A Haven for Contractors
ABC Supply Takes Care of Contractor
Customers at Expense of Retail Sales
I gave ABC Supply Co. in Fredericksburg, Va., credit for being contractor-oriented—even
if, as a retail customer, I was put off by the customer service.
I am in the process of shopping for a new patio door and window for my
den, and my contractor had suggested visiting ABC for products. So one
Saturday morning I headed down the road to a nearby industrial park. While
the way to the building was clearly marked, upon reaching it, I couldn’t
figure out where to park. The lot, crowded with heavy equipment, turned
out to be the correct side, unfortunately, but there weren’t any parking
Inside I found ABC to have a very orderly showroom with several Atrium
and CertainTeed window products on display. A customer was waiting while
the man behind the desk spoke on the telephone, so I went to browse the
window displays. There were five display windows installed into sample
walls of siding products. Each window carried an Energy Star® label
and proclaimed in a sticker at the top that it was available in glass
packages that qualified for the tax credit. Alongside each sample wall
were racks of literature, including a range of brochures from the manufacturers
whose products ABC offered and a detailed glossy on the ARRA tax credit,
stamped with ABC’s logo. I thought that was a clever touch, and when I
headed up to the cash register I found they were scattered throughout
Once the other customer left the store the salesperson at the front desk
asked what he could do for me. I explained I was looking for a new door
and window and he stared at me for a moment and then went to retrieve
a thick yellow binder.
“Steel or fiberglass?” he asked.
“Fiberglass,” I said.
“You going to put something on it, like some lace, or something else like
that?” he asked, his face scrunching up at the word lace.
SECRET SHOPPER REPORT
LOCATION: Fredericksburg, VA
FACILITY TYPE: Warehouse
Store was Easy to Find
Parking Lot was Clean
Windows were Clean
Greeted Upon Entering
Store Aisles were Clear of Debris
Neatness of Displays
Employee Product Knowledge
Store Experience Satisfaction
A Excellent B Above Average C Average D Below Average F Unsatisfactory
“Yeah, I’ll probably install blinds,” I replied.
“How much sun does it get?” the salesperson asked.
“Just a couple hours of morning sun,” I answered. “Nothing direct for
“Ok,” the salesperson said, “then you don’t need anything like the low-E
or argon-filled if you agree you don’t get much sun over there. I’ve got
this problem in my house where the sun’s coming through my front door
pretty much all day and burning through the door.”
I didn’t think he believed my answer, but I considered it a good sign
that we were edging toward a real conversation.
The salesperson flipped to a page of Therma-Tru patio doors.
“Something like this?” he asked, pointing to an open glass door. I pointed
to the one next to it with divided lites.
“You want the grids on the outside, the removable grids or the inside
grids?” he asked.
Explaining that I wasn’t thrilled with the removable grilles on the other
windows in my house, I suggested attached outside grilles.
“The inside grids are for easy cleaning,” he explained with a motion of
wiping the glass. “Oh sure, why not, the interior grilles are nice,” I
After deciding on the handing he pointed to the product he would offer.
“Do you have any options I can take a look at?” I asked.
The sales guy got on the loudspeaker and called for his assistant to come
out. Knowing how long I’d been waiting initially I was a little frustrated
to know there was another helper lurking in the back. But when I saw said
helper, I understood why he’d been hiding.
Now, I understood that this place was geared toward contractors and the
usual customers might have found the inappropriate logo on the guy’s shirt
amusing. But if you have a showroom and there’s the least chance you’re
going to be doing retail business—I’d advise you to leave the risqué
logos at home.
Sighing, I began to explain the size and style of the window I wanted
to match the others in my home but when I said the word “wood” the salesperson
shook his head and smiled grimly. I pushed him to offer a quote on a comparable
vinyl product so that I could get a sense of the price difference.
At that point another customer walked in, obviously a regular as the second
salesperson greeted him. Apparently thinking that it would take me ten
minutes to quickly scribble down the approximate cost of the window, my
helper excused himself to assist the contractor with what he needed. In
a place geared toward contractors, I could appreciate putting the regular
customer first … but it still ticked me off.
After the other customer disappeared, the salesperson took me back into
the warehouse to look at products. It was reasonably clean in the area
where we walked, with wide open aisles of wood, siding, doors and windows.
He pulled out an example of the door he’d guided me toward and I agreed
that’s what I was looking for. Based on the price I figured I’d likely
come back to make a purchase—but not before examining my other options
Next we walked over to a window display. As he showed me the size options,
I couldn’t help but think that the large cardboard boxes scattered in
front of it were a slip hazard.
And that was that. No writing down quotes. No business card. The sales
guy explained that the following Friday he’d be leaving for a month but
that anyone at the front could help me with my order. While I supposed
that explained his abrupt demeanor it certainly didn’t bring me any closer
to finding all of the products I needed.
Ultimately, especially when times are tough, the price tag speaks. The
relative low cost of the patio door was too irresistible to pass up, especially
as further shopping around led me to find the product quality to be relatively
comparable to other products. Despite ABC’s good advertisement of the
available tax credit, I passed that up, although it was nice to have information
on that option available.
For that window, I ultimately made my purchase from the local Home Depot—where
there were plenty of options on display and the customer service for this
retail customer was top-notch.
Megan Headley is a contributing editor for DWM magazine.
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