Installing Pool Equipment You Bought Online
This article is intended to help pool owners to understand why it is hard to find a swimming pool industry professional to install the equipment that you purchased online. This is a difficult and nuanced subject to discuss, and most busy pool guys will just say no, or even more likely, delete your email or voicemail on move on to more profitable customers. This question of profitability is at the heart of the problem you are experiencing with finding someone to install the equipment you purchased online, but I guarantee you that this is more layered than a simple question of money...kind of.
Firstly, before we even get into the meat and potatoes about the actual equipment, you need to understand something about the swimming pool industry. The pool industry is not like a bank. Or a grocery store. There is no "regular business hours" because our industry is based on "you are done when all the work for the day is finished". This is kind of simple when you take a minute to think about it. If it is late, and my day is running behind for any number of reasons such as vehicle breakdown, problem at my supplier, someone not showing up for work, injury or illness or any number of work related problems, I still have to get to all of the pools on my list. If I service your pool, and your pool needs chlorine today, then I need to get to your pool and add chlorine or it is going to turn green. Would you accept a green pool because I was behind and too tired to come out to your place? Probably not. We work until the job is done, and this is not how most industries work - specifically when it comes to money.
Next, you need to understand that pool companies make money selling you products, and they make money installing them also. The grand total of these two values equals the amount you need to pay to have something new installed. This is not something that is unique to the pool and spa industry. There are a lot of other industries that work in the same way. Car mechanics are one of the first that comes to mind. Vehicle parts are expensive, and there is a very large aftermarket for car parts (both new and used) which enables car owners to find and supply their own parts at a discounted rate. This is an accepted thing in the auto industry. Some mechanics choose to only install parts they sell themselves, and some will install anything and not care where it comes from. Some mechanics install stuff they did not sell, but do so for a premium hourly rate. The whole world accepts that this is normal for the auto industry, but for some reason when pool guys try to do the same thing customers start complaining.
In summary, what happens is that service professionals want to supply parts and equipment. It is profitable, but also helps to streamline the process as pool parts (or car parts) are a technical subject. A non-professional could easily supply the wrong parts for a job. The end result of this system is one where you can provide your own parts, but not everyone will work on your car (your pool) if you choose to go that route. Since aftermarket parts are available to everyone, this in effect minimizes any potential for profits from parts for everyone. This is great for customers who want the lowest possible prices but on the flip side you now have some equipment that you need installed but nobody seems interested in doing it for you.
A mechanic probably wants to make 100% markup on products also, but they need to be satisfied with anything between 5% to 30% markup over cost. This is a bitter pill that pool workers need to swallow as we used to get much more profit per product in previous decades, but the advent of the internet and consumer direct wholesale pricing has changed this. Customers can often order products through Amazon for the same price, or lower, than pool companies can purchase the same product for via protected wholesale channels. You might tell your pool guy to match the price you saw online but that price literally might be lower than their cost. There is no incentive to sell to you, and certainly no incentive to install it for peanuts since almost all of the profitability has been sucked out of the job. If it were as straight forward as installing your equipment and taking your money it might be worth it to some installers. Unfortunately there are a lot of things that can happen that make it not straight forward and can turn a low profit job into a zero profit or even a loss very quickly.
Who Is Responsible For Broken Parts?
So you have some pool equipment that you bought online and you want a professional to come and install it...but nobody is returning your call. It used to be in this industry that if I sold you a $1000 filter, $500 or so of that was profit. Installation would be $99 or $120 or something along these lines. In total, my company can net around $600 for about two hours of work, if I am efficient with my time. But if you have your own filter that you bought online then I make zero from the filter, so am I supposed to be happy with $99 or $120 for just the installation?
As a pool specialist I would not work for two hours to make that kind of money. After taxes, fuel for my truck, perishables like glue and primer, tools, business insurance, company overhead...I would not end up with enough money left after this to buy a decent lunch. More importantly, why would I spend my time installing your filter, especially when the call before and the call after yours was someone looking for a filter and installation.
We still are only scratching the surface of this problem. If it were just this simple then what would happen is the pool guy would just increase his installation price to get enough money to make it worth their while. This number would change from person to person based on the convenience of the job, timing, if equipment installation is in their wheelhouse etc. and this is what most pool owners get hung up on. Why don't pool workers just charge a little more to install it?
Well, in the first example I was able to make $600 for two hours of work selling and installing you a filter. Would you pay me $600 to install your filter? I suspect that most pool owners would not. But the installer of pool equipment that was purchased online is taking a risk that pool owners do not appreciate. First of all there are a LOT of equipment brands, makes and models on the market. What kind of equipment did you buy? Is it the right model? Does it have all of the specific features that your specific installation needs? This is a very real concern since there are hundreds of options and models and sizes and brands to navigate when purchasing pool equipment. What are the chances that a non-professional knows precisely which piece of equipment to buy? Or would a pool owner know that an additional piece of equipment is required for the type of installation that you have?
The end result here is that there is a much higher rate of problems installing pool equipment purchased online versus equipment supplied by the installer. An installer will be using equipment they are familiar with, and they will have everything you need to install it on any system. I would almost never need to take a second trip out to install equipment that I am supplying. When you order through Amazon or EBay the equipment that is being sent to you has been kicking around in a warehouse for months or years, and goes through a hellacious shipping route to arrive at your door (within 24 hours of ordering). The rate of broken and or missing pieces on equipment ordered online is extremely high versus pool equipment ordered and picked up from pool equipment wholesale centers.
Paying For Something You Didn't Get
Now you understand that if you buy equipment online then your installer will be making less money than they want to be making. Usually a lot less. Even if they jack up the installation costs to get a few extra dollars out of the job (just enough to make it worth their time) there is still a much higher than average change there will be a problem. Even the most prepared equipment installer can not foresee a problem like missing or broken pieces, or the fact that you potentially ordered the wrong equipment in the first place.
Maybe something broke during shipping, or maybe not all the parts or pieces were included as this equipment might have been purchased and returned multiple times already. So what happens if I take the time to drive out to your house, cut out and dismantle your old filter, install the new filter three quarters of the way, and then I discover a missing component, or a crack / manufacturer defect in the product that makes it impossible to use? What happens now?
I can tell you what is supposed to happen. When a problem is discovered I would immediately package up the broken product and drive it back to my supplier. I park blocking their bay door access and drop the broken filter on their showroom floor. I then yell and throw things until a brand new (verified unbroken) filter magically appears in the back of my truck. Truthfully I don't actually yell and throw things, because pool equipment wholesalers don't break equipment or resell returned merchandise. The bottom line is that within the hour I am en route back to your house with a brand new product, as promised, to get your pool up and running.
But you did not buy this filter from me. You bought it from EBay (at least Amazon is fast with returns). So now you need to ship your filter back to EBay, or whoever, after you have contacted the seller and made them aware of the problem, and then get an authorized RMA and a prepaid shipping label from them. Simply repackage your filter (impossible) and drive to a local post office (you might need to rent a truck, filters are huge) and ship it back. Within a week or two they will receive it, hopefully, and then go about initiating a refund of your purchase, or hopefully send some product that is not defective. In total, you are going to be waiting a few weeks at minimum.
Oh, and also, sorry, but you still owe me for the installation costs. I wasted all that time working on your equipment, and the fact that you still don't have a filter has absolutely nothing to do with me. Why should I work for free for you because you wanted to take a high risk approach to getting pool equipment to save as much money as possible? Why should I make less money, especially since I am already making less money since you refused to pay me $600 for the installation? So now your pool turns wretchedly green, you have been without a pool for en entire month in the summer, and you will end up spending more on chemicals fixing these problems than you "saved" by buying your equipment online. Are you starting to see why pool technicians are not lining up to install your pool equipment?
How To Get A Pro To Install Pool Equipment You Bought Online
So what is the solution, or is there a solution to this problem? As a pool owner you had better hope that there is because most swimming pool equipment manufacturers severely limit warranty coverage for equipment that is purchased online. The only way to get around this is to have a receipt to prove that your equipment was installed by a professional. Even equipment purchased online can qualify for full warranty protection with most manufacturers if you get an industry professional to install it for you.
However, as you can see with the scenario explained above, pool professionals are not really going to want to install your equipment for you. There is just too much chance of not getting paid. Even if they agreed to make half as much money, let's say $300, but there were broken or missing parts. Will you still pay the $300 even though the filter is still not installed, but more importantly, will you pay the $300 again, a second time, when the replacement filter arrives? Why should your pool guy work for free and install your new filter twice, just for you to save money. Kind of a lot to ask unless you tip very, very well.
To get the attention of installers you need to bring to their attention that you understand how this all works, and you need to define terms with them in advance. I know I would consider installing equipment for a client that displayed to me that they understand how this cost equation works, but more importantly the limitation of liability. If someone said they would pay me $300 to install the filter, and if something goes wrong with the parts, then I will still be paid $200 for my time. I might agree to this. I might even agree further to only charge $200 the second time I install it because I am a nice guy and I would feel bad for the customer. I would also appreciate a picture of the existing equipment installation as well as a picture of the actual product to be installed such that I can determine if you have selected the right thing.
Is the juice worth the squeeze? - By addressing these major points of concern you might find that pool workers are more interested in taking on your project. But are you really saving anything like this? Can you afford to pay three times as much for installation and still save money? What if you had to pay for installation again because there was a problem the first time? What if your new filter springs a leak due to manufacturer error after about six months of running time? Do you expect me to come out for free, again, and disassemble your filter, and then free again when I come back to install the new filter again? Would you pay $800 to $1200 for the installation of a filter? I hope not. At some point it is probably just cheaper and easier to buy it from a local professional. It will come with cheap or free installation, and if anything goes wrong then it is completely on the installer - not you. If there is a warranty problem, you will have the maximum amount of coverage, and the installer should come out for free and deal with the problem. They are not working for free at this point because they got to make all that sweet, sweet filter money from you the first time around. Now any problems that come up are their problem, not your problem...doesn't that sound good?
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