A Marketing Minute – Is The Customer Always Right?

It was about time to leave for a NARI meeting, and I was selecting a pair of pants from my closet, when much to my surprise, I pulled three pair in a row that must have belonged to “Too Tall Jones.” My thigh was bigger than the waist and the legs were clearly a foot longer than mine. Not that I would’ve minded fitting into any of the three, it would have meant my waist was about 32” and I was well over 6’6”, but it just wasn’t going to happen in this lifetime.

Hey, we all make mistakes, and I’d expect this kind of mistake from a cleaning establishment . . . probably happens all the time. Tomorrow I’ll just take these back and ask them to rectify the situation. That made sense . . . or so I thought.

The next morning I walked into the cleaner, the same cleaners I’ve been using since I moved to the neighborhood, said my hellos, after all it wasn’t like they didn’t know who I was after spending $50 a week there for more than two years, then I held up a pair for the pants that went from my arm pits to just brushing the floor, and the place broke into laughter. Everybody agreed they weren’t mine.

Well, if they weren’t mine, they had to belong to somebody now didn’t they? And it would follow that since this was the only dry cleaners I used, I must’ve gotten the ill fitting pairs from here. I mean after all, they were still in the plastic with, this is important, with the call tag stapled to the top with the cleaners’ name, address, and telephone number printed neatly across the top. Not a problem you’re thinking . . . right?

Nope . . . in spite of the evidence, the clerk refused to take them back and refused to discuss what reparations they were willing to make. The pants had a red tag stapled to a belt loop, and she pointed out most vociferously, that they never used red tags, only blue or green. I asked if this were their call tag and she agreed it was, but “we never use red tags,” she said. Back and forth went the conversation for 20 minutes or so, me pointing out their company call tag, she pointing out, “We never use red tags.”

So who won? The cleaners won the first round and I have the pants neatly hanging in my closet, unused forever. But they lost a true and loyal customer . . . me. I’d spent a substantial chunk of change in the establishment over the previous two years that I now was most assuredly going to spend somewhere else, but I’m sure the clerk sleeps much better now that she held firm in her conviction that they “never use red tags.”

The moral of the story is clear and the message is evident: The customers may not always be right, but they are ALWAYS the customers regardless the tag color.

Oh . . . does anyone want to swap three pairs of khakis with 42” waist and 30” inseam for three pairs with 32” waist and 36” inseams?

A Marketing Minute – Just Shut Up!

Do you remember the commercial where the tagline was, “ . . . but never let them see you sweat?” Here’s a new wrinkle . . .

After spending three days basking in the glory of a client receiving a national award at the annual Remodeler’s Leadership Conference, hosted by Hanley-Woods Publishing, I received the following email from someone whose marketing business we’ve been courting for several months:


Last week at the Leadership Conference, you handed me a pencil apologizing that it wasn’t what you had ordered. Is that the image that you want to portray? “We screwed up but we are using it anyway?” There was nothing wrong with the pencil that you used. Give it out and shut up or don’t give it out. If you are a 1st class shop, don’t apologize!
That’s been bothering me since it happened and I thought you would want that feedback. If I’m out of line, remember the advice is worth every penny you paid for it!


Mark is not only one of Maryland’s award-winning premier remodelers of fine, custom homes, but he also happens to be absolutely right on target!

Do I know better? Of course I do, but that single, momentary lapse in judgment, made me appear to a prospective client, as Bob Dole and my children would say, “Like a dufuss.”

What should I have done? In retrospect, just what he suggests, “Give it out and shut up . . . If you’re a first class shop, don’t apologize.”

Not one single person at the conference, besides yours truly, had the slightest inkling there was anything wrong with the imprinted carpenter’s pencil. No one knew it should have been gold over black instead of black over gold. All I managed to do was bring it to their attention. Further, I denigrated the relationship by promoting the assumption that I thought less of them by giving them a sub-standard pencil.

I can hear their collective brains whirring with, “Well, he must be going to give the better pencils to clients and prospects he REALLY likes.”

Did my ego take a trouncing? You bet! Think I’ll make that mistake again? Don’t hold your breath! Will I succeed in getting Mark’s signature at the bottom of a marketing contract? Only he knows, and he’s not talking, but perhaps one day, he’ll forget my momentary faux pas, and spread a little ink across the signature block of a Biz-comm contract.

Is there a moral in all this? Humbly I submit never apologize . . . it’s easy to get caught up in a moment, but take a second breath and think before you open your big mouth.

How Long Does It Take?

No two contractors are the same and no two regions are the same, but wholesome information is always of value. Estimating how long an action or activity then, varies from contractor to contractor, and locale to locale. A contractor that specializes in remodels is going to have a different experience from a contractor that specializes in new construction, and a contractor in New York City is going to have a different experience from one in Springfield, Mo.

Having made my caveats, the following chart, from the syndicated columnist Tim Carter, is based on his experience completing a 400 sq.ft. single room addition. Your experience will no doubt vary, but Carter’s estimates, though general, are an excellent place to start.

The importance here is not Carter’s chart in and of itself; rather that he took the time to collect the data from which to make the estimates in the first place . . . good for him!

So . . . here are Carter’s estimates for the time certain tasks may take:

Planning – All Aspects 80 Hours
Building Permit 6 Hours
Survey/Stakeout 8 Hours
Site Clearing 12 Hours
Excavation 24 Hours
Footings/Foundations 40 Hours
Footing Drain Tile & 1″ Gravel Cover 8 Hours
Downspout Drainage System 12 Hours
Termite Control 4 Hours
Structural Steel 6 Hour
Rough Grading 14 Hours
Excess Dirt Off-site Removal 12 Hours
Gravel 12 Hours
Interior Concrete Slabs 16 Hours
Demolition 40 Hours
Asbestos Removal 12 Hours
Lead Abatement 12 Hours
Rough Carpentry 80 Hours
Backhoe Work 12 Hours
Roofing 20 Hours
Heating/Ventilating/Air Conditioning 40 Hours
Plumbing 40 Hours
Electric 36 Hours
Phone/Computer/Cable TV Wiring 12 Hours
Security/Fire Alarm Wiring 8 Hours
Insulation 12 Hours
Drywall/Plastering 40 Hours
Windows 16 Hours
Exterior Doors 8 Hours
Exterior Carpentry 24 Hours
Masonry 36 Hours
Stucco 40 Hours
Vinyl Siding/Trim 24 Hours
Gutters/Downspouts 12 Hours
Exterior Painting/Staining 24 Hours
Exterior Sidewalks/Patios 24 Hours
Interior Trim 24 Hours
Interior Doors 12 Hours
Built-in Cabinetry 16 Hours
Interior Painting 50 Hours
Wall Coverings 16 Hours
Hardwood Flooring 32 Hours
Carpeting 16 Hours
Linoleum/Vinyl Tile 10 Hours
Ceramic Tile 24 Hours
Kitchen Cabinets 24 Hours
Bath Cabinets 4 Hours
Kitchen Counter Tops 4 Hours
Bath Counter Tops 2 Hours
Laundry Room Cabinets & Tops 6 Hours
Appliances 8 Hours
Plumbing Fixtures/Fans 12 Hours
Lighting Fixtures/Fans 12 Hours
Mirrors 6 Hours
Hardware 10 Hours
Miscellaneous Fixtures 8 Hours
Specialty Shelving 6 Hours
Miscellaneous Allowance Items 12 Hours
Garage Doors & Openers 12 Hours
Driveway Apron (cleaning) 8 Hours
Driveway (restoration from trucks) 16 Hours
Final Grading 8 Hours
Landscaping 12 Hours
Debris Removal/Dumpster Fees 30 Hours
Construction Utilities 8 Hours
Final Cleaning 12 Hours
Weather Delays 24 Hours
Mistakes/Problems GC 32 Hours
Mistakes/Problems Subs 32 Hours
Tool Rental 12 Hours
Phone Ordering 16 Hours


Hanely-Wood Publishing does it again. The publishers at HW have a new magazine focusing on the high-end remodeling market. In their October ’06 issue is an article titled “Working With Consultants”. Since nobody can know it all, this is an excellent primer for contractors contemplating a consultant in their mix. Yes . . . I am partial to the article because I and a client were interviewed for the piece, but nevertheless . . . it’s a good read.

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” -Michael McGriffy, MD.