Reader Sees Consumers More Brand Savvy

Reader Sees Consumers More Brand Savvy

Dear Janice:

I am writing in response to the DPH Perspectives column, which appeared in the July issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News.

In that story, Ken Goren made some broad-based assumptions about showrooms based on a survey he conducted in his showroom.

However, just because he found one thing to be true in his showroom does not mean this holds true for all showrooms. In my experience, customers today educate themselves by reading information on the Internet, watching HGTV, reading kitchen and bath magazines or just listening to word of mouth.

Ken made a point that less than 10% of customers ask for a product by name. I disagree. Consumers are savvy and know what manufacturer they want to buy from – they just need guidance on putting it together.

As far as designers only using products they are familiar with or that are easy to install, that is so far from the truth. Designers are not robots and do not automatically use the brands they used on their last project. Designers know the plumbing market and want to be educated about the various options in the plumbing industry. They don’t use the exact kind of fabrics and designs for each house they design, do they? Otherwise, everybody’s home would be exactly the same.

There are some valid points Ken made, however not everything written in the article holds true.

However, one thing I do agree with Ken about is that “Manufacturers need to realize that brick and mortar showrooms are the ones that truly define the market.”

Arlene Wolford
Showroom Manager
B & M Plumbing Supply
Woodridge, IL

Manufacturer Sees Partnerships as Key

Dear Eliot:

Thank you for the excellent Editorial you addressed to your readers in the June issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News. We felt it was timely and accurate. If you don’t mind, I have a little something to add.

Indeed, it is imperative to understand your customer and deliver great customer service in order to be successful. However, customer service should not begin and end with the showroom. Showroom personnel have the arduous task of representing a great variety of manufacturers, and it is impossible for them to be a experts in everything (nor are they expected to be). What is extremely important is for manufacturers like us to step up to the plate in this regard. Showroom personnel have to know where and how to access great resources, and when the manufacturers and their representatives provide that assistance, it is easier for the showroom to be successful.

Perhaps most importantly, the better the manufacturers’ customer service is, the better the showrooms look. Relationships between showrooms, reps and manufacturers should never be adversarial. The only way to support the end consumer is to establish relationships that foster a flow of information, understanding and cooperation.

As the recipient of the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association’s 2006 Customer Service Department of the Year award (in recognition of “outstanding business practices and extraordinary customer service”), we are glad to be in the position to help encourage our fellow manufacturers to become great resources, not only to the showrooms they supply, but also to the showroom’s customers. We pride ourselves on being an excellent resource on a difficult subject (which includes but is not limited to water quality and treatment, as well as all the questions, concerns and misinformation surrounding it).

When showroom clients call us, we are willing and happy to answer any questions they have. The showrooms we supply trust us to carry through with the service people expect, and that trusting relationship is becoming increasingly rare in today’s business world.

Howard Esbin
President & CEO
Environmental Water Systems
Las Vegas, NV

Reader Questions Validity Of Gender Wage Gap

Dear Janice:

I must contend with some of your reasoning in your Editorial on gender bias in the July issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News. As a small business owner, I absolutely agree that I need to be careful in how I deal with my female clients. I would also agree that the way the window salesman dealt with you displays self-defeating gender bias.

But I would argue that much gender bias still exists because women perpetuate it. I’ll bet that the window salesman hears 99.5% of the time in dealing with women “I don’t know, let me check with my husband.” So, while I wouldn’t have done it, he was probably just trying not to waste time. 

But what I really disagree with you about is this idea that women make less than men for equal work. When dealing with data in order to draw conclusions, you need to read the data properly. A statistic that says women earn less than men in general is meaningless because, while true, doesn’t take into account what the men vs. the women are doing for their pay. And a statistic that says women earn less than men for the same jobs is a statistic that cannot even be gathered because there is no way to quantify two different individuals as doing the same job. The same job title and job description mean nothing. Only the productivity of those individuals is relevant and there is no way to quantify that.

My guess is that the reason your survey indicates that 90% of kitchen and bath designers making less than 35k a year are women is because they weren’t selling, not because they were women. Do you really believe that the male owner of a kitchen showroom who has a female as his top seller is going to pay her less because she is a woman?

People – men or women – are generally paid what they are worth given the value they offer to a company and their ability to negotiate that value. Do women go after the same jobs as men? Most women I know wanted cushy office jobs while I was willing to work my way up in cabinet shops, working in non-ventilated, non-air conditioned shops to learn a trade that eventually allowed me to go out on my own. And guess what? Now that I’m on my own, I make less than I did at my first cabinet job.

I don’t know any women in my circle willing to walk away from a decent-paying job to take that risk. So if I end up earning more than my female friends, is it because I’m a man, or because I was willing to risk more than they were?

But to my point that women encourage gender bias, let me tell you my personal experience in the dating world. I have never in the past four years had a woman whom I just met insist on paying for her own dinner, let alone mine. One female friend of mine buys into the same gender bias myths and says men ought to pay because they make more. Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t make more than any of the women I’ve ever had a date with, and yet they all engage in this gender bias against me.

Another example: I have a good female friend and former colleague from a firm I used to work at. We were out with friends the other night and she admitted that when she walks up to a door she stands there waiting for a man to open it. So as we were leaving, she did just that, and I stood right next to her and waited. She has two working hands, she needs to learn to use them. If women want to be equal, they need to act like they are equal.  

While I agree that gender bias exists and as business owners we need to treat everyone respectfully, women need to stop viewing themselves as victims and stop acting like they are less than equal.

Jonathan Weigel
West River Cabinetry
Inkster, MI

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