I don’t know, maybe because it’s summer and I really enjoy my backyard, sitting on the deck under the gazebo on a soft summer’s eve looking at Janet’s beautiful garden, enjoying a nice cigar and an icy cold weekend beer. If left to myself, invariably I’ll start thinking about the state of our industry, installation in particular, then I’ll start getting irked.

OK enough is enough, no more Mr. Nice Guy! Are we the only industry on the planet that doesn’t give a damn about our customers? Whoops, did I say that? You’re damn right! The mills make the carpet, roll it by the inspectors at 1,000-feet-per-hour, roll it, wrap it in plastic, stick on a truck, send it out the door, wipe their hands and say, “Well, we did our job.” No! You didn’t! The job is not done until I install it! It is an installed product; it ain’t done until I say it is! It is not unlike a lumber mill shipping off a 2-by-4 saying, “Nice House, we did a great job.” The mills take no responsibility to assure their final customers, who are not the retailers, but Mrs. Consumer, have a quality product. No wonder ceramic and hardwood are kicking carpet’s butt in the home market.

Jon and I did an installation for a lady today, pattern piece of goods, when I did the measure (called in special by the store to handle a “problem customer/installation”). She told me, “I want this carpet, but the last installer told me, “Oh this mill’s patterns are terrible to seam I won’t install them.” She came home as we were vacuuming and knowing where the seam was supposed to be said, “Where’s the seam?” I said, “Hmm, it’s here somewhere.” I’m not the greatest carpet installer in the world, but if you can’t hide a decent seam in a pattern, good Christ my man, how do you expect to hide one in plush?

I bring this up to ask you this question, “How much effort has your local carpet mill made to assist you in installing their product properly? Yeah, Yeah, I know, I can hear the mills saying, “Well, we have a tech dept.” Big sneeze, they are reactive, not proactive. If the job is big enough and enough money involved and screwed up enough, they might send out a “tech guy” to help save it.

When was the last time you saw a mill tech rep come out and do a seminar on how to install their products? OK, too tough a question? I’ll make it easier. Have you ever seen a mill rep do an installation seminar in your town? Funny, I know that I, as a Crain rep, and other tool manufacturer’s reps, have been in your town doing training. Now whether or not you showed up is another story; shame on you if you didn’t.

Don’t you think it’s about time the mills started taking responsibility for this multi-billion dollar industry? To make sure that their customers are receiving the proper delivery of the product they are purchasing? Because really, the bottom line is that an installed product is the only really properly delivered method of the purchased product. In the immortal words of that great philosopher and observer of the human condition, the Crocodile Hunter, “Crikey Mate! It’s not rocket science!”

Here’s how ridiculous the situation is. Imagine that you are going to buy a new car. Instead of a service department filled with properly trained, certified, factory-authorized mechanics to care for your new car through the warrantee period and beyond, you were told to find someone to look after you car; it’s not our responsibility. Or, better yet, the manufacturer gives you the parts; getting the finished product is your responsibility. OK, you’re a good sport and go along with it. The “auto assembler” shows up in an old dirty rusted out van, belching smoke, maybe he speaks English, maybe not, and starts the assembly of your new car.

“Wow,” he says, “I never did one of these before, oh well they’re all the same.” Is he using the right tools the way the manufacturer instructed? “Naw, those bolts don’t need to be torque. I been using pliers for 20 years and never had a problem. Gasket sealer? They don’t pay me to do that.” When he goes to the supply house, is he buying the proper and recommended supplies? Or does it sound something like this, “What’s your cheapest oil and fan belts? Do you have any tire seconds on sale?” When he finishes, does he wash the car or leave it dirty and the tires UN-inflated?

Oh, I can hear you, “Hetts what are you smokin’? That’s ridiculous! Car companies would never do that. People would not stand for it they would be out of business in a heartbeat!” Well, maybe, but that’s what goes on in our industry on a daily basis. Armstrong Industries realized decades ago they could sell more of their products if there were more qualified technicians to install them. Other sheet vinyl and linoleum manufacturers followed suit and have training schools, both traveling and at headquarters. Hardwood has an organization dedicated to training. Carpet cleaners have the IICRC, which by the way, some mills are insisting in order to maintain the warranties of the carpet; it should be cleaned by IICRC-certified cleaners. That’s maintenance, but no such requirement for the most important thing to happen to that piece of carpet; its installation.

Is it just me, or do you see something dysfunctional in the whole procedure? Go back to the auto analogy, it would be like Ford or Chevy saying, “We don’t care who works on your car, but you better take it to a certified carwash or your warranty is toast!”

Last column, I said the mill tech departments were working to create ANSI standards for installation. I was told it would take at least two years to prepare them, then another five years to implement. Why so long? What about the Carpet & Rug Institute installation standards CRI 104 & 105? It seems to me there is no need to reinvent the wheel. CRI 104 and 105 aren’t perfect, but just a little tweaking would do wonders.

So where does the training come from? Good grief, look around! The CERTIFIED FLOORCOVERING INSTALLERS (CFI), and the union INSTALL program are right there. All that is needed is for the mills to suck it up, assume some responsibility for the completion of their manufacturing process…the proper installation of the carpet in their true customers home or business.