I’ve had lots of feedback from potential clients about services from “big box stores”. I am always surprised that most people feel the service they receive at these “Walmart's of home improvement” is low, are often disappointed when buying in the store, but are still willing to consider them for contracting services in their own home. Most homeowners may not realize that these stores pay a much lower rate to their contractors than most local home improvement companies. This is due to the high store overhead and potential repairs that they would cover out of pocket if their contractor disappears. Also, these contractors agree to this much lower-than-average rate since a potential agreement with the store may send lots of business their way.
A Few Words About "Big-Box Store" Contract Services
Low Skilled Contractors & High Turnover
The type of contractor that will typically agree to this is usually new to the business, and may not realize the overhead, and requirements needed to provide a quality result at this rate. They will also often hire much lower skilled labor to accomplish the task and therefore provide a lower skilled result. Due to these facts, turnover rates are high for these big-box contractors since contractors are often fired, or disillusioned by the expenses that they did not anticipate. These projects often come with the many returns to fix numerous items, and lengthy repairs out of the contractor’s pocket. This is similar to builder-grade contractors, who receive lower rates, in hopes of long term work, and as a result provide “builder-grade” finishes. These big-box contractor’s will also sub-contract to ever cheaper, hungry sub-contractor’s at even lower rates, providing even more incentive to cut corners, talk a client into accepting a lower quality, or explain away potential complaints.
Personal Subcontractor Relationships
Sure, most contractors cannot do everything in-house, and therefore must sub-contract some services, however, since the client is hiring much closer to the source of the work, and not covering the higher big-box overhead, the end result is much better, since the client receives a highly skilled sub-contractor for the cost, instead of more of the funds going to overhead. Also, contractors and their subcontractors build relationships and support projects jointly over time. This relationship avoids pointing fingers at other contractors when something goes wrong. Big-box stores don’t have this same capacity, and often involve several layers of overhead, departments, appointments, etc… to get a resolution to a sometimes simple request.
“I can always go to the store to complain…”
Big-box stores rely on marketing and big-budget advertising, not referrals and repeat business. Homeowners like the idea that if they get a service, and are unhappy, they can march up to the big-box store and complain, and get a resolution. The question remains of who is more interested in retaining your business, the local contractor that builds his business 1 client at a time, and grows it based on confident referrals, or a big-box store that has tons of marketing, driving lots of potential business to them every day. Ask around, and you’ll find that most big-box clients don’t refer to that same store again.
A low price often looks good ($39 carpet install charge for your whole house!), but is often too good to be true. The big-box strategies break every job into tiny details in order to get calls coming in, and estimates going out. They often don’t include generic items that most expect to be included. Simple services like carpet or door installation may start with one low fee, then add a measure fee, tear-out fee, debris disposal fee, furniture moving charges, misc. shop fees, extra mileage charges, fuel surcharges, taxes, and delivery fees. The main question is: Would you prefer to work with a company that lures you in with a low price, or one that is clear about what is included and what is not?
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