Retail Education: Only one good warranty

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Second of two parts

by Kelly Kramer

This article was inspired by Lew Migliore’s tell-it-like- it-really-is article, Warranty Headaches (FCNews, Feb 8/15). To recap, Lew explained in depth that most warranties are not worth the paper they are written on and how far too many salespeople misrepresent them. He also explained that warranties create false expectations and make it look like you can do almost anything to the product and it will be covered.

Well, it’s mostly not covered. What is given in bold print is taken away in the fine print.

In part one of this article, I explained that a carpet stain warranty only covers substances that will not re-dye the yarn while substances that can actually stain are not covered. To the fiber manufacturers’ credit, what they say won’t stain the fiber normally won’t and what they say will, will. In short, there truly is no stain warranty written that technically can be used.

By the way, wear is a loss of mass, like sand paper to wood. Plastic does not wear even 1% let alone the 10% that is normally covered. That is another unusable warranty.

My contention is there is no reason to present a warranty against staining as a selling point. In my opinion the only time to ever talk about a warranty is when buyers bring it up. That is when you know one of your competitors has more than likely used a warranty as a false selling point, so now is the time to be blunt and up front.

Here’s how I explain warranties when it’s absolutely necessary to set my buyer straight: Warranties are basically a selling tool to give consumers peace of mind. All the products in my store have great, big, five-year, 10-year, even lifetime warranties. The problem is that a warranty very rarely reflects the quality of a product. Just because one is lifetime and the other is only five years means nothing. Besides, what is a lifetime anyway? Is it your lifetime? Is it how long my store will be in business?

You have to look at prorated times. If it’s a 10-year warranty you will get 10 cents on the dollar in the 10th year. That is, if anyone is still in business. In all my 26 years in flooring, no customer has ever successfully used a stain or wear warranty. The only good warranty you have is me. When there is a problem with the installation, a flaw in the product or any other concern, I will be the one to stand behind it. In essence if you trust me, I will be your best and only warranty. Do I have conviction and provide great service? You bet.

Personally, it took a little thought as to why so many retailers struggle with follow-up warranty concerns from their buyers. I finally realized it’s because I very rarely even mention any manufacturer or fiber company warranties, so I never misrepresent them. Plus, because they are never used successfully I never provide a paper copy to customers. My contract says I will help them work with the manufacturer. Regardless, you know how many people actually read those.

In part one I stated that our industry created this problem a long time ago. The first stain warranty made buyers think carpet fiber would not stain. Before that they figured broadloom fiber was like clothing and could stain. We are at fault and the best thing we can do is reverse that belief by not supporting these foolish notions anymore.

If you’re confronted by a customer, say, “It’s a great warranty because you’ll never have to—or get to—use it. If the manufacturer says it is covered, it is and you won’t have to use it. If they say it’s not covered, you have no claim.”

Thanks for reading.

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