Honey and Vinegar: Getting it Right



Two weeks ago we got our floor fixed.  Looks good, not new, but good!  It only took about 6 years for someone to do it.  Crazy?  You bet...especially since the installer was here for about 5 1/2 hours -- with an hour for lunch and a second break.  Better late than never, right?   






The floor is in the room that connects the garage and my office to the rest of the house -- our game/exercise room.  It's a bit of an unusual material (cork), which I was told would wear like hardwood.  People often enter the house through a side door, so it's their first impression.  It peeled, chipped and the darker color looked worn -- quickly.  Why did it take so long for action?  Clearly my calls and e-mails were ignored multiple times by the manufacturer, but last year a rep based in Cincinnati truly extended herself to find a skillful installer who's familiar with the product.  We found a time that was workable and a fair price (more later).  Hopefully it's now history. 

Would I work with that manufacturer again?  No! But I would absolutely work with the rep and truly hope she handles other products.


This story IS extreme.  And how can telling it help?


1.  Be kind and sympathetic when you complain (even though you are living with the damaged item).  Who you purchase from is as important as the product itself.  This connection is the most important--value it.  The original showroom I bought  from closed.  They did a first repair in 2002, and they did it properly (contrary to the manufacturer's lame excuses in their few early responses).  That's why I paid this time: this installer was not part of the original agreement, and by now I would have needed to re-seal the floor anyway. 

**You must understand the product's warranty and the seller's policies.  My own design contract says "one year of normal use and wear".  In the past few months, I have paid to repair or replace several things that should have been taken care of by others because it's important for me to JUMP on anything.  It's how I work.  Time will be your enemy.  Period.  Some (certainly not all) will gladly look for a scapegoat.  The longer you wait, the easier that will be.


Most manufacturers will repair or replace, but sometimes not "in full" if they decide (rightly or not) that it's not their fault.  Recent example: an adjustable swivel base for a desk chair was replaced once (by the manufacturer) and broke a second time.  I paid for the part, the showroom replaced it (because I was willing to do the pick-up and delivery part) and we are used a simpler base this time. That was my condition for a second re-do.  Happy client.


Before that, I recovered a damaged chaise cushion with help of the fabric company and upholsterer.  We never completely diagnosed the cause of the damage, but fixed it -- ONCE and quickly.  Sort of a team effort with help on my costs.  Happy client.


The more you (at least seem to) appreciate help, the better and more efficient the outcome.  Some help is better than none.  Be flexible if you think that could be your only option. (Honey)


2. Pretty much, after a year, no one will eagerly jump in to redo or repair, UNLESS you have an agreement (that I would get in writing).  I have extraordinary relationships with my "People": my wonderful list of top quality, reliable contractors and vendors.  Nearly all of them have (at some time) stood behind work substantially more than a year old.


If you have been "shopping" vendors that have not done other projects with you, rework after their warranty will more likely be "on you".  It's more than appropriate to talk about how much it will cost...those I work with don't use repair work as profit-making projects.  Professional repair companies are just that!!  I have (often) asked contractors I use to work with my clients to fix others' work if we are doing a second project.    That is not expected to be free, and they charge to cover their costs. 


3. Going straight to the manufacturer and not the supplier, vendor, designer, installer will unfortunately not guarantee better or faster results.  But maybe it can work.  Manufacturers have people in the middle for a reason.  If your seller is worthless -- call, keep calling and climb as high up the ladder as it goes.  I have talked to presidents of furniture manufacturing companies a few times.  Not my favorite way to get results, but it has eventually been effective if no one else is responsive.  Not a bad challenge if you want one, but with my floor it made ZERO difference.  All in all, take care of any product problems quickly and document your comments, keep e-mails or letters and be persistent.  Wait a couple of weeks and call again.  I think answers usually come slowly, sometimes REALLY slowly if I don't have a relationship with the company on the other end of the phone.  But don't give up and don't hesitate to tell your contact person that you expect their attention.  Persistence and patience are what you will need.  


Finally:  Threats aren't usually effective.  The vinegar is the persistence/(maybe)nagging; the honey is your attitude!



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