Editorial: When the price isn't right
This fact was brought home to me, literally, when we had a few rooms painted in our house over the summer by a contractor who was recommended by a friend.
When we got the bill, my wife was amazed by the amount. Wholesalers won't be surprised to learn that she was stunned that the bill was so much less than she expected.
After she recovered from her case of reverse sticker shock, she immediately started making plans of what other projects that Ray - she is on a first-name basis with him - could do around the house. She also thought about which friends and neighbors might need a painter, so that she could recommend Ray to them.
Her reaction reminded me of a conversation I had with a plumber several years ago when I was in Houston working on a story for Supply House Times. He put it this way: Contractors look at most of the people who let them into their homes as lifetime customers. If a contractor does a good job and gives the customer a fair price, then the customer will call him back again and again, as he needs more work done.
Wholesalers, he told me, often look at the same project as a one-time trans- action, even when the contractor is a regular customer. That's why they try to get the plumber to upsell a pricier faucet or fixture, and why they complain so bitterly that contractors don't know how to merchandise their products.
I still recall that conversation because what the Texas plumber told me makes sense. But the house-painting situation illustrates that a middle ground can be reached between the contractor's and the wholesaler's point of view.
If Ray had done the same good job and charged us what we expected to pay, my wife would have been just as happy to call him back and recommend him to others.
Paint is paint, but plumbing products (and HVAC equipment, for that matter) would seem to present a greater opportunity for wholesalers to work with their contractors to upgrade a sale. If wholesalers don't do a better job of training contractors on the features and benefits of the pricier fixture or faucet, then the contractor will install the low-price, reliable model.
Trying to make contractors better merchandisers is not a revolutionary idea, but educating them about products and selling skills would be worth the effort. Wholesalers who invest in training would provide value to their vendors, their contractors and even to the end user who winds up paying a higher price.