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What is going on here?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by jayfire30, Dec 2, 2005.

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  1. jayfire30

    jayfire30 New Member

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    Hi, im not going to get into specifics, but i have a general question for all of the hearth professionals and small hearth/ stove shop owners. Am I the only one out there going through a TON of B.S from customers lately. No offense to any consumers, but it seems like the Lowes and Home depots of the world are developing a new kind of consumer that expects everything perfect right away. These people dont understand the nature of our industry. In all reality the cliche is " the customer is always right" , is exectly what it is a cliche. From pellets, to shipping times, it just seems as if ata time we can do nothing right. I just want to know if there is anyone else out there going through problems this season thats all thank alot. Jay

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  2. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Ok folks. Up ten clicks. Right four clicks. Fire for effect!

    Maybe it would help us demanding consumers if you could give us some guidelines. You know, how many mistakes and errors should we expect to have with an expensive appliance and installation that could very easly burn our house down and kill us? Maybe if we had some guideance we would be a little more understanding? Sort of a checklist of screw-ups we should expect and not get upset about.
  3. bruce56bb

    bruce56bb New Member

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    WADR, what does this mean?
    thanks in advance
  4. jayfire30

    jayfire30 New Member

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    OK guys thanks for the responses, but man i didnt want to get anyone upset over a question i asked. It was just a question that i wondered if other people are having problems this year more than others. Thats all, man dylan i ask a question and u jump down my throat. The reason i can not get into specifics is because I personally do not own this buisness i speak of i just work there, and I do not want to offend anyone personally, now if that is too general for you, so be it, i was just looking for an answer to the question. Jay
  5. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    I suspect a lot of it has to do with consumer who are actually interested in heat rather than appearances.

    The woodstove industry is nowhere near the level or reliability we expect from cars, let alone electronics, and needs to get on the stick about fixing it. Specifically (from my limited experiecnce)
    1) definite delivery times ["sometime" isn't good enough]
    2) quality product (more of an issue with stoves than with chimneys - there shouldn't be any factory defects...)
    3) reputable installers - any contracted install should pass code.

    If we knocked off these three areas, this forum would be kind of boring...


    Steve
  6. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    The customer IS always right...at least if you want to make money. This does not mean they are actually correct, but that it does not pay YOU to try to act otherwise or educate them as to why they are wrong.

    I suspect that things are tough right now in a lot of shops only BECAUSE THEY ARE MAKING SO MUCH DARM MONEY...MORE THAN EVER BEFORE! What I mean is that a whole bunch of new customers have come into the marketplace due to energy scares and costs, and that means most dealers and manufacturers are swamped. This means a lot of people are not getting what they want when they want it - that spells trouble.

    Also, when I had my store I found that people got grumpy around the holidays. It was as if they thought life ended on Dec. 25 - like "if you can't get my stove in my xmas, I don't want it!" WHAT! When someone is investing a couple grand for something they intend to have for a decade or more, a little patience is in order.

    I think attitude of the sales people has a lot to do with it. You have to be able to listen to all the complaints and defuse the situations by showing the customer that you are on their side....
  7. CrazyAboutOrchids

    CrazyAboutOrchids New Member

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    I think the problem is 2 fold. 1) You have consumers who expect the world and 2) You have retailers who no longer believe in"old fashioned" customer service. I know that in my area of the world, customer service is a long lost art with most folks. I do heartily believe in supporting stores who do go the extra mile. For example, while I could go to Home Depot and possibly get lumber for household projects and pay less, I will support a local lumber yard who goes the extra mile even when it means sometimes paying a bit more. With hardware, I support a family owned Ace Hardware store. Go in there, you actually have salespeople - not just someone trained to ring you out. I think Craig has a great attitude with what he wrote in his opening sentence. It's not the easy way to go about things because it does require patience and respect for others. Also honesty goes a long way. Don't tell a customer they'll have something in 2 - 3 weeks if you know there's no chance it'll happen.
  8. jayfire30

    jayfire30 New Member

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    Craig , thank you very much. To me it almost seems like you are working where i am . U basically outlined why i am having problems, but in nicer terms..lol! I t is just frustrating when you are doing everything u can for people, then they still think your a jerk. The turnaround time in this indusrty is awful, i know this.. even more this year than ever, what the consumer expects and what happens are completely two diffrent things. Especially with the pellet fuel problem. I felt that as an "insider" you would understand the basic point of what i was trying to say. And i do understand where some of the consumers could take offense to what i said, but i was actually just looking for some advice, or suggestion. Thank you very much Jay
  9. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Hi Jay,

    I just purchased an Osburn fireplace insert from a company who deals with these stoves on the intenet. The choice really came down to the particular stove, cost and availability. One of the local dealers here who carries VC, Morso, Scan, and several others, came off as exceedling arrogant from the sales person. When talking to the owner, his comment was "your the most educated customer I've every seen...want a job? You seem to know more than anyone on these stoves I've ever seen including my sales staff." The sales staff repeatedly second guesses my decisions and approaches in favor of what they sell. Even for installation help and parts (stove pipe etc...) the sales staff there is arrogant puts me down at every turn. I think it's a sign of the times with supply and demand allowing that kind of attitude. Now having slammed wood stove sales personel, the local Lopi dealer has been nothing but helpful and wonderful. If Lopi's were a bit cheaper and (plus they are an Osburn dealer but charge too much) had the stove I wanted sooner, I'd gladly have bought from them. The bottom line is that people who are going to spend 2-3 thousand dollars can have some expectation of a lot of help especially when the wrong info could cost them their lives.

    Please don't take my bluntness as hostile at all. The basic fact that you have asked the question here gives me the impression that you do care and that a few customers have been difficult....I'm sure that there are plenty of jerks around on the customer end too.

    Hang tough...we need folks like you!
  10. jfsharron

    jfsharron Member

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    Warren,

    I understand that that the internet dealer you purchased from had a lower price, they always do- they have a much lower overhead than your local hearth shop and are able to pass that along in lower prices, but you are helping make it difficult for people like Jay.

    You say the Lopi guy was very helpful and that he also carries Osburn. Did you spend time in his shop, looking at the Osburn, asking qestions, getting educated and then making your purchase from the lower priced internet dealer?

    I'm not trying to be argumentitve, but consumers can not always look at prices. Sandy mentioned that she shops at a local Ace in favor over Home Depot, I do as well. I know the Depot will be cheaper, but I also know I will get better service at Ace (plus I want to support the local guy and put money into the community).

    I can't speak for Jay, but I know this caused me alot of frustration when I ran a hearth shop (one that excelled in customer service)- people shopping us for our experiance and then looking elsewhere for a lower price.
  11. Sundeep Arole

    Sundeep Arole New Member

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    I agree 100% with the sentiments shared by both Jonas and Sandy. Online is great if all you care about is price, but if you want any service - forget it. I haven't bought a stove on the net, but I will share my experience with a local tennis shop I frequent for all my tennis needs. Small operation, run by a local tennis pro. Go there, and you don't get something pushed on you - instead, will give great advice on new equipment, etc. Also he tries out all the new stuff that comes in his store and so he can give a first hand opinion. His biggest problem, he says is people coming to the store, taking advantage of all the free demos and advice, then going online to get the stuff. Often he can match online pricing, but not always. Manufacturers change their equipment frequently enough that he is often stuck with the older model shoes, rackets, etc. The bigger online guys can move that stuff much quicker. He has tried to stay in business by getting into the online game himself, by selling his stock on ebay and such, but he is definately feeling squeezed. The sad thing, to me, is that he really adds value to what he sells in his store by offerring the demos, the advice, the service, etc. but doesn't really get the sale in the end. I go to him for everything I need - racquets, shoes, strings, balls, etc. but I am really worried the internet is taking this personal service away. At this rate, pretty soon these specialty retail stores will have to charge admission into the store just to make sure they get compensated for the service they provide!
  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    It would be great to hear some specifics about what kind of BS your customers are giving you, especially regarding pellets. I was picking up a part at a local stove shop recently. The dealer/chimneysweep was in way over his head when discussing pellet stoves. He clearly didn't sell them often, had limited knowledge of brands and options, knew little about basic electricity and was really pushing the customer towards a gas stove (propane). The crap was being laid on the customer so thick that I had to take a shower afterward. In this case it seemed to me that the customer was going to be disatisfied, because they were ill-informed and being sold something they really didn't want (an expensive propane heater).

    On the other hand, a couple years ago, when I was picking up parts for my old Jotul at an excellent dealer, I heard a very candid explanation of the benefits of each type of stove, although they didn't sell pellet stoves yet. Even if the buyer didn't end up buying at this store, the customer and the store won because they each respected each other.
  13. rudysmallfry

    rudysmallfry Feeling the Heat

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    Speaking from the consumer end, I found several things to be frustrating. I was lucky to find a dealer who knew their crap, but only after two bad experiences where I was repeatedly told to "check the manual" every time I had an installation question. A wood stove is a one time only purchase for most of us, and very few of us are knowledgeable in the areas of installation and operation. When you add in the fact that we are talking about 400 degree fires and the possibility of burning your house down, I personally would feel better if the dealer would answer my questions in a knowledgeable way versus tell me to check the manual. The latter says to me, "I don't know know anymore about this stove than you do. I just sell it for a profit". I find it reasonable to expect some degree of product knowledge from a specialty store.

    The second point relates to the first. Very few consumers have time to do extensive research. We count on the salesperson to tell us things that we wouldn't think to ask. I was originally going to put my stove on my main floor. Luckily I ended up putting it in the basement or else I would not have had the required 13' in chimney height for proper draft. Things like this are better learned before the purchase. I also was not aware of checking for things such as loose screws and loose gasket seals until I started reading the posts on this forum. Most of this stuff is in the manual, but you don't get the manual until you get the stove. It does seem to come back to good 'ol fashioned customer service. I want a guy that can talk my head off about the product he is selling, BEFORE I buy it.

    I agree that some consumers have unrealistic expectations. It also does seem that people are increasingly lacking good manners and social skills. There's nothing you can do about a customer who is ranting and raving that their stove wasn't delivered by Christmas. If the stove's on backorder, there's nothing you can do about it. You can only explain the reason for the delay and let the rest roll off your back. Eventually that customer is going to realize they aren't going to get the stove faster anywhere else and realize that you are at the mercy of the manufacturer just as the customers are to you. Maybe you could make up a pamphlet of basic wood/coal/pellet stove 101 for customers who are making the first trip to your store. That way they have the info up front about what they can expect in terms of turnaround time, steps to take to prepare for their stove (permits and such) and do's and don'ts of installation. Any type of knowledge would be preferred by a customer over "check the manual".
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    You can get a fair amount of BS from the manual as well, for example in burn times and heat output. Or in pellet stove feed rates and pellet consumption which is going to vary from region to region. This is where a knowledgeable dealer's real-world experience is very helpful.
  15. Roospike

    Roospike New Member

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    Very good point !
  16. Herb

    Herb New Member

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    I'm sure that this attitude is not exclusive to the hearth industry.

    It seems to me that people have "entitlement issues" wherever you go, these days.

    I think that part of the problem in your business is that people who have no business owning this type of appliance are flocking to the stoveshops to do something to hedge against high heating costs this winter. You know, when in Russia, when you see a breadline, go stand in it.

    After the novelty wears off, and they get tired of the hassle of procuring fuel, cleaning the appliance, etc., there'll be plenty of deals on used stoves in a year or two.
  17. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    From your mouth to God's ear Frank. At least until I move the rest of these.
  18. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    [quote author="rudysmallfry" date="1133655364"]Speaking from the consumer end, I found several things to be frustrating. I was lucky to find a dealer who knew their crap, but only after two bad experiences where I was repeatedly told to "check the manual" every time I had an installation question. A wood stove is a one time only purchase for most of us, and very few of us are knowledgeable in the areas of installation and operation. When you add in the fact that we are talking about 400 degree fires and the possibility of burning your house down, I personally would feel better if the dealer would answer my questions in a knowledgeable way versus tell me to check the manual. The latter says to me, "I don't know know anymore about this stove than you do. I just sell it for a profit". I find it reasonable to expect some degree of product knowledge from a specialty store.


    What exactly were they unable to tell you? I can say that with 100+ models that I deal with I cannot remember everything. I usually have to refer to a manual when the customers start asking specifics (exact clearances, hearth requirements etc.) That said I do have to agree that this year there are a few more grumpy customers than in the past years. For the most part, in my opinion, it's due to product availability. People are walking out of my store because I have 1-4 month lead times on many of our wood and pellet units. People are furious with me that I do not have my regular stock of stove parts. Not because I haven't ordered them but because they're leaving my shelves faster than the companies can provide them. The lead times to get product this year are ridiculous, but there is nothing that anyone can do. The service end of the business is also suffering, right now I'm in the middle of December for service. I have many customers telling me hire more people. My response to them is would you rather have a semi-trained guy out tomorrow or a seasoned professionial in 2 weeks. Shockingly some of them are telling me a semi-trained guy tomorrow!! I suppose they can find that somewhere else.
  19. rudysmallfry

    rudysmallfry Feeling the Heat

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    firestarter, for me it seems it just came down to salesmanship.

    In the first store, I walked in the door and said that I had been doing some research on Hearthtone stoves, and asked if he had the Phoenix on the floor so that I could see it. He said he didn't have it on the floor, so I asked him to give me some info on it. His first reply was that Hearthstone has information on their website and he handed me a brochure as if he was done with me. When I pressed a little more and asked him specific questions, "what stove size should I consider for the area I want to heat", "are the smaller stoves a pain because of the shorter log requirements", "what is involved in getting it installed", I was told, all the specs of the various stoves are in the brochure and that they didn't do installation. I was the only one in the store, it was August, and yet the guy didn't seem to want to help me. I left.

    In the second store, I asked all the same questions. The salesman took me around the floor showing me three different stoves that would fit my needs, offered that I shouldn't get a smaller stove since it's hard to find short wood and also has a very short burn time. He was honest with me about that fact that the manufacturers often overstate their stove capabilities and that a stove that claims it heats 2000 sq ft is a tad optimistic. He told me the pros of soapstone, (heat long after the fire's gone out) and cons, (long time to heat up versus a cast iron stove). When I asked about installation, he had a list of contractors that they use regularly and showed me diagrams pertaining to the different ways I could run the chimney. It was a completely different experience from the first store. I had originally ordered the Phoenix. They called me a day later and said it was on backorder until January, (this was October). They offered me the floor model instead. (no discount but I didn't expect it due to this year's run on stoves). When they delivered the floor model, it was dinged in quite a few spots, so they took it back and offered me a Heritage at no extra charge since they had one still in their warehouse. There ended up being a good month between when I ordered the stove and when it was sitting in my basement roaring away, but it's there now, and I'm very satisfied.

    Your customers do seem to be very unreasonable. Unfortunately in this society of instantaneous everything, people think they can get anything at a moment's notice. I knew I was ordering my stove late in October. These people ordering them in December are just not with the program. Probably the same group who bought their snow blowers the day before the first big storm last year. Maybe the next time a customer yells at you for not having ordered enough storms, ask them if they knew there would be a hurricane that would spike gasoline to $3 a gallon this time last year. Hang in there. We all deal with jerks in our respective industries.
  20. Sundeep Arole

    Sundeep Arole New Member

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    I ordered and fully paid for my woodburning insert in August. Stove shops were empty then. I actually ordered the floor model. By the time the installer could come out, the dealer learned that the new stoves wouldn't be in until December. He decided that he wouldn't release mine until he gets a new one to replace it. I still don't have mine. Is that fair? Perhaps it is a good deal for the dealer, he gets to use my insert for free to keep his display going. He's figured if I went anywhere else, I would have to wait even longer, and if I cancelled, he could just sell it to the next in line. Sorry, but I will have nothing to do with my dealer once I get my insert. The fact that he has decided to take advantage of a situation to screw a customer - it is the only thing about him that I need to know.
  21. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    That's not right. We dont sell our burn units until we have one in warehouse to replace it and it's usually in the spring. We have had to refrain from selling stoves off of the floor this year because we cannot replace them. Admittedly I've let some of them go because they're were out dated/unpopular colors and or discontinued but for the core models we sell alot of I keep them on the floor.
  22. skypager

    skypager New Member

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    I find that you can keep the agitated and angry customers to a minimum by simply being honest with them. Customers may get upset because their stove is back ordered and a retailer told them a long gone ETA, but most people won't get irrate if you keep the lines of communication open. Many times a distributor will mislead a retailer of the availability of a unit, which may be the result of a manufacturer misleading the distributor.

    If a customer calls and leaves me a message pertaining to when their unit will be in I always return that call ASAP. I've found most customers prefer a call back with bad or uncertain news over no news. No news makes a customer feel "I just gave this guy a $1000 deposit of my hard earned money and now he is ignoring me", and that makes people angry. I very rarely get cussed at as long as the customer can reach me, I take the time to talk to them and reasure them, and I'm honest with them.

    As far as pellet and wood stoves being back ordered this year, this is our stance. If a customer calls and wants their deposit back this is what I say. "I will certainly refund your money, but pellet (or wood) stoves are very difficult to get right now. I reccommend securing another stove 1st and then calling me back, as you may not be able to get one any quicker. We install our stoves on a first come, first serve bases and a refund will take you out of the line." I haven't had to refund any deposits yet and my customers are happy in the end.
    WriteNoob likes this.
  23. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I agree with you! You made a contract to buy that unit and it should be yours either as soon as you can pay for it or as soon as they can install it. They have no right to use your stove as a long term showroom model unless you agreed to that in the first place.

    Don't worry, this is a really short term shortage (IMHO)...especially when it comes to wood stoves. The big rush is already over, and before you know it the manufacturers will be stocked up again.
  24. Sundeep Arole

    Sundeep Arole New Member

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    I am not at all annoyed by the fact that stoves are backordered - I completely understand that situation. I do believe dealers are doing the absolute best to get the stoves into customer's hands as soon as possible - after all, they probably can't sell too much by telling everyone there is a 10 week wait. In my situation, I am just annoyed at what the dealer did with the floor model I bought - but I am stll going to get the insert, as I am determined to try and do my part to lower my dependence on oil. As per this dealer - the communication is mostly the issue. For example, he could have explained his situation and asked me if he could keep my model longer in exchange for me getting a boxed one and priority on installation as soon as mine arrives - and I would have been happy to let him do that. The problem, though, is that he has behaved as a jerk, only because he knows he can get away with it. That is enough for him to not deserve any recommendation from me, in my opinion.
  25. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    Two points:

    1) the service aspect is dead on. If I just need a part to do something I know how to do, I typically go to Home Depot or Lowes because it is cheaper and faster. And they're open. But if I need to know how something goes together, I go to the Ace or True Value, talk to the guy, and then buy the stuff there. My limited experience with the locla stove shop is that they don't know and don't particularly care, especially if they're already made the sale. The other side is frequently I'm willing to pay a premium to get the part now rather than mail-order. I've had zero luck getting anything off the shelf from our local shop.

    2) Communication is everything. Consumers go into retail settings all the time thinking they know what they want and get talked into something else. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not. But it's a demonstration that a competent sales person can inform and/or manipulate a customer. Also, perhaps the most significant source of frustration for me was the inability to plan work. I ordered the stove in december 04, told it'd be in in a couple weeks. Took about 6 wks. In this day and age, you'd think you could get a tracking number or something... And everytime I've tried to order something it's been that way.

    Steve
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