The Borg part..... ?

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wrote:

Robert, There is a lot of info here and I wont try to give my .02 on all of it making an already long thread longer.
There is a line that a customer once said to me many years ago (perhaps 10 or more) that I have posted here many times. She was a great customer, very high end, custom everything, really appreciated attention to detail (our mantra). We got into a conversation about big boxes, walmart, etc. regarding their effect on local and global economies, corporate and consumer mentality, the environment, overall product quality, and so on. After a long fairly pleasant conversation in which she agreed with most of the negative aspects of these places, she said (and I quote) "Look, the bottom line is, I want WHAT I want, WHEN I want it, at the cheapest price, no matter what the cost". The cost part is not dollar cost, she meant she didnt care how many rivers in china flowed mercury laiden, how many of the local businesses went down, she almost inimated that if, as a side effect of it all, she would no longer have access to the quality goods she loved, so be it.
I deemed this "the shrinking circle" meaning the average US consumer doesnt care/act until disaster is imminently breaching thier comfort circle. This circle use to encapsulate your town, local factories, the mill in the next town over, your country, etc.. Now the circle is within the four walls of your home. Until a husband, son, mother, father, daugher, etc. is directly impacted most dont care. Well, not surprisingly her husband was a high level excec. at a large company that eventually was affected by the whole process. We had left the area by then so I do not know what her position was after all that.
This, to me, relates directly to your comments about HD taking returns. Its a short sighted positive for the customer due to the simple fact that all the aforementioned retailers directly force vendors to reduce quality to gain any price reductions possible. This would be fine if the retailer held the perspective that because they specified said quality reductions they (the retailer) are responsible for customer dissatisfaction. This couldnt be farther from the case. Coupled with forcing manufacturers to reduce quality to meet price points, they also force many of them to blanketly accept any and all returns. This goes to the extreme of Stanley having to take back roof nailers contractors bought to shoot a roof in a busy patch, then return when the job's done. Boxes returned to the vendor empty or filled with junk. On an on. This is why most everything you open now has a sheet right on top saying "Do not return this to the place of purchase before calling 1-800-***" The vendors are now in damage control trying to reduce returned goods. The Freemarketeers out there will say if the manufacturer doesnt like it dont sell to them. Statements like that are utterly naieve, uninformed, and reactionary. The "cost" of this business model is massive on US and international companies and economies.
When the market share of these places is so high that manufacturers start reducing quality in their overal product lines because they cant afford to have a BORG line and a quality line it voids the statements made in other replies saying "Hey, if you dont like these places dont shop there". I dont shop there, however, their business model is directly affecting my operations outside of their business. This doesnt even take into consieration the work one has to do as a contractor trying to explain to customers why you dont deal with these places and wont stand behind any products that come from these places.
To wrap up my "brief" reply (haha) as has be stated location has everything to do with your suppliers. Our lumberyard sounds markedly better than yours yet it is not as good as the one we left behind in MA. They do call and give me heads up when pricing is about to change. Though I often times think they do this as an attempt to get you to buy out of fear rather than neccessity. Though our lumberyard is adding fuel surcharges, trade deliveries are free, and the fuel surcharges are modest. The service is head and shoulders above what any BORG could dream of providing, product selection (on the shelf) is less but its all at the warehouse, product quality is higher for now. Its a no brainer for me.
Mark
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SNIP

I have no doubt.
It may sound strange Mark, but I agree with your point of view on almost everything you posted. And I have the things you post about HD to be true as well.
Reading your post, I think I see where we differ on our points of view. The really big fight started here when Builder's Square opened up in the early 80s or so here. As my hometown was the site of their corporate office, they were everywhere. I mean all over the place. And while there were other big boxes other cities, this was the first one here.
They absolutely scared the hell out of every retailer/vendor/supplier in the construction business as they supplied goods to all of South Texas.
To simplify and make a long story short, our local lumber guys panicked and raced to find products that would be price competitive. I didn't go to BS at the time as I couldn't wrap my brain around buying wood off a rack in a warehouse store that was stored next to wallpaper. All of us "pros" got a good laugh at some of the things we heard. Our local yards were pretty good, and we weren't changing as we all "had a guy" at the local yards we liked, and that was that. Besides, my favorite yard had a giant coffee urn that was always full on cold mornings.
But as our local yard owners were finding it harder and harder to maintain their hunting leases, their duck hunting leases, their basketball season tickets (or box!), new custom trucks every other years, their second home at the coast and their getaway home in the hill country, and to keep on employing their family members, they had decisions to make.
When they had the whole market, it was actually better. Materials cost >a lot< more, but they stood behind their product. Their service came at a premium, but I figured that in the end it would save me money on the job to have materials delivered on time and in good condition. But they got worried about that bottom line and decided to make some changes to bring their profit margins back in to line with the old days of non competition.
So they cut back staff which hurt their service. They cut back quality of items that cost more than at BS to maintain their market share. So now we have less service and lower quality goods.
In my talks with the owner of the stores, I remember telling him, "look, I can get crappy service and poor products anywhere. Why would I spend money with your when I have to pay more to get it?"
I was ready, willing, and able to pay more to get what I wanted, but no willing to pay more to get less. As the battle raged on between BS and our local lumberyards, Home Depot moved in, and it got better. One would think that with all that competition things would get better, but as cuts continued, things got worse. And to compound it all, there were just not enough people with any product knowledge to even man a department in those big boxes, much less wait on customers. So they offered some of the old hands in the local yards good pay, flexible hours, and even health insurance.
Now everything in Robert's world is starting to collapse. Everywhere I went I got bad service, crappy products, and not a soul anywhere with product knowledge. I remember having a conversation with a young man at the lumber desk and receiving his careful explanation that an 8' 2X4 is 8 bf, and a 14' 2X4 is 14 bf, and on and on at my local yard (previously my favorite)..
As things went on, things got worse. BS was pissed off they couldn't even be #1 in their own home town, much less anywhere else. HD relished that, and we literally got deals on things like compressor/ nailer packages that were nowhere else except in this market from them. They were killing each other for the market. Then, along came Lowe's..
The upshot is that ALL of them taught me the same lessons about 20 years ago.
- Don't trust any of them at all - Don't rely on them to take care of your business interests - Don't rely on them to keep their word. Pound them hard to make them keep it - Always check pricing by brand, quality line, and quantity - Always ask, "are there any more charges on this?" - If you forget any of the above, you will regret it
I applaud all of those that can sing the praises of fine relationships with multiple vendors. I remember those days in the distant past. I remember picking up the phone and ordering a few squares of shingles, a half a lift of 2X4s, 20 gallons of paint, etc., and it would be delivered as promised. In those days, while I was aware of market pricing, I NEVER shopped. What I really wanted was the service.
I guess where all that has taken me is to a very cynical place. I don't trust any of these guys on any level. It makes it much harder to do business, but actually don't have any options.
Ahhhh..... for the good old days. I still remember when we thought Builder's Square etc., would go out of business. Not be the last man standing.
Robert
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SFWIW, it appears home building prices in SoCal have dropped 20% this month.
Plenty of framing lumber and drywall in stock.
Lumber yards are calling contractors looking for business.
Even labor rates are dropping.
Beats picking up splinters riding the bench.
Learned a new term tonight.
Seems the rain in San Antonio is being called "Orange Rain" right now.
Combination of rain and mud.
Learn something every day.
Lew
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True story! I was driving home last night and I thought it was muddy splash from cars in traffic. You know, the stuff you get when you are behind a car on slick dirty streets at high speeds.
But it just mess on the windshield just got bigger and nastier. It rained like that for about an hour and a half, maybe more. Lots of orange cars and trucks today!
It is supposed to be a mix of dust blown in from West Texas and Mexico carried aloft by really high winds that is being pulled out of the air by rain. Whatever it is, it is so fine it is like talcum powder.
And it is EVERYWHERE.
Robert
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Also noticed a bit of it yesterday morning on my truck here in Houston
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Ya shoulda been in "beautiful downtown Big Spring" in the late 50's early 60's.... Constant "Red Outs" and we prayed for rain to keep the dust down :>))

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We occasionally have some rain here in El Paso but most often it's "mudballs".
Max
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wrote: <snip>

Great post Robert, not to say I enjoyed reading you misery...
I guess we have just been lucky perhaps in location and who knows what else but we have maintained a fairly good relationship with most all of our suppliers. That is not to say that we blanketly trust them though I have been known to slip at times. I simply dont have the hours in the day to track an procure every item we need from a half a dozen, or more, daily sources. I need to be able to rely on a supplier even if only a little. If I had to I think I would be seriously condisering something different. At least for me, there just isnt enough money in the homebuilding business to do 4-5 hours of phone/ paper work each day on top of 8 hours of time "in the work" and I refuse to run around all day with a cell phone clipped to my ear.
We have yet to be affected by a lumberyard that is sacrificing itself to maintain its beach house, boats, and so on, but again, luck I am sure. Our current main yard does suffer from a lack of knowledgable staff and understaffing but they are trying. I think cynicizm in the building industry is a hard thing to avoid unless its just not a part of your personality or you are fortunate enough to be established in an extremely high end market. We have always been closer to the high end though we often have a foot up to the ankle in the pond water. As long as it doesnt go over the top of my boot I am able to deal with it.
All this said, my greater concern with regards to this drum I beat is for the global consumer, and perhaps wondering where consumer conscience has gone. Back to that shrinking circle thing. I wish I could just throw it all up to the market and the "it'll figure itself out" thing. I look at what has happened in the past 15 or so years and it sure seems to me that we havent been doing ourselves any long term favors regardless of the little boom. The overall long term progress doesnt seem to me to be positive by most indicators.
One bright note, for the short term, I saw on the news was this economic crunch is already starting to brighten the horizon. Many companies, due to the weak dollar, are already moving manufacturing production to the US to take advantage of that weak dollar. BMW was noted to be moving a substantial portion of manufacturing, not just for US sales, over here to the US. Downside is, I assume that moving this production indicates that these companies forecast the dollar being weak for a substantial period of time.
Mark
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cardboard roll and manage to blow more air into the paper as well. 30 rolls!!! Of what? Air?
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"Robatoy" wrote

Just noticed that with paper towels: "30% more sheets" means 30% smaller sheets.
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I just noticed that a 24 roll pack is now 20 rolls and at the same price.
On the outside of an older package: "6 mega rolls = 24 regular rolls". - or 1 to 4 These "mega" rolls are 400 sheets. Since when was a regular roll 100 sheets?
They are dirtbags. Evil and corrupt. They are worse than what the stuff wipes off.
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On Mar 18, 11:27am, "none of the above"

Yea... and wtf happened to 'no tax' on 'things we need'? Like no tax on food, kids' shoes, etc.? They don't think things like TP, menstrual pads and bars of soap and tooth paste are 'things we need'?
Instead, they tax things we DO need.. like gasoline and scotch!
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BDBConstruction wrote:

Not me!
Thanks for sharing that.
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Sigh...
Me neither.
Robert
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All over the United States, ppl scream bloody hell when a new big box is built in their neighborhood - WalMart is particularly reviled. The market is good at determining success. Rarely do these types of stores go out of business ... yet. - I remember when malls were the Next Big Thing. If you don't like 'em, don't shop 'em. Personally, I find their quality mostly lacking. Has anybody ever been satisfied with Behr paint? Yet for some items, I don't care. I got a power mower from Home Despot. We live on a small city lot and price drove that purchase, not quality. It takes twenty minutes to mow the lawn. How good does it need to be?
Jeff
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"Jeff" wrote:

Whatever happened to a hand mower?
Mowed an 80 x 150 yard with a hand mower for years.
By today's view, it would be considered "green" friendly, back then it was just exercise.
Lew
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We were lucky enough to buy a corner lot. While I could certainly mow it with a push mower, I'd rather spend the additional time cutting black walnut on my table saw.... (You didn't think I'd get back on topic, did you?)
Jeff
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"Jeff" wrote:

How much wood do you get cut with the 10 minutes you saved?<G>
Lew
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The last time I bought coffee there were about twenty brands of pre-ground coffee in cans on the shelf. Not one of them was a one pound can, o reven an whole number of pounds like 2 or 3, excepting only a chickory-coffee blend.
Check out the labels on vitamins sometime. Some brands sell 500 mg tablets in a bottle labeled 1000 mg, and in the fine print they say to take two. IMHO, that's outright fraud.
--
FF



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So I was out all day today after material and went in the direction of the wire so did a little checking. I additionally talked with the VP of our elect. supply and got some info.
So they are infact selling 200'ers though at this point it is only at a couple locations. The price is competetive with my local lumberyard (they backdoor electrical products anyway) but higher than what I pay from the elect. supply. Of course the most general complaint in the biz is that they are doing this in an attempt to simply doop people with a lower price in the isle. The 200's are not out on a pallet with any signag, they are in the pallet rack where 250's would be. Of course the drone had no idea why they had 200's vs. 250's other than "thats what came in".
Now, in their defense, the VP at the elect. supply gave me some info that this has happened in the past but with HD instead of Lowes. He said it was an utter disaster and they wound up stuck with a lot of wire waiting for it to sell retail as no one in the trade wanted it. He said that no one ever got a clear answer as to wether it was an attempt at trickery or perhaps they got a deal on a bunch of odd cuts or something though it was pretty much agreed that with them all being packaged 200's it just didnt seem like it was a batch of odd lots.
I was not under any dillusion that there would be some clear answer it is/was just another indicator (for me) that these guys have no interest in playing by the rules, customer service, serving the industry, and so on. One plus around here at least is that the big boxes have pretty much given up persuing contractors. Many of them have dropped all their outside sales taking on the mentality that why should they pay to get business when contractors should just come to them. Their margins are higher on retail, though that business has slowed drastically for them here.
Time will tell... Mark
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