Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Business of Design: Not So Pretty

Today's post is about a current gripe I have. I don't consider it a rant...more like a complaint but having no one place to file the complaint with.

I know I always have to be setting up new accounts with suppliers as one supplier cannot be a one stop shop for us. But I hate doing it. It takes away from being creative and totally bores me.

I don't like any part of filling out the applications (can't I just create my own template with the information everyone wants and send it out...what a waste of energy with all the duplicate info!) and I abhor negotiating fair discounts.


Unfortunately I've found with Bath and Kitchen suppliers I have to constantly be on my toes getting multiple quotes, asking for better pricing on those quotes and then get those prices 'matched' in an attempt to:  

  • Get the best price for my clients
  • To get any profit for myself
To begin, I love what I do. I think about very little else if I have a choice. But I detest the business of design.

A recent example of the business end of design: I received a disappointing price from the sales rep at Taps (lets call him Gopher Guts) in Toronto for a Toto toilet (for my own bathroom reno). On the Toto website the toilet retails at $690 with seat. Anyone can order it directly from Toto US for that price. The toilet is manufactured in the US so I believe it is exempt from Duty due to NAFTA.

My sales rep at Taps gave me my discount price as $730 stating the retail set out by Toto is $960 plus the cost of the seat. I was shocked and more than a little disappointed. I contacted Toto US who promptly provided the addresses of some Buffalo retailers where I was assured I'd get a much better price as a designer.

Now, I didn't want to take a 2 1/2 hour drive for a freakin' toilet but if you knew me you'd know how stubborn I can be. Luckily, a week later I was with a client shopping at Elte and we decided to pop in to Gingers Bath just across the street.

To my total surprise I found THE Toto toilet clearly priced at $789 Retail including the seat. This means I would naturally get a better Designer Discount price and a far more acceptable price for clients.
the offending toilet

Gingers retail price made sense taking into account the strength of the CDN dollar. Naturally, I contacted the sales rep from Taps to let him know just how disappointed I was with Taps (this had been my previous experience with Taps a few years ago...but hoped I'd found THE sales rep who'd provide honest pricing).

Rather than accepting I was not purchasing through Taps he was angry and rather rude. With the HUGE gouging Taps was trying (unsuccessfully) to pull on me...a business 'partner' no less, I tried explaining how it reflects on my business if I was to charge a client Taps' (inflated) retail price only to have them walk in to Gingers and find they could have saved about $230 plus the taxes on that difference on their own. He was too dense or didn't care...perhaps both.
meet greasy grimy gopher guts

I've learned in this business I'm not the only one who can be stubborn! But I'm always the one who's right...naturally. It would be way too embarrassing to be stubborn only to discover I was I know when to push and when not to. Besides I don't like to be wrong...just ask my husband Steve ;)

I'm not an extremist that was the 'old Dane'!
A couple of weeks later after a morning at a client's place in Woodbridge I thought I'd stop in to Canaroma, a bath and kitchen retailer, as an experiment, to see what kind of prices they'd give a 'housewife'.

Guess what? I got great pricing with little effort :( I got great prices to start with then asked for a better price...and finally proceeded to quote the remaining better price I'd gotten from a competitor on the bathtub spout.

BTW, I was shown the Toto pricing catalogue, while at Canaroma, with the 'MSRP' for Canada...and the toilet that started this whole oddyssey was not what the Taps sales rep told me it was. Gingers was spot on for retail pricing; Taps...NOT.

As a housewife with a little negotiation I'd gotten the same discount I'd have received had I set up a business account...and I didn't have to fill out their paperwork. I didn't expect to be buying the fixtures that day...this was an experiment:  I placed the order and Canaroma got my business.

As a consumer Canaroma gave me faith in at least one Retailer.

As a Decorator I am now totally pissed with the plumbing fixtures industry. Builders, Architects, Designers...are not getting the respect and pricing we deserve as business partners as we are forced to go through Retailers to get 'discounted' prices.

Therefore we have to spend countless hours negotiating prices with multiple businesses making any profit none existent. If we don't get multiple prices we won't get the best price for our clients.

don't say anything to anyone about the horse (or elephant)

Hello design associations...are you listening? I don't need you to get me a piddly discount on my gas (big whoop) or business insurance (can you say State Farm beats your 'best rates'?) I need you to earn your fee and get me wholesale pricing from the manufacturers for my finishes as well as hard and soft furnishings. 

But that is for another blog I'll write on the business of design.



  1. OOOOooo. I loved that. I'm not a designer...but very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi, thank you so much for listening. It's nice to have an outlet and I find it very hard myself to find out what the challenges are in different careers. I thought I'd share.

    LOL, I wish someone had shared the not so pretty aspect of natural childbirth!


Yay, I love to hear what's on your mind!