Swimming Pool Steve Quits The Internet
Don't worry - Swimming Pool Steve is not going to quit the internet because that would be ridiculous for my brand to do. I just told you I was going to quit the internet because I wanted you to do something. I wanted you to click on this article. That's okay right? I can say whatever I want to get you to do something for me, I think, right? It is hard to get people to do what you want so sometimes you have to say stuff even when it is not entirely true. Like when Jandy says that they quit the internet because they are worried about you, the pool guy, and your ability to earn a living.
I mean, this is not entirely true. More that Jandy just really wants your money and this is a golden opportunity to try to get some of it - so they are allowed to say something even when it is not exactly an accurate representation of their true motives. Jandy is a big company, owned by an even bigger company (Zodiac) and they want to earn money. More money this year than they earned last year. That is the game. It could be that Jandy (and Zodiac) are the first big companies in the world to not care about money, and actually care about the well being of the "little guys" and if you believe that then I have a real estate development opportunity in Florida that I would like to talk to you about...
We need to talk about the internet, warranties, customers buying things from Amazon, and how pool companies earn their living. This is something that I have talked about before in different contexts with these articles about buying pool equipment online and the problem with installing pool equipment bought online. There is a power struggle being fought, right now, and it will determine how the pool and spa industry proceeds into the future. The industry is struggling to adapt to new technologies and this creates a lot of uncertainty for both pool owners as well as pool professionals.
A failure of the protected wholesale channel - The crux of the problem is that pool and spa professionals are not protected by the people that they buy their equipment from. Going back a few decades, to a time before internet or even cell phones, a home owner could simply not buy a pool pump anywhere for less than "retail value". I could walk into a pool and spa supply store and buy a super pump for $200. A home owner in line right behind me requests the same pump, and when they ring it up the charge was $400. Pool professionals pay half. If you don't own a pool company, you pay retail value. Period. This was the golden age of pool equipment and price protection.
Identifying The Actual Problem
As of 2018 any home owner in America can go to Amazon.com and buy a "super pump" (read: any common brand name pump) for the same price, or lower, than what a pool and spa professional can buy from through protected wholesale channels. Usually Amazon includes free shipping as well so in total the average Joe home owner has more buying power than an industry professional. You do not need to imagine very hard to figure out why this has industry professionals up in arms. How can your protected wholesale pool equipment distributor not even be able to match Amazon prices direct to home owners? Sure you can buy it from Amazon also, but it's not like you can make any money from doing that if you work in the pool industry. If you are not making money as a professional then you might as well just stay home and not go to work and just save yourself the trouble.
This is where we are right now in the pool industry. In late 2018 Jandy made a very bold move with an aggressive advertising campaign promoting "We Quit The Internet" which promises to cease all online sales, and warranty for online sales, for their entire finished goods product line commencing January 1, 2019. Industry professionals all rejoice...kind of. People who like Jandy rejoice anyway, and those that dislike internet based sales as well...but there is something wrong with this line of thinking.
We quit the internet is a bold marketing strategy and the message of the campaign focuses greatly on how Jandy is doing this "for pool professionals". My only problem with this, and the bandwagoneers singing loudly the praises of Jandy, is that this is a corporate move designed to make Jandy money - not help pool professionals. Will this help some pool professionals? Yes, probably. In addition to possibly helping (some) pool professionals does this move to "quit the internet" serve to attract new business to Jandy away from their biggest competitors Hayward and Pentair? Oh, most certainly...
Jandy director of brand and digital marketing identified the problem - Brad Parker, in his recent guest appearance on the Pool Chasers podcast at 20:30 says himself that the reason that Jandy quit the internet is the number one thing that they heard in terms of feedback from dealers at trade shows was in relation to having a problem with internet pricing. So Jandy themselves admit that the problem is not availability of products online, but instead a problem with how online products are priced too low. Both Brad as well as the hosts went on to mention that a secondary reason to prohibit internet sales of equipment is because pool equipment is too complicated and requires that only certified industry professionals can and should buy and install stuff like this. Again, I disagree. Here is a natural gas furnace I can buy on Amazon if I want to. Or maybe a 200 amp electrical load center for the DIY electrical linesmen out there. Also here is a tattoo starter kit, an 800 HP Chevy short block racing engine, a gas range and a UV home water sterilizer system. If Jandy intends to police the stupidity of the internet then, bravo, but they are sure going to have their work cut out for themselves.
Professional Installation Of Pool Equipment
Perhaps I am jaded after a lifetime of working in the pool and spa industry, but since there is now, and always has been, a total lack of regulation, inspections, or trade certification in the pool industry, saying that pool equipment needs "professionals" to install it is ridiculous. There is no regulation about who can and can not be a pool company. Zero experience - never worked a day in the pool industry, or any industry for that matter - no problem. You can be a pool guy tomorrow and start advertising your services. Get a business licence from your local authority and set up accounts with every wholesaler in town. Congrats you are now certified to be able to install this complicated pool equipment...except totally the opposite of that.
The worst offenders for lack of hydraulics understanding are pool industry professionals that get their dirty, uninformed fingers into thousands of pool systems - not Joe pool owner who did a crappy job of installing his own pump to save $100. Implying that there is no way a retired mechanical engineer can install his own pump, with warranty, is preposterous. The average "pool dude" with handyman level electrical and plumbing knowledge is not required to ensure a successful installation of a pool pump. His only purpose in that situation is to be an extra hand in the sales chain adding cost without value to the pool owner.
I am sure Jandy, nor anyone else in the pool industry, cares about the retired engineers of the world since you never hear from these people as a service professional. But I do. I hear from people ALL THE TIME who live in areas where there is a lack of skilled service professionals. No decent options for companies to work with either from a technical skills, business acumen, or customer service point of view. These people want to buy equipment online, and I want them to be able to do this as well. When I look into the future I see a world, and an internet, where everything is available online. It is short sighted and not congruent with technological growth to attempt to move away from the internet - but I guess that depends on what your goals and priorities are.
Jandy values getting new dealers over selling one-off pumps online - Some pool professionals talk about how they hope that Pentair and Hayward also completely stop supporting online sales as well. As someone who has worked in internet based business for over 15 years when I hear people talk like this it makes me pull my hair out. The problem is not that a home owner can buy a pool pump online. 25 years ago a home owner could buy a pump from the same place as me...no problem. No one is complaining that home owners can buy a pump - they are complaining about the pricing. This is the real issue. Pool owners are not supposed to be able to buy a pump for the same price as an industry professional.
What should Hayward and Pentair do? - Hayward and Pentair should not follow in the footsteps of Jandy. They can not beat Jandy at their own game, nor do they need to. If the real question gets addressed then the problem will be solved. A home owner should be able to buy whatever they want online, from Amazon or anywhere else for that matter, and they should pay a full retail price - MSRP. No exceptions. If a product is sold for $1 below full MSRP then no warranty will apply to that product. It is easy to police...just require a sales receipt that shows purchase price when registering the warranty. Done. Best of all, nobody has to "quit the internet"...thankfully.
If You Want The Internet To Go Away, Why Are You Reading This?
If you stop to think about it for a second it should come as no surprise to you that the author of this article is not in favor of pretending that the internet does not exist. Where do you think I earn the income to keep this website alive? I will give you a hint...not from Jandy. At least not anymore. I, for one, certainly do not want to see all pool manufacturers stop selling products online. I have been involved with ecommerce and online businesses since the advent of these terms. I do not, and can not, support any manufacturer who wants to go back to a time where the internet does not exist. The internet does exist, and it is amazing, and pretty much everyone loves it. Do you know what they love about it? Hint it is not that you can no longer find Jandy products online. The internet is amazing because it has everything. I am pretty sure if I have enough money I could buy a second hand yacht online and arrange for it to be shipped from Japan to Canada. I should be able to buy a pool pump as well.
The real issue here is price. If you want to fix the internet problem you have to fix the price problem. I see the stats for a lot of pool equipment sold online and Jandy sells orders of magnitude less than Hayward or Pentair online - whether by accident or design since Jandy traditionally has taken a position of quality over quantity when it comes to selling their equipment. So I understand completely why Jandy quit the internet - They have the least to lose, but they also have the most to gain because they identified a very large problem in the industry right now. If Hayward and Pentair continue to let their products be sold cheaper online than protected wholesale distribution, then they will continue to alienate the companies that purchase, sell and install their products - Enter Jandy, like a hungry wolf prowling the perimeter - Hey there...I have some pool equipment that you can't buy online...
Jandy has the best marketing team in the pool industry - I get why Jandy did it. I appreciate that they are trying to expand their market share numbers. I actually reference Jandy as having, by far, the best marketing team going in the pool industry...but I can not support any company that wants to quit the internet. I love the internet. The internet allows me to provide for myself and my family, and half of the people I know in real life earn their living online. I love that Jandy is making waves but I do not like seeing people call for Hayward and Pentair to follow suit. Quitting the internet is not the solution - it is a marketing strategy by Jandy, and a pretty damn good one if you ask me. Still, the real problem here is price. Implement protected wholesale and MSRP pricing once and for all and stop all this madness. Go ahead and sing the praises of Jandy for being great, and being responsive to dealers, but Jandy is in it for the money just like every other company. I will be impressed when a pool equipment manufacturer can fix the price problem without needing to pretend that the greatest business tool in the history of mankind (the internet / ecommerce) does not exist.
Stop Blowing Smoke - Just Fix The Real Problem
So Jandy says the big complaint from dealers is products being sold too cheaply online, plus they have secondary concerns that only pool professionals should be able to buy (and install) pool equipment. Sorry to crack out the five syllable words on you, but this comes across as disingenuous to me. I bet I'm not the only one. It feels a lot like Jandy is playing on the lack of awareness of the real problem that most pool workers have. Jandy wants to appear to be making this quitting the internet change for you - the pool guy - but that would be secondary, if anything, to the primary goal they have of getting Hayward and Pentair loyal companies to consider switching brands.
Maybe this will work for Jandy - they have a lot to gain. To get a pool professional to change brands literally requires that the professional relearns how to work with every piece of equipment they sell and service. That is a tall order from a sales perspective. I can't blame Jandy in the least for wanting to use this unrest in the industry to full advantage...I just don't like how it is being presented and interpreted as a solution to a problem that is plaguing us - it is not. It is a solution to a problem, just not the problem that everyone is talking about. It is a solution to how to get loyal pool companies to jump ship over to Jandy. It is a marketing gimmick, if you will, and nothing more. Jandy did not decide they don't care about making money - I assure you. I can appreciate what they are doing, but I think they went a little too heavy handed with the pious approach to their marketing message. What Jandy is doing is not heroic, it's corporate, and while claiming this is a move for helping the future of this industry, it is actually the opposite. The future of this industry, and every industry, involves the internet.
If pool products were removed from the internet it would change a lot of things - This website that you are reading now, and every last word of content (almost 1,000,000 words as of this writing) would completely, totally, 100% not exist if pool products were not available to be sold online. Revenue from ad sales and affiliate links is what keeps the lights on around here, so you will excuse me if I am not as excited as you are that Jandy is quitting the internet. I sympathize with pool workers out there on the streets - that was me for 25 years also. Quitting the internet does not help them, or if it does, it does not help them as much as it helps Jandy and their market share reach and bottom line. Fixing a broken pricing matrix is at the heart of this problem, so let's see Hayward and Pentair fix that problem instead of following Jandy. Jandy, for years, has put stock in internal training programs. Quitting the internet falls perfectly in line with their business model, they have the most to gain, and currently have the least exposure of the big three manufacturers online, so they have the least to lose by turning off that faucet.
25 years ago my wholesaler would not refuse to sell a pool owner a pump if they walked into their store - they would just be charged the retail price. There is no need to restrict the sales of products to the public any more now than there was then - just address the real problem with pricing.
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