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Tough Call: Discontinued decking and the aspiring DIYer

As a full-line LBM dealer, you carry the full range of products needed to build a home. Plus, as someone who enjoys nothing more than grilling on the deck for friends and family, you’ve earned a reputation as the go-to dealer for decking and railings.

A longtime supplier discovered a small amount of a discontinued color of their most popular line—enough for a 1,500-sq. ft. deck. You remember being disappointed when the manufacturer discontinued this color years ago, as it was very popular in your market. Since you could get the last of it at a bargain price, you snapped it up. Meanwhile, a prominent member of your community was looking to replace an old deck on her home. Leveraging your store’s in-house deck design software, you worked with her and her husband, a DIYer who was going to do the work himself, to come up with a design that would fit their home and their budget. As it happened, their 1,000-sq. ft. deck was an ideal project for your newly acquired discontinued product. You let them know you were able to buy the last of this available anywhere and had only a limited amount.

However, you assured them that you had plenty for their project, and since you bought it at a discount, you’d pass the savings along to them. They loved the color and the style and happily signed on the dotted line.

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Through experience, you’ve learned to be cautious when dealing with limited amounts of material. Instead of having just enough for the project plus 10% waste—the fact that you had enough to account for 50% waste—you were comfortable that you had more than enough stock for this high-profile project. After making sure your sales team knew that the remaining inventory of that product was off-limits, you didn’t give their project another thought.

Unfortunately, instead of being an experienced DIYer, her husband was more of an aspiring DIYer who once built a birdhouse. Unaware of fundamentals of deck construction, he jumped right in, planning to “learn from his mistakes.”

As it turned out, he made a LOT of mistakes, quickly burning through the initial delivery with 10% overage, and ordered fresh material. He did this again and again, until you were completely out of stock of a decking product that was no longer available anywhere—for a deck that was only about 95% complete.

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When this local VIP and her husband stormed into your office to demand that you “find” enough material to complete the deck or refund their money. Her angry diatribe included the veiled threat, “Do you know who I am?!”

You’ve got a well-connected customer in your store demanding that you somehow come up with more of a product that’s no longer available. What would you do?

Look everywhere. Call the manufacturer, explain the situation, and ask them to help you cobble together enough boards from other dealers’ old inventory to complete the job.

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Bring in a pro. Hire a deck-builder customer to visit their home and sort through the excessive volume of discarded boards and see if the project can be completed with the waste.

Get creative. Determine if a complementary color decking could be incorporated as a design element to complete the project. Then pay to have the work done right.

Plan a counteroffensive. While it’s never ideal to battle a customer—especially a well-connected one—get your ducks in a row in case the battle comes. Craft social media and PR messages in the event she decides to go public in a nasty way, but gamble on her bluster being nothing but noise.

What would you do?

Something else? If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to Rick@LBMJournal.com. If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.

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