Does your supplier pee on your leg, then tell you its warm rain? Or, to put it more delicately, are you getting everything you're paying for when you buy fence materials? Chances are, unless you know your supplier and check each delivery, what you get is what you get.
The easiest way for anyone to get your business is to offer you a “better price”. I won't go into that loaded term here, but let's just assume for now that means a lower price per unit. There are a couple of ways for a supplier to do that. One, is to buy in such large quantities that they can save money on the unit cost, as most manufacturers and distributors offer quantity discounts. This is unattractive to all but the very largest of companies because of the high cost of storing and paying for inventory. Most companies trying to drive down unit price do so by seeking out a supplier that offers a lower price per unit for the parts they need.
To do that, the supplier must remove something from the product.
It takes a measurable amount of material costs and labor costs to manufacture anything, along with transportation cost to get it to the end user. To reduce the unit price, one must reduce either the cost of labor, i.e. “outsource”, or the cost of materials, or the cost of transportation. In the age of spiralling fuel costs, cheaper transportation is very scarce, and the cost of transportation is largely out of the control of the supplier. Labor can be found elsewhere, much cheaper than in the U.S., but that usually means additional transportation costs. Recent increases in the relative wages in common outsource supply countries has led to a closing gap in the cost of goods sourced in Asia when compared to American made goods.
This leaves only material costs as a means of controlling unit price. Many manufacturers are succumbing to the pressure to drive down unit price by reducing the amount and the quality of the raw materials they use. The alternative is to continue making top quality products at reasonable prices to compete with the poor quality, lower priced alternatives being dumped on the market.
Unfortunately, for most contractors, the alternatives are to buy poor quality, and hope the check clears before the product fails, or try to figure out how to win a bid against someone selling lower priced, (inferior) products. The key is to help the customer see that by buying lower price, he is getting lower quality, and will not be satisfied for long. It can be a difficult sell, but Bill Gates didn't get rich clipping coupons. The key is to teach the customer that though a component looks like the one you are selling, it will not perform the same.
No one likes to spend too much money for what they buy, and saving fifty dollars today and finding out that you'll pay hundreds to repair the problems caused by the poor quality component that you saved money on is absolutely painful. Insist on getting what you pay for, and be ready to pay a fair price for quality, or prepare to pay for a lot of broken promises.