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Curious about wholesaler choice

DanHolohan
DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
What one thing above all else keeps you going back to that same place?
Retired and loving it.

Comments

  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,350
    Customer service. And the lack of it will keep me away.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    Thanks, Bob. Do you have an outside salesperson who visits you?
    Retired and loving it.
  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083
    Product selection, Dan. As in products I've seen serve my client's needs well.

    It's really a pain to jump from one wholesaler to another to gather stuff for a job, since most of my work involves hydronic and air.

    Since you just asked for one thing. Customer service is almost as important but I won't choose Asian black fittings because the counter guys are great.
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    I suppose product selection is a big part of customer service, in that the wholesaler should know what products his customers prefer.

    Years ago, I asked a wholesaler about some of the new products and whether he handled them. The guy told me that the contractor doesn't get to ask for stuff; they just need to buy what he decides to stock. He explained that he was the hub of the wheel. Contractors were the spokes. He held it all together.

    Lends new meaning to spokesperson.
    Retired and loving it.
    Bob Bona_4
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 21,862
    Inventory on the shelves!

    Interesting that the online supply shops are starting to drive local wholesalers to inventory more stuff.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    Robert O'Brien
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,808
    Customer service is a hard one to top but if they don't have what I need, or can't get it quickly, I don't need them.
    Steve Minnich
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    What defines great customer service?
    Retired and loving it.
  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083
    Courteous, enthusiasm, knowledge, and being humble. If I had a nickel for every snotty arrogant wholesaler employee....
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    You got room for those nickel, Bob? ;-)
    Retired and loving it.
    Bob Bona_4
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,506

    What defines great customer service?

    Sadly, what I (we) accept now is much less than what was minimally acceptable years ago. I've given up on 'great'.
    Basically, answer the phone, if you don't have it, track it down while I'm on the phone, or call me right back.
    I would love 1 or 2 stop shopping, but suppliers just aren't stocking the inventory, even on basic components. This happens a lot in the fall, when someone (company) comes in and buys large quantities to re-stock their trucks, and wipe out a supplier for a few days. When I do my big re-stock, I email it in and pick it up (or delivered) in a week.
    And to tell you the truth, I just don't have a 'guy' anymore. By 'guy', that counter/salesperson who wants me to call them first, and they'll get it. It's more like "I have 2 in the warehouse and I can have it for you hopefully by tomorrow afternoon". And they seem to tack on a fee if they have to order it 'special' from a supplier.
    Now anytime I need something during a service call, I have to make multiple calls to see who has it (not even worried about price) before I head out.
    And it's not about me stocking the inventory either. Many of these controls are only warrantied for a short duration. I've been burned a couple times stocking something special (expensive) in the name of having it in an emergency-only to find the replacement part doesn't work AND it's now out of warranty. So I wasted my money, and wasted my time.
    I'm leaning toward more online purchasing because sometimes I can get it faster than the usual channels.
    But I do miss the 'bellying up to the bar' (counter) of yore.
    steve
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
    Selection and knowledge of inventory and components in inventory. I will not buy from a supplier who stocks garbage. We see a lot of Asian fittings being stocked as well as import parts as a whole. This sickens me.

    Price is not the bottom line! Quality and people who will take care of you when something goes wrong or is not right. "We are all in this together" should be the mentality. Without you I can't be here, and without me you can't be here. Even though we all could buy online. I do, for select things. And that is because they are products which I cannot get locally.

    Taylor
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    Good stuff, guys. Keep it coming. A lot of wholesalers are reading your words.
    Retired and loving it.
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,808
    Here is why I buy 80-90% of my equipment, fittings, pipe, etc. from one local company:
    1. I have THREE go-to guys there. Very knowledgeable and very helpful, especially when it comes to backing up their product if and when something goes wrong.
    2. The inventory they have on hand at ALL times is remarkable. Name a pipe fitting and they will probably have it on the shelf.
    3. In-house training on a regular basis.
    4. On the rare occasions that we don't call in an order ahead of time, we're not standing at the counter for more than a couple minutes before we're helped.
    5. Free Chicago newspaper. Every day.
    6. Free muffins or cookies. Every day.
    7. Free pads of paper or carpenter's pencils. Every day.
    8. Before you say we're paying for those, I know that. But their pricing is as competitive or better than anywhere else I buy.
    9. Engineering or design help if I'm stumped on a commercial project.
    10. This year is my 22nd year doing business with them.
    Steve Minnich
    Solid_Fuel_ManMilanD
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    That's a winner, Stephen. Thanks for the great story.
    Retired and loving it.
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 484
    I support several local supply houses, and here is why:

    They have superior customer service & support in their retail showrooms.
    Their truck operators / delivery personal have careers that include benefits. The drivers are courteous and helpful, and, they willfully assist the removal old equipment - few things impress a homeowner more than an efficient team effort.
    I have phone numbers of key employees that are answered by real people after normal business hours including nights, holidays & weekends.
    They sponsor training, continuing education, and trips to manufacturer's and rep firms.
    They are well connected to reps & tech support; I always get same day callbacks when there is a question about a product.
    They share my view that there are no problems, only challenges, and we'll work hard to overcome them.

    Most importantly, they are supporters of our state and national contractors association.............
    Solid_Fuel_ManMilanD
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,452
    I have three to choose from and all the same 90 miles away. All three deliver weekly, one only once per week, and each one on different days. So, a lot of time I am looking at who will be delivering next if I have a part I need right away. And it also depends on who has it.
    If it is a stock item I need, then it is who carries it, and who has the best price. If it is items I need that are competitive between the three, then it is the salesman (actually, counter guy) that makes a difference. I have one guy right now who when I call the supplier and he doesn't answer, I will call back later. He is an ex field guy who knows his stuff and will take care of me if something is wrong.
    To me the number one reason though is definitely the person who answers the phone and knows what they have. I had to explain to a counter guy what a 10 X 20 duct was the other day !
    Only one of our suppliers have an outside sales person, and he comes down every week. However in 24 years here, I have probably only had him come visit maybe 20 times. And, I can almost tell you every single product there company ever brought to show me. If I was an outside salesman, I would bring something new every week! That would help me to know what products are even out there.
    On a side note rant: I am trying to find an obsolete Wirsbo manifold and finally found one online for $80. However when I went to get it, it is going to cost me $51 in freight. It is getting to be extremely frustrating to try and buy anything in Alaska when half of the wholesalers won't send to a foreign country, and the other half refuses to use USPS, and will only use UPS. Pretty sure UPS gives deals to suppliers who then keep the difference. So therefore, we are trying to put together a list of companies that will send to us at a reasonable cost.
    Ok, rant over. Now I can breathe again.
    Have a happy 2017!
    Rick
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    Whew! All that, Rick, and now you're not supposed to burn wood. Jeez.
    Retired and loving it.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,608
    I remember the days when factory reps called on everyone utilities, contractors (the big ones), local wholesalers and supply houses. A lot of the parts were interchangeable and readily available every where locally. Factory warranties were good, equipment easy to find. Local competition was great among suppliers. Counter personnel knew how to help you solve a problem and they did it with a smile on their face. Oh for the good old days I miss those lunches with the factor reps (they bought lunch) and if you were having a problem on a job they would go out with you and roll up their sleeves and help you fix it. I could go on but I do not want to discourage the young who post here because some of the good stuff just is not done anymore.
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,537
    Service is number one. I define service as having what is needed when it is needed and delivering it in a timely fashion.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,537
    hot rod said:

    Inventory on the shelves!

    Interesting that the online supply shops are starting to drive local wholesalers to inventory more stuff.

    It's infuriating to want to buy a product and being unable to, I can just imagine how manufacturers feel about that. Or maybe I'm wrong because they do nothing about it.............
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Hilly
    Hilly Member Posts: 426
    edited January 2017
    I go to one local mom and pop for day to day. If I need special order I go to a national chain because they'll overnight anything for free if it's anywhere in their system. (district supply centers or any other branch).

    Both places I have "a guy" (actually a woman at one) that'll respond to emails promptly even when I say not urgent and they'll call if there's anything they need me to clarify or if there's something they thing they should clarify.

    So I guess my answers are CS and Availability. If my girl left the national chain I'd be hesitant to kept going there, she is a CS ninja and gets sh+t done.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    How do you cultivate "a guy?" Got stories?
    Retired and loving it.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,350

    Thanks, Bob. Do you have an outside salesperson who visits you?

    Yes, with every supply house.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    Bob, you're like the King of the Prom! ;-)
    Retired and loving it.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 21,862

    hot rod said:

    Inventory on the shelves!

    Interesting that the online supply shops are starting to drive local wholesalers to inventory more stuff.

    It's infuriating to want to buy a product and being unable to, I can just imagine how manufacturers feel about that. Or maybe I'm wrong because they do nothing about it.............
    We are all ears if you have some suggestions on getting more stuff on the shelves, especially ours :)

    We give great terms, offer to switch slow moving inventory, excellent freight allowances, overnight with 4 hours notice for shipping costs, work with their preferred buying groups, unless we are blocked out.

    Bar codes, QR codes electronic ordering, pretty much every and anything that a supplier would ask for we have tried.

    In person training for the staff, contractor calls, engineering calls with the supplier. Breakfast, lunch, dinners, product giveaways, trips to Italy....

    It's becoming pretty clear which model is working and which customers double their offerings and orders year by year.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • BPH
    BPH Member Posts: 39
    Consistent stock, fair pricing, don't run from a problem and don't act like your going out of your way filling my order.
    Ironman
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
    edited January 2017
    I'm in for a trip to Italy! I'll post up pics of caleffi installs...attest to how superior quality is....my 4year old reading idronics with me! Whatya need?

    Taylor
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
    Ironman
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,719
    A history and a track record. I've been dealing with the same Mom and pop supply house since my first week in the business, 1986. Owners have changed over the years, but the relationship is there. Straight shooters,no bull like me. We've surfed the economic waves and tidal waves together....neither screwing the other, when many did. Mad Dog
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,435
    Don't know if its too late to weigh in on this. I would prefer dealing with a mom and pop organization that appreciates my business and tells me so. Someone that actually answers my call without voice mail lost calls. A way to get access to pricing after hours when I do my quotes. I hope they stock the replacement parts for the lines they sell because I am seeing more and more in warranty part failures. I want them to sell a reliable piece of equipment. I deal with the big guys only when I have to because they make it seem like a chore to do business with me. I like when they have someone that really is a technical expert and not a self described one that knows nothing about their product. I do not need a sales person stopping by unannounced and dropping off the same flyer I received in the mail two days ago. I want a place that gets my people in and out quickly. Time is money. It would be great if they would deliver the equipment to the job site. Is it me or does being surly a job requirement for wholesalers? Thanks for letting me vent.
    Ray
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Ironman
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    Never too late to weigh in on this one, Ray. I think it's an age-old question that gets more interesting with changing technologies. Thanks.

    And that was a fine rant!
    Retired and loving it.
  • Hilly
    Hilly Member Posts: 426
    My Guy/Girl
    - have direct number/e-mail address I can send to and get a response from
    - timely return calls / e-mails
    - friendly and pleasurable to talk to
    - they ask questions about the odd-ball things I do and use me to enhance their knowledge and I am able to do the same with them based on their backgrounds and experiences. (plumbing is regulated here mostly, so that stuff is covered decently.... heating is a wild west freak show so it's nice to have somebody who is interested enough to hold a conversation where we both can expand from it. ie. I want a microbubbler, if I call the counter I'd have to say get me part#xxxx by Manuf(yyyy) and I may or may not ever get a call back. My guy/girl will call me back and say here's the price and timeline but I looked it up and I can get you Manuf(TTTT) Part(JJJJ) sooner and cheaper, would this product work any better for you? So I guess I just like the fact that they care about their job and are willing to do the little things that make me choose them. That why they get Christmas gift cards.
    - I'll send in orders on the weekend or late night from home and I'll get a call or e-mail 5 minutes before the warehouse opens and they'll tell me the order is ready for pickup because they were in early and picked it themselves while they sipped their coffee.... I in no way expect this to happen ever but it has and does often. I am grateful and respectful to them in return because of what they do for me and maybe this is why they treat me so well to begin with.

    I'm terrible for proof reading my posts and equally bad for gettin to the point sometimes so hope I made a little bit of sense in my long long ramble.

    **give me somebody who cares about their work and I can make it work with that**
  • bob eck
    bob eck Member Posts: 930
    F W Webb offers the professional contractor the following

    Expert counter sales people, expert inside sales people and expert outside sales people, professional delivery people and professional warehouse people.

    We stock products in the following lines
    Plumbing
    Heating
    HVAC
    Refrigeration
    PVF
    Propane Gas and Natural Gas Equipment & Parts
    Water Systems and Sump, Effluent, Sewage Systems
    Industrial PVF Specialities
    Thermoplastic Piping
    Commercial & Industrial Pumps
    Fire Protection & Fabrication
    Industrial PVF Specialities
    High Purity Process Components
    Process Controls
    Water Works
    Building Controls

    Not all product offerings at all branches.

    At my branch in Allentown PA (opened 04/14/14) we stock and sell the first 9 product lines above.

    We run counter days with manufacturers reps displaying their products and going over their products on a regular schedule. With a lunch and some times early in the day with a breakfast.

    We have a 40 to 60 seat training room where we offer free training on products.
    Plus customers are allowed to use this training room for their own training at no cost to our customer.

    Tell us what products you want to learn about and we will set up a counter day or a longer training seminar.

    Our counter area 10,000 Sq Ft is stocked with a lot of product and four counter people.

    There are four inside sales people.

    There are four outside sales people.

    Later in 2017 we will have a Frank Webb Bath Center www.frankwebb.com showroom.

    Three delivery trucks.

    You can place orders on line, email, fax, call in and through our outside sales people. We all have our own email so you can contact us directly.

    F W Webb is building a 1 million Sq Ft Central Distribution Center opening late 2017 (moving out of our current CD Center of 400,000 Sq Ft) so we can stock more product to help our customers to get the products they need, when they need it, where they need it and help our customers to grow their business.

    I have been in the Plumbing, Heating & HVAC wholesale business for almost 37 years all in the Allentown PA market with only two companies. I came to work for F W Webb in April of 2014 I left a job of 34 years because I saw a great company that I can work for and I also wanted to work for a great company that wants to help the professional contractor to grow their business.

    As I knew F W Webb was opening a location in Allentown PA I investigated their company and I saw what they are all about and I wanted to be part of this company.

    Come on in the coffee is always fresh and hot and see what F W Webb has built for you the professional contractor.

    Call us at 484-488-3669 check us out at www.fwwebb.com or call me direct at 484-225-9055 we are always looking for great contractors to partner with.

    Tell us what we need to do to EARN your business.


    rick in AlaskaRobert O'Brien
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    Hilly, thanks for sharing that. You, too, Bob. It's great to hear about such positive experiences.
    Retired and loving it.
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,678
    I buy from several local vendors and a little from supplyhouse.com.

    Years ago I sent all my pipe valve fitting orders to one vendor. One day I shopped the price after the fact. It was 10-20% more than the "more expensive" vendor. I talked with the regular vendor about this and the answer was" yes they do that to (I forget the exact phraseology) get more business". This was a $3000 order. Or very close to it. That was that.

    That sent me into full price shopper mode. That' was years ago.

    I'm more of a secret shopper, I may buy the same item from two vendors to see pricing. Then I learn what wares to buy from which vendor.

    Once I know the personality of the vendor I may shoot off a request for a very large order, $10,000 type of stuff, just to get good pricing. I don't "send it odd to bid" I just go with my instincts.

    I'll buy $1,000 worth of condensate pumps to save money. I'll buy $1,000 worth of line sets to achieve the same goal

    Some vendors are painfully slow with credits. If any vendor people are reading this, don't do that, it's dumb. You lose business when you're dumb.i lose business when I'm dumb.I once had an old friend that worked for a local vendor. He said the credits were, how shall I say, put in a pile and eventually they were processed, maybe. His story matched my perception to a tee.

    My last peave them I will hang up. Most vendors have really good phone skills, happy personality. Some do not. Vendor people, if your employees think they're doing your customers a favor by helping us buy your wares, that's dumb, and you shouldn't do that.

    Gary
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
    Robert O'Brien
  • Sailah
    Sailah Member Posts: 826
    From the manufacturers perspective, i enjoy dealing with distributors who have taken the time to learn about what we do. They know the product, their customers know the product. I'll go to the ends of the earth for those guys. You need something on a Saturday? You need me to stay late to keep the plant open so you can pick some parts up for that job tomorrow? No problem. You want to send a contractor in to learn a little more about steam traps? Happy to have them.

    But the counter guys who are just reactionary to phone calls and call and ask the same thing every time, it's hard to help them honestly. And what that does is concentrate the knowledge base at a certain few distributors who have a steam guy. A lot of the time that's a big guy, but there are a select few small distributors that really know their stuff and they are a real pleasure to deal with.

    The big internet retailers there is zero personal interaction. Well that's not totally true. I personally met with supplyhouse.com and they were nice. But as you can imagine dealing with Amazon is a faceless experience. It has its benefits too but overall I enjoy the chit chat with the regulars just like contractors do with the same guys.
    Peter Owens
    SteamIQ
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    Wondering how many people use the "Design Services" of their wholesaler, if in fact they offer those services?

    I have never had to depend on them, but know a lot of smaller shops that do...

    Is that an important feature?

    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Hilly
    Hilly Member Posts: 426
    I did once and he wanted me to install the brand new system as a monoflow. That was our last conversation. All my wholesalers now just send them right off to the manufacturer. (Ie uponor Viega Rehau and watts depending where you go). I am not sure which of those guys offer free service still. (They would give you the price but you pay the money for the heatloss, loops, manifold and pump schedules, etc). Essentially they make it so you can price the job. Then you buy the package if you win the bid.
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,678
    True Peter,

    just like we have the A and B personalities in the world, not everyone needs a face and a smile, we just need stuff.

    Don't get me wrong, if i am buying local---- if two vendors have the same stuff at the same price, i'll go with the friendlier vendor every single time.

    Supplyhouse.com is pretty good, I don't know if I'm on their 'nice' list or what, but the very few issues i've had, they sent a label for me to print for the return shipping. No human interaction. That's totally fine with me, I kinda like it.

    So--one standard for buying local and another standard for buying online, the two shall not be intertwined.

    I hear you on the space cadet counter guys. I'm thinking every human has a certain appetite for A: gaining technical knowledge, B: retaining that learned knowledge.

    I bet my customers have similar sentiments when I get stuck, but there is a sliding scale as to what everyone should know vs what the smarter guys will know. Always has, always will.

    Another vendor peeve i have---

    Me--"can I get 6 of the (just name a common ware that should not cause a deer in the headlights look) gadgets"
    Counter guy--"Uhm lets see" (as he types it in and stares at the screen), "nope, lets try this" (as he typed in another hey word).

    Before the computer age, all the counter guys knew everything.

    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]