Empire: Not an empirical experience

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by Steve Feldman

Sometimes this world makes no sense to me. Did you know that many studies reveal Americans’ No. 1 fear is public speaking? No. 2 is death. So, I guess that means the average person attending a funeral would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.

You know what else makes no sense? Consumers who call Empire Today for their carpet. Are they just plain lazy, gullible or allow themselves to be misinformed? If it is the latter, then specialty flooring retailers are partly to blame for not effectively communicating their value.

Here’s a story for you. The other afternoon I was on the phone with my brother. The only thing he knows about carpet is fuzzy side up. His wife is one of those who still take advice from their parents. Very bad combination. They called Empire because “My mother was very happy with the job they did for my grandmother’s apartment in Florida.” This is the same mother who reasons there are so many complaints lodged against Empire through the Better Business Bureau because “Empire installs a lot of carpet. So the more they install, the more complaints there will be.” I’ll leave that one alone.

Anyway, my brother proceeds to tell me that they ordered some carpet that morning from Empire. After my tirade, I asked a few questions, and the answers revealed no surprises. The salesperson’s initial quote was $1,800. When my brother told him he had the job loosely quoted months earlier at $1,000, the guy “checked his notes” and told him he could do it for $1,200. The guy was throwing around names like Shaw and Mohawk but told them nothing about the carpet they were looking at. Nor was there ever a price per square yard. They were told Empire only quotes an entire job. Selection was, well, basic. And yes, he wouldn’t leave without an order.

In a panic, I asked if this was a done deal. My brother said he signed his name, getting more agitated by the second. But his wife called back 30 minutes later and said they had 72 hours to cancel. Bulls eye. I rushed them to G. Fried here on Long Island, a 120-year-old, four-generation retailer with one of the largest showrooms and selections you will ever find. While my brother was looking around, I found owner Wendy Fried and general manager Phil Ferrall. I told them my brother’s plight and pleaded if they would be so kind as to give them an education. About Empire. About carpet. About them.

Wendy and Phil wanted to know exactly what they had ordered. After walking around, they found something they believed to be very close. I think if you held it up, the sunlight may have shined through. Think property management. Soon they were able to pick out something much better for a total of $40 more. And that next-day installation Empire prides itself on? Well, they could have had this carpet installed in three days if they so desired.

For my brother, he got a whole lot more for his money, not to mention an education, by going to a specialty retailer. For G. Fried, not only did they get a customer for life, but my brother’s wife within 24 hours told three friends about her experience, two of which are currently in the market for carpet. Where do you think they plan to go?

Now, here’s your homework assignment. Cut this column out and save it. Show it to any customer who references Empire when she walks in your store. You can thank me later.

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