This week’s featured Tips N Chat Throwback post was written by Ed York in the July-August 1975 issue of Tips N Chat. Remember to check back every Thursday for a new throwback post!
Haven't made anyone or any group mad at me this month, so guess I'll stir up the pot some more. After an extremely active summer, meeting with several thousand carpet cleaners throughout the nation at work clinics, conventions and personal visits, I come once again to the conclusion that Carpet Cleaners are still their own worst enemy. Progress has been made, but, unfortunately, it is still at a snail's pace. Before the carpet cleaning industry can take its rightful place of leadership and obtain a true profit picture, changes must be made.
Since our industry is so widespread and loosely knit, better lines of communication must be established. Recently, a Board of Director member of one of the older statewide associations on the West Coast told me his group should give me a trophy. Their group had suffered a decrease of members. Their meetings were irregular, with little new blood showing up. In fact, they were torn with internal strife. SCT, on the other hand, was moving forward. In order to combat SCT's growth, the group's members had some emergency meetings and started to roll forward. Because they started to put something into their program, besides "lip service", their group once again started to function. They now are most active and truly serving their members. They are all working to "out-class" SCT. Guess SCT has served as a most useful catalyst! Funny or tragically, it is a fact that in order to act, we must have a common enemy. I'm positive this same group could have obtained their present status and probably even more so, if they had applied the same effort towards a different goal, such as the 86% of dirty carpets now installed in America. This time our industry lucked out but unfortunately most of the time it has been the other way around.
Traditionally, carpet cleaners have received from 10 cents to 15 cents per square foot for their work. Along came a new method which was dubbed "steam." The old-timers wouldn't accept it, so non-professionals entered the market, and with some advertising, were not only able to sell it to the consumer but able to obtain from 20 cents to 30 cents per square foot. In their enthusiasm, however, they kept pushing the old-pro to try it. They finally succeeded, and the first thing that happened was the old-pro dropped his prices. The more old-pros that entered the "steam" field, the more the prices dropped until the old time standard was once again reached.
In 1969, I introduced "method" selling. This was geared to offer a variety of methods, instead of discounting or "panning" all other methods available. The significant difference was that each method carried a different price. The consumer loved it and was happy to pay more for "steam" than rotary. She paid more for the combination than one method. In fact, she was happy to pay additional for our "premium" service. Wasn't long, however, until the old-pro figured out how to do the same thing, but since it cost very little if any more, to charge the same price. In fact, rather than keep the methods different; in order to have a different price structure, it was now standard to do it all for the old traditional price. In 1974, "Package" selling was introduced but lay dormant until Blue Ribbon Carpet Service of San Diego put it to work. It was immediately effective and pushed their average job from 12 cents to 22 cents. Rather than keep his success a secret, this on-location carpet cleaner freely distributed the facts and know-how to all who would listen. It is not only working in San Diego but all over America where the bold new breed is presenting it. The tragedy lies in the fact that the subject is now being "poo-pooed" by the old-pro. In fact, a recent circular was distributed to members of an association advising them of an upcoming meeting regarding the "CONTROVERSIAL PACKAGE" selling method.
ADVERTISING...In some areas, carpet cleaners have joined to promote CLEAN CARPETS. Once again the old-pro has risen to the occasion. He has doubled his Yellow Pages advertising. If a person would check their local telephone Yellow Pages, and count up how much money is being spent in the quest to snare this estimated 14% of the market rather than devote this money to 86% of the market untouched by Yellow Pages, they should hang their heads. Oh yes, the Yellow Page salesman comes by once a year and makes a hero out of you, but try to find him 60 days later when the first bill becomes due. They don't have to be available, they have a 100% mortgage on YOUR BUSINESS. The biggest advertising program I have ever seen was in Santa Barbara, California. There TWO old-pros spent hundreds of dollars every week telling the consumer how horrible the other one was. They managed to destroy a very lucrative market. Sure, folks in Santa Barbara are still having their carpets cleaned, but what would have happened if these two GIANTS had advertised Constructively rather than Destructively.
"STEAM"...Rather than devote our efforts to creating standards, our industry is still being torn apart by our industry on the position of whether steam is "Steam." Instead of performance bond issues and quality standards, a Carpet Cleaning non-steam equipment manufacturer in Wisconsin caused so much pressure on the Milwaukee Better Business Bureau to try and outlaw steam that the Attorney General has been brought into the Act. A test suit will take place in September. The Wisconsin Attorney General will tackle a small Independent Carpet Cleaner on the horrible crime of offering "steam" cleaning to his customers. At the same time, the old-pro firm is flooding the nation with flyers on how a person can enter the carpet industry with nothing more than a DRY FOAMER and make a bundle. I'm confident if the Attorney General of Wisconsin was hit in the face with a handful of DRY FOAM, he would find it quite WET. Too bad their legal arm isn't aimed at requiring the firms at least to have a business license and a small consumer protection bond. My hat is off to a small group of Professional Carpet Cleaners who make up a Wisconsin Association who have hired an attorney to make sure "steam" is at least represented fairly. SCT has offered to help with legal costs. I wonder where'n'ell are AIDS. RCI. CCI. OHIO ASSOCIATION, and the other big guns during this time of put up or shut up. The way this case turns out will have a powerful effect on all CARPET CLEANERS.
EFFORTS...Our efforts of today will set the pace for tomorrow's future. Do we have to continue to fight among ourselves? Regardless of our names, type of equipment we use, and supplies we like, we have a common enemy-- consumer apathy toward clean carpets. Dirty Carpets should be our enemy and not a method, or type of tool or personality.
I am firmly convinced that while I am one, the only thing wrong with the Carpet Cleaning Industry, is Carpet Cleaners.