Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Question From a Builder Who Needs Your Help

Today I received this email asking for my thoughts about a very particular problem. The builder wants to add a high end special order wooden bathtub to a home and the factory told him that they didn't trust their production line plumbers to install it without doing damage and basically told him to pound sand.

First of all, I didn't know there were wooden bathtubs but below the email are some pictures I found on Google.

What is your opinion of this unique problem?

My name is XXXXX XXXXXXX and I build custom modular homes in NJ. Yesterday I asked XXXXXXXXXX to get a price of an installed special order wooden tub for my customer that has already given me a big deposit on her home. I priced the tub at a specialty plumbing supplier and learned that the tub was $6,588 and the special fixtures needed were another $853. I conveyed the model numbers and prices to my sales rep and told him that I knew there will be a markup on the tub and fixture plus the cost of installation. I told my customer she would have to write a check for the total installed price before the factory would order it and she said that was no problem. This home has a contract of $1,091,444 and she has already set aside the total in a special escrow account that I can draw from. If only every customer could do this.

I just learned that they will not buy or install this tub because they are worried the plumbers they have on the production line will damage it and they cannot afford to replace it. I am pissed. I have ordered special windows for this house at over $61,000 and special cabinets and even Sub Zero appliances and they had no problem with that. They will not give in and this could be my last house with them. 

Here are my concerns. First, are they wrong in not accepting this option? And two, if I leave them and go to someone else, will they still stand behind the house. It comes with a full RWC warranty but I'm worried about getting service if something needs repaired in the units they send. This is a 9 box house.
Coach, what are your thoughts?
Now it's your turn, what would you this guy? 

Here are some wooden tubs.



Anonymous said...

There has to be more to this than a factory not wanting to put a special order item into a home.

Anonymous said...

I don't blame the factory one bit.

First it will probably slow down production significantly for this one off unless the factory specializes in this type of one-off product.

Secondly the risk of damage is real. Get an unconditional hold harmless agreement along with many before, during and after pictures, along with something all builders should do and that is inspect the line at crucial times.

Setting a level of expectation upfront is important. One reason the customer went with Modular was probably cost ( contrary to other marketing bullet points) if they wanted a seriously customized home then they need to be open about how it is provided for the money spent, otherwise go to a site builder and absorb the cost delta....tradeoffs.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, it makes more sense to have the factory "prep" for a custom item such as this. With that much money involved, I would install the tub on site with your local plumber.

Terri Heckman said...

Would it be possible to set the tub in place in it's original packaging for site installation? Factory doesn't take responsibility for damages and client gets the tub.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there's another side to the story (the factory's position), but the difficulty with a situation like this is that it's very difficult to fully disclaim liability (consequential liability especially) for any negligence or other damage caused by the manufacturer, and these are big numbers for a soaking tub. I would suggest to the builder that he could have it delivered to the factory on the date specified by the factory (and subject to change often as the line moves accordingly), that he be present for its delivery and oversee/sign off on the satisfactory execution of same, and that the seller of the tub can have it set in the bathroom (in a location convenient for the factory before walls are set. It would be covered with plastic (and hopefully still in a crate of some kind), the floors protected, etc. The crews would work around it, but otherwise the factory would do nothing. For this, there would be a substantial "inconvenience" fee. The factory will avoid any type of installation and thus avoid -- for the most part -- exposure to liability. Seems to me the best way to appease all.

Marta said...

Regardless of what the factory told this builder, why would he want someone to do something they have said they were uncomfortable doing? Taking the responsibility for something so special and so expensive is a lot to expect of a factory. Handling windows is very different than handling a tub.

That being said, there are many other ways to approach this. The facory could agree to have the "crated" tub delivered to the factory, and shipped loose for site install. I know that sometimes, you can't get these large items in the house after it is set. They could offer to do the rough plumb, water supply and drain, which is helpful to the builder's plumber.

I guess I look at this as a partnership. Not us and them. So, help a guy out here! Look for ways to say yes so it is a win-win situation.

Steven R. Snyder, Esq. said...

Perhaps the factory could have couched its response in a more positive vain, and maybe they did, but I think they were correct in not wanting to install a tub of that weight and cost in the factory to withstand the rigors of shipping and installation. The response should have been that the factory would design the home for the added weight of the tub and rough in the plumbing to have the tub installed on site...which is probably what the factory told the builder…or maybe not.

Steven R. Snyder
Attorney at Law
635 Glenbrook Drive
Harrisburg, PA 17110
(717) 975-7799 Voice and Text
Fax: 717-526-2044

Anonymous said...

I believe the factory made the correct decision because quite frankly it comes down to skilled labor. With that being said I also believe the factory has the obligation to offer a solution. Maybe they did offer as we are only hearing one side of the story.
Projects are becoming more and more complex and I think factories need to realize that. By this factory saying, no to installing this tub, someone better figure out how to install it in the factory.

John Beddow said...

I have managed factories for over 30 years and I've been a site contractor and GC for 10 years. I don't blame the factory for not wanting to be responsible for a very special item such as this. The ship loose solutions previously suggested provide a solution that your factory should consider. As the builder you should be willing to purchase and handle the delivery and oversight during loading and securing of the tub and the final completion of the installation and surrounding finishes that must be left incomplete from the factory. I understand that most builders choose modular so that they can avoid or minimize their participation in construction, but if you are building million dollar homes then you need and probably have the skilled subs to handle this.
I trust you have had a good working relationship with this manufacturer, as previous experience with a builder can color a manufacturers desire to take on a challenge such as this, even as a facilitator of loading an expensive ship loose item.