Building a Future for Distributors and Dealers of Building Products
March 2006 Volume 45, Issue 2
The Window Guy A
Chicken Soup for the Window Guy
A Humorous Look at Relationships with National Builders
by R. Mark Reasback
Cruising through a Borders book store recently, I noticed that there is a Chicken Soup book for everyone. It seems no group is left out. You’ve got “Chicken Soup for Left-Handed People,” and “Chicken Soup for Sports Widows,” “Chicken Soup for Computer Geeks,” and how about, “Chicken Soup for Chicken Soup Makers?”
The one that is missing, “Chicken Soup for Window People.”
As I have stated before, I’ve been in the window business since 1983. I have noticed recently that one of our age-old problems is getting worse as the building climate changes. You know what it is? GETTING PAID. Not just getting paid, but paid on time.
In the Las Vegas market, the small “hometown” builder is going by way of the rotary phone. The top ten builders have come to town and acquisitioned a lot of these smaller builders who were excellent at paying in time because they relied on the subcontractors to keep them in production. The big guys have so much work that they can string subcontractors along. The subcontractor can’t quit because he is in way too deep on his receivables, and he doesn’t want to risk delay of payment or his pay being held for non-performance. It really is a Catch-22.
The National Builders
For every two packets of invoicing I send to one national builder, one will come back three weeks later, (after missing the cutoff dates), for not dotting an “i” correctly. But on the flip side, I have one who does an automatic pay, and it is always on time.
Dan, a credit manager for one of my largest suppliers, came up with a profound statement a few weeks ago: “I’ve been in the credit industry more than 30 years, and homebuilders are the only customers who dictate the terms.”
I had to agree with him. No matter what we put on our proposal for terms, the builder rewrites it in their language and terms, and just like my mom and dad said at dinner time when I was a kid, “Take it or leave it!”
What’s Good for the Goose
Learning from the masters at postponing payments—the larger builders—I decided to incorporate some of their tactics into my own personal life. For instance, I got a call from my mortgage company wanting to know why my house payment was late. Hey, if this works for them it could work for me, so I told her that the statement arrived on the 11th of the month. My cut-off for paying bills was the tenth and it would be paid the following month. She found no humor in that and reminded me of the $75 late penalty. Hey wait a minute, there’s a flaw here, builders don’t pay late fees!
Discouraged by my mortgage company, the next creditor I heard from was the company holding the note on my truck. Again the inquiry was why was my payment late? I had, I thought, a legitimate answer. I told her that my bank account had not been funded yet. “What?” was her response. I explained that I had not received my money yet to put in the bank, and when this happened, I would be happy to release their check. She failed to see any humor in this and reminded me of the additional $35 late fee.
I’m now 0 for 2, but the next creditor should be easy. I received a call from the power company, wanting to know why they haven’t received my payment. (I’m going to win this one.) I explained to her that I have a dispute with the invoice.
“I’m not sure that the power you billed me for is correct. I’m calling in a third-party inspector to verify that the meter is, indeed (lawyer term), correct. And no payment will be released until an expert confirms or denies my suspicions.” She then reminded me of the $55 reconnecting fee that will be billed to me if I don’t pay the bill.
Okay, now I’m 0 for 3, plus I owe an additional $165.00 in penalties. Dan was right, the builders get away with it, but you and I can’t. y
R. Mark Reasbeck is owner of Coyote Springs Window & Door, a Las Vegas, Nev.-based window dealership. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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