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We Care

I just read Julius Ballanco's column "Does Anybody Care?" in the November issue, wanting to know if I care about quality faucets that the manufacturer will not sell to Home Depot, etc. I care, and would like to share a recent event.

We bid a 23-story condo project only to be told shortly after that the owner intended to buy all the plumbing fixtures, bypassing the plumber. The story goes on that a wholesaler quoted the fixtures direct and will sell them direct. If this happens, then I ask what difference does it make who sells what? Apparently the wholesaler has no regard for the plumbers who have put money in their pockets all these years.

Steve Guyton
City Wide Mechanical
Dallas, Texas

Our company certainly cares whether a manufacturer sells to the home centers. One of the first questions we ask manufacturers reps when they come by is "What is the manufacturer's position on selling to the home centers?" It does enter into our decision whether to use a particular product. We don't like supporting a manufacturer who doesn't support us.

That is one of the reasons our primary line of faucets is Wolverine Brass.

The other reason is the quality of the product. Ten years ago we tried purchasing a lot of our supplies from a "price is everything" mail order supplier. It didn't take us long to see it was costing us more in the way of additional labor and defective material than we were saving in material cost - and the customer received a substandard product.

Now when one of our techs is discussing product options, all the tech has to do is hand our customer a "competitive" faucet and then a Wolverine faucet. The overwhelming majority selects the Wolverine faucet. Sure, it costs us a little more, but that cost is passed on to the customer. The customer gets a better quality product, is happier, and we aren't going back in a few months to repair it. Everyone wins.

Richard Walton
Walton Plumbing Inc.
Sand City, Calif.

Yes, there are those of us who still care! The more things change, the more they stay the same; there has always been a tendency to do things cheaper and easier. This has been a double-edged sword - while resulting in improvements in some cases, it has lowered quality and expectations in others.

I am fortunate to work for an organization, which may, at times, sacrifice profit for quality and integrity. After safety, quality is top priority; as such we maintain an extremely high level of customer satisfaction and repeat business.

There are other manufacturers like Wolverine Brass that will not take shortcuts or substitute inferior materials. Of course they are in the minority, but there will always be a demand for quality over price.

In our awards to vendors and subcontractors, low price is not always the bottom line - safety, quality and timeliness also play a role in our selection. Thanks for the column and keep up the good work.

Michael Cecil
Pizzagalli Construction
Charlotte, N.C.

I just shake my head at the thousands and thousands of plumbing service companies throughout the U.S. that just don't get it.

People who shop at discount centers are not, I repeat, not our customers. They are people who are focused on good deals and who may want good service, but don't want to pay you for what you are worth.

The home centers are not the enemies. The true enemies are the contractors themselves. They are the ones who continue to miss the big picture. They are supposed to be in business to make a profit first, then cater to the other two groups, that being their employees second, and their customers third. I know, because I was exactly in this same mindset my first year in business. It took a $12,000 loss to change my mindset.

Until these contractors get it in their heads that they manage their businesses based on direct costs, overhead costs and a fair profit, and not on what their competition, customer or home centers suggest pricing should be, they will continue to fail in this otherwise, very rewarding industry. Thank God for companies like Wolverine Brass.

Wally Bonfe
Bonfe's Plumbing, Heating & Air Service Inc.
St. Paul, Minn.

Not For Plumbers Only

I just read Ellen Rohr's column "101 Dos & Don'ts For Small Shop Operators." I am an electrical contractor in the Pacific Northwest and I learn a lot from PM, Frank Blau and Ellen.

Why would I be reading PM? Well, unfortunately there are not a lot of columns written for the residential/ light commercial service electrical contractor. Everything is geared toward heavy industrial work. So I read PM and I get it all.

PHC customers are the same customers I serve so it works out pretty well. To my knowledge, I am the only flat rate electrical contractor in my area. I know I'm the only company that sells service agreements to my residential customers, know what my billable hours are, price my services based on my expenses, not my competitor's and pay my service professionals better than they can get anywhere else, with all the benefits.

Just wanted to give Ellen a quick thank you, and tell her to keep up the great articles that she and the other columnists write.

Name withheld upon request

First Impressions Count

Thank you for speaking up about the issue of those sometimes-offensive bumper stickers ("Wow!" November, 2000). I absolutely believe in the freedom of speech. However, I agree with you that it is not good business practice to have anything other than work-related items on your work vehicle. Just as I believe in freedom of speech, I also believe in freedom of choice.

I would never, and I do mean never, call a business that has anything but work-related items attached to it. Often I see the sticker with the little person urinating attached to work and business vehicles, as well as other assorted bumper stickers and window stickers. Thanks for speaking to contractors and letting them know that it will lose business for them. I am truly amazed that we as a society have come to this kind of garbage. Thank you again. We all have our choices to make.

Rosemarie Jacot
Robert Jacot Plumbing
Garden Grove, Calif.