Salesmanship: Flooring’s best buy

Home Columns Salesmanship: Flooring’s best buy

by Warren Tyler

Regular readers will note that I’ve been on a continuous rant about how the industry is handling the sale and maintenance of carpet. Buying top-of-the-line carpet is still one of consumers’ best buys. It is a shame that something so beautiful and practical is treated so shabbily.

Consumers always knew that carpet is a fabric and, as such, is susceptible to spots and stains. For the record, a spot can be removed while a stain contains a substance that changes the chemical make-up of fiber or dyes that are permanent. Armed with this knowledge, consumers, acting as civilized human beings, were as careful with their carpet as other household treasures, such as crystal and fine china.

The most common maintenance advice given to consumers at the time was to vacuum daily if required, spot clean and hire a reputable professional cleaner only if the carpet got so dirty and spotted that they couldn’t keep it clean. In fact, because of this care, many carpets went through 20 years of life looking almost new without a professional cleaning. Today, knowledgeable retailers would dispense the same advice.

The change has been in customer attitudes spurred by wild marketing claims. Manufacturers as well as most retailers know consumer perception is that carpet won’t stain, stuff will get spilled and wear doesn’t mean what every consumer thinks it means. Mills also know carpet wasn’t made to be doused with water regularly. This is only common sense. Wet cleaning to the extreme untwists the yarn, and disturbs it in many other ways—removes the stain-resist treatment, weakens the back and negatively affects the overall appearance. The do-it-yourself methods are many times worse.

To cover themselves, manufacturers have rewritten warranties against every possible consumer complaint. No matter how much information is available, consumers will still rent cleaning machines, never check if installation was according to CRI standards or that the vacuums, cleaning systems and chemicals are approved, all of which voids the warranty.

Those retailers who sell warranties and rely on them must go on the Internet and read what they actually cover. Count the hoops consumers must jump through. How about a warranty that covers only the stained portion of the carpet? The only way out of this morass is to manufacture carpet that performs, get rid of useless warranties and use common sense in advising consumers how to care for their carpet. The biggest problem is the sales to non-flooring stores (big boxes) that can’t and won’t offer the best advice to consumers. These non-flooring stores give the entire industry a bad name.

One of the safest methods of carpet cleaning is dry carpet cleaning, which uses similar cleaning chemicals but without the water. Unlike wet systems, there is no way for consumers or professionals to use too much chemical or water. As a retailer, I also gave out maintenance programs for my commercial clients. For example, we installed a 35-ounce, 1⁄10 gauge, solid color nylon plush in the dining room of a busy country inn in Vermont.

Those of you who stay at these facilities know that one of the hallmarks of a good country inn is fastidious housekeeping. The program was vacuum after every meal and attend to spots. The DIY dry cleaning system was used once a week. The result was the carpet looked almost new after 20 years. I don’t think that would have happened with a water-based system.

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