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Palette of Departments
By Hans Mugler, Publisher
By Marc Gordon, Contributing Writer
By Hans Mugler,
When Bad Paint Happens To Good People
Good Service, Bad Service. What is expected of you, the independent paint store owner? Well, good service of course! Last October, I ordered some animated props for a haunted house that I do every year for the neighborhood (and for myself!). I was buying from a reputable national retailer who sells all sorts of products. I took great care not to leave the animatronics out in the elements, but after running for only about an hour, several of the props simply stopped working. Not acceptable!
On November 1st, I called the retailer to exchange or return the items and was told that since they were seasonal items, they would not take them back or refund my purchase price. They could have looked up my account and seen the large amount of money I have spent with them the last few years and done something better for me, but they didn’t, and now won’t get my money ever again. Did it cause me great harm? No. Did it sully my reputation as the premier haunted house operator in my city? Heck No! Did it tick me off? YUP!
I recently fielded a call from a distressed lady who is working with a home builder in the mountains of Colorado. She relayed the story of how the builder was using exposed beams of Alder wood in the homes ceiling, and that the paint contractor had used a reputable product to stain and coat the wood. Three or four cans of the product into the project, everything was going smoothly. After using the 5th can of the product and returning to the job the next day, they noticed that every piece of wood that was stained with the 5th can had become mottled, blotchy, and in a word…“fugly” and unusable.
The home builder claims that he had done nothing different with can five as he had with the other cans. A bad batch? Possibly. The local retailer was happy to replace the bad can of stain at no charge, but the contractor’s issue was that now $30K of wood was irrevocably harmed and can’t be used at all. “Who is going to pay for this”? he asked.
They contacted the manufacturer who basically said “not us!” and “ it’s really not our problem”…but it really is! There are some new deck stain products on the market from a variety of manufacturers that are fighting it out in court, or will be soon, on claims from homeowners that their great new products are failing miserably. Homeowners want to be compensated for the products used, and the cost of removing them from their decks so they can lay down something else that will work.
What’s in a guarantee? It would behoove you to look into the warranties of products you sell, especially new ones making great claims about how great their products work, before you go selling them to your customers. Make sure you know what your supplier will be responsible for, and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions you need to. After all, you’re the front line. The customer is always going to come yelling at you first because you sold it to them, even though you have no control of what’s in the product itself.
Not every situation will be cleared up by refunding the purchase price or exchanging the product, but as long as you are willing to work with your customers and do what is right by them, they should keep coming back to you because you will have earned their trust.
What’s going to happen with the Colorado home where the product has failed? We’ll have to wait and see, but it is shaping up to be a David v. Goliath type fight.
In the meantime, I’m going to look for a new Halloween products vendor.
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