I’ve talked to a few fellows who had read my last column about the Blue Book pricing guide, which by the way is not the same organization as Kelly Blue Book for cars, my mistake, sorry. Most thought it was a great idea, but... it will never work. Installers will never get on the same page when it comes to pricing. There will always be people undercutting your price, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah! You know if they had that attitude in this country a couple of hundred years ago we would still be paying tax on tea!!!! Ya, four exclamation marks! Five counting that last one. Come on, this is America, home of the free, land of the brave; we went to the moon, fixed Apollo 13 in flight with duct tape and cardboard book covers. We don’t shrink from challenges.

Is it going to be easy? No, but if you wanted easy you made a wrong career choice earlier in your life. Installation is hard work and hard on your body. I can’t tell you how many installers I have spoken to in their forties, fifties and sixties who have worked in this trade all their adult lives and when it comes to retirement have nothing to show for it, except a beat up body.

STANDARD INSTALLATION OVER CUSHION-WOOD

Now, you can’t just walk in with a copy of the Blue Book and say, “Give me more money.” If you do and let’s say the store you are working for is not opposed to the idea (fat chance), the first thing the owner is going to ask is, “OK, what am I getting tomorrow at the higher price, that I’m not getting today?” You need to have an answer for him because he needs one for Mrs. Consumer when she is shopping in his store.

This Blue Book is a pricing guide; it is a tool for you to use just like a power stretcher. If you don’t use a power stretcher you can’t charge for it. The prices in the Bluebook are based on services being performed according to manufacturer’s standards. What are manufacturer’s standards? Most carpet manufacturers will refer you to the Carpet and Rug Institute Manuals 104 and 105. If you don’t know what they are, go to www.carpet-rug.com click on installation, then click “Industry Standards for Installation” for a free download. This is the minimum standard for installation the mills require. Like 7.3.2 Sealing edges – Prior to seaming together, both trimmed edges of pieces to be joined must be sealed with an appropriate adhesive. Latex seam sealer or Thermoplastic are acceptable. (page 16 CRI 105)

STANDARD INSTALLATION OVER CUSHION-CONCRETE

7.5 Power stretching – Carpet must be properly power stretched and firmly hooked onto the tackstrip in accordance with the seven-step procedure described in Figure 1. The use of a power stretcher is mandatory (page 17 CRI 105).

If you don’t know these standards how can you expect to install according to the rules? It would be like driving with out ever reading the rules of the road, then being surprised when getting a ticket for speeding or running a red light.

“OK Hetts, that’s all fine and dandy for you to say with your cushy job working for Crain, but we live in the real world with competition and illegal aliens destroying pricing. You are out of touch and don’t have a clue of what it is to fight for it everyday. The stuff you do with your son, you don’t get your price you don’t care.” Well... maybe, but, in the ‘80s when everyone around me was getting $2.50 per square yard with no extras except pull up, I was getting $3.50 per square yard plus extras for stairs, furniture, metal, woven, Berbers, pull ups, concrete, and floor prep. I was in the trenches fighting for it everyday. I haven’t forgotten.

So how do we get the prices up? I have a couple of ideas. First, SELL YOURSELF. I wrote a column titled “Selling You.” I will ask John Moore to re-print it or at least have it available online or send me an e-mail: oneskydive@aol.com and I will forward it to you. This is what I did, besides installing according to CRI 140 & 105, to set myself apart from my competitors. The steps outlined in this article do not require any improvement of your installation skills, just your sales skills and it works. Next improve your skills. How do you do that? Easy, go to a local CFI chapter. You don’t have to be a CFI member and they won’t nag you to join. Don’t want to do that? Go to your local distributor and ask them to sponsor a seminar. Every manufacturer has highly skilled installation specialists who do training for their distributors at no charge to you. Heck you’ll probably get fed and discounts to boot. I know, I hear you; my distributor doesn’t do that.” You know why? Because you don’t show up! Distributors get tired of spending money on food, paying overtime, and the extra cost of keeping the building open for 3 to 8 people showing up.

DIRECT-GLUE INSTALLATION OVER WOOD-CONCRETE

I will do seminars for any of my distributors who want one and I will guarantee you that if you give me 2 hours of your time one evening I will help you improve your installation skills between 15 and 60 percent. Not to mention that I show you new tools to make your life easier. Come on, you don’t think Mr. Crain keeps me around just because I’m cute, do you? Well, maybe when I was younger.

Here’s another idea: write the mills. Tell them they need to insist on the use of qualified installers on their products, Installers that have demonstrated their hands-on skills and knowledge of industry standards. Oh great Hetts, that sounds like a CFI plug. Could be, but let me tell you the truth. I don’t care what entity or entities do the certifying, CFI, the Unions, FCICA, CRI, or WFCA as long as it is a level playing field and not an open book rubber stamp. In my mind it would be great if the mills and all the above got together, put the politics aside and instituted a program for warranties tied to the use of qualified installers. Set a deadline of January 1, 2010. After that date if a non-recognized installer installs carpet the warrantee is void. Auto manufacturers do it all the time. You know why plumbers and electricians, for example, get paid so well? Because they have to be certified and follow strict codes. They don’t do extra work without a work order and the agreement for the subsequent extra charge. And no plumber is going to use a 1” pipe when code calls for 2” pipe just because the job is behind schedule and people need to move in.

DOUBLE-GLUE INSTALLATION

Well, guess I kind of got off on a bit of a rant. It’s because I care. I’m an installer, and have been all my adult life; it’s in my blood. In my heart I will always be an installer. I know what it’s like to come home beat, knees aching, back sore, hands cramping up. That’s not going to change; this is hard work. But we, working together, can improve the quality level of our trade and your compensation.

This Blue Book is a great tool, use it. Did you know that over 16 million copies of this book go out to insurance adjusters, specifiers, architects, and construction companies just to name a few? Show the people you work for what the national standard is. Follow the guidelines in “Selling You”; it’s not going to happen overnight. I followed the guidelines from “Selling You” before I got paid for those extras that set me apart. That’s how I got paid more. I did it first then let the results of my efforts prove my services were worth the prices I set.

And speaking of not knowing stuff...Do you know how much it cost you to install a yard of carpet? No, I mean really know what it costs you? Just supplies; forget about all the other stuff for right now: insurance (medical, liability, workman’s comp, vehicle ), truck, truck maintenance, fuel, taxes, phone, office, office supplies, all that stuff. Well, the following chart of supply costs put together by by CFI should give you an idea. It shows exactly what your cost per square yard or a 100 square yard job is.

OK, where do we get the Blue Book? David Coley is a distributor for Blue Book; email him at daviddwcoley@peoplepc.com, he has arranged special pricing for FCI readers or you can order direct from Blue Book: http://www.bluebook.net at the suggested retail price. Also those spreadsheets from my last column will be available for download from cfiinstallers.com as well as the FCI website.

Like I said it won’t be easy or happen overnight, but that tax on tea thing opened a can of worms that took a little while to straighten out too.

Here’s a list of mills and their presidents to write to:

Jeffrey Lorberbaum, CEO
Mohawk Industries
508 East Morris Street
Dalton, GA 30721

Monte Thornton, President
Mohawk Industries
508 East Morris Street
Dalton, GA 30721
Vance Bell, CEO
Shaw Industries
PO Drawer 2128
Dalton, GA 30722-2128

Randy Merritt, President
Shaw Industries
PO Drawer 2128
Dalton, GA 30722-2128
Carl Bouckaert, CEO
Beaulieu of America
Box 1248
Dalton, GA 30722

Ralph Boe, President
Beaulieu of America
Box 1248
Dalton, GA 30722