Letters to the Editor: March

Concerns Expressed About Safety of Imports

Dear Eliot:

What is our industry doing to protect its U.S. manufacturers and dealers from the Chinese imports? The huge influx of Chinese cabinets and vanities in my area – the metropolitan NY area – is really hurting them. The manufacturers can’t compete with the price because the imports do not have to abide by the same pollution regulations as our manufacturers do. This simply is not fair.

Why are these imports allowed into our country with such bad indoor air quality emissions when our manufacturers are forced to abide by our U.S. regulations? Who will be held responsible when these products are deemed unsafe due to the glues used and/or the emissions from their finishes (think children toy recalls). Will the dealers be held liable when this happens? If so, shouldn’t our industry be advising the dealers to be careful?

Pat Gangitano
P&A Rep Agency
Massapequa Park, NY

MIA Disputes Fabrication Claim

Dear Janice:

I am writing in response to the Fabricating Techniques column written by Jim and James Heaphy in the January 2010 issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News.

With regard to the issue the article addressed, stainless steel or fiberglass would be sure-fire ways to avoid corrosion issues, and a lot of our member firms opt for the same materials. However, with proper materials and adequate quality control on installation, we don’t think we need to prohibit the use of mild steel.

The reason I say this is because mild steel is used successfully in far more corrosive environments than this, and careful encapsulation of the rod by a flexible adhesive (epoxy), as recommended in the current version of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) Dimension Stone Design Manual, should be adequate protection (the authors of the article reference a 10-year-old version of the MIA Dimension Stone Design Manual rather than the current edition).

MIA’s technical director, Chuck Muehlbauer, has taken a (relatively small) number of calls about this issue, and in all cases, we were told they’d used epoxy, yet after double checking, they discovered that they’d actually used polyester. In most cases, he had to explain to them that there is a difference between the two adhesives. MIA is, in fact, planning a Technical Bulletin explaining the difference in these products.

Specifically, polyester is a brittle plastic after cure, and for all practical purposes, useless for any structural application. 

Ultimately, we would expect that the polyester, if properly done, would protect the rod from corrosion, but it doesn’t do a very good job of transferring strain from the stone to the rod, which is required to make rodding effective in the first place.

Gary Distelhorst
Marble Institute of America
Cleveland, OH

Reader Believes ‘It’s All About Survival’

Dear Janice:

I read with great interest Ken Peterson’s letter in the January issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News regarding the issue of discounting services. Although Ken is lauded nationwide as an expert throughout this industry, I have to disagree with his position on this particular topic.

While Ken sees the recession as initially hitting in the early months of 2007, here in Long Island, NY, we had actually begun to see things drop off significantly in the middle of 2006. 
Basically, in our region, homeowners were taking advantage of fast-increasing home prices and equity. They were cashing out great amounts of money in the refinancing of their mortgages, and putting mad money into home improvements. We all know what happened next.

As business slowed, I assured myself that I would not break price. I learned from the last recession that the drop in gross margin is something that consumers became accustomed to throughout that period. If I went the discount route, I knew that I’d be married to those slim margins after the economy recovered. Instead, I broadened my product offering and added value priced lines that could sell for less money at a better margin. 
Well, less price means less profit.

Rather than selling a lower price, we should all be selling value to our customers. If only everyone agreed, the theory would work. As I burned through valuable leads, it dawned on me that there was always going to be some person who was willing to sell a nickel cheaper than my price. I didn’t lose a little work over price; I lost a major part of good qualified leads. In fact, those ‘almost’ customers told me point blank that they liked my designs better, but it was all about the price.

From that point, I decided to cut expenses to the bone, ensure the efficiency of my marketing and network like hell. I am about as prepared as I can be to survive on tighter margins and frankly, I’d rather have a project for a little profit than have no project at all.

Yes, Ken, I am working 44% harder. That’s the nature of this beast that we are all working in. But, the important thing is that I am still working. 

My strategy is that, as we recover from the recession and spending begins to ease, I will work on incrementally increasing my margins. However, for now, it’s all about survival.

Stephen D. Wangel
The Kitchen Loft
Lynbrook, NY