LA LA LAND

Normally I don’t watch much of the Academy Awards ceremony (Oscars) as I rarely go to the movie theater and therefore find it difficult to identify with any of the films and characters up for consideration. This year was a bit different as I actually sat through the entire telecast, don’t ask me why as I fought the urge to bail a number of times, but the thought provoking flub at the end made it worth my effort. And, for the record, I only saw one nominated film, Arrival…it was ok.

I’m guessing most people who read the news, watch TV and get on the internet are aware of the snafu that occurred during the last minutes of the telecast when presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway incorrectly named La La Land as best picture instead of the de facto winner, Moonlight. Actually, it was Dunaway who uttered the words - “LA LA LAND!”

If you need a reminder, here's a Youtube clip that pretty much explains what happened.


and the loser is

As it turns out the accountant in charge of providing the envelopes to the presenters, Brian Cullinan, simply handed the wrong envelope to Warren Beatty. I guess a star-struck Callinan was busy doing other things instead of his job, something Im thinking many people can identify with, except likely not in such a public way. The guy was throughly skewered in the press and to add insult to injury, multiple accounts report both accountants were banned from future awards shows. Page Six reported:

“The bean counter who handed Oscars presenter Warren Beatty the wrong winner’s envelope Sunday night was busy tweeting snapshots of actors backstage just before he set in motion the biggest blunder in the awards show’s history.




  

Strangely enough, this highly publicized error in judgement got me to thinking of how it relates to floors and the flooring industry; specifically how and why things go wrong in terms of incorrect, defective or undesirable product being installed on the customer’s floor. When it comes to your floor there is a chain of custody that is in place. 

The flooring manufacturer is the beginning of the chain, they create a product, anything from carpet to porcelain tile. During this process they have various quality control systems and protocols in place to weed out a wide range of manufacturing defects. No system is absolutely perfect and is only as good as is monetarily profitable. In other words, if it costs too much to catch the mistake, they let it go through, further directing someone else to catch it.  The product manufacturer customarily indicates in its literature to others in the chain that it won’t be responsible for a certain percentage of bad product. I’ve seen claims anywhere from 2-10%. Essentially it passes the buck down the chain.   

FLOORING CHAIN OF CUSTODY 1

THE FLOORING CHAIN OF CUSTODY

The flooring is ordered from the manufacturer by anyone else in the chain, as every link tries to skip over every other link to garner a bigger piece of the flooring pie. Itusually then shipped domestically via an over-the-road hauler. Product from over-seas, as a large percentage of hard surface is these days, will most often come by barge to an American port. Product can be damaged or lost in shipment creating an even larger possibility of problematic flooring installation.

Not all product can be purchased direct from the manufacturer. Often the flooring distributor purchases large quantities (think truckloads) of wholesale product for sale to dealers and retailers in the regions they service. Some mega corporate retailers double as distributors, for example  big boxes like Lowes and Home Depot. Large franchised, chain retailers have formed buying groups that can purchase at discounts directly from the manufacturer. Other retailers like those online never physically handle the product, it’s a virtual product to them and they simply direct shipping from up the chain to enduser. Brick and mortar retailers often have access to some sort of receiving capabilities, whether it be their own onsite warehouse or a logistics company where installers can pick up material via will call.

Between the manufacturer and floor installer, there is very little over-site as to the over-all quality of the product. Middle-men often inspect and note any packaging damage but other than that, physical inspections of the product for defects, size, color, finish, grade, etc. are becoming fewer and fewer. The manufacturer sees it before its packaged and the installer sees it as he does the unpacking. Lots can happen in that time but ultimately the buck must stop with the floor installer.

This brings me back around to the Warren & Faye team of installers. Sure, the dealer, Brain Cullinan, made a mistake by providing the installers with another customer’s product to install and he could have realized his mistake at anytime prior to the actual presentation of the finished product to the customer. As we know, he did not…and the product was left in what should be the very capable hands of esteemed actor, director and experienced presenter, Warren Beatty.

I wonder what was going through Warren’s head in the few moments between the time he opened the envelope and read the card, to the time he showed it to Faye? If he had doubts about the condition of the product, as he confesses he did, he could have done any number of things, including turning to the guy who gave him the product and simply asked or somehow acknowledged that he required clarification prior to installation. Instead, I believe he made a very curious choice…he misdirected the audience and more importantly the fall-guy or in this instance - gal, Faye Dunaway, by announcing “and the academy award…for best picture” (0.18) then showing the envelope to his partner/helper. 

He gave Faye no indication of what was going on, she had no idea if he was messing around for comedic effect and his announcement led her to believe that he did have the answer but was being as she described, “impossible”.  Faye took the director’s cue and read the movie title on the card. We’ll probably never know what Warren’s true agenda was during those critical moments but shouldn’t the buck stop with him? Shouldn’t he be accountable for presenting a product that he had serious doubts about its legitimacy?

Being a floor installer for 37 years this month I can tell you from experience what an installer’s mindset is when a problem with the product is discovered. The industry is set-up so that sub-contract installers get paid by the piece, not for their time. In other words, they get paid by the square foot of material installed on the floor sometime after the completion of the job. If the installer doesn’t complete the installation, getting paid for part or lost time is at best difficult and any compensation at that point is wanting as there are going to be losses all the way up the chain, and by nature, everyone in the chain is more concerned with finger-pointing and cutting their losses than doing the right thing.

Most installers coming to your home will be working on a sub-contract basis. A satisfied customer is secondary to their (and probably everyone’s) primary concern of making a living and supporting their family. The more an installer is being paid the more likely he is to be willing to work around product problems or work with customer’s specialized needs or even stop an installation when warranted. The more a sub-contract installer is being paid is in direct relation to how much his employer or the primary contractor cares about the customer’s satisfaction. The problem is, often there really is no way for a customer to know how big a piece of the pie the person installing their floor is getting from the server. Potentially, a low-paid installer could mean a floor with a host of latent defects.

The solution is a simple one, you the customer should contract directly with an installer who’s living is primarily tied to customer satisfaction. A flooring sub-contractor’s level of commitment to the end-user who is only his customer by proxy can vary greatly based on his relationship with the primary contractor. Often the pie is cut so much that the installer is left with the crumbs and the installation of the customer’s floor is inherently crumby. A better approach would be to bake two pies, one for flooring product and another for flooring installation. This way your installer is allowed the entire installation pie and you’re assured a floor install that will make you happy for years to come.

If you’re one who believes Warren’s responsibility goes no further than to stick to the script you might consider looking at the situation from a La La Land perspective and wonder if compounded disappointment could have been avoided by using a more diligent installer. 

The best way to contact me is by email: Ken@FloorMaven.com
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