Mike Colon

From the Desk of Mike Colon, Blue Collar Black Book Founder

PASSING THE BUCK: Who Really Pays The Cost For Low Quality Materials?

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As I type, I am fighting a full scale war with my blood pressure over this topic. In life it seems the one responsible rarely bears the burden or pays the price for their actions and I believe that in the end we will find it to be true for this topic. If you seek out to get low quality materials then you really have no reason to complain. For the rest of us... where the hell do you even find good materials anymore? Dust off your riot gear we are about to do battle.

 Let's get down to the brass tax of this issue. What does this actually cost and who is footing the bill?

The Tradesman and or The Contractor

Bad materials cost tradesmen, contractors and business owners significantly every year. TIME. MONEY. REPUTATION. They are all effected.

If you are in any sort of service trade this problem eats you alive. If you are using a “flat rate” system, your profit on the job can rapidly start disappearing. I would venture to say the smaller the shop the greater the impact this can have on a company.

If you are doing a job “time and material” now your problem is getting far more complicated. The part you bought is not working (your responsibility?), the customer is watching the clock tick away, you slipping off to get more parts, correcting your work (LIKE IT WAS YOUR FAULT), all the while the meter is running and their bill is going through the roof. For small businesses your reputation is on the line every job and you rely on that reputation for word of mouth referrals. Do you pass on the extra labor cost to the homeowner, fully, not at all, or do you split it. There is no getting back the extra time it costs you. By the way, you are now late to your next job and that next customer is not happy about waiting around for you. Oh and then there is your family, sitting at home, waiting for you wanting to see their husband, wife or mom or dad. You just hope they ate without you so at least they aren't hungry.

These are but a few of the pressures I feel on 50% of my service calls whether they go right or not. On top of the time and money it's the collateral damage of bad parts that really takes it's toll.

The Customer

The customer pays because they have to pay. They are at the mercy of the contractor or tradesman they hired to do the work. They put their trust in us to look out for their best interest and despite our best effort, sometimes materials cost them more than we had hoped. If you are a contractor with a “heart of gold” that little old lady may not even know how bad things went when you give her a bill for a fraction of what you should have charged her.

But the Store Pays a Toll Too? RIGHT?

I am at fault here and I will own it. Maybe you do the same thing. It is rare that I take anything back when it breaks. I don't have time to sit in a return line and spend 15 minutes to return a $5 dollar part. It's cheaper for our customer or for me to just “eat the cost” of the part. SO! The vast majority of the time I completely let the store off the hook. If I let the store off the hook, I let the corporation off the hook. If I let the corporation off the hook then the manufacturer is off the hook. So nobody pays, the majority of the time, except the tradesman & the customer.

The problem is, a defect in a $10 part could easily cost a $100 dollars in labor. Now that $10(retail) part only cost the company between $2.50 and $5 at most. If only 1 out of 2 defective parts get returned, the cost for the corporation is halved and also under reported. THAT'S HOW THEY SEE IT. AND THAT'S WHY WE KEEP GETTING GARBAGE MATERIALS. It's a numbers game and there is literally no good incentive for them to do any better.

If you have ever been to the Contractors Register at Home Depot, you are familiar with the “get online and give us feedback” speech you get with every receipt. Out of annoyance I did one time and I told them the following: Home Depot is the “fast food” of construction and you are no different from WalMart. Your product is garbage and although it may “get you by” it certainly is not good for you or anybody for that matter.

I Will Not Pose A Problem Without Having A Solution

First let me ask a question. Are you the type of tradesman or contractor who, behind “closed doors”, says “I'm glad it's junk and I hope it breaks so we can fix it again. It's job security”? If so you are part of the problem. That statement tells me you care for neither your craft or your customer and that is where we part ways. I can fix any problem one time and I expect to only have to fix it one time.

So how do we fix this problem? In a way we have not done in a very long time. We stick together. You don't spend your money at places that clearly operate this way. The bigger issue is like Walmart, Home Depot killed many of the smaller outfits by pushing them out of business and lets be responsible and accountable... we helped them by not staying with our suppliers. When I built Blue Collar Black Book, I designed it to be a catch all place for tradesmen to band together on the issues that face us all whether that problem is a customer who burned us or shoddy materials. I believe that through communication, teamwork, solidarity and steadfastness we can make “the trades”, and I don't care what trade it is, work for us and not the other way around. Will You Take The Challenge?



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