by Steven Feldman
One of this industry’s favorite conversation topics is Empire Carpet, Empire Home, Empire Today…whatever they are calling themselves these days. We all know Empire sells a ton of flooring—that’s indisputable. But within industry circles, they have a reputation for not having the greatest selection, not the greatest prices and more.
So, unintentionally on purpose, we put them to the test, of sorts. Dustin Aaronson, FCNews’ friendly neighborhood associate publisher, is in the midst of doing some remodeling on his home. Specifically, he is remodeling the main floor, amounting to around 1,000 feet of flooring. He decided to install either wood or laminate.
In some instances we can buy product ourselves, but either way we have to find someone to lay it down. So Dustin decided to obtain three quotes. The first was a referral from a friend. The second was the person/company affiliated with Costco. And the third was from Empire. Why? “My wife heard the catchy Empire jingle,” Dustin said. “We figured we would call and get a free, in-home estimate.”
He called the 1-800 number, and although the salesperson came within days, “he may as well never had come,” Dustin said, “based on his product and installation knowledge.” What are Dustin’s qualifications to make that statement? He does work in the flooring industry and had several estimates prior to Empire’s arrival.
Some of the claims the Empire salesperson made were inaccurate, Dustin said, for example showing him a very low-end product that he claimed would perform just as well as a product that cost twice as much.
Along the same lines, every other estimator who had come to the Aaronson household outlined the job in-depth, and also had some type of intricate estimating software and tools, he said. “This guy took a quick look around my house, didn’t float any new ideas, and then gave me a price at least a third higher than anyone else who had come in.”
What’s more, Dustin told me when he informed the salesperson that his prices were about 33% higher and products inferior to what others had shown and quoted, the salesperson abruptly got up from the table, said, “Thanks for your time,” and was out the door.
Empire did follow up with Dustin after the appointment, at which point he explained in great detail why he would be choosing someone else. “I told them the guy was disheveled, and his installation and product knowledge was non-existent. He may as well have been trying to sell me encyclopedias.”
Conversely, the other two visitors to Dustin’s house were punctual, professional, made a good appearance, followed up with him directly and gave him actual options.
Interestingly enough, our production manager, Frank Notarbartolo, was also recently looking for wood flooring and called Empire because his wife had seen the commercial with the jingle. While he did not have an experience similar to Dustin’s, he did tell me Empire’s price was 40% higher than the other estimates his wife had in hand. What surprised Frank was that the salesperson would not budge one penny on price, despite showing him his price was not in the same ballpark as the others.
As a side note, FCNews attempts to increase salesperson knowledge with our “Retailers Guide to Hardwood Flooring,” published every other August. It’s a great way to bring salespeople, new and old, up to speed on some of the basics of hardwood flooring. Look for it this summer.