I wanted to share our recent in-home estimate experience from Empire Today. We contacted them through their website for an estimate on laminate flooring for the first floor of our home (approx. 1000sq.ft.) after seeing the special of "Buy 1 room, Get 2 free". We appear to be a young couple and this is our starter home in a young family community. The appointment was very convienent to scedule and someone was able to come by the very next day. This was the end of the pleasant part of our experience.
We wanted to replace our engineered Hardwood floors with possibly laminate as there has been a huge problem with the poly adhearing to the wood floors. It peels off the floor and more sticks to your feet than where it should actually be. We also have carpeting in our living room by the backdoor of our home and with 2 dogs, the carpeting has become stained due to wet springs and winters.
The gentleman arrived about 45 minutes after the beginning of our time window (5:00pm-7:00pm) but was very quick to state that when we are asked during the follow up experience survey phone call that he was within his time frame. Due to this, the appointment ran much later than expected (8:15pm) delaying our schedules. Throughout the evening he continued to tell us what we would be asked during the follow up phone call and then tell us what to say.
We first were given the entire speech about how great the company is and blah, blah, blah. After a full day of work, understandably my husband was rather impatient and ready just to get to business and pick some flooring.
When asked about our budget I informed the salesman that he was our first estimate and since this was our first reno we didn't have too good of an idea of costs but were hoping to keep it around $5,000. (I still don't know if this is a good starting point for laminate flooring as we are expecting our next estimate tomorrow.) I explained that our neighbor recently had new floors installed in their home and since we have the same floor plan we were expecting to spend around the same or slightly more than they spent since we would be including the kitchen, something they did not upgrade.
The longer the gentleman talked the more obvious the pitch became too good to be true. He went on and on about how the installation is where Empire will be doing such a superior job which is why they won't be the lowest bid. I am ok with not getting the cheapest as long as it is quality workmanship. After we discussed the budget, we could tell the estimate would be HIGH because the salesman stated we should only refloor one room now and after we save up more money they will come back and do another and so on, piece by piece, room by room.
Now even though this is the first time I have been incharge of getting new floors picked and installed doesn't mean I have never dealt with flooring before and anyone with a brain knows better than to do his plan as the flooring color would risk the chance of not matching since it was from a different batch of flooring planks. But in order to move forward and get on with it we agreed to only have him measure the master bedroom, dressing area and closet (just to get an idea of the cost since it would be about 1/3 of the entire area that we would opbviously be flooring with someone else) which came out to 287 by his estimate. I also knew he had mismeasured since I have the floor plans and exact measurements, like I said not the first time I have been around a floor reno. He also suggested we could pick multiple types of laminate for the different rooms (bedroom, living room and dining which flow together. In an open floor plan can you imagine what that would do to the home resale value!
As he measured, myhusband and I looked at the choices and picked 3. Only 1 of which I didn't detest. We were given 3 sample books (high end, mid grade and, the stuff of special) that had a grand total of 12 choices. Each book had very dark colors, a medium color, and a very light color, we wanted a medium color. Of the 3 choices we picked for our estimate only 1 was what I would consider a medium color.
The pitch then continued after he measures the room. He stated how superior the installation and warranty were and that since this isn't our forever home the warranty is transferable to future owners, a major selling bonus. That about pushed me over the edge since I know how rare that is, and by pushed me over the edge I just about laughed at him.
*FYI after he left I googled the flooring and warranty information which was on Empire's website and it clearly states that it only covers the purchaser and is NOT transferable. So aside from the pitch and lack of choices, the salesman was outright lying just to make a sale.
Here comes the best part:
The estimates were for 287 sq. feet. All choices were 7mm laminate.
Choice 1: the nice stuff $5,769.95 ($20.10/sqft)
Choice 2: ehhh $5,189.10 ($18.08/sqft)
Choice 3: the junk on special reg. price $4,789.95 ($16.69/sqft) or on sale for $3,334.50 ($11.62/sqft)
Can you imagine the anurism that nearly happened in our dining room upon hearing this?
We politely declined the numerous offers including the 15% educator discount on the choices that weren't on special as well as the reduction on the flooring that was on special since we are "so nice and were such a lovely couple" (don't ya love those types of discounts!). So as I did the math in my head it would have cost $20,000+ for the choice I could have lived with for only 1000 sq.ft.!
The salesman continued to try to persuade us to sign a contract at that time which was now well past his 7pm time window and went to "make a call for us". His manager then approves him to sell us the junk on special for $2490. That's a 48% reduction in price!
Now aside from this being our first estimate, I was not about to sign anything due to the lack of choices and the pressure in his voice. He then tried one last time to get us to buy with the infamous try the old "guilt trip" move. While I was empathetic that you believe your trip home will take 1.5 hours even though I know the area and its about 50 minutes away, and I also pity that you will have to wake up at 4am to drive to Charleston for a conference guilt trips won't work on me. My husband is a former Marine and I am an elementary school teacher. If I can say no to children and stick with it even though they have the most precious little faces, I can assure you I will be able to stick with my decision not to buy anything yet. My husband got a good laugh from this after he left at watching his "stone cold wife shut him down" (as he put it).
The following day (being the nerd/teacher who is able to do basic math that I am), I sat down and did a few caluculations.
For the Flooring on special, the initial price would have been $4,789.95 and the special took off 2/3 the supply cost -$1,455.45. So in total the supplies would cost $2,183.18 for 287 sq ft! That's $7.61 per sqft, I still havn't found a retail price that high for 7mm laminate not installed.
I then determined the precentage of total cost that is supply cost (45.6%) versus installation/operating cost (54.4%). I used this scale later when comparing there costs with a Lumber Liquidation store and with the amount my neighbor spent on flooring for their home.
When the price was reduced to $2490 ($8.68/ sqft) the "lowest they could offer" the supply cost was comparable to retail price for 12mm laminate with attached pad. I still couldn't justify this cost for only the bedroom; aside from the price I knew that if they are able to reduce the price almost 50% that money is coming from the markup somewhere and the installers are going to be paid crumbs compared to the amounst Empire would receive.
Since our meeting I have been looking into some of the flooring offered and I have come to find they have a 4x's the amount markup for the IDENTICAL flooring at retail price. This would lead one to also assume this is the markup on the "labor and operating cost". I may have even been tempted a little at sale price for supplies but for the saleman to mark down so quickly and so much from such a high number and to know that mark down was not solely coming off the supply cost but also the installation cost, I would not feel right accepting it.
My husband says the best part of the entire pitch was the "if you sign now we will also waive the lock your price in now fee and you will get a free Mr. Empire bobble head! If we had purchased our floors with you and with that bobble head constantly looking at me head nodding saying, "you're a broke dummy". I then would really hate myself and not just hate I wasted 2 hours listening to the entire schpeel!
In the end we will most likely be buying from our local flooring store and having a local installer do the installation, something I truely wanted to do from the get go. And we will probably spend $1,000's less and get a higher quality laminate even though the salesman did try to convince me that "12mm laminate was not better than 7mm", that 2 dogs won't be able to destroy their product because it was "astounding and waterproof because they could line the inside of a swimming pool with it if we wanted to".
I don't know if they thought I was young and stupid or hoped I wouldn't follow up on other estimates, but I suspect they hope I'm stupid.
Honestly, if they expect to remain in business they need to get their sales practices under control and they don't need to treat potential consumers like they are idiots. I may not be the oldest person to buy flooring (28yrs old) but my mama didn't raise no fool! I know when I'm being lied to and to think laminate is waterproof and I know when a pitch sounds too good to be true that it probably is.