ICS Magazine

Bargains, Bargains Everywhere

September 1, 2006
What with the last year's worth of interest rate hikes, stagnant wage growth and the home-equity coffers running dry, the time has come for that most reliable of consumers to lead the shopping charge: Enter the bargain hunter.

Now, this is not the value shopper I have mentioned in previous articles. The value shopper is unafraid to spend money on quality goods and services; she just wants to be sure she is getting her money's worth. Produce a quality product and back it with good service, and you will always find a customer base willing to pay you for your goods. If this is you - and this is your clientele - then move along, good sir or madam, to the other offerings found in this publication. But if it is not, perhaps you will wish to read on.

The bargain hunter tends to run more of a quantity-versus-quality race, with quantity more often than not taking the checkered flag. More is better: five T-shirts for $10 is a better deal than three for $12. Never mind that the first batch will be shredded in three months and need to be replaced, while the latter will last half a year or more. You actually end up spending more money for lesser-quality goods.

"Well, duh," You say. "But what does this have to do with my business?"

The bargain shopper is all about more for less. So where, in the universe of the professional carpet cleaner, does the more-for-less equation come into play, and in the very worst way? More technicians per job - good one. More water flow - let's be honest, that's not going to do it. More CFM - that puzzled look you see on your customer's face? Expect it almost every time. No, it is a much more insidious monster, a cyclical beast determined to wreak havoc on the carpet-cleaning community each and every time it raises its hideous mug:

More square feet cleaned per dollar.

"Well, your competitor says they'll do it for half that amount." Ah, the battle cry of the bargain shopper. Your years of experience; your technological prowess; your vast understanding of cleaning chemistry, carpet repair, spots, stains, fibers...nothing will stop the madness once the economic ball starts rolling in tighter and tighter circles.

What put me on this contemplative path? Two things: First, Wal-Mart, the mecca of bargain shopping, recently announced its first earnings decline in 10 years; consumers with less to spend are spending less. Second, the Val-Pak I found in my mailbox yesterday had eight coupons from carpet-cleaning companies proclaiming the ability to offer not the best result possible, but the lowest price around.

Batten down the hatches; the bargain bin is open for business.