Volume 37, Issue 7, July 2002
Free Argon! Free Low-E!
Manufacturers Set a New Low for Low-E
by Max Perilstein
Several nights ago my son Zachary, as is his ritual, decided at 1 a.m. to sound his alarm and scream for either my wife or me to come rescue him from his crib confinement. Of course, being precocious as he is, he didn't want to go back to sleep easily. Finally, after a good while of cajoling and some prayer, young Zach went back to sleep. However, at that point I was wide awake, so I flipped on the television and saw something that amazed me.
The advertisement came screaming across the screen. Weird how the actual television show volume is low and then BOOM the volume for the commercials is so much higher. Anyway the ad was for a local window company who was touting the fact that when you buy from them you get FREE Argon and FREE low-E! I was stunned. Free low-E? Is this what the window industry is coming to, giving away low-E?
Now I know that the residential replacement window industry is a different bird. Competition is very fierce and nasty and everyone is looking for an edge. (Well maybe that sector isn't that different from ours after all.) Usually the angle was switching to a better performing low-E or putting in new equipment that would allow you to produce thermally improved products. Those maneuvers seemed to make sense to me and helped to keep our industry cooking. Giving away value-added products surely doesn't.
I relayed the story to a salesperson from one of the manufacturers that is now producing self-cleaning glass. He said he wasn't surprised—in fact, he was seeing the same thing with self-cleaning glass. Some of his customers were offering their customers a chance to put this glass in at the same price as clear. I was dumfounded knowing that the costs of the new technology and clear are far apart. It's a heck of pill to swallow in my opinion.
So what's next? Will people start to give tints at the same price as clear? I'm not here to preach,. but anyone involved with this industry has to be a bit worried that we are giving away our goods unnecessarily. Many people on the manufacturing end have worked too hard to come forward and develop new technology. With not only self-cleaning glass but the new scratch-free glass on the horizon we're seeing some amazing advancements in available products. The low-E technology gets better each year and it would be a crying shame to downgrade it by discounting it.
Getting back to the fierce window company battles, a few days after I saw the original ad, two more companies followed suit by including "free low-E" in their advertisements. So it became a full-fledged markdown, a war that I'm sure is not exclusive to my part of the world. Not knowing for sure, I have a strong feeling that this is something that is happening throughout the country. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will.
So what can be done? Obviously an improvement in the economy would help a great deal. Maybe the desperation to move products won't be so severe and tactics like this will not be an option. Fabricators around the country will hopefully keep an eye on their costs and overheads and not follow into the murky water of the giveaways.
So needless to say my depression over my son being a terrible sleeper was replaced by my angst over companies giving away the value of our products. It is something I hope will go away once the probable slim margins take on too much water, but, for some reason I have a feeling that this trend will persist. I hope that I'm wrong.
Max Perilstein is vice president/general manager of PDC Glass of Michigan. His column appears bimonthly.
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