4 Mistakes that Drive Service Agents Crazy

From installation problems to warranty equipment misuse and abuse, here’s what service agents want you to know about the issues that make work tougher for everyone.

To start, this title probably comes on a little strong. The men and women who run service agencies are businesspeople, after all. They genuinely appreciate their customers and know the success of their agencies is due to the operators who call them and the supply chain partners that work alongside them.

It’s just some issues can get under their skin. Problems that come up again and again. Headache-inducers that could be done away with through a bit of education. In the end, they know that if operators take the time to learn about and avoid these issues, everyone, from rep to dealer to operator to service agency, will save time, money and plenty of aggravation.

Mistake No. 1: Not Thinking Through Installation Early Enough

Plenty of equipment problems begin during installation, or even before, when placing the order.

Some of the biggest problems arise from the most basic issues, service agents say. When ordering a piece of equipment, the operator, dealer and even the rep need to ensure the utilities for that item match the facility. The wrong voltage or natural gas type can stop an install in its tracks. While the supply chain has to deal with the problem, an install appointment halted by these issues also becomes an issue for service agents, says Scott Hester, president of Texas-based Refrigerated Specialist Inc. (RSI) and Cooking Equipment Specialists (CES). An install that can’t be completed still incurs costs in man-hours, after all.

Even when the right equipment is ordered, problems can still arise. One issue, says Wayne Stoutner, CEO of upstate New York service agency Duffy’s AIS, is simply defining what an installation covers.

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Bay Area hardware stores battle through a crazy year

In San Francisco, the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn have hit many local businesses like a ton of bricks. But for a select few sectors, business has been booming, from the grocery stores that saw mobs of panic-buyers to the gardening centers overwhelmed by bored quarantiners starting victory gardens.

So, what about our neighborhood hardware stores, trustworthy bastions of power tools and cleaning supplies? Are they crazy-busy from the legions of people taking on home improvement projects, or struggling to survive? Four of our favorite local spots told us how they’re doing, from enduring multiple burglaries to seeing soaring sales on unexpected items.

Cliff’s Variety

While business has generally been OK in 2020 at Cliff’s Variety in the Castro, general manager Terry Asten Bennett said they’re forecasting a rough fourth quarter. A lot of the store’s sales come from gifts, souvenirs and seasonal items, and with Halloween effectively canceled and the December holidays up for debate, it could be a tough three months. Sales in September were trending 10% down, when they had only been 5% down over the summer months.

“It’s a balancing act,” Asten Bennett said. “I’m so grateful we got to be open this whole time but it still really hurts. Normally our fourth quarter carries us. We’ve forecasted a bad Halloween.”

While certain department’s sales are up — she said jigsaw puzzle sales have grown 300% — she said the lack of tourists buying gifts, souvenirs and novelty items is hurting their bottom line. She also said school supply sales have been down as kids stay home for distance learning. Most of all, Asten Bennett said she thinks some people are still just scared to go to stores and are choosing online shopping over a traditional retail experience. “We’re also getting really hurt by the Amazon

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Homes prices are crazy, but I want to drain my savings and buy

Dear Penny,

I live in the Philadelphia suburbs. I recently retired as an orchestra teacher in the public school system. I will be on Medicare in December.

I sold my large home and live in a modest apartment for $1,300 per month rent. So I’m comfortable financially and easily making ends meet.

HOWEVER, I really want to buy a small home. The real estate market is off the charts right now and prices are insane. I would also use most of my savings and have a mortgage. My payments would be about the same.

I have $200,000 in an IRA invested in stocks and bonds, $14,000 in a Roth IRA that I just opened last year and $80,000 in savings. I am debt-free and own a brand-new car.

I am collecting a monthly pension of $3,000 and $2,000 in Social Security after taxes and Medicare supplemental payments. My pension plan is a defined-benefit plan with a $900,000 death benefit.

Can you offer any advice as to whether or not I should buy a home?


Dear M.,

You can clearly afford to buy a home.

Normally I’d start the finger-wagging if you told me you wanted to spend most of your savings for a home purchase.

If you were still working, I’d ask you what would happen if you lost your job. And if you were a retiree who depended mostly on investment income, I’d warn you that a stock market crash could temporarily wipe out much of your nest egg.

But you have no debt and $5,000 of monthly after-tax income that’s guaranteed for life. Your income isn’t contingent on a salary or the stock market’s performance. So you can afford to spend a lot of your savings to buy a home.

Plus interest rates are historically low. That’s

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