Lew Migliore, the Industry's Troubleshooter and President of LGM & Associates Technical Flooring Services. LGM specializes in the practice of consulting on and trouble shooting all flooring related complaints, problems, and performance issues having experts in every category as well as related educational services.
The Carpet is Making Me Sick
A dealer contacted us recently with a complaint he had regarding a carpet odor. His customer claimed the new carpet he recently installed in their home was making them sick. When the dealer visited the home he could smell nothing but new carpet. The carpet manufacturer's rep came to the home and reached the same conclusion as did an independent inspector. This was a case where the home owner was being affected by an odor that obviously only they could smell. The homeowner persisted in their complaint, eventually telling the dealer that they were experiencing physical maladies as a result of the carpet and they threatened to sue, however they could produce no proof of any illness or physical maladies. The dealer said he did everything he could to resolve the issue. The manufacturer stepped in and told the dealer to replace the carpet. In any case where a consumer complains of an odor in the carpet making them sick, the manufacturer will typically tell a dealer to remove the carpet and will then credit the dealer in full. In this case the manufacturer also gave the dealer a credit for the labor. This has been the norm for many years when it comes to a consumer complaining about flooring being the cause of a health concern. It's easier to remove the flooring than have to contend with a threatened legal action. Carpet contains nothing that will make anyone sick and the odor it emits is just a new carpet odor. Just like a new car, new furniture or a new shower curtain.
The dealer appreciated the action by the manufacturer but was upset that they didn't pay him his profit. He said the consumer thought he and the manufacturer were hiding something when they gave in. On the contrary, most companies today would rather let you steal from them rather than confront a customer or press charges and deal with the threat of a law suit. It's easier for them to take the loss. In this case that's what the manufacturer did. The manufacturer gave the dealer full credit for the carpet plus his labor but they didn't give him his profit nor should they have. It is not any manufacturers' responsibility to reimburse any dealer for profit. Just because a customer decides, as in this case, not to do business with the dealer again because of a bad experience, the manufacturer has no control over that. Since the consumer in this case didn't want the dealer in his home he lost any profit he originally made by giving them a full refund. When retail merchandise is sold at a price which includes profit, only the seller benefits from the sale. On the other hand if a seller loses money on a sale, that's the sellers issue and no one else's; the supplier is not entitled to any of the dealers profit so they're not responsible if you lose it either. Unfortunately that's a cost of doing business. This is also not a standard practice in the industry, or in business for that matter for a dealer to expect a supplier to refund him any profit he may have made or lost. To state this further, you can't expect a manufacturer of any product to credit you fully for your purchase and then add to that profit you lost on a transaction they were not a party to.
The dealer thought the mill made a hasty decision when they said to replace the carpet and obligated him by giving him no say in the matter. The dealer thinks he was unfairly caught in the middle and sustained a loss as a result. In reality, the manufacturer saved the dealer because had the matter persisted you can bet a lawsuit would be filed. The first check the dealer would write toward his defense would be to his lawyer which would likely have exceeded what he lost in profit. From there the additional cost of defense would have far exceeded profits from several other jobs he'd have to sell to make up for the loss.
Being in business and especially a business that provides service, product or material to one's home or business, means that at some point you're going to encounter a customer who turns out to be a little wacky. Arguing on principal to salvage any profit you may have lost will always cost you way more than you bargained for. The manufacturer did the right thing in this case and the dealer should have understood that. This is not anything new. If the dealer understood how touchy manufacturers are about any consumer complaining about their products being a health hazard, no matter what they are, he'd know the decision was not hasty. He should also know that being the seller in this type situation he'd have a lot more at risk than just his profit. Better to cut your losses and move on than to fight a losing battle.
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