Thursday, May 31, 2007

An Open Letter to Shaw Flooring/Home Depot

May 21, 2007

Dear Sir or Madam:

“I Want A Floor Like That …” That’s what the current Shaw commercial currently airing on both A&E and HGTV tells me.

I beg to differ.

A veteran do-it-yourselfer, I recently took on the task of replacing the carpet in my livingroom/diningroom with Shaw laminate. If I looked at one flooring sample, I looked at 200. About a tenth of these went home as samples during a single week. Each sample was placed in multiple locations and given careful scrutiny.

As I narrowed choices, I researched companies, flooring grades, reviews, installation instructions, compared prices and ratings – you name it, I looked at it. When I made my final purchasing decision, I was prepared. A little hesitant still, but prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was the nearly month-long nightmare that would follow.

I had an at-length discussion with Chris in the flooring department at the Whistle Stop Home Depot (Glen Carbon, Ill.) Because I had done a lot of floor tiling, he put me at ease and gave me every confidence in working with laminate which would be a new experience for me. He was very helpful in talking through some odd room configurations and on advising me where in my room I should start. He was also very complimentary of Shaw and its flooring lines.

I hadn’t heard of the company before. My second choice was a special order Pergo style from competing Lowe’s. The truth was I liked the Shaw sample better. So I jumped. I shouldn’t have.

The first red flag was flying when I went to pick up the order. Atop the pallet of my boxes of laminate, was a single box. Ripped open, its contents were strewn about inside, a single board lying crosswise, horribly mangled. Not the best first impression on a new customer.

When I questioned this opened box and its damaged contents, I was told that a replacement had been sent for it. That shouldn’t be there. There shouldn’t be any problem then. And, except for a rocky start in getting the first row or two going, there wasn’t. And then I opened boxes 7, 8, and 9. (Following instructions to work from three boxes simultaneously.)

Red flag No. 2 emerged in the form of boards that would not interconnect. After getting a rhythm to my work, I was laying out two rows at a time, measuring and cutting and then assembling. So, I didn’t immediately notice that one box of boards was completely different until after I had made my cuts and was trying to assemble. I held two boards up side by side and it seemed abundantly clear to me that they had entirely different locking systems. Or maybe it was just a fluke. So I tried every board in the box with the same negative results.

During this time, red flag No. 3 popped up. When I tried to interlock the new boards – using the methods associated with the old boards – the connectors on one of each of the boards snapped free. These connectors were so shoddy that three others in the box WERE ALREADY OFF before I took them out! Again, bad impression for new customer.

It was Saturday morning so a call to Home Depot did no good. They could not special order anything until Monday. There goes two days I could have worked and likely been done. This holds up a whole host of other projects under way with a Memorial Day deadline. (Out of town guests coming.) This was the only box like this, so I used what I had left to get as far as I could, which wasn’t very far.

On Monday, Home Depot had me talk to a flooring manager, Gary. My first question hoisted red flag No. 4: Did Shaw change their locking system? No, I was told. “It’s probably a quality control issue.” That didn’t sound right to me, but I’m not the expert, so I let it slide. I was assured that the new box would be ordered. Check back in a day or two and we can tell you when it’s expected.

Red flag No. 5: WHY does a customer have to wait 10 days for a replacement product? It wasn’t my fault that I received two different locking systems. And it certainly didn’t take 10 days for anyone to cash my check! But 10 days is exactly what I was told. Everyone has their money, yet I have no floor. What’s wrong with this picture? I was mad and decided to contact Shaw myself. An online chat revealed that Shaw had, in fact, “recently changed” locking systems. Did Shaw bother to notify vendors (like Home Depot where my floor is an exclusive)? And if they did, why did HD not know about it? Why wasn’t this told to me at time of purchase?

Red flag No. 6: While the Shaw representative was both courteous and apologetic, he put everything off on HD. No offer to look into it further. No request for contact info for me to follow up and make sure everything was resolved. Regardless of who was at fault, if this were my company’s product, I would want to ensure that my customer got what they needed.
This is customer service? My day job is working in PR. Based on this experience, I’d say both Shaw and Home Depot could use some help.

Red flag No. 7: Neither Shaw nor HD could assure me they could get the needed flooring, considering the locking change and the special order color. Very disconcerting considering that ¾ of the job was complete – and a clock was still ticking. After the frustrating exchange with Shaw, I call HD back to make sure they KNOW there are two different systems.

Dave, the HD manager and Tiffany in special orders put a rush on my wayward box. They got it to me that day. Kudos to them. At the store, they have already ensured it’s the “old” profile. I double check to be sure. The boards on top look OK, too.

I get the box home, however, allow it to acclimate and begin preparing to mix it in with my remaining boxes. As I near the bottom, warped edges on two mean they can be neither end boards nor middle boards or vice versa depending on which corner was damaged. A third board looks OK on top but beneath, looks like a hammer has been taken to it, entire sections of the bottom crumbling away. It can’t be used at all. That’s now three boards – out of 16 – that either can’t be used as needed or at all. Add that to the four or five damaged boards in previous boxes. Not a good ratio.

I end up not having enough boards to finish my job. Part of it is miscalculation on my part (by roughly 10 sq. ft) and the other part: DAMAGE that I did not count on. Because of the situation, I needed more than one box, but not a full two boxes. Based on my experience with the newest box, I decided to err on the safe side and ordered three boxes, hoping this would leave me extra for any future fiascos. No one at Home Depot or at Shaw seemed concerned that I had received a box with 20 percent damage. Heap it on the customer to pay for that. All HD wanted was a credit card before they would order three more boxes. And AGAIN with this 10-day stuff.

God bless Dustin and Brandi in Customer Service at HD. They listened patiently to my rantings – on more than one occasion – and did what they could to get my last boxes a few days sooner. The LAST STRAW was the three new boxes. (Please see pictures sent with this letter.) As soon as I saw them, you could see warped edges again – and that was just the tip of the iceberg. I pointed this out to several HD employees who did or said nothing. The ordeal was too much for me. I decided not to hash it out any further that night. Still desperate to finish the job, I prayed that there would be enough good boards to do it. All I can say is that I’m really glad I ordered that third box.

I could probably have skated by with two, in spite of all the damage – SIX boards from three boxes – but that would have left me no breathing room to make a single mistake. And, it meant I wouldn’t have a few extra boards on hand in the event I’d need to replace one. Red flag No. 8: With all these damaged boards before they even reach my home, how in God’s name can I reasonably expect a 20-year life? I’m thinking 20 days might be more than the floor can handle. I’m also thinking that the 99-cent per square-foot laminate at Value City might have been a better choice.

Who are my issues with? First, with Shaw, second with Home Depot, and third, possibly with FedEx.

On the surface, it doesn’t sound like Shaw does a very good job of communicating major product changes to its vendors. This jeopardizes good faith with customers from the onset.

After seeing multiple shipments of the flooring, I have to say a better packing method is drastically needed to protect the merchandise. And, since the boxes in question – or nearly all of them – were shipped FedEx, is the condition they arrive in an issue with them? Or, are these boxes being damaged in HD warehouses?

What I’d really like is my money back. I somehow doubt that will happen as I have neither the time nor the inclination to now tear all this flooring back up and return it. I do, however, think that the least someone could do is to reimburse part of my money. After all this, apologies just aren’t enough. It would go a long way to making me feel better about the damaged goods, inconvenience on a number of levels (repeated trips to pick up/return flooring, lost days during installation, delays caused by waiting game for materials), and general disinterest and lack of accountability on multiple parts.

Considering that many of the home improvement shows featured on HGTV, A&E, and DIY are hawking Shaw flooring, I’ll be sharing my story with them as well. As people like myself often heed their recommendations, they might be interested to know how new customers are treated. This might also prove a worthy nugget for trade publications like Flooring Magazine or Floor Covering News to do a cautionary tale.

Additionally, I wish Shaw well on selling this new locking system. Frankly, you were better off with the old one. The boards I got didn’t snap together well and didn’t stay that way once they did. And, the connectors snapped off as often as they “locked.” Not a good commentary on a new system. And this has been a nightmarish introduction for me to Shaw products overall.

The smiling woman in the commercial may “Want a Floor Like That.” I hope she gets it. I sure didn’t.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Top 10 Challenges to Installing a Laminate Floor

It was only 300-square-feet. But it took a month ...

10. A Thunderbird does not necessarily have the same load capacity as a pick-up. (You really find this out when you attempt to bring home groceries, household supplies and 14 boxes of laminate flooring and all its accessories simultaneously. Your vehicle rapidly begins to take on a certain Beverly Hillbillies quality, with only Granny missing from the rooftop.)
9. Floor preparation. (This task is really a challenge when the idiots who previously owned your home thought that applying both vinyl tile and parquet to the existing hardwoods was a good idea. Actually, to clarify, removing the tile and the parquet was easy. Removing the tile adhesive and the mortar from beneath the parquet -- not so much.)
8. Furniture removal. (My most excellent friend Chele said it best: a mansion's worth of furniture in two rooms. And two rooms that are smaller than one room to most people.)
7. Big, bulky furniture. (Some things just can't be moved -- at least not by me or not very far -- so you have to work around them.)
6. Where is …? (Between areas you can't walk on and areas you wouldn't dare go to because of the harried effort to find a temporary spot for everything, you can't find ANYTHING including tools, keys, and occasionally, the dog.)
5. Dyslexic sawing. (You realize that you should have cut FROM THE OTHER END just as said other end hits the ground.)
4. Surprise guests. (At a house visitors rarely come to, people suddenly materialize in a steady stream -- at a time when number 7 is blocking the front door.)
3. Eight feet of interference. (Four each belonging to Toby and Ozzie. Those feet stop right where you are working, stand on the boards you are installing and sometimes even bring water, food and cat litter along to track onto the new floor.)
2. Staples, staples, staples. (Not the store, the 200 or so staples that the carpet installers thought it would be a good idea to use per square foot. These buggers also make carpet removal -- which should be a fairly easy job -- nearly impossible.)
1. The flooring manufacturer. (Once you finally overcome most of the other obstacles and begin making progress, you find that the flooring manufacturer has at some point switched to a different locking system. This wouldn't be a problem -- if the two systems worked together. Alas, they do not. Of three remaining boxes, two contain such boards that, while they will lock tightly to each other, will not lock to the already installed pieces from the other system.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

An Introduction to Blogging

I don't know much about blogging. I have a few friends with blog sites but I've never had in-depth conversations with them about their motivation for it or about any of the cool or not so cool things they have discovered as they've done it.

I've been kicking around the idea of blogging for some time though and I guess the best way to do it is to approach it like I do most other things I don't know how to do: Just jump in and try!

THAT exactly fits the theme of this blog. For years, I have been threatening to film my own do-it-yourself home improvement show called "This Damn House." (I already feel like I've been living it for the last 20 years.)

That said, here goes nothing ...