Deciding where to purchase your carpet is as important a decision as deciding which carpet to purchase. The right sales team and installation crew can help you to have a pleasant shopping experience and ultimately be satisfied with your purchase. A poor choice in retailer or installer could leave you unhappy with your carpeting and potentially cost you a lot of money in repairs or replacement.
There is no guarantee when selecting a retailer that the process of purchasing and installation will go perfectly smoothly. However, with a bit of investigation and some probing questions, you can reduce the likelihood of having a bad experience. Here are some important questions to ask your retailer when making the decision of where to buy your carpet.
Note: While most of these questions are geared towards independent retailers, some are just as applicable to big box stores, and should be asked in all situations.
1. How Long Have You Been in Business?
This is one of the first questions customers tend to ask, and it is a smart question. You want to be sure that the company you are considering dealing with is a well-established, reliable company, and the best indicator of that is the length of time the company has been in business.
A company that has been in business for five years or more is successful and is most likely planning to be around for a long time, which means that it would like to generate repeat business. If the salesperson is hoping you will return in the future for another purchase, he or she will do what it takes to be sure that you are satisfied with this one.
That is not to say that a new company is not trustworthy or will cause you to have a bad experience. Obviously, every company was new at some point and became successful because of customers who took a chance on the new place in town. If you are considering dealing with a company that is less than five years old, you will have to use your judgment, based on the answers to the other questions below.
Beware especially of a company that has changed name recently. There are a number of companies that operate by closing the doors or even claiming bankruptcy when things get tough, and then reopening under a new name. These companies are not generally run by salespeople who will have your best interest at heart, and if you encounter any problems, you will likely find you have a very hard time getting resolutions.
2. What Is Included in the Price?
Not all retailers price their products in the same way. First, you need to determine whether the price shown is the cost per square yard or per square foot of carpeting (or some other unit of measurement, such as square meter). To calculate square yardage, divide the square footage by nine.
Next, you need to clarify what exactly is included in that price. Some retailers will show the price of the carpet only; underpad and installation are extra. Some show a 'complete' price, including cushion and installation. But what type of cushion is included? Is it a premium pad, or would you have to upgrade for an additional cost? And what does the installation charge cover? Chances are, it covers the basic installation rate.
Upholstery work, like stairs, will likely cost extra, along with the removal and disposal of existing carpet, and moving the furniture. But be sure to clarify this when making your decision. Some retailers may start with everything built in, and you can lower the cost if you don't want everything included. Some show their prices including tax; others calculate the tax at the end of the sale.
Beware of retailers that charge extra for every single thing. I have heard of retailers charging customers for every staple used, every inch of seaming tape, and even a cost for the installers to carry the carpet into the home! These retailers entice you with their low prices, but by the end of the project, you will have ended up spending much more than you originally thought.
3. Who Does the Installations?
If you are having your carpet installed by the retailer, this is an incredibly important question. Ask if the company uses its own installers or if it hires out sub-contractors.
It is not necessarily a problem if a company uses sub-contractors, provided the company itself oversees the installations. Ideally, you book everything through the store itself and contact the store staff if you have any problems.
If the salesperson sells you the carpet and then hands you the phone number for the installer, or tells you the installer will contact you, back away (with your money). You may have no recourse if you have any difficulty with the installer, as the retailer may tell you the sub-contractor is a separate entity over which it has no control. And good luck trying to catch the installer if you have any problems down the road.
4. Are You/Your Installers Bonded and Insured?
Anyone coming into your home to perform work should be bonded and insured. Bonding is like insurance for the homeowner: if the work is not performed within the parameters of the contract (for example, the installer leaves the job half-finished and refuses to come back), the homeowner can file a claim against the bond (money held separately to cover such claims). Insurance is protection against any damage to the homeowner's property caused by the company or installer.
If the answer to this question is anything other than "Yes" -- run. If the company cuts corners on something as important as insurance, what kind of corners will they cut on your installation?
5. Do You Have References or Can I See Your Work?
With this question, you are not expecting past customers of the company to let you tour their homes and see the work performed by the company. Most retailers will have a 'brag book' where they showcase photos of installations they have performed and testimonials from previous clients. Some may even have past customers who are willing to be references, who have provided their email or phone numbers so that you may contact them and ask specific questions. Like hiring a new employee, references can provide valuable insight into the quality of work performed by an installer.
While it is admirable to respect and protect their customers' privacy, if a retailer tells you that their policy is to never provide testimonials or references, or to take photos of installations, then proceed cautiously. What don't they want you to see or hear?
Ultimately, you have to use your judgment when selecting a carpet retailer. If you get a bad feeling, walk away. But by asking the above questions, you can get the specifics needed to help you make an informed decision.