Volume 39,  Issue 11,  November 2004

THE BUSINESS

I was done with it. Didn’t really feel compelled to mention it again. Actually kinda thought I had done my part to shed some light on the matter. But the truth is … it simply won’t go away, and every time I think it has … that there’s nothing more that can be said … it gets resurrected. So maybe, I start to think, I shouldn’t be so quick to put it aside. Maybe it deserves a little more discussion. But I gotta tell you, it’s wearing me out. The calls, the faxes, the e-mails. They just keep coming. And now, for some reason I don’t understand at all, it’s taken a new twist, and more than a few people have put me in the middle of it, Take this recent e-mail for example … from a guy named Dick Petrie of Architectural Glass Services of Orlando:

“Lyle, I really look forward to reading your articles every month in USGlass. They seem almost always to have a solid thought or two buried among the humor and great stories. But I enjoy them the most when you are going after somebody or when you are trying to right a wrong that has been done. And heaven knows this industry is full of wrongs that need to be righted. And whether you know it or not, some people feel like you’re our spokesperson. But you’ve let us down, Lyle. Because just when we began to think that your articles were starting to make a difference with this ridiculous energy surcharge business, you stopped talking about it. What happened? As a glazing contractor trying to make an honest living, I find the whole fuel-energy surcharge issue extremely troubling and a real pain in the you know where. Nobody can explain the rationale for it. And I confirmed today that some companies use different surcharges for different customers. 
And what is the real deal anyway? Why do some companies add a percentage to the selling price for an item while others charge a flat, per-square-foot amount? Recently I got hit with a price in-crease from one of my suppliers. The price I was being charged went up by 7 percent and the surcharge went right along with it, which means the 7-percent increase actually came to 7.42 percent because the item in question was carrying a 6-percent energy surcharge. 

I think this is insanity and you know what, Lyle, I BLAME YOU! If you hadn’t backed down just when things were starting to get interesting, I think we could have solved this mess. So, Mr. Big Shot up there in Chicago, I’m challenging you to help straighten this thing out. I’m daring you to use your column to challenge one of these surcharging, money-grabbing, hiding-under-a-rock suppliers to explain how they calculate these things in the first place and then explain to us why they still need a surcharge after they just pushed through their second round of price increases in three months. And, while you’re at it, ask them to come clean and reveal whether or not everyone is paying the same surcharge. Or, Mr. Hill, are you afraid to try to finish what you started?” 

There was much more to Petrie’s well-written letter, but this was the part that got to me … I guess for two reasons. First, because I sensed from parts of the letter I’ve shared, as well as other parts, that he is very steamed about the surcharge situation. To be sure, he’s not the only one. I spoke at the Glass Expo Midwest in Milwaukee last week and while I was there, I got cornered on a couple of occasions by people who didn’t want to talk about anything else. And I continue to get at least two and sometimes three e-mails or calls per week about the subject. So maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the subject, if there is this much interest in it. 

But the other reason Petrie’s letter got to me is a little more personal. I mean … where does he come off blaming me for the continuing problem? I think the thing’s a rip-off as much as the next person … it makes no sense to me either. And while I have been contacted dozens of times from people like Petrie, not one supplier has called or written to defend the practice. Petrie’s right … they are all hiding under rocks. But how am I to blame for any of this? And yet, I gotta admit that I do feel like I should do something … it’s all a little strange.

OK … here’s the deal. It’s 6:15 a.m. on Monday October 25, 2004. I need to get showered and head to the office and once there, I need to shoot this article in for the November issue, which goes to the printer in about 48 hours. But here’s my promise … to Petrie if nobody else … I will do my best to get together with at least two suppliers in the next 45 to 60 days and confront them with this matter. And … I will report back to you right here. OK, Petrie … go back to work. You got me!!! 

The Author



Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries of Chicago.  lhill@mthindustries.com

 


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