Discussion: FLOORING: An Industry In Crisis, by Lea MacDonald

Discussion in 'Article Discussion Forum' started by Jim McClain, Jul 2, 2006.

  1. Lea MacDonald

    Lea MacDonald Charter Member Published

    Hello Peter, always great to read your well thought out comments.

    You wrote:
    Of course your observation is correct. I put it this way: "If all consumers were to by on the lowest common denominator, price, we'd all be driving Yugos, wearing running shoes, and salespeople would be a thing of the past."

    You wrote:
    I'm not sure about your statement above. I know that in the vision for the industry release, the statement was a call to the carpet mills to support the installation community by understanding that carpet is considered by the general public to be an installed product as John-Q-Public gains no direct value from it until it is installed properly on their floor. Put another way, a pace-maker has no value to a patient until it is actually installed and working properly. Perhaps the pace-maker analogy is not the best, but I think you understand what's trying to be conveyed.

    Your story around the sale and gutting of your former business is a sad indictment of some of the players participating in our industry. As you put it (in not so many words), "they just didn't get it . . . they never really knew where the real value was to be found in how we conducted our business."

    Of course, the most hurtful thing they did was to eventually fire-sale your former business to your (once) competitor. I can only shake my head at this. I can't begin to understand how that must have felt.

    Your copyright comment is a scream. Yes, I believe you would have made a few bucks there. And as far as having to work hard now, well, the fruits of your labor will likely move you into a position to start another family business . . . perhaps in the memory of your grandfather? It's a nice thought anyways. :)
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2006
  2. Chuck Coffer

    Chuck Coffer Well-Known Member

    "Deeply flawed" was probably a bit of an overstatement on my part, but nevertheless, there are assertions and presumptions that I do not agree with. Hell, the title itself is chief among the presumptions I reject.

    Crisis? That implies impending doom. Flooring, as a sector of the overall market, is hardly at the precipice of any particular calamity. It is in better shape than it was 30 years ago. It might suck when compared with some imaginary golden age of flooring, but crisis is not an accurate description. While there are portions of the greater flooring market that have been taking it in the pants of late, other sections of that market have taken up the slack. It is simple market evolution.

    Another assertion I wholeheartedly disagree with is your claim that floor covering has become more and more difficult to install over the years. That is simply not the case. Consistency has improved over the years. I think a better way to describe the evolution of flooring would be to look at it in terms of polarization instead of a general degradation of product quality. There is no shortage of high end product for a consumer to choose. In fact, there are a heck of a lot more high end products out there now than there were 30 years ago. There is also a giant boom in mass produced crap going on. It is that middle portion that has been squeezed.
    It is not my intention to tear apart anything you have written. I simply disagree with some of your assumptions. It would be my great honor to discuss this with you if you are willing.

    Last edited: Jul 10, 2006
  3. Lea MacDonald

    Lea MacDonald Charter Member Published

    This is a wonderful way to start a discussion. Thanks Chuck.

    I'll try to review your points one by one, and where possible I will supply data. I'll start by asking you to forgive my long-winded response below. I'll go into great detail because you've got valid questions which deserve the best explaination I can offer.

    As sited in the article, and when we were looking at a cross section of data collected with regard to the installation community, we came across some disturbing numbers. One of those numbers was that in MI the mean-age of tile setters was 58-years of age in the mid-90s. That was close enough to 60 to send up flags which suggested that the introduction of new people into the trade was way down. As we looked further we found the same thing in carpet, hard surface and so on. Forgive me but I've lost the exact numbers for the mean-age in each of these groups. They did however confirm a trend - new guys coming into the trade had slowed to a crawl which alerted us to the fact (by logical extension) that the knowledge the older guys had was not being passed down.

    In effect, what we saw was the residual level of knowledge in the installation community slipping away, shrinking, *along with that old-time skill* you and I and our ilk possess. Further evidence of this was exposed when 50% (actually 51%) of the retailers at a Carpet One convention confessed they'd put off customer's installations in order to put their best installers on them. Remember, this was 1994/5, only 11 or 12 years ago. Another 25% of those who responded to that questionnaire said they had experienced some difficulty in finding good installers to perform their installations. The net result being that good installers were not as abundant as they once had been.

    This then begged the question, that in the face of not being able to call up a good installer at will, who was installing the material they could not get to? Well, it was shown that the people installing the material they could not get to were poorer installers. Who showed us? The mill/manufacturers.

    When asked, the mills/manufacturers, in quiet whispers, shared their installation related losses for the year 1995. It was staggering. Our consultants recieved a figure that hovered around 500 million dollars collectively. They later, after much sleuthing, revised that number to 750 million with a deep suspicion that the number was really closer to a billion dollars across the entire industry. The reason, they said, that the mills did not give hard numbers was because share holders would not be impressed by the losses. I can't argue that. (Remember, the mills were trying to lock up channels of distribution for their finely tuned plants that were churning out carpet and vinyl faster and cheaper than ever before - they took a lot on the chin in order to keep ownership of those hard-earned channels.)

    So lets come full circle at least in 1995. The mills were bleeding to death, the installation community was significantly contributing to that blood letting, and good installers were getting harder to find. This was called a crisis.

    Lets fast-foward 12 years and see if it still exists. Over the past 12 years or so we've seen a lot of innovative products come and go. Remember Mannington Gold, Silver, and Bronze interflex? . . . with that "for whatever reason" warranty? How about Pergo that required all joins to be glued? Bear with me, I'm going someplace with this. I'm trying to point to the fact (still to be determined in this War&Peace answer) that there are more problems in the field today. Here is one supporting fact, there are more inspectors in this industry than at any other time in its history. I don't make the following statement factiously: "They are not here today because flooring is going in without problems."

    20 years ago how many welded products were there? (I remember when Corac <sp?>pretty much welded everything without problems). How many types of welding are done today? I can think of 3 off hand, chemical, heat, colored urethane. How many vinyls require different seaming methodologies?

    So too have the standards changed. I've been left dizzy by the various requirements for setting ceramic tile. Remember some of those pics the guys posted of some of those horrific ceramic installs?(Perhaps you posted them? I can't remember.) Hard surface is coming back and the difficulty in finding good hard surface installers is evidenced in the price being paid per square yard for installation. Heck, there are at least 4 different ways to seam carpet together now. Remember the vinyl job pics an installer recently posted of a guy (who was alleged to have been in the buisness for years) installed - pieces, upon pieces? Heck, it looked like a tile job. Back to the point - there are more inspectors in this industry than at any time previous - they are here because of the high level of claims - claims generally resulting from installer error, lack of knowledge, skill and training.

    This begs the question: "Why so many claims at this point in time?" (Thanks Chuck, if you managed to read this far without sliding into a coma, I owe you a beer.) The reason is because the number of products and the level of sophistication now required to install them has increased against the level of residual knowledge in the trade today.

    Okay, that's question 1 answered to the best of my ability. I'll post this and move on.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2006
  4. Lea MacDonald

    Lea MacDonald Charter Member Published

    Let's take a look at your thought above. You're somewhat correct with your observation that crisis does imply impending doom. However, crisis does not guarantee doom. There is a significant difference. A crisis can be brought under control if appropriate steps are taken. For instance, if mills are trying to stem the flow of profit dollars into the damage control column (claims), they'll hire inspectors at a fraction of the cost it would take to replace jobs. So too will hardwood companies, ceramic companies and so on. The fact that inspectors now have very viable and relatively stable employment points to a symptom of an impending sickness or clamity or crisis if appropriate steps are not taken. It also points to the fact that less qualified installers are installing more material. We've all see many examples of extreme installation diasters. This, of course, begs the question: "Where the heck was the good installer when the disaster was happening?" Not enough to go around. Why? (Rhetorical.)

    Again, we need to differentiate. Flooring is the industry. The market is the place they conduct business.

    I'd say crisis is a fair and honest interpretation of things if more installers leave the trade than come in, if products keep requiring more skills and training specific to their installation than installers have time to learn, if installers in small numbers take that training (how many times have you attended an instructional seminar only to have the facilitator say that typically the guys that attend the seminars are NOT the guys who need the training?), . . . if the responsibility of training-down falls to the shoulders of the installation community and mills shun responsibility for educating the very people they count on to install their products properly, if mills fail to understand they are manufacturing an installed good.

    In the case of the flooring industry, it is defined as a mature industry. A mature industry is defined by a low but stable growth rate. Though one may see a new product within an industry serge forward, it does not mean that the entire industry serges - just that product. For instance, we'll not see the flooring industry grow by 50% next year, it's mature. We may see a new and novel product offering take a segment of the market by storm, but the industry will remain on track with low and stable growth.

    Forgive me, I made the comment above to address one of your comments, but I'm tired as heck and can't seem to remember which one. I also have a column to write for a 10 o'clock deadline tomorrow. I'll hustle back tomorrow, err today, to answer your question and concerns.

    Thanks again Chuck for asking the questions and sharing your thoughts, all valid, all well thought out and on point.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  5. Lea MacDonald

    Lea MacDonald Charter Member Published

    I read your last para and decided sleep can wait for a bit. I'll get my sleep in a bit, you'll get yours trying to read these long-winded replies. lmao

    I believe the term used was 'sophistication and skill.' The point I was trying to make relative to the use of those two words today was one of alerting the reader to the fact that with each new product comes a learning curve. Some are small. Others can be large. In any event, something new has to be learned. The more products, the more that needs to be learned/taught. In the case of some hard surface floors, welding of those floors is no easy feat. In fact, as I stated before, I can think of at least 3 different ways to weld seams - therefore the level of sophistication regarding skill and product knowledge has increased. Today's installer has to have more skills because there is a broader range of products requiring product-specific training. This does not equate to difficulty, unless you are like me and have trouble remembering all these things. :)

    I can see that in your thoughtful questions, thanks Chuck.

    I hope I've helped better clarify the points the article was coveying, Chuck. I appreciate the time and effort you've put into reading it, and further appreciate the opportunity to discuss it with you.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  6. Chuck Coffer

    Chuck Coffer Well-Known Member

    Please forgive me for not engaging in the "quote-respond-quote-respond" type of writing. I just don't like it.

    Many of these distinctions you have drawn are merely semantic. To say that the market is simply "where they do business" ignores basic economic truths. I maintain that the flooring industry is not in any sort of crisis precisely because there is nothing unique about what is going on. For me to entertain the idea that there is a crisis at hand, I would first have to be convinced that there was a time in the last half century when this industry was teeming with highly qualified mechanics. The problem the industry faces is the same one it has always faced; and it is not unique to our chosen field of endeavor.

    With respect to the learning curve, it has become easier to adjust to, not harder. If your assertions were limited to heat welding vinyl, they would have been close to dead on. Problem is, your article was dedicated to the generic topic of "flooring" instead of the specific topic of "commercial resilient". As a whole, the flooring biz is in fine fettle. There are niches within it which are suffering, but the industry has always evolved to fill any vacuum. Consumers will be provided with that for which they are willing to pay. The decision made by many consumers to choose bargain basement junk over higher quality alternatives is not a failure of the flooring industry. It is a success. They are choosing to serve the entire market!

    While the Ford Escort was a car you would never see me driving, I never blamed Ford for making it. They sold the hell out of them. It was the only car some people could afford. They did not quit making Mustangs while they made the Escort.

    Does any of this make sense?
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  7. Lea MacDonald

    Lea MacDonald Charter Member Published

    Hello Chuck, thanks for responding. Fine points all of them, let's examine them partner.

    The article did not suggest that anything was harder to do. It did, however, point to a required increase in skills and sophistication regarding new products and systems that require product-specific training.

    Outside the welding examples discussed, there exists many other examples. Let's take a look at a few of those. Velcro carpet attachment&installation system (older, but if you've not installed it, you'll need training), various types of new engineered floors: wood, ceramic etc., still emerging laminate products, new rubberized floor systems, and new concrete surface finishes. There are plenty of new products and systems to keep an installer going to seminars for a while.

    The previous example should address your above observation. Within the generaic flooring industry exists pockets of new products that require installation-specific skills developement.

    I utterly agree wholeheartedly with your observation above. Though, one must conceed that when the industry does not respond fast enough - for instance to a shortage of installers - a crisis occurs. Even if the industry does respond with numbers of installers but those installers are poorly trained, the same condition exists, a crisis. Simply put, material goes down that is not installed properly, customers start look for alternative floor coverings, mills start to bleed, good installers participating in the market segment that consummers are migrating away from either exit that segment or leave the trade all together - there are examples of this.

    I'm not so sure the above rings entirely true. For instance, there are many examples where customers have paid good money only to have their material totally destroyed. We've seen pleanty evidence of this in inspector reports. However, I will conceed that in general your statement should ring true despite evidence to the contrary.

    According to the data the above statement is not valid. One of the most disturbing numbers uncovered in the Gallop study was that 80% of customers who went to purchase flooring were undersold. Retailers were directing customers toward higher margin specials and away from thinner margin materials of greater quality - customers were undersold.

    At the end of the day it was the consummer who was relying on the salesperson for information regarding features, benefits, quality and value. Customers really don't know a whole lot about the products they wish to purchase. All most of them know is what the last salesperson they talked to told them.

    I can't remember a time I talked with a customer who knew more about what I was trying to sell them than what I did. I'm sure there may be some out there, I've just not met one yet. The point is that they rely on the sales person to give them correct information and present a balanced value picture. The data said this was clearly not happening, that 80% of those folks were being undersold.

    Again partner, thanks for taking the time and caring enough to discuss these points. You have a refreshingly inquisitive mind . . . aways a pleasure.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  8. Chuck Coffer

    Chuck Coffer Well-Known Member

    Lea, with all due respect, most of these "new skills" you refer to consist of little more than reading the directions. The heavy lifting has been done by the people who have designed the installation systems. Were I not a skilled mechanic myself, I would be in no position to comment. However, things being as they are, I am squarely in that position. There are now more situation specific solutions to installation quandries available to the competent mechanic than at any time in the history of our profession.

    As far as people being undersold, that is a matter of retail in general, not of flooring specifically. Attacking and vanquishing that lowball mindset is what I do for a living. It is a challenge. It is also an awesome opportunity. Some rise to the occasion. Some do not. Selling price alone is no new phenom. It is a tale as old as time.

    I am eager to be shown a crisis. Nothing you have written has demonstrated (to me) that one exists.

    Your affectionate servant,
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2006
  9. Chuck Coffer

    Chuck Coffer Well-Known Member

    p.s. Problems that arise as a consequence of growth are the sort of problems for which we should all pray. They beat the hell out of the alternative.

    In the midst of abundance, there are no problems. Only solutions.
  10. Lea MacDonald

    Lea MacDonald Charter Member Published

    Hello Chuck, let's review your comments above. PS: great discussion.

    Allow me to site a simple example, one that I'm sure you'll agree would take more than reading the instructions. The example I'll use is a repair example for laminate. The laminate in this case is Torlys, and the tool used is one called the bulldog. With the use of this particular tool the installer can remove a board, mid-room, and replace it, then close the floor back up without any cutting or glue whatsoever.

    Despite the fact this is a repair, it really is something one needs to see done unless they possess exceptional skills for intuitively understanding a new tool by looking at it - I'm not one of those guys. Laminates are still relatively new and I'm not so sure we've seen the last innovation in this arena.

    I'm grateful you made this comment because if you hadn't I was about to. You are indeed skilled at your trade and have put in years developing your skills and knowledge and this is at the very heart of the topic at hand. When those less skilled, or in many instances significantly less skilled, are set lose in an industry to service customer expectations, the possibility of failure increases as skills decrease. This is where the industry finds itself every time it views installation as a cost of doing business rather than a value added service. This is where the industry finds itself every time it treats installation as a common commodity. This is where the industry finds itself everytime a customer sees advertising verbage stating: "Free installation, free pad!" Can any value be associated with something that is free? If so, where did the axiom, "you only get what you pay for," come from? This industry has done significant damage to itself and those who participate in it on many fronts.

    Installers themselves don't treat installation as a common commodity, each installer has something more or less to bring to the party than the next guy. Some installers are exceptional, some are middle of the road, and of course we have the bottom feeders who, for whatever reason, move from one calamity to the next.

    In a nutshell, the closer this industry moves to viewing installation as a cost to be avoided, controlled, negotiated downward, the closer they move toward a crisis. Chuck, if I were to say to you (as a retailer) I have 200 sq-feet of ceramic to go down and I'm paying you a buck a foot, you'd likely have two words for me, and I'm betting they would not be: "Hi there." Yet, I get reports of retailers, who've already bid and gotten the jobs, standing on their loading docks getting installers to bid down the installation price in order to get the install.

    Here is an example of self inflicted damage done by Dupont. Remember Certified Dupont Stainmaster? When that program was rolled out there were 3 things that were required for a carpet to be sold under the Stainmaster banner. Do you know what they were without doing a search? I do.

    The yarn had to be a 3rd generation Nylon. The face weight of the carpet had to be 32 oz. and it had to be a BCF - 3 simple things. In no time at all we started seeing 28 oz. or less staple yarn carpet carrying the Stainmaster banner.

    After that program flew into the side of a mountain Dupont regained control by introducing their Master Life program. To the best of my knowledge Dupont has maintained control of this program.

    I'm not sure what to make of your statement above. Wether or not underselling exists in other retail segments, the reality is that the flooring industry was underselling their customers en mass - 80%. In fact they were underselling their customers hard at a time they could little afford to do so.

    In the mid 90s I was to train a pilot program for Orcon called the TQM (Total Quality Management) program. If all we had learned was to have any use it would have to be reduced to practice, in real time, in the field, in the market place. It would have to make retailers and installers money, period. This is coming full circle to customers being undersold.

    A retailer who was opening in a nearby town of 29-thousand people asked if we could help them make a mark in a marketplace that already had 4 mature businesses in it. This was one heck of a tall order to fill. Stainmaster was being flooged daily for $12.95. One of the retailers paid their installers $10.00 an hour, $15.00 for a real good installer. Another retailer was the oldest fooring store for that town, and they were all simply punishing each other on price.

    We trained 5 of the retailer's installers over a week. These guys all had a minimum of 10 years as installers, not helpers. Then we trained the sales staff over another week. We finally helped with the advertising for the store owners, not allowing anything to be put out over the air, written or said to the public without a thumbs-up from us.

    Here's what happened. While the competition was killing each other on price, this retailer was inviting people to come view their Crossely E-MarkIV collection starting at $54.95 a square yard. They also informed the listening public that they had Certified installers who had just graduated the Orcon TQM training program. The sales staff, understanding that 80% of the folks that went to purchase carpet were being undersold, educated their potential purchasers about the features, benefits, quality and value of the products they we viewing.

    Here is the net result of that program. This retailer, in a mature market, in their first year of buisness, against 4 other retailers servicing a population of 29-thousand customers, and paying their installers far more than anyone else, did 1.2 million in sales coming out of the blocks. Their sales doubled the next year. Installers from the other stores started to look for work with this retailer. This is the very formula I will use to open my retail establishment in 2 months.

    I'm extremely happy to see you type this Chuck because it means you deal face to face with this prevailing mindset every day. I'm also betting you dealt with it when you did private sales as an installer. How many times did you have to straighten out a customer with regard to crap a salesperon had fed them? You're still doing it now except your on another side of a fence. You have to sell on features, benefits, quality and value every day.

    Here is what the Gallop group discovered regarding females who went to purchase carpet. The #1 thing women were interested in was color. #2 was texture and feel. #3 was durability and ease of cleaning. #4 was price . . . in that order.

    BINGO! It IS and opportunity, but only if you understand what motivates people to purchase better products. One of those understandings would be that people don't really want to spend their hard earned dollars on junk that may fail, is hard to work with, or only performs for a short time.

    That's a fair thing to ask, Chuck. I'm actually smiling as I write this because if you're not experiencing what I'm about to write in the following lines, you soon will be. You deal with the crisis every day. Every time someone does not give a rat's hiney about features, benefits, quality or value. You deal with it every time a person tries to squeeze your margin so they can protect their margin at your expense, and then they take the savings you gave them and turn around and sell what you sold them cheaper than the customer your about to visit . . . who's about to ask for the same break. These people are known as margin sucking weezles - oh sure, you call them something else (so do I), but we'll spare the language filter a punishing workout.

    And what you are seeing, or will surely see, is a symptom of a greater sickness - the loss of value association - the unwillingness or inability of many you deal with to actually sell on features, benefits, quality and value. You'll soon discover that they want you to sell it for them buy giving them a cheap price, period. This mentality swept this industry in the late 80s and 90s and remains pervasive today. And until something happens to check that mentality this industry will remain in crisis.

    Lastly, when you last did repair work, was it for your own work or for some elses work? I'm betting a dollar to a doughnut it was for someone else.

    Oh, one more thing. When I open my retail outlet I'm going to need some products and pricing - I want it so cheap I wanna see you bleed. I don't want to have to sell it, I want it soooo cheap that people will snatch it from my store because of price alone. :)

    Actually, tell me if what I write below is true. (I already know the answer.) If I purchase your products and sell them on the features and benefits *you educate me on* against the difficulties *you educate me on* regarding other similar products, and I put a fair market price on your products then educate my customers with the information *you taught me,* is it reasonable to conclude that when I sell your products I will make an acceptable profit?

    Would I be a valuable customer? (Unless you're on your game here Chuck, you're going to get this question wrong, but that's okay, you're going to learn something really cool in our next chat.)

    LOVE this discussion Chuck. Really I do. Thanks partner.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2006
  11. Chuck Coffer

    Chuck Coffer Well-Known Member

    I see lemonade where you see lemons. Let us examine your example. While you used the example of that tool as a way of proving that installation has become a more mentally taxing exercise; I look at it as one hell of an innovation! What method preceded the advent of your example? Putty?

    Things get better every day. To me, the biggest problem on the immediate horizon is the blurring of lines between manufacturer, distributor and retailer.

    As far as the future of installation, that is a bottom up deal. Organizations do not install product. Men do. There are no barriers between installers and information nowadays. It is up to the man who yearns to become excellent at what he does to make that goal a reality. I have never had a job as an installer. I never had anyone "send" me to get training. Nevertheless, I know more about this stuff than most men in the business. It was not an accident, and I ain't all that smart. I simply wanted to be the best.

    While I have pretty much made twice what most installers make around here, it was not due to luck. I spend every day of of my life making myself a more valuable commodity. Yes, commodity.
  12. Lea MacDonald

    Lea MacDonald Charter Member Published

    Hello Chuck, just got back from band practice, good to see you had time to pop in. Let's take a look.

    You and I both view the tool the same way, a great innovation. And it's hard to say if putty was used before the introduction of this tool - to be sure, something was. I don't see installation as becoming more mentally taxing, I see it as something that requires the investment of more time to keep abreast of new innovations, techniques, and products.

    This line is not so difficult if you look at it a certain way. This is one thing we came to understand in this industry . . . it rings true for other industries as well . . . and, by the way, this is the correct answer to the last question I asked: Those 3 entities are ALL channel partners. Not one of them is a customer. The customer is defined as the one making final use of any product sold. For instance, where I asked if I'd be a valued customer, the correct answer would have been that I might indeed be valued, but I'd not be your customer, I'd be a channel partner engaged in the distribution of your product offerings.

    This was one huge area of disconnect in the industry when the Gallop group and the Industrial Performance Group examined it: the mills looked upon the retailers as their customers rather than channel partners. The mills were engaged in the business of satisfying the retailers who (wanted cheaper carpet) were then left the responsibility of satisfying the final consumer. The net result of which was carpet that was receiving less latex and more fillers and frothing agents, lighter face weights blown and fluffed to give the illusion of a better hand, and more staple yarn products.

    The industry has entered a game called "Someone's margin has to give and it ain't gonna be mine." The mills protected their margin by reducing expensive components in the manufacturing process. The retailers got their cheap carpet and could maintain their margin. The installer however, recieved carpet that was getting harder and harder to work with, and the customer got a lesser quality product. When the consumer woke up to this fact - carpet was not performing like it once had - they started to migrate toward other products in droves, laminates, hardwood, ceramic and so on - self inflicted crisis.

    If you consider yourself a dime-a-dozen commodity I'll not be able to change your mind. However, if you did something like taking a burning desire to be better than other also-rans, then you stepped outside being a commodity. Granted, you may be considered a commodity in short supply because you have more knowledge and dedication and drive than others, but you certainly stepped outside being a dime-a-dozen commodity selling dime-a-dozen commodities.

    However, if you insist you're a dime-a-dozen commodity, then you'll not be able to shake that when selling products because, by association, they too will be considered commodities.

    And thus we have the pervasive mentality in the flooring industry: everything is a commodity, pad, installation, and everything associated. And as consumers move closer to this understanding, the industry moves deeper into crisis.

    Great discussion Chuck, really. Indeed, always a pleasure. Your desire to learn has been evident throughout our entire dialogue.


    You never had a job as an installer? What was it you were greasy fast at then?
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2006
  13. harry bean

    harry bean Charter Member

    Greetings oh wise men and women. New here and just wanted to comment.

    While Lea's history lesson is correct I believe his revelations about how this industry is in a crisis is terribly wrong.

    I lived this crisis. I lived the history lesson and believe me all the bad stuff that happened to me was a direct result of me not selling myself,. As an independant installer now, you better learn fast to sell yourself.

    The manufactures knew exactly what they wanted when they wanted it. They wanted cheap labor -slamerjammer- on the floor and got exactly what they wanted. Retailers knew and do - keep labor low - dont care- attitude and still do. This is a crisis dreamed up by the manufacturing community. They got exactly what they wanted and deserved.

    Does anyone here think the manufactures actually had to pay for any of that hacked in flooring? Really? I doubt it. So why all the screaming the sky is falling?

    You can keep yourself out of this hypothetical crisis if you want to. Just be the best you can be. Do lots of research. People, all the information you will ever need is right in front of your finger tips. You just need to know how to find it. Actually these BB's are almost outdated in that purpose except just to chat with one another.

    If you have any skill at all you can install just about anything you want to professionally. Albeit a little practice and research.

    Aright I believe I said enough.,
  14. Chuck Coffer

    Chuck Coffer Well-Known Member


    This discussion has devolved into a debate. I am in no position to educate anyone about the inner workings of carpet mills. That ain't my gig; and besides, I am talking about flooring, not carpet. Carpet and residential sheet are both losing market share to hard surface alternatives. This has more to with the increasing affordability of the latter than the general quality of the former.

    I suppose I will recede from this intercourse, since it has morphed into you and me competing to "win" our common argument instead of attempting to come to a mutual understanding. The definition of the term "crisis" is apparently attitudinal in nature. Such is the case with all shifts in the market at large.

    Keep on fightin' the good fight.

    Your devoted servant,
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2006
  15. Chuck Coffer

    Chuck Coffer Well-Known Member

    I must say that I find this sort of back and forth very enjoyable. Comforting, even. There is an immense pleasure to be found in intelligent conversation. While I disagree with many of Lea's opinions, at least they are genuine opinions. They are borne of thought and studious reflection. They are not verbal ejaculations based upon uninformed prejudice. That is quite refreshing. I will continue this discussion if asked to do so, but I have pretty much said all I have to say. I detest redundancy.

    Last edited: Jul 14, 2006
  16. Chuck Coffer

    Chuck Coffer Well-Known Member

    p.s. Commodity means anything of value. Installation is a commodity just as everything people purchase is a commodity. There is no sane reason to consider that word or its true definition to be profane. To say that installation is a commodity is a simple realization of undeniable truths. Unfinished wood is also a commodity. That does not mean that select and #2 can be had for the same price.

    In a multi-tiered market, there will always exist disparate levels of value associated with each level of competence required for a particular task. Competence will match demand. To make the imaginary jump between general competence and specific skillsets to defend an extrapolation based upon a personal belief in some egalitarian ethic is an effort based more in faith than in empericism.

    It is a bottom up deal. Men make themselves better. Excellence can be forced about as efficiently as a string can be pushed.

    I know of what I speak.

    Last edited: Jul 14, 2006
  17. Tandy Reeves

    Tandy Reeves Resting In Peace Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    Great discussion and points from all three of you. However, at what point does a crisis exist when 89% to a whopping 96% of everything we look at is a complaint because the product was not installed properly.

    That is not because an inspector thinks it is wrong, but the book (installation instructions) say it is wrong.
  18. Peter Kodner

    Peter Kodner Inspector Floors Charter Member Senior Member

    I agree this discussion has been both infomative and entertaining.
    I did copy dictionary.com definition of commodity:
    1. Something useful that can be turned to commercial or other advantage: “Left-handed, power-hitting third basemen are a rare commodity in the big leagues” (Steve Guiremand).
    2. An article of trade or commerce, especially an agricultural or mining product that can be processed and resold.
    3. Advantage; benefit.
    4. Obsolete. A quantity of goods.
    Not sure if this clarifies anything, but I always like to hear someone other than my own definitions of words...

    Lea & Chuck, please continue this thread.

    BTW I think Tandy is right on with what our role as inspectors is. "Just the facts, Ma'am, Just the facts." Sgt. Friday, Dragnet.
  19. Lea MacDonald

    Lea MacDonald Charter Member Published

    Hello Tandy, thank you for your comment. The notion that an inspector has relative job security these days, to me, is testament to the fact things are not all that well in this industry - you see it first hand every day.

    The point at the heart of my article is really one of installation. If a industry segment does not have the ability to satisfy consumers then that industry is in crisis. Although an elementary observation, it rings very true.

    25% of my calls are either to start (or complete) a difficult installation or repair it. The repairs I see are as you pointed out, installation related. The reality is that all my calls should be for installation, period. And I'm not alone in my observation. I've plumbed other older installers in this area and they are getting repair calls as well.

    While I won't argue repairs are a part of what we do, I do contend that being invited to view catastophic screw ups should not typical to this industry. And while one may contend that these screw ups happen in other industires, such a statement is nothing more than a blanket statement used for generalizing. Electricians have standards and codes they have to go by, many in the installation community consider their guidelines and standards mere suggestions.

    The net result of screwing up a customer's material is one of disatisfaction. If only 10% of those who have material installed are experiencing installation problems, it simply does not bode well for the industry, and by logical extension is one of the building blocks for a crisis.

    Again, thank you for your comments.
  20. Steve Olson

    Steve Olson Hardwood/Laminate Guru Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    Sorry Peter K, I must take issue "that left handed, power hitting third basemen are a commodity.."A right handed, power hitting third baseman , who bats from the left side, now, THATS a commodity. Lefties are good for 1st, right, and pitching.:D

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.