To Lend or Not to Lend
Recently a question was sent to me via our website from a sales manager from a carpet showroom on the west coast:
“There is concern about customers taking our sample and then shop around for the best price. What is your take and your store’s policy on sampling?”
Here is my response – and I welcome other’s feedback too:
This is a question that never ever seems to go away. I have heard all the arguments for both sides and I am on yours for a number of reasons. First and foremost I believe that the customer needs to see the sample in the area that it will be installed. The lighting in the room makes a huge difference. It always helps to view each sample one at a time without all the distractions that are part of the showroom experience. In the showroom, customers normally are comparing multiple samples right next to each other. The fact is that only one color will be installed and the winner should be the one that looks best in the room when the customer is normally in the room. All too often the sample that looks best during the middle of the day is not the one that wins in the evening. This is very important when picking bedroom carpet. If the customer can’t bring the sample home how can they be sure how it will look at the time of day they will be using the room? Of course they can’t.
I always tell my customers to bring home at least a couple of samples. Generally one will look better than the others and I believe this helps the customer make their buying decision. Even if none of the samples work one will be better than the rest and can serve as a starting point for selecting new samples. I also tell my customers to make sure to look at one sample at a time and too stand back from the samples as opposed to staring right down at them. If they have window treatments that are staying or a bedspread then it is critical that they are viewed together.
Having said this I understand your concern about people shopping. What I have found is that most, if not all, samples are identifiable if you really know your business. Personally, I have no problem with private label programs but a really good sales person should be able to find the actual sample if they have access to it. Today more than ever patterns, different fibers, sample sizes and colors go a long way to limit a dealer’s ability to hide what the product really is. Furthermore, since we don’t private label, when I do find the sample I tell the customer we don’t private label because we have nothing to hide. This presents a great opportunity for me to talk about the cushion we use, the fact we have our own measure people (as opposed to using a measure service) and we have Karastan certified installers.
I do not think there is anything dishonest about changing the name on samples. Every dealer has a right to label their samples as they see fit. However, I have always felt that full disclosure is the only way to go. Most of my customers are not looking for the lowest price. They are looking for a fair price and to be treated with respect. They expect expert advice and a great selection to pick from. I am quick to tell price shoppers that I’m not going to be the least expensive. My service, installation and professionalism will not allow me to stay in business at the lowest price.
For the record we barcode every sample and check them out with the customer. We expect the samples to be returned in a couple of days if they didn’t work out. If the customer determines they do like one of them, all they need to do is give us a call and we will pick up the samples when we measure. By the way we get a $75.00 fee to measure which is applied to the order. We do not measure for free as my customers should not have to pay for the professional shoppers who get six estimates before making a purchase.
Sales and Promotions
Save across a variety of products on sale now!