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Lockers for Dummies

Lockers for Dummies (View original online)

By Larry Ciptak

Vice-President, Big Dog Warehouse, Inc.


No matter what anyone has told you, you’re not really a dummy—you just want to learn more about lockers so you can make smart locker purchasing decisions.

Following is a locker guide geared to educate you on locker basics so you can make intelligent on-line choices.

This is not intended to be a be-all, end-all locker primer. This document is geared to teach you the basics about lockers and the many variables in styles, configurations, accessories and options that typically face somebody buying lockers for the first time.

If you’ve bought lockers before and consider yourself somewhat of an expert, take our test your locker knowledge quiz and see if you know as much as you think you do. You may be surprised at the results.

One additional note before we start: not all lockers are created equal. There are nuances between manufacturers that affect locker quality, durability and longevity. We’ll discuss some of these differences in this document.

» What is a Locker?

A typical locker is a steel, laminate or wooden box for storage designed to keep out the honest. For applications where lockers will be utilized by testosterone-filled young men or bonehead or devious employees, a heavier-duty locker and/or advanced security features might be necessary.

» What type of lockers do I need?

The lockers you need will be those that fully meet the needs of your company or organization.

Are you buying for a school? What grades? Are the lockers for employees, and if so, how much do you like them? Is security an issue? Will people be beating the lockers like a rented mule? How much space do you have for the lockers? Are you replacing existing lockers? What will be stored in them? How much ventilation do you need? What is your budget? How quickly do you need the lockers? What color(s) would you like? What accessories are needed (benches, sloped tops, etc.)? Can you assemble the lockers in-house or do you need the lockers shipped factory-assembled or assembled on site? Is your business or organization subject to mandatory union pay scales for on-site locker installation? Will the lockers be going in a moist or high-humidity environment?

Man, a lot of questions from a site that’s supposed to be answering questions, not asking them. But there is no simple cookie-cutter answer to this question. These and other considerations need to be taken into account prior to purchasing lockers.

Our reps go through a laundry list of questions with our customers to help identify the most appropriate lockers that meets the end user needs and company time frame and budget.

» What size and number of openings is appropriate for my locker project?

Again, you’re looking for lockers that meet the needs of the users and your project.

The most common error people make is mistaking the number of lockers needed versus the number of openings. We’ll get a call from someone who says “I need 60 lockers” when it’s later revealed that they need 20 lockers with three openings in each lockers.

It’s a common mistake made because in our industry—like other industries—we have our own language to refer to stuff. In the locker industry lockers are referred to as frames, while openings are referred to as tiers. One locker with one opening is a single-tier locker, while a locker with two openings is double tier, etc. Standard configurations include 1-6 tier lockers, as pictured below.

Three-wide vs. one-wide configuration, the locker industry standards. Other configurations are available upon request. Lockers typically come in one or three-wide configuration. A three-wide set of lockers shares common sides and is more cost-effective than purchasing a bunch of one-wide lockers if they’re all going together. If you need five lockers, you’ll purchase one three-wide set and two single wide lockers. Custom configurations are also available (one of our youth hostel clients needed several hundred two-wide sets for the hostel rooms). These custom configurations are specially quoted to specification.

Sometimes we receive RFP’s (requests for proposals) and have to submit a quotation based on provided specifications, even if we know they don’t meet the needs of the client. For example, we recently sold 12” wide lockers to a fire department knowing full well standard firefighter equipment does not fit in this size locker. We brought this fact up to the buyer, who said their hands were tied because this was what was specified. They ordered the 12’ lockers, and upon receipt of the product quickly found out the lockers didn’t meet the bill. The end result? They purchased more lockers from us—this time the proper size (a size that fit the needs) and are trying to find a home for the first ones they bought.

Health clubs also have a tendency to miscalculate the appropriate locker sizes. Women typically carry more gear into the club with them, and a single tier locker (one opening) is probably the most appropriate choice, especially in colder climates where a winter coat needs stored. Men can usually be accommodated with a double-tier locker. If a club needs 50 openings each for men’s and women’s locker rooms, it makes more economic sense to buy 50 single tier lockers for the women and 25 double tier lockers for the men. We’ve had fitness clubs buy two single tier lockers for every double tier locker, or vice-versa. It can pay to be creative in locker configurations, but again, the most important factor is that the storage needs get met.

Lockers come in a variety of heights, but the standard heights are 60” and 72”, not counting industry-standard 6” legs. Clearly, a middle school would not want triple-tier 72” lockers, because the latch or handle for the highest opening would be approximately 5.4’ off of the ground, given 6” legs on the lockers. A middle school student would have a hard time utilizing that particular tier of the locker.

Locker depth is also an important consideration. The additional cost of an 18” deep locker is nominal compared to the benefits of the extra 6” you get over a 12” deep locker, especially with multiple tier (also called “box lockers”) configurations.

If you’re getting your employees lockers to safely store their personal belongings while at work—and that doesn’t include coats or a change of clothes, just purses, cell phones, etc.—you can get away with six-tier, 12” wide by 12” deep lockers. Otherwise you’re probably looking at a wider and/or deeper locker with fewer openings per frame.

Also bear in mind that 12” deep lockers do not come with coat rods. If you are going to be hanging clothes in a locker, you’re going to have to go with a single-tier locker at least 15” deep.

» Do I get lockers factory assembled, unassembled or field-installed?

Unassembled lockers—also called “knocked-down” or “K.D.”—are the least expensive to buy, as you do not have assembly charges and will pay less in freight, as commercial carriers charge much more for assembled lockers. However, you’ll be left with either assembling the lockers yourself or having a qualified crew assemble and install the lockers.

We’ve sold many thousands of lockers, and while we’ve never had anyone not be able to assemble them successfully, we’ve also never had anyone call and thank us for the opportunity to do so either.

If you’re interested in seeing how standard corridor lockers are assembled, click here to watch one of our videos of the assembly process. After watching them you’ll know whether you want to tackle the task or not.

Amazingly, some manufacturers will not arrange for on-site assembly of lockers. They either ship the lockers assembled or leave on-site assembly and installation to companies like us. Equally astounding is that most of our competitors won’t arrange for on-site assembly either. We’re left believing that most of them are simply order-takers and not solution-providers.

Big Dog Warehouse doesn’t shy away from arranging for on-site installation. We have a nationwide network of professional locker installation crews (probably one in your immediate area) who love to work with us. We ship you the product (the crew will often meet the truck), they assemble and install the lockers and we pay them as soon as you sign off on a job successfully finished.

One of the main considerations when pondering having the lockers shipped assembled or unassembled is the cost of freight. Unassembled lockers ship class 70, while assembled lockers ship class 125 (a much higher rate). If you are a fair distance from the locker manufacturer’s distribution center, the cost of freight might be so high that you can possibly save money by having the lockers shipped unassembled and having a professional crew worry about installing them properly. Otherwise you can have the factory ship them assembled and all you have to do is line them up properly and secure them to the wall and/or floor.

If you are going to use sloped tops on the lockers, you’ll need to buy them in three-wide kits if you’re going to assemble them yourselves. We strongly recommend that you use a professional locker installer if you’re going to use continuous slope tops (which come in 6’ sections) for your project, as metal cutting will most likely be necessitated, especially if corners are involved.

» How do I get a handle on handles?

We represent multiple locker manufacturers, and each touts their handles as being the best. Generally, there are three types of handles:

  • Lift handles—the kind you probably grew up with and banged your shoulder off of in school;
  • Recessed handles—set into the door so there are no protruding parts;
  • Door pulls with padlock hasps—a door pull handle with a hasp to attach a padlock.

Box lockers (3-6 tiers) generally come with a door pull with padlock hasp handle. Recessed handles are becoming increasingly popular, as some malcontent can’t simply come along and kick off the handle to gain entry, nor can kids engaging in horseplay get hurt on recessed handles as there are no parts sticking out from the locker.

Still confused? Relax—we’ll help you choose the handle that best fits your locker needs.

Locker accessories can complete your locker project.

» What locker accessories do I need?

Many of our customers order their lockers without any accessories. But you might want benches, sloped tops, closed bases, extra shelves, touch up paint, concrete floor anchors or lock hole cover plates (if not using locks). A rundown on typical locker accessories:

  • Sloped Top Kits—takes a flat-top locker and converts it to a sloped-top locker. This reduces the accumulation of dust as well as prevents items from being stored on top of the lockers;
  • Closed Front and Side Bases—takes a locker with 6’ legs and closes off the fronts and sides of the lockers in the same color as the locker. This provides a nice neat appearance and eliminates the need to clean underneath the lockers. Closed bases add $5-$7 cost per locker and are easy to install (and replace when some idiot kicks and bends them);
  • Legs—really a standard option and not an accessory, but worth mentioning here. Some manufactures actually charge more to provide lockers without legs. If you don’t want legs, an option would be to take a good old-fashioned hacksaw and cut them off yourself;
  • Benches—made of laminated maple, available in a variety of lengths, from 36” to 144”. There are also specialty benches that are ADA-compliant. You can choose different bases depending on need. If the locker room benches will be anchored permanently, you’ll best deal is a heavy-duty steel tube base with top and bottom flanges which are anchored to the concrete or flooring. The other option is a 14” wide free-standing pedestal base which allows the bench to be moved, but also has holes for optional floor anchoring. The free-standing bases are more than twice the cost of the heavy-duty steel tube bases. The number of bases you’ll need per bench depends on the length of the bench itself. It’s recommended that you use three bases for benches over eight feet in length;
  • Milk cartons—available from behind any 7-11, most often utilized when you’ve run out of money for your project.

Wooden and laminate lockers have their own set of options. To learn more about wooden and laminate locker accessories, click here.

» I was doing okay until you brought up lock options!

Ah, locks—a recurring nightmare for any locker distributor.

Here’s why. Customer A buys lockers with locks and master keys off of Distributor B, who drop ships them from Manufacturer C, who buys the locks off of Lock Maker D, who ships them to Customer A along with a little sheet with important numbers should Customer A need more locks or replacement keys made. But Customer A loses this sheet and calls Distributor B, who then has to go to Manufacturer C because Lock Maker D won’t release that information to Distributor B because of concerns for Customer A’s security.

Okay, so now we’ve convinced you that should you buy lockers with locks, you’ll safeguard this information and know where to find it if you need to. Now let’s move on to the locks themselves.

There are two major suppliers of locks to the locker industry—MasterLock and Zephyr. Both are quality lock manufacturers, and we’ve had good experiences with both. The problems usually arise when the customer orders the wrong types of locks, so let’s discuss the different locks and their advantages.

All lockers come with the ability to accept padlocks or combination locks. If your employees or students are going to supply their own locks, you don’t need to concern yourself with built-in locks.

Lock Types:

  • Built-In Combination Locks–available in spring-bolt and dead-bolt styles, key controlled and include multiple combination settings;
  • Combination Padlocks—available standard or master-keyed;
  • Built-In Key Locks–available in spring-bolt and dead-bolt styles, available standard or master-keyed;
  • SAFE-O-MAT® Built-In Coin, Token and Card Locks–available in coin return and coin collect as well as token collect and card access styles;
  • Digilocks®–allow access using a programmable four-digit code.

Of these types, built in key locks are the most popular and affordable choice for lockers. However, don’t lose that little sheet of paper (may we refer you to the second paragraph of this section).

Master keys simply refer to keys that work with all the supplied locks. You may want to get two keys for each lock and four master keys for the appropriate personnel (and as backups, because we guarantee someone is going to lose a master key or two).

Our reps will help you determine which lock option meets your needs and your budget. The Safe-O-Mat and Digilocks are popular requests, until the customer finds out how much they’ll cost.

One last word about locks—you can have the best lock in the world and it won’t stop someone from getting into a standard locker if they want to. Remember, most lockers are designed to keep out the honest. If security is a real issue, consider heavy-duty lockers made with advanced construction and heavier gauge steel.

» I don’t want those tired-looking grey lockers—they remind me of high school when I still had hair. Have any spiffy colors?

Every locker manufacturer offers their lockers in a variety of colors (links to specific manufacturer color charts are below).

Each manufacturer also has a quick-ship locker program, standard sized lockers offered in the most popular configurations in a limited number of colors—and always including grey and tan (though they might give them other names). If you want one of their other colors, you’ll be ordering production lockers, that is lockers which are manufactured once an order is placed. Production lockers are not made en masse and stored somewhere for quick shipment, and depending on the time of year that you order then, you may be waiting anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks for the lockers.

If you want a custom color, click on the links to the color charts below. Some colors are quick ship and others are production colors. Plan accordingly with your project, because if you wait too long to order or need your lockers quickly you’ll have a limited choice of colors to choose from.

Please also note that some specialty lockers are only available in one or two colors.

"Locker Season" Planning

Spring and summer are the busiest times of the year for the locker industry. We call it "locker season". This is the time of year where we all up our meds and find clumps of hair in the bathroom sink in the morning. Our wives know to approach us with slightly more caution during locker season.

If you need to have your lockers delivered during a specific time frame, you’ll need to adequately plan your project given the variables of increased lead time, reduced inventory and overworked manufacturing crews. In December or January you can usually expect something like a four-week lead time for production locker orders. By the time May rolls around, expect six weeks or more. By August you can expect 10 weeks or more to get your lockers manufactured.

If you need lockers for August (school season), make sure you order by mid-May. Also give yourself extra time for installation, as all good installation crews are extremely busy during locker season.

For practical purposes, we advise starting your search six months before the projected completion of your summer project, and purchase at least four months in advance.

» When you say “lead time” do you really mean “we’ll get these to you when we can?”

In the locker industry, “lead time” means how long it takes to manufacture the lockers from the time the order is placed until they are ready to ship. This does not account for factory assembly time or shipping. If we tell you the manufacture lead time on a specific locker is six weeks, give the lockers and extra week to get there.

There are companies out there who will lie to you about product availability or lead times to get the order. We don’t do this. In fact, we err on the side of caution, and if a manufacturer says it’s going to be six weeks, we’ll tell you eight weeks to be on the safe side. And if you need lockers by a certain date we’ll get the manufacture to commit to providing the lockers by that date, or we’ll go shopping with another manufacturer who can meet the time frame of your project. It’s simply bad business to go about it any other way.

Customers sometimes think that because we are a volume distributor we can somehow coerce the manufacturer to place their order ahead of the others in line. This is not true. One manufacturer will place an order on an “advanced production schedule”—for an additional 20% cost. Unless a customer insists, we don’t play this game.

We put an order in with the factory, then the factory sends us an order acknowledgment along with an estimated ship date, which we pass on to the client, along with the caveat that this date is estimated. At some point in the production cycle they send us an actual ship date, again which we pass on to the customer. In reality, sometimes variables at the factory push this date back a week or two. If they get a cluster of orders at one time, production can sometimes get backed up. Then we get customers calling wanting to know why their orders haven’t arrived yet. This is a variable out of the control of all distributors—not just us—but the customers know us and not the manufacturers, so we catch all of the flack. In these cases we sometimes end up taking a blow for the team by knocking a few bucks off the order or doing whatever we can to satisfy the customer. It’s unfortunate but a reality in this industry, and exactly the reason why we err on the side of caution when providing lead times.

Anyone who guarantees you a lead time without providing manufacturer documentation of such should be approached with great caution.

Where are lockers shipped from?

The distribution point of your lockers will depend on which manufacturer you choose, what lockers you choose, how quickly you need your lockers and where you are physically located.

Manufacturers have production facilities and distribution warehouses (sometimes both in one place). With Penco Products, as an example, your lockers will ship from Hamilton NC, Lancaster PA, Memphis TN, Houston TX or Salt Lake City UT in the west.

Not all products are available at all of a manufacturer's distribution points. Some regional facilities are geared to move quick-ship inventory and not production items.

Our reps work to find the most affordable freight solution for you. Having a nationwide distribution network enables us to do this. Click here to view Big Dog's distribution network.

What are "quick-ship" lockers?

Most manufacturers have a "quick-ship" locker program where they produce and stock the most commonly ordered lockers in a limited selection of colors and configurations.

Quick ship lockers differ from production lockers (those built to a customer's specifications) in some important ways:

  • Like the name implies, quick-ship lockers are designed to get to you quickly. Usually this means the lockers are available to ship to you anywhere from 48 hours to two weeks from the date of your order;
  • You have to select from the colors, sizes and configurations available; any desired modifications push the lockers into "production" orders and are not available for quick shipment;
  • Quick-ship lockers are (in general) returnable, should there be something about them that doesn't meet your need; however, all manufacturers charge a restocking fee, and you'll also be picking up the tab for freight to send them back, unless there's a manufacturer defect. Production lockers are not returnable, unless defective or damaged.

Our customers generally utilize quick-ship programs when their back is against the wall time-wise or if their locker needs are not specialized and the product they desire is a standard size and/or color. There are no additional costs associated with quick-ship lockers.

Before we accept an order for quick-ship lockers, we call the manufacturer to ensure that the desired locker and color are indeed in stock. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. This depends of the time of year–there is usually a shortage of stock lockers during the spring and summer "locker season". And if they aren't in stock, we will offer a comparable quick-ship solution with another manufacturer who does have them stocked and ready to ship.

Types of Lockers

If you’re considering buying lockers and have read the above sections, you realize by now that there are numerous locker styles, configurations, colors, dimensions and accessories available. What follows here are brief descriptions of specific locker types (coincidentally all of which we happen to sell) along with links to our web catalog and support documentation which gives much greater detail about these lockers.

» Who manufacturers the best lockers?

Ha! Like we could answer that without our heads rolling the next day after posting this article.

We will tell you, however, that we only deal with top-notch manufacturers of lockers (and shelving). There are manufacturers that we do not represent–yet, at least–who make fine product.

While lockers are lockers, there are nuances between manufacturers in latching mechanisms, hinges, gauge of steel, the methods by which they are painted, etc. Your locker dealer rep should be able to answer any question you have about differences between locker types and brands. If they can't, remember that our reps are very well-trained with every manufacturer and their product lines.

We can't say who the "best" locker manufacturer is without our lawyers getting their panties in a bunch. However, we have few issues regarding the quality, reliability and durability of the locker manufacturers we represent.

Corridor lockers, for schools, industry and fitness organizations

» Standard Corridor & School lockers

Latching and handle technology may have changed somewhat over the years, but corridor lockers remain just that—lockers that are found in corridors or schools, businesses, institutions and facilities all over the place. Whether manufactured by Penco Products or someone else, a corridor locker is a corridor locker.

Corridor lockers are available in 1-6 tier models, in a variety of widths, depths and either 60” or 72” heights, and with or without legs. There are quick ship (limited sizes/colors) and production (full range of choices, colors, longer lead time) corridor lockers. Sloped tops can be used if the lockers are against a wall. If the lockers are recessed (set into the wall) you won’t use sloped tops, and will probably need filler panels, recessed trim and other specialty items to complete the project.

Most lockers come in one or three-wide configurations. There is also the starter/adder method. If you need a grouping of 50 lockers going down a hallway, you’d get one starter and 49 adder models. All of the adder models would share common sides. As 50% of a locker’s cost is the steel, this greatly reduces the amount of steel needed, and thus the price. But be careful to take proper measurements when calculating how many starts and adders are needed. We can also arrange to have a factory representative or professional installer do a “walk through” and spec out your project for you.

Many schools have maintenance personnel capable of locker assembly and installation. If not, we’ll be glad to arrange for professional installation. [insert link to installation page on BDW] This is best done during the summer when school is not in session. Remember that “locker season” is at its peak in the summer, and lead times can be very long. If you’re going to tackle a school locker project, be sure to order your lockers by mid May to ensure that your lockers arrive with plenty of time for assembly and installation. Another option is to buy the lockers factory-assembled, but keep in mind the extended lead times during locker season.

» Heavy-Duty Ventilated lockers

Heavy-duty ventilated lockers are made of a heavier gauge steel and rugged construction, and are utilized when ventilation, strength, security and durability are concerns. They also look sharp as hell, and our customers love them.

Heavy-duty ventilated (or “HDV”) lockers have diamond-shaped perforations on the sides and doors which allow for the free flow of air through the lockers. The doors are made from 14 gauge steel, the sides, tops, bottoms and shelves from 16 gauge steel, and the backs from 18 gauge steel. These are very sturdy and long-lasting lockers.

Penco makes these style lockers. You’ll find HDV lockers in schools, sports facilities, fitness clubs and industry, anywhere where strength, visibility and ventilation are needed.

If you need the ultimate in a heavy-duty ventilated locker, Folding Guard Corporation of Chicago has a Stor-More® Visibility Security Locker with sides made of 8 gauge wire mesh—try breaking into that baby.

Heavy-duty ventilated lockers come in a variety of configurations. Click any of the links below to learn more about the HDV lockers Big Dog Warehouse carries.

» Stadium (open-front) lockers

Stadium lockers are engineered for high school, collegiate and professional team organizations, as well as firefighters and police and in other environments where easy access to uniforms and/or equipment is required.

We sell tons of these lockers, and for good reason. They’re great lockers and do what they’re supposed to do. We also represent Legacy Lockers, who makes an open-front wooden stadium locker.

Steel stadium/sports lockers are available unassembled, factory assembled or factory-welded. They come in widths of 18”-33” and a variety of depths. They’re manufactured with heavy-gauge steel body components and a premium paint finish which guarantees durability.

All stadium lockers are production items and built to a customer’s specifications. They are not available as a quick-ship item.

Option lockable footlockers (which double as seats) and security boxes which includes a finger pull padlock hasp allowing storage of smaller valuables can add additional functionality and security to your stadium lockers.

Click on any of the links below to learn more about our offerings of stadium lockers.

» Laminate & Wooden lockers

If you’re only concerned about storage, your obvious choice is steel lockers. Well-made steel (or metal) lockers also have the advantage over wooden ones in strength. If you choose standard models, they are also far less expensive than wooden lockers.

However, handcrafted, custom-designed wooden lockers provide the warmth, style, beauty and elegance of fine wood. Is aesthetics are important to you—such as outfitting a club locker room—then you may want to take a closer look at wooden or laminate lockers.

Steel lockers rust, especially when exposed to high-humidity environments (though there are specialty treatments available to protect such lockers). While we don't suggest pouring a bucket of water on laminate lockers, we’ve never had a problem with de-lamination (laminate or edgebanding peeling away from the locker due to moisture) with any of the laminate lockers we’ve sold.

Wooden lockers are all built to specification and not available quickly. There is a detailed process that ensures that your lockers are the way you want them prior to them going into production. Laminate lockers receive the same treatment, though they are generally available in a shorter time frame. And we do carry a line of Legacy laminate lockers that are quick-ship items from their factory in Dallas, Texas. Production laminate lockers are available in literally thousands of colors.

If you’re worried about the shipment of these lockers, we have to say that out of all the manufacturers we’ve worked with, no one takes more care in packaging and shipping their products than Legacy. Each locker is gently wrapped in craft paper to protect the finish and hardware from scratches. Then, the locker is covered from top to bottom with several layers of foam sheeting to further protect the locker faces. In preparation for transport, smaller project shipments are grouped in sets, placed on pallets, bound together with layer upon layer of clear plastic stretch wrap, and secured with industrial strength shipping straps. Larger project shipments are individually floor-loaded and fully secured for direct shipment to your facility via dedicated space on air-ride trailers (such as those used for fine furniture). Every precaution is taken to ensure your lockers arrive in pristine condition.

For more information about our wooden and laminate lockers, visit our Legacy support site.

» Rust-Resistant lockers

Lockers are made of steel, and steel will rust when exposed to humidity and moisture.

Though locker painting technology has changed over the years to include a more resistant powder-coated finish, for high moisture environments it’s recommended to have the lockers specially treated in the manufacturing process to add years of usage to the lockers.

Lockers are sometimes located near showers (such as locker rooms in health clubs), outside or in other high-moisture areas, and corrosion becomes a problem.

Penco and Republic both offer such protection for an additional charge on any of their production lockers. Ask your Big Dog representative for options if you’re putting your lockers in a harsh environment. It’s easy to be penny-wise and pound-foolish when lockers will be exposed to the elements.

» Plastic lockers

You get plastic lockers only if you absolutely need them. Though they do what they’re supposed to do—be rust, corrosion and warp-proof—they are expensive.

However, if you need `em, we got `em. These solid plastic lockers are made from high impact, high density polyethylene (HDPE) formed under high pressure into solid plastic components 1/2" thick with a homogeneous color throughout. They come in two colors—grey or grey with blue doors—and are available assembled or unassembled.

Some other features of plastic lockers: they are resistant to harsh chemicals and easily cleaned, they have continuous latches made from high impact HDPE plastic capable of accepting a variety of locks, the door hinges made from heavy-duty aluminum with a powder coating to match the locker door and frame and hinges run the full length of the door.

» Factory-Welded lockers

Factory-Welded lockers are tough, durable and ready to install. Whether athletic lockers with diamond-shaped perforations or stadium-style lockers, welded lockers offer superior resistance to hard use and abuse, with body parts welded into single rigid units to resist damage for the life of the product.

Penco’s Defiant II Single Point Latch (SPL) option for All-Welded lockers has extra strength and the low maintenance inherent in a door that has no moving parts. Each door has a patented deep drawn stainless steel handle with integral door pull and a continuous hinge.

» Other weird locker configurations

There are numerous oddball-sized lockers you may or may not find in someone’s on-line catalog. 16-person lockers sell well, providing 16 locker openings and a hanging space via a coat rod beneath the top lockers. There’s also a 4-wide wall mount unit that can be a saver when space is at a premium.

Through our manufacturers (Penco, Folding Guard, Legacy) we also have some other oddball items not in our on-line catalog, but available through special order. Penco has these 12”x12”x12” lockers. Not sure what you do with them—store your bowling ball in them? Republic has 84” lockers that can store skis, hockey sticks or female basketball players from Romania. There are 36” and 48” high lockers, presumably for the vertically challenged. Then there’s the good old duplex locker which has dual vertical doors, fortunately dying a natural death—but if you still want `em, we got `em.

Any way you cut it, if you have a locker need, we can satiate it. Just give us a call at (877) 452-6900 and let our reps know what you need. And if you don’t know, they’ll help you identify your needs in a cost-effective and timely manner.

Shipping Variables

One of the most important variables of a locker purchase is shipping. In this regard, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is most manufacturers recognized the need for a nationwide distribution network and now have strategic warehouses throughout the country where product can get to you quickly without having to travel thousands of miles. The bad news is fuel prices continue to rise and shipping costs along with it.

This section is concerned with the not only the cost of shipping, but all the variables that come into play when you’re moving steel from one place to another.

» Why the heck is shipping so high?

Get in your car and find a gas station that sells diesel fuel. Look at the price of a gallon of diesel. Bear in mind that lockers do not ship UPS or FedEx (unless it’s FexEx freight)—they ship via common carriers in large diesel trucks that make a Hummer look like a hybrid when it comes to fuel consumption.

But it’s not just that. Our industry is full of companies that make shipping into an additional profit center for themselves. When you receive a quotation, shipping will either be included in the price or priced separately (usually separate). This does not necessarily mean that what you’re being charged is what they’re being charged. It’s called mark-up, and most companies do it.

One new trend that’s emerged in our industry in the last year is “free shipping on select items”. What this means is that because they now have an efficient nationwide distribution system, the manufacturer will pay for the shipping so you’re just paying the sticker price of the lockers (or shelving). However, ask your distributor how much the product will cost if you pay for shipping yourself, and you’ll find your product price to be much lower. Nothing is really “free”. But the reality is sometimes it makes economic sense to go for the “free” shipping option, especially if your location is a fair distance away from one of the distribution points. Big Dog uses the “free shipping” system, but if we can save you money by arranging the shipping of your lockers ourselves, we’ll do it. One nice thing for us is that when the manufacturer assumes the role of shipper, they are liable for any freight damages and/or claims, not us. And they’re also more inclined to quickly correct any problems that may have arisen during the shipping process.

» Last time I ordered these gizmos they arrived all banged up!

When shipping lockers, damage sometimes occurs. A forklift driver might miscalculate the exact location of the pallet (read: he was drunk the night before and is still seeing double) and stick a fork into your nifty, new lockers. A package of lighter-gauge locker backs could inadvertently be placed underneath heavier gauge doors and get bent. You imagine it, and it’s happened before and will happen again.

We take great pains to ensure that your product arrives in the same condition that it was produced. But once the product leaves the factory, all bets are off. That’s why we’re careful about which freight companies we work with. We even retained a private logistics company to not only help us get you better freight rates, but as industry insiders ensure that we’re selecting the right carriers for our product.

If you order from a stocking distributor, they will be packaging the lockers in a method they deem most appropriate. Hopefully it’s in a way that ensures undamaged delivery. If the factory is shipping them, they have their own methodology, which varies on the product and size of the order. A small order will have all parts packaged together in a box, while larger orders will likely be palletized and either shrink-wrapped or placed in corrugated cardboard with metal straps. Everyone—from manufacture to distributor to customer—has a vested interest in getting the lockers from A to B undamaged.

The next section deals with the realities of damaged product, and who is responsible.

» Who is responsible for what

The main point to remember is that whoever pays for the freight is generally responsible for submitting damage or missing product claims.

In general, when the product is in the warehouse the manufacturer is responsible. When the product is in transit the carrier is responsible. When you’ve taken possession of the product you’re responsible.

Say you order from us and pay us for freight. You really haven’t paid for freight—we have, either to the manufacturer or to the carrier. Until the product reaches you, either the manufacturer or the carrier is responsible, depending on who pays for the freight. And depending on who pays the carrier, either we or the manufacturer is responsible for submitting any claim.

The carrier who delivers your product cannot by law leave your product and premises until you’ve accepted ownership of the product by signing the freight bill that will be presented upon delivery. And also by law, the carrier can’t just drop the product off—they have to give you the time to inspect the entire shipment for damages and to verify everything on the packing list has arrived.

The packing list will accompany the order and be presented to you upon delivery. It’s your responsibility to match the pallets and product listed on the packing list with the actual product being delivered. Once you’ve signed the freight bill, you’ve in essence said everything is okay, and thereby removing the carrier from any liability.

If you see damage or notice something missing or out of kilter with your order, you must get the driver to note this on your copy of the freight bill, or you’re going to have a hard time proving anything to anybody.

There could also be manufacturer defects, which would be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty and would be handled separate from a freight claim. Manufacturer defects are taken care of quickly by our chosen manufacturers. Bear in mind this is also a rare occurrence.

But there’s also the variable of concealed damage—that is, damage to the product that is not evident from visual inspection of the packaging. We have specific forms to deal with concealed damage claims. Sometimes it becomes a question of who is responsible for concealed damage, and is trickier that visually obvious damage.

» Tips for Successfully Receiving an Order

The following list is not to be considered a legal document or complete. It’s a general guide to help you cover yourself when receiving freight.

  • Make sure you have the proper space to receive the product, and the proper staff to place the product in that space. The carrier is not going to be a laborer and help you move your product beyond the loading dock, if you have one;
  • If you utilize liftgate service, the carrier is finished once the product has reached the ground, and you’ll have to move it from there. Plan accordingly;
  • Take a camera with you when you receive your order. Take plenty of photos of the entire process;
  • Be available for freight notification (a heads-up from the carrier that the product is arriving at a certain date/time);
  • Locate the packing list and freight bills immediately. Compare every line on the packing list with the freight bill as then with the actual product. Count the number of cartons and/or pallets and make sure it jibes with the two documents;
  • Inspect the packaging and make sure there’s no visual damage to the packaging. If there is, get the driver to note this on the freight bill;
  • Keep all of the original shipping materials and the paperwork in a safe place, even make copies and keep them in another location or with another staff member;
  • If visually damaged, you also retain the right to refuse the order. Write why you are refusing the order on the freight bill, keep your copy, and send the driver away with the product. Then call your distributor immediately and let them know what happened.

All of Big Dog’s orders are accompanied with detailed freight receiving instructions prior to product receipt. Our sales reps also contact their customers beforehand to make sure they understand this document and to answer any questions or concerns they have concerning receiving your lockers or other product.

If something goes wrong with your order regarding freight, our experience shows that it’s usually the carrier’s responsibility. Timely filing of claims with the carrier ensures a timely resolution to any damaged goods.

Done properly, filing claims is not a big deal. It’s inconvenient as you now have to wait (again) for your product, but it’s not going to cost you any more money on product or on freight. And we will work with you after the sale should there be any challenges—we won’t leave you high and dry.

» What other freight variables need I consider?

Most of what follows is common sense to us, since we’re in the industry and have been faced with every possible freight or product delivery challenge. However, you may not have thought of these variables that can trip you up. Use the following guide to plan your freight receipt.

  • Typical loading dock–do you have the right equipment and personnel to move thousands of pounds of lockers into the building?Know where the lockers are going to be stored upon receipt, and make sure that space is clean and accessible;
  • Ask your locker dealer how the lockers will be arriving. If on pallets, bear in mind that a 42” pallet is not going to fit through a 32” doorway. You really don’t want to be dismantling pallets and carrying your lockers into your facility one locker or package at a time;
  • If arriving on pallets, do you have a pallet jack to easily move the lockers to their location?
  • Are steps involved? If so, make sure your rep knows this before he or she quotes freight. Inside deliver does not mean the carrier is going to carry your lockers up a flight (or three) of stairs;
  • Do you have a loading dock? If not, you may need liftgate service (and extra $20-$50) where the carrier sends a truck that can safely move the lockers off of the truck and to the ground. And from there you’re going to have to move them yourselves, so make sure you have scheduled to have the appropriate amount of personnel scheduled for the task;
  • If you don’t have storage space for the lockers indoors, an option would be to rent a temporary trailer or storage unit;
  • If you have a forklift, make sure it’s operational (we had a military client find out the day of delivery that their forklift was in the shop and could not handle the task of receiving 600 heavy-duty lockers);
  • Pay the extra $20 for freight notification service (where the carrier calls a designated individual prior to deliver to schedule a date and time of delivery);
  • Be careful not to stack heavy boxes on top of lighter ones, and avoid stacking anything if possible.

Again, this section on freight is a primer, not a thorough guide. There are just too many things to consider, and a small book could be written about freight and all of its aspects.

If you have any questions about freight or the shipment of your lockers, call us at (877) 452-6900. Our reps are well-trained in logistics and are positioned to not only save you money on freight, but protect you as well.

Keeping the Industry Honest

» How do I accurately compare competitive quotations?

When reviewing multiple quotations to decide who to purchase lockers from, compare apples-to-apples.

Some things to consider:

  • A well-prepared quotation will have separate pricing for every item—lockers, accessories, locks, shipping, factory assembly, on-site assembly/installation, etc. If a quotation doesn’t have these as line items, you’re going to have a hard time truly comparing quotations;
  • Make sure that your locker dealer lists the manufacturer of the lockers as well as the SKU (factory item number). If they don’t, chances are 99% that they’re trying to sell you imported (usually Chinese) lockers. With the item number you can get on the web and accurate compare their price to other dealers selling the identical item(s). If the dealer has created their own proprietary product number for a standard industry product, it could be that they’re making it difficult to compare prices, and usually for a reason;
  • Make sure the total product weight is listed so you can shop around and get a freight quotation or two to keep the dealer honest;
  • Read the fine print on the quotation, which becomes a legally binding contract once you accept the quotation and submit a purchase order or pay either fully or partially up-front. Read and understand the terms of the quotation/contract. Know your rights if you want to return the items or refuse shipment;
  • Who is going to accept responsibility should the product arrive damaged? We listed our policies above, but other company policies vary.

Big Dog Warehouse has a popular QuoteBuster Program so you can quickly and accurately compare your quoted price with our prices. We'll beat anyone's apples-to-apples price, guaranteed.

» Hey—you guys hiding any costs here or what?

We aren’t, but we can’t speak for the others. We have a very marginal markup on freight which helps us cover the costs of treating all of our customers properly should a freight issue arise. But we certainly don’t look to make freight into an additional profit center. We’re happy to make our money on product, and choose to be up-front about our freight charges and not play some shell game where we try to hide additional costs.

It would be legal suicide if we listed some of the surreptitious trade practices of a few bad apples in our industry. All we can say is, let the buyer beware.

Our quotations have every item listed along with their cost, weight and factory model number. We price freight separately. If that program can save you money, we use it. If we can get you a better overall product plus freight cost, we arrange the freight ourselves. It really depends on where you’re located compared to their distribution centers.

Freight costs are hurting everybody in our and many other’s industries. As a volume distributor we have leverage with freight companies who want our business and are willing to low-ball their charges, and we pass these savings on to you.

A good locker quotation is a quotation that is clear, itemized and a true representation of the product you are paying for. If you notice anything vague about your quote or don’t understand the fine print, contact your dealer for clarification—then get that in writing. Protect yourself.


It’s strange, trying to condense all of our years of experience into a single document (albeit a long one). However, any of these sections could have been documents of their own.

Our industry is in transition as companies continue to shift away from general contractors and take control of their own projects. Some manufacturers traditionally shy (even paranoid) of web-based dealers are embracing us as they see their market shares being taken by those manufacturers utilizing our technology advances. 2008 is destined to be an interesting year for everyone—from manufactures to dealers to customers alike.

Big Dog Warehouse wants your business, and is willing to do what it takes to earn it. That includes telling you some things that some in the industry would prefer us not to. However, our business is based on honest business practices and if we had to do it any other way, we’d be looking for a new gig where we could be ourselves, enjoy our work and keep our customers satisfied.

We hope this year is a successful one for you, and we’d like to be a part of it. Feel free to call us at (877) 452-6900, browse our on-line catalog, contact us via e-mail or send us smoke signals with your questions or concerns. Thank you.