The Business

It’s Still Driving Me Crazy … And You Didn’t Help!

By Lyle Hill

Based on an E-mail exchange from 4/16/20 – 4/20/20
(Edited slightly for the sake of brevity).

4/16 @ 8:50 AM: Lyle, you probably don’t remember me. We met about 10 years ago at a glass show and we spoke briefly. I want to vent a bit about a problem you set out to solve and failed miserably some years ago. My name is Joe Hill (The Shower Door – New York).

4/16 @ 9:36 AM: Joe … I do remember you. I always remember people who I might be related to and, as I recall, we talked for a while about a few matters of concern to both of us. I’ve also heard some really good things about you and your business. But I’m confused about this “problem” thing that I failed to solve. To what are you referring???

4/16 @ 3:56 PM: Lyle, I do remember you thinking we might be related, but that’s not the problem I’m writing about today. My problem, and that of a lot of other glass shop owners as well, is that crazy energy surcharge matter that you were going to fix.

4/16 @ 5:15 PM: Joe … I don’t remember ever promising to fix the energy surcharge mess, although I was very critical of it, wrote about it and still consider it a bit of a sham.

4/17 @ 7:05 AM: Lyle, I, along with a whole lot of other people, faithfully read your articles in USGlass every month. And when you went after the “surcharge shakedown fiasco” many of your readers thought you would fix it. Who else speaks for the glass shops around the country if not you? But here we are, all these years later and nothing has changed. In fact, I personally think it’s worse than ever. Do you realize that gas prices are probably the lowest they have been in 20 years and the price of natural gas is also at record lows? When all of this energy surcharge nonsense started, the whole excuse was because of a  spike in energy costs—gas and natural gas in particular. Energy surcharges have become like the holy grail of the manufacturers and fabricators. I buy a lot of fabricated glass. Often, the bulk of my price is for fabrication, not the glass itself or any delivery charges. But I get hit with an 8% energy surcharge on some invoices, even if I pick it up at the fabricator’s place of business. As you pointed out several years ago, it is really a price increase disguised as an energy surcharge. Why not just be honest about it?

4/17 @ 2:52 PM: Joe … now I understand your frustration. And you are right to call it a “surcharge shakedown fiasco.” I haven’t really been buying glass for several years now, so this situation doesn’t hit me every day like it does you. I would have thought this thing would have gone away on its own by now. I’m going to make some calls and then get back to you on this. Give me a couple of days.

4/20 @ 11:10 AM: Joe … hope you had a good weekend. As promised, I made a few calls and you are not the only one who thinks the surcharge matter is a fiasco. I talked to one fabricator who said that he is going to keep doing it as long as others do, though he agreed that it has nothing to do with the cost of energy. A wholesaler I spoke with defended the practice by talking about the hidden costs of business and blaming it on some, but
not all, of the manufacturers he buys from because they charge a surcharge. I also talked with my son, Patrick, who owns a shop in Elmhurst, Illinois. He said many of his glass suppliers still charge a surcharge. He also told me that he has one supplier who is charging a 10% energy surcharge! I don’t necessarily think the practice is illegal or dishonest, but it’s not as clean and above board as it should be. Maybe it’s even a “tax dodge.” I guess you have a right to be upset. But I really wish you wouldn’t blame me for this. Certainly, suppliers are free to charge what they want, but they should call this what it is—a price increase. I tried to be of help, but I kinda felt like I was fighting a one man battle. By the way, there are some suppliers that do not play this surcharge game but they are apparently in the minority. I’m sorry I failed to have any impact on this, Joe, but I hope you’ll continue to keep reading USGlass.

4/20 @ 4:12 PM: Lyle, thanks for letting me blow off a little steam. Maybe by keeping this thing in the spotlight we can still make some headway. At least I hope so. I guess I just get a little frustrated with the way our industry sometimes operates. And as long as you keep writing, I’ll keep reading. Thanks.

4/20 @ 7:18 PM: You’re a good man and you run a good business, Joe. Who knows, maybe one day this surcharge nonsense will get cleaned up. I just hope I live long enough to see it. Lyle.

Lyle Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. He also serves as president of Glass.com, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 40 years’ experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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