We all become aggravated with customers who are price shoppers, but have you looked in the mirror lately? A customer who has a lot of free time can afford the luxury of price shopping. However, a business that practices this method on virtually every purchase is a prime example of the old saying being “penny wise and pound foolish.”
Yes, for any purchase that is going to be made on a regular basis, e.g.
lining or buckram, it is wise to price shop. However, for a one-time purchase
in which only a few dollars are involved it makes little sense.
Using price as a shopping guide is only a starting point, as you well
know. If your prices are higher than your competition’s, then you—as
a business—try to offer better everything to attract more customers.
Price is a starting point for people shopping for something they have
never shopped for before. Right after that comes customer service and
When you look for a vendor from whom you will purchase items on a regular
basis, you might compare prices first and start with the lowest price.
That’s fine as long as there is good customer service to back it
Back in the ’80s, my company experienced problems with vendors who
forgot to pack all the parts for hardware and hard treatments. It was
so bad that we required our decorators to open and inspect every package
that came in before scheduling an installation. Unfortunately, I’m
hearing that this problem still exists in the industry.
It takes time to inspect each package; it takes time to call the vendor
for the missing parts; and it takes time to wait for and receive those
parts. Yes, you might have to pay more to work with a vendor who rarely
errs (we’re all human), but look at all the valuable time you’re
wasting that could be spent selling or fabricating, i.e. making more money!
I currently offer a product on my Web site for which I recently changed
vendors. With the original vendor, every time I placed an order there
was a mistake. Each time I had to call to get it corrected. That took
my valuable time, which I didn’t have to spare. My new vendor charges
more for the same product, but has excellent customer service. I willingly
pay a little more for the product to save time. The value of the time
I save is far more money in my pocket than the extra I pay for the product.
It’s also far less mental stress!
No, I’m not talking about customers. As fabricators we do-it-ourselves,
but there are times when this idea needs a fresh perspective.
As a fabricator, you are reluctant to farm out or sub-contract work out
to anyone else for fear that their quality will not be up to your standards.
Instead, you work seven days a week to get all the work out. One person,
regardless of the methods and equipment she uses, has a limit on what
can be produced. That’s a fact. If you have raised prices so that
you are making the kind of living you deserve and still have more work
than you can handle, then seven-day workweeks are not the answer.
But if another price increase is not reasonable and if you really could
make a comfortable income working a 40-hour week, then there are some
options available to you to ease the stress.
1. Use the most unused two-letter word in our industry: “No.”
You do not have to please everybody and meet unrealistic deadlines.
2. Whether you are a workroom to the trade or a retailer, fire your most
troublesome clients. They will eat up your time the same way poor service
from a vendor does. In the end they will cost you far more to keep than
you will lose by letting them go.
3. You can sub-contract out some of your fabrication, and now is a particularly
good time to do that. Many areas of the country are suffering from recession
and some workrooms need work. Sub-contracting out gives you the opportunity
to be patriotic by helping our country, to help our industry keep going,
and to bring more income into your pocket without the work involved. It’s
a win/win/win situation.
Because there are no uniform standards in our industry at this time, I
recommend that you thoroughly discuss your quality standards and maybe
send a sample of what you expect to a prospective workroom you plan to
use as a sub-contractor. Order one job at a time to test the quality and
dependability of another workroom. And always inspect everything that
comes in from another workroom before you schedule the installation. Yes,
that takes time too, but not nearly as much as doing it yourself.
4. Maybe it’s time to relax your perfectionism just a bit, especially
when it comes to other workrooms’ standards. You see things that
your customers probably would never see. I remember one of my designer
clients had another workroom do some pinch-pleated sheers because I couldn’t
get them done in time. (I knew how to say, “No.”) However, he
brought them to me to add trim to the edges. I was horrified at the poor
quality of the work on these sheers! Yet this designer, who I regarded
as being very particular, accepted them. I resisted the urge to “correct”
them. I also resisted lowering my standards after that. The price I charged
was for the standards I offered.
I confess to being a perfectionist myself, but I have mellowed over the
years. I think! Having someone else do work for me always rubbed me the
wrong way, but now many times I advise my consultation clients to do this
because it makes good business sense. There are good workrooms out there.
Stand by your high-quality standards, but don’t spend unnecessary
time being absolutely perfect—and don’t expect other workrooms
to do that without charging for it.
Time spent being too perfect may take the prices you need to sell at in
order for you to be profitable beyond your market’s pocketbook.
DO-IT-YOURSELF TO SAVE MONEY
This time I’m referring to those workrooms who price an item from
a vendor and are so terrified of trying to sell that price to their customers
that they do-it-themselves to save money. Yes, you might have saved writing
a check or paying your credit card, but how much of your time did it take
You should know how much you must charge for every hour of your time to
meet expenses, pay yourself a salary and make a profit. You must know
this to be profitable. [Editor’s Note: If you don’t know how
to go about doing this, consider ordering Stein’s Price Your Work
With Confidence available through D&WC at (800) 833-9056.]
If you track the time it takes to shop for parts, put the item together,
maybe even paint it, and then add your hourly charge to it, have you saved
any money? Actually, even if you have saved money, it’s probably
not enough to warrant taking all this time to make something you can easily
order. This goes back to what we just discussed. If you can pay someone
else to do something for you, then you have more time to make more money!
Either do not show clients items you can’t sell, or learn to sell
I believe it’s a given that everyone in this industry must have access
to the Internet and use it for education. I do not believe it makes sense
to do extensive price shopping on the Internet. It takes too much of your
For most of us, fast download time is not yet available. I barely tolerate
surfing the Net for information and resources as it is, don’t ask
me to price shop! I know how long it takes to work through the maze of
pages on some Web sites to get the information you need. Then some shopping
carts make it next to impossible to buy because you have to type in so
much information and go through so many pages just to hit that “Submit”
If you are guilty of price shopping on the Net with a slow modem, then
you are wasting time that you could be spending with your family or on
personal needs and hobbies. More than likely, the difference in prices
you find on the Internet is no more than a few dollars. I’ve even
known some people to compare shipping prices and then decide to save shipping
by shopping locally. By the time they get ready, get in the car (which
is likely going to cost more in gas than the shipping cost) and go get
the gizmo, they’ve cost themselves a bundle! If I know a Web site
that has the product I want, then I’ll purchase it there. Actually,
even though I’m not afraid to use my credit card on a secure site,
I only purchase on the Net if it’s extremely fast or if a phone call
is not an option.
Time is your most valuable asset. Doing it yourself can make you wealthy
or put you out of business. It’s up to you. Take time to determine
the payback on what you intend to do. Calculate the value of your time
down to cost per minute or for 10 minute-increments. Keep this in mind
when you have that urge to do-it-yourself on something that has questionable
payback. You are not selling draperies, or hardware, or hard treatments.
You are selling your time and knowledge. Are you getting your money’s
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery
workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms as one person and as a
company of nine, she is now president of Workroom Concepts a consulting
firm offering educational resources to the industry on its Web site (www.workroomconcepts.com).
Her experience in both the retail and wholesale window covering arenas has
contributed to her success as a business consultant. A professional speaker
and writer, she has authored several industry products including Order in
the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price Your Work
with Confidence, available through D&WC.