Okay, well after talking to three companies, we’re officially going with Empire. I’m not happy about the decision, but at least we’ll be rid of the mold problem quickly.
Bad first impression
The first estimate we got was from Empire Flooring. It did not go well. The woman was pushy and brusque.
When I took her to the guest house, she asked me when we were hoping to get the job done. I told her very soon. We were getting the bids this week to make a decision by Friday.
I had quite literally barely finished the sentence before she said, “Because, you know, this needs to get taken care of. Like, tomorrow. Mold is a big deal. And [lowering her voice and nodding toward Marc] he’s on oxygen, you know? That’s not good. And maybe illegal?”
A few things
Let’s break down all of the things wrong with her response.
First, obviously mold is a big deal! I’m not an idiot.
And she should have known I was taking the mold seriously — not just because I’d called Empire at all but because of when I called them.
A few minutes before, I had told her that I called Empire the same day the mold was found and made an appointment for the next business day.
So telling me that mold is a big deal… Well, the implication is that either I’m stupid or was dragging my heels.
In reality, it was a scare tactic to pressure me into signing. But the implications remain, regardless of intent. And I didn’t appreciate either one.
Second, given that I knew mold was dangerous, I had indeed realized that mold would be especially dangerous for anyone with compromised breathing. Because I have a brain in my head.
Third, she danced right up to the edge of implying the breathing issues could be caused by the mold.
Nadine was a heavy smoker for years, which resulted in COPD. Marc’s oxygen is actually for sleep apnea, not to treat a lung condition. Both were in place long before they moved in with us.
I assume the problem is that I’d already told her two more companies would be coming out. She must have thought that ramping up the pressure was a good way to go. And that “pressure” meant trying to convince me that I wasn’t actively trying to protect the people I love — that I was outright endangering them by waiting one more second.
Fourth, the “And maybe illegal?” would imply that I was being a derelict landlord. As though I had been letting them live in mold for some indeterminate period of time. Rather than, say, calling companies as soon as the mold was discovered.
I know salesmanship requires some degree of manipulation, but her responses were beyond the pale. Not only did they insult both my integrity and my intelligence, they failed in their intent.
Not to mention that, the more a salesperson tries to manipulate my emotions, the more I assume the product isn’t good enough to sell itself.
But it wasn’t worth telling her any of this. Clearly, she wasn’t listening. Besides, she’d just have denied my version of her comments.
It was easier to just shoo her into the main house to actually look at/evaluate the merits of the product in question. And hey, there were quite a few great qualities. The problem? She did a crappy job of selling them because, well, she was so obviously selling them.
Instead of making it into a conversation, she became a walking, talking set of bullet points. She didn’t try to engage us and pepper in the qualities of the vinyl. She just listed them one after the other, failing to notice our eyes glazing over.
Finally, she stopped long enough that Nadine could focus on the samples and choose one she liked. The calculator came out, and the saleswoman announced that the pre-sale (she stressed that phrase quite a bit) price was $5,000.
Obviously, this is the old “Hit ’em with a big number so your real number sounds reasonable” tactic. Sure enough, the sale price was $2,486. For 500 square feet (415 installed). Of vinyl.
And yes, that is an absurd amount of overage, but that’s a rant for a different day.
Point being, I thanked her and got her out the door as quickly as possible. Then I looked forward to hear actual reasonable prices from the other two companies.
The other quotes
Nadine and I went up to Home Depot on Wednesday. As it turns out, there was almost no price difference, given the kind of vinyl we wanted.
Since both Nadine and Marc are mobility compromised — and since Marc struggles with vertigo — we decided to plan for the worst-case scenario of a fall. Specifically, vinyl (which, as many of you pointed out, is a bit more textured) with a healthy amount of underlayment as a cushion.
I mean, it’s not the stuff of bouncy castles or anything. But in case of a fall, it’ll be better than tile or thing vinyl. And hey, maybe the padding will be easier on their joints.
Alas, that level of vinyl is $2.79 a square foot plus installation. Which adds up to about $2,450.
The third company didn’t even give us a quote. The guy came out, discussed our needs and what the other companies had suggested. After (much) prodding, I told him Empire’s final price. (More on that later.) He told us flat-out that he couldn’t meet, let alone beat, that. So he thanked us for our time and left.
I wasn’t able to get the handyman to call me back. Later, I realized he probably wasn’t certified to work with mold anyway, so that may be why he didn’t bother returning my calls.
The sale “sale-price”
Empire, on the other hand, followed up by phone Tuesday morning.
Specifically, the company dropped its price to $1,983 if I signed within seven days. For those of you keeping track, that’s a $500 prie drop overnight.
The next day Empire emailed me about a deal. It turns out that it was the same offer. The woman on the phone explained that Empire emails, calls and sends a letter in these cases.
This confirms that it’s standard practice to drop the price if you refuse to sign in person. So if you ever have Empire come out for a bid, make sure you don’t accept the quote. Then check your phone/inbox/mailbox for the next few days. You’ll be glad you did.
Have you ever tried Empire? Did you end up finding a better deal?
While we are going with Empire, I plan to make my indignance known.
I’m going to email the company saying basically what I did here (minus the other quote information). I think the company should know just how close it came to not getting this job.
Maybe it won’t care. Maybe as long as it got our business, the ends justify the means. But I want Empire to know that it got our business in spite of its employee.
I want Empire to know that I’d have been willing to call at least five more companies — and I’d have been willing to pay around $200 more — if it meant not choosing Empire. That’s how bad an impression the saleswoman made.