If you work with tools, there's a very good chance you're familiar with the Snap-on brand. This Wisconsin-based company is known and appreciated worldwide for the high quality of its hand tools, as well as its power tools and diagnostic equipment. Unlike most tool vendors, though, you can't run to the hardware store to pick up Snap-on tools. They're sold directly by franchisees, rather than out of conventional retail storefronts, so you'll need to locate your nearest franchisee in order to make a purchase.

The Informal Method

If you have friends, colleagues or co-workers in your area who currently use Snap-on tools, your easiest option is simply to approach them and ask for the name and contact information of the franchise they purchase from. As long as they're currently served by a franchise, and not simply using tools they'd purchased in previous years, they should be able to put you in touch. The key drawback of this method is that Snap-on franchisees are assigned protected territories, and you might not be in the same sales territory as your acquaintance. Overall, it's simpler to go to the Snap-on company's website and use the franchise locator page.

The Formal Method

You'll find the franchise search page by going to the main Snap-on site and clicking "Find a Franchisee." This takes you to an initial page, which screens inquiries by type. For example, it differentiates full-time professional mechanics from potential clients who are purchasing agents for their companies or owners of repair shops. Once you've clicked the most appropriate option from that list, you'll be taken to a contact information page. Complete the required fields on this page, and explain why you want to contact a franchisee – a new purchase, a repair or replacement, or simply to request information – and then click "Go" to submit that information.

The Mobile Tool Shop

Once you've been matched with a franchise, the next step is to arrange a time to get together. The Snap-on franchisee or salesperson will arrive in one of the company's distinctive vans, which function as complete mobile retail outlets. Snap-on proudly refers to these as "showrooms on wheels," and they're not exaggerating. Every surface of the van – including the ceiling – serves to display and organize a startling number of tools and accessories within its compact space. The design includes more than inventory storage, though. Each van is a full-service retail environment designed to help fulfill your tool-buying needs. It contains a fully computerized point of sale and inventory management system, to keep track of in-stock tools, special orders and in-progress repairs and replacements. There's even an in-vehicle video monitor, so you can watch the tools in action before making your purchase decision.