August 31, 2008

Glass Ain’t Perfect, But My Grammar Is

By Paul Bieber

My grammar is the best…she made a blueberry pie to die for, and always had a hug when my knee was scraped. Wait a minute–you mean the other grammar. Glass isn’t perfect. Are you happy now?

How can you be happy that glass isn’t perfect? If it were perfect, you would have no rejects, no call backs, no back charges. Life in the glass business would be boring. Of course you try to install perfect glass on every installation. You spend hours polishing out scratches on mirrors and shower doors. You inspect, you protect and yet, blemishes magically appear after you finish the installation. Now What?

You can redo the installation, driving you out of business in no time if you did this for every complaint. You can try to field-fix the problem, making a mess of the location, and probably making the blemish worse than when you started. You can offer the famous ‘cash discount’, hope the customer bites, and back charge your fabricator. You can sit in a corner with a bottle of Jack Daniels and wish the problem away. You can send your partner to the customer, and be sure that when he leaves they will never buy from you again.

What’s left? How about accepting the fact that glass isn’t perfect. We all know this, but do we want to admit this to our customer? Most retail customers want something perfect installed in their home or office. We know that within a couple of weeks they will scratch the shower door or table top; but they want it perfect today!!!

OK, buy from a fabricator that cares about quality. Buy from the cheapest generally means quality control is weak or non-existent. Make sure they wrap, (with a clear plastic), all fabricated mirror, shower doors, table tops, Starphire ™ pieces, and any beveled or notched pieces. There is a size limit to this concept. Don’t expect larger than 30-35 sq feet to be wrapped.

Buy from a fabricator that allows you to inspect the glass and call in a problem within 24 hours of your receiving. If you put received glass in a rack for a week, then look at it on the way to your customer, and then see a defect, you own it. It is your responsibility, not the fabricator’s, after 24 hours.

Do you try to install it anyway? Hoping the customer won’t notice? Sometimes you can put a scratch in a far or high corner. Sometimes, (if you’re lucky), the molding will cover. Sometimes, you need to explain to your customer that while the scratch is visible from an oblique angle, it is within acceptable standards for the glass industry.

What the ____? I wanted perfect…not acceptable! Here is what you need to know about industry standards. The bible here is ASTM C1036-06. What the____ is this? This short document lists just about every defect known to a glass man, and what is acceptable. ASTM C 1048-04 does the same for tempered or heat-strengthened products. Ask your glass vendor for a copy. Or go and download (for a fee) these standards. Try the GANA site, for more info. Of if you have the GANA glazing manual, the most important sections of these specs are included.

Next time you print your quotation forms or your invoices, place a short line, (along with your financial terms), that the glass products you install will meet the standards as set forth by the American Society for Testing and Materials, for the glass type purchased, and that a copy of the standard will be given upon request. Each state may have certain rules about disclaimers like this, so the next time you are having lunch with your attorney, ask if there are restrictions in your state.

There is nothing carved in law about these standards. If your customer wants perfect and you explain the standards, they still may not pay you. But, experience has shown me that most reasonable consumers will accept these standards. If you have Mrs. Marilyn Unreasonable concerned about her shower door and threatening about payment, remember when you took the job? You knew she would be ‘one-of-those’, and you threw the dice. Just about every glazier who called me about a defect from our factory prefaced the conversation with, “I’ve got this crazy customer…”. And I felt for them, dealing with the public is the hardest part of a retail glass shop’s life.

OK, you are with the customer and trying to explain the charts in these standards. I will go over them in the next couple of blogs.

By the way, we won’t be publishing a blog on September 9; we will back at the keyboard for September 16, when we’ll discuss the standards, helping you to understand and use them.