From the Boatshop
by Ron Magen

"How to STAY in Business"

It’s a constant theme we all hear; the brag or gloat "I got that for less than you". It’s even done on television commercials.

I have always promoted the idea of supporting your local small businesses, whenever possible. Not that I’m ‘against’ the Big Box Boys, but the ‘knowledge base’ of the small ‘speciality’ shop is something we don’t want to lose. We have all had experiences with the ‘help’ at the ‘Borg’ . . . not exactly ‘helpful’. [Obviously there are a few exceptions; oddly enough they typically don’t stay around long]

Because of this, when we go to a Home Depot or Lowe’s, it’s for a specific item that they are known to have. For that ‘unknown solution’ we go to our local ‘expert’.

With the changes in the economy, the revealing of nefarious corporate philosophies, it seems that a lot of this is trickling down. Not necessarily the outright greed, but the attitude of ‘Screw The Customer’.

There is a local plumbing supply shop in our area - B&G Plumbing Supply in Roslyn, PA. They tout themselves as ‘the MOST COMPREHENSIVE and well known in the area’. I’ve been purchasing there for many years. They used to be affiliated with the Service Star association. Starting a few months ago they have changed . . . dramatically. Their out door sign hasn’t been touched for years. Now not only was it weathered, but torn. A large, text filled, sign was put up behind the counter explaining that they weren’t going out of business but ‘realigning’ to their core business . . . plumbing supplies only. Over the ensuing time the interior of the shop got more and more trashed as the displays of tools, tape, paint brushes, and other Service Star hardware items disappeared. {from an overheard telephone conversation ‘ . . . don’t bother with those Home Depot or Lowe’s guys . . .’ I suspect more that what is on the sign is the cause for these actions}

A few days ago I had occasion to stop in to find a piece of copper pipe of a specific OD and stiffness. First, there was no one in the store. Second, the guy behind the counter didn’t seem too interested in waiting on me. Third, when he did decide to, the phone rang and he immediately answered it without any ‘excuse me’ comment. Forth, he berated and kicked the old shop dog for barking, even though it was because it was his own daughter who was teasing the dog. Fifth, when he finally finished the call and I asked for what I wanted (which I had been in about a week before) he treated me like I was a moron, repeated that I wanted 4 feet when I said 3 feet, said it didn’t come in 3/4" OD, and before I could say "then give me ½ inch" he loudly said, "Just give them the $12.oo, my time is worth more than that !!". I walked out.

I drove back the other way, to Home Depot. Bought a 5-foot length of pipe, a few wraps of tape at one end, and it was to the perfect diameter that I needed to fit a ‘drop rod socket’.

They are obviously in trouble, all the indicators are there. If they think the commercial plumbers will save them . . . think again. An independent plumber is a business person. He will buy his supplies as cheaply as he can to maximize profit. Maybe a few ‘speciality items’ can’t be gotten from the discounters, but pipe, fittings, fixtures, etc. are standards available everywhere.

"The customer is always right" may be trite and passé. However, "The Customer should be courteously served; or you won’t be around for long" is what should replace it.