Should I cover up shoddy carpet installations?

Dear Mr. Toburen,

I have been reading with great interest your comments on establishing mutually beneficial relationships with flooring retailers. I agree completely.

We have encountered a challenging scenario which is unfortunately being repeated continually. This is the balancing act that too often puts us “between a rock and a hard place”.  On one hand we try to maintain a close relationship with the retailer while knowing that the store is consistently not installing the carpet properly!

For example, one of our service offerings is carpet re-stretching.  And sadly we are encountering (on a large scale!) carpets that were installed by our “partner retailers” which have wrinkled and buckled.

Certainly we don’t want to throw the retailer under the bus.  Instead we communicate with them when we encounter these issues. They insist that all of their carpets are power stretched. However, the clients say that they witnessed the installation and the carpet was installed using a knee kicker, not a power stretcher. (In most cases the client does not even know of the power stretcher until we bring ours in to re-stretch!)

One source of this breakdown is that most retailers use sub contract installers instead of employees. So regardless of what the retailer claims there is no field supervision of the sub contractors.

For example, recently we went to a client’s home to do an extensive, (and expensive) re-stretch. The retailer had installed the carpet 18 months prior. This retailer has multiple locations in our area and included “Lifetime Installation Warranty” with the sale.

Since the carpet had wrinkled in almost every room the client called the store and the retailer referred the client to us. When we arrived, the client thought that we were there to perform the re-stretch under warranty. He quite understandably became upset when we quoted him a price of several hundred dollars to remove and re-install the carpet.  Uh-oh!

The tension in the air hung heavy for a long time while the client called the retailer while we were waiting in his living room. The retailer refused to honor the installation warranty because the client had failed to have the carpet cleaned by a certified firm 12 months after the installation. The retailer told the client that having the carpet cleaned would have prevented the wrinkles.

So grudgingly the client agreed to go ahead and pay us to fix the problem. As we worked through the home we continually found that the entire installation was done poorly. For example, in the family room the carpet was turned up under the toe-kick beneath a bookcase wall unit which ran along one entire wall. It was not even lying on the tack strip! The client took several photos as we were working.

A few days after the job was completed we received a call from the owner of the retail chain. Though he did not deny the installation issues he placed all of the responsibility back on the end user for not having the carpet cleaned. He further said that if we had cleaned the carpet it might well have corrected the wrinkles removing the need for re-stretching.

Steve, the above scenario is playing out far too often from a variety of our retailers. We try to maintain relationships with our retailers, but we are finding very poor workmanship that is being pushed back on to the home owner. We ‘bite our tongue’ so to speak, trying not to create wrinkles in our relationships.

Any advice that you can offer would be appreciated.

Sick-of-covering-up in Portland

Wow, “Sick-of-covering-up” I do feel your pain. Seriously. I know you are ethical and this garbage has to have you grinding your teeth in frustration. But you aren’t looking for sympathy- you need answers so between Big Billy and myself we’ll do our best! Let’s look at the technical side first with Bill:

Having been on all ends of the industry I believe you know the answer to this. The retail store owner is either incredibly stupid or believes you are. We all know that cleaning will only bring the carpet back to the state it was in when you arrived. (Which evidently in this case meant a deplorable installation!)

I have argued the point for years about using SOA chemicals. Seeing that most carpets are installed in violation of CRI105 that means the warranty has already been voided prior to the carpet being cleaned!

Bottom line is that the retailer is not accepting responsibility for employing shoddy sub-contract installers. I do not have an answer to how to resolve this. Maybe my illustrious companion Mr. Toburen can shed some light on this.

Bill Yeadon

P.S.  If nothing else I am sure this venting allowed you a little venting satisfaction.

Thanks, Bill.  You are always a voice of reason in an at times irrational landscape! So now let’s get back to what to do.  (Since Big Billy Yeadon dumped it back in my lap!)

My counsel would be to “begin with the end in mind” by analyzing your business and life goals along with your emotional/physical well being. (Don’t forget to take your family’s wishes into account.) Here is my take from a purely logical level:

A) Carpets are going to continue to be banged in by lowlife subs and many mills/retailers are not simply going to do anything about it. We all know that the carpet warranties are a shameless attempt cloaked in legalese to absolve everyone of responsibility EXCEPT the home owner. Whew! At least I feel better now!

B) You can’t change the world. Agreed? So you need to decide- are the negative feelings you consistently are feeling and your more-or-less clean conscience worth the relationship (OK, let’s be honest here “the money”!) with this retailer?

C) May I suggest a middle ground? Take yourself out of the inevitable fight between the mill/retailer and the homeowner by not doing any more restretches. I know you love being the “knight in shining white armor” but honestly- is it worth it? And certainly you want to continue being the “go to guy” for cleaning with your retailers. Plus my guess crawling around on carpet all day with a knee kicker makes you a bit sore anyway!

My 2 cents.


PS  Now let’s hear from our readers.  Post your suggestions in the comments section here.

2 thoughts on “Should I cover up shoddy carpet installations?”

  1. Treat this the same way you would treat any unethical practice. Educate the people you want to work for especially the homeowner. If the homeowner knows the rules for carpet installation they are forearmed when the new carpet is not laid in properly from day 1. I send info to the best areas I work and the problems steadily decrease year to year.

  2. Why not suggest to the retailer that he offer to split your restretch charge 50/50 with the homeowner ? He can still (falsely) claim that he has no responsibility if he wants to. But at the same time make it look as though he has the customers best interest at heart. He could save face, and perhaps save the customer as well. Maybey after he has paid (half) for several of these he’ll put some pressure on his installers to do a better job.

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