end furniture. Customers cannot return items, cancel orders, or terminate their membership. An 8% handling fee, shipping fees, and tax are added to the cost of items purchased. Some complain of poor customer service and long waits for purchased goods. "Since DirectBuy outlets are franchises, service varies by location. Most outlets have a good record with the Better Business Bureau, though some have a poor one or have been suspended from the BBB." 
West Virginia lawsuit
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed suit January 26, 2011, in Kanawha County Circuit Court against DirectBuy Inc., its local franchise and the company's president alleging it engages in unlawful, coercive, deceptive, and high-pressure sales practices. The suit also alleges that DirectBuy pressures consumers with its 'now or never' tactic. DirectBuy warns consumers that anyone who leaves the premises without joining the club will be banned from joining forever. This threat is false, misleading, and unconscionable according to the Attorney General.
Cease and desist controversy
Attorneys for DirectBuy issued a cease and desist letter to consumer blog infomercialscams.com for "unwarranted and defamatory attacks" posted about DirectBuy by visitors to the blog and asked that the comments be immediately removed. The letter itself was forbidden to be posted online by the DirectBuy attorney, citing ownership of the copyright to the letter as justification. Public Citizen claims that this is "a common method to counter that problem by scaring recipients into keeping quiet", and that the "letter is a good example of the many meritless threats that companies hurl at their online critics in an effort to silence dissent " and subsequently posted the cease and desist letter on their website along with their response to the letter.
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- "Attorney General McGraw Sues DirectBuy, Inc. and Local Franchise Over Pressuring and Unfair Sales Techniques" (Press release). Charleston, West Virginia: State of West Virginia, Office of the Attorney General. 26 January 2011.
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- Popken, Ben (2007-10-09). "Donning Copyright Cloak, DirectBuy Forbids Posting Of Cease And Desist Letter Sent To Consumer Opinion Site". Consumerist (blog). Retrieved 2007-10-16.