I need to stop going to the supply house near my place

jaylectricity

Senior Member
Location
Massachusetts
Last time I went there, I needed four Panasonic Whisper Fan/Lt combos, and one Panasonic Fan. I was there, I made sure the order was correct, they said it would be there in the morning. I get there at 6:30AM to pick up my order and they have it ready for me...four fans, and one fan/lt combo.

I had to drive to the S. Boston branch to get what I needed, making me late to the appointment. OK, well, I did it, I dealt with it, I was only a little late (S. Boston was on the way to the job) and we finished the work early so no harm, no foul.

Then today I stop by to pick up the stuff for a 200A service upgrade. I tell him what I want, and of course they don't have the 200A ringless meter socket. You know...the one that we use on almost every single residential 200A service. Had to go to Woburn to get that AND the weatherproof connector for the 2" hub. And the clips for the 4/O AL SEU. And a 2-pole 20A breaker for the panel. OK, so that's bad enough they don't have the simple necessities for your average service around here, but then...

I get in the truck and drive up there (again, it was on the way) to Woburn and the guy looks at me like I'm an idiot. I tell him that Jose told me that he put in the order and it will be ready for me up there. So then I'm looking at my slip from the branch near me and see that he charged me $200 for a simple 40/40 Siemens 200A main circuit breaker panel. Meanwhile he was bragging about how he saved me $7 on the meter socket. I nearly returned the panel, but I figured it was a quality panel and I still paid less for supplies than I used to when I was using copper for services, and I'm still getting the same amount from the customer.

Well lo and behold the box of 50 NM duplex plastic connectors only had 27 connectors into it. And he gave me a WR/TR GFI receptacle when I only needed TR. So that's an extra $4.

It's always these stupid little things that add up. Do any of you find the same sort of things at your supply house? Do I need to ask him for the price for every single little thing I order before I order it? And count every box of everything? I go to the supply house to have a guy I trust to give me the stuff I need. Every time I go everything is a different price. It's a game and I hate it. I understand that I'm not getting the same prices as an outfit that purchases tens of thousands of dollars a month from them, but can I at least expect to know how much everything is without asking what every single item costs?
 

jaylectricity

Senior Member
Location
Massachusetts
Start stocking the normal items and stop wasting so much time driving around...
I don't do a ton of electrical work. I do a service change/upgrade three or four times a year at most. But I get your point. If I'm not going to stock a truck with all kinds of stuff I'm going to have to spend the extra time making sure I'm getting the right stuff.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Supply houses are getting worse around here. Doesn't help when they get acquired by a bigger company in another state.

Few years ago when one place was acquired and company headquarters became out of state, the branch that is my local branch always ordered pump panels in January as they knew they would need them for the upcoming spring when irrigation work got going full speed. Big shot in HQ seen the big order of pump panels and told them they don't need to order that many pump panels. Come mid to late May when these things needed to be in operation, they had so many pump panels still on back order because manufacturer still had to make them and many very unhappy customers - myself included.

On top of that they don't stock the quantities of common items they once did and there is always some common item you are waiting for. Upper management is probably the biggest problem. Most of the sales guys are pretty green themselves and that doesn't help. My primary sales man that worked for this company for years was let go because he made too much money and they did not want to pay what he was making - he worked his way up of course through the original company and was a very good salesman. Did not make the mistakes most of the guys they have now made. Other suppliers are not much better, for many similar reasons.
 

jaylectricity

Senior Member
Location
Massachusetts
Most of the sales guys are pretty green themselves and that doesn't help. My primary sales man that worked for this company for years was let go because he made too much money and they did not want to pay what he was making - he worked his way up of course through the original company and was a very good salesman. Did not make the mistakes most of the guys they have now made.
Yeah, that's the thing. Jose is like a computer when it comes to knowing the item number. Somebody brought it up on this site before that you should order by part number. I actually asked him about that today and he said everybody orders by description. But sometimes he gets a glitch. He'll know my name for awhile, then call me the wrong name one day. Or I'll order SEU and a weatherhead and he brings me a PVC weatherhead. Just little details.

Maybe I'm assuming he's an upfront honest guy and he's really not.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Yeah, that's the thing. Jose is like a computer when it comes to knowing the item number. Somebody brought it up on this site before that you should order by part number. I actually asked him about that today and he said everybody orders by description. But sometimes he gets a glitch. He'll know my name for awhile, then call me the wrong name one day. Or I'll order SEU and a weatherhead and he brings me a PVC weatherhead. Just little details.

Maybe I'm assuming he's an upfront honest guy and he's really not.
I have one supplier that will still give you the wrong thing even if you give them stock number, occasional mistakes are understandable but they will do it pretty frequently:(

You need to have all the materials in hand before making the appointment with the customer.


-Hal
If I made that a strict policy, I would have a lot of days with nothing to do.

I often go to jobs without everything that is needed - and even have missing items in my own stock:slaphead:
 

mkgrady

Senior Member
Location
Massachusetts
I can get the prices put on the packing slip if I tell them I want that. At least that way you know what they are charging when you receive the stock.
 

jaylectricity

Senior Member
Location
Massachusetts
I often go to jobs without everything that is needed - and even have missing items in my own stock
Sometimes you just need to show up on the jobsite at a certain time. Get "started" and then go to lunch to pick up what you really need. ;)

I can get the prices put on the packing slip if I tell them I want that. At least that way you know what they are charging when you receive the stock.
Yeah, they did that. I found out how much he charged me for this panel after I had driven away. I didn't check it at the time because I didn't think I needed to. The only reason I checked it was because the Woburn store CSR asked me if I had the slip.

I was planning on going in there on Monday and find out if I can trust them or if they should be my emergency supply house. Fast, Good, Cheap, pick two.

When I tell him I'm doing a service upgrade and I'm only purchasing 11 breakers, maybe he shouldn't be selling me the 40/40 panel.
 

readydave8

re member
Location
Clarkesville, Georgia
Occupation
electrician
Supply houses here range from just ok to pretty bad, the bright side is it helps Lowe's business.

I stock relatively a lot, mostly so I don't have to count on the supply house to have everyday things in stock, but I don't like having the capital tied up that way.
 

ElectricianJeff

Senior Member
After reading this thread I didn't realize how good I had it. My supply house almost always has what I need and if not will get it in 2-3 days. I keep an eye on the big box stores prices and they adjust what I pay when I find it cheaper, plus they send me tons of business!
 

templdl

Senior Member
Location
Wisconsin
When I was employed as a sales and applications engineer for one of the larges electrical manufacturers we worked with a specific distributor to provide custom services to our OEMs. One of my biggest complaints was that they never stocked items where a contractor would be able to make one stop and pick up all of the items that he had on his shopping list. They would be simply out of stuff. When asked the branch manager for what reason would a contractor waste his time stopping there if they were forced to go to another distributor?
The distributor was more focused on supplying bulk pipe and wire, fixtures, etc for projects and not common supplies as would be required for the electrician. As such the contractors did their business at distributors where they were confident that it would mean only one stop.
I can see that it would be very easy for an electricial to waste the entire morning fill his shipping list.
 

hillbilly1

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,Ga
Being in a large metropolitan area such as Atlanta, you would think supply houses would keep the basics, but most of them have it at a central distribution center, and bring it in as needed. This works fine for new construction, because you can get it the next day if you plan ahead, but if your doing service work, it doesn't work so well, you can't make two trips out of a two hour call. As for the poster that said keep more truck stock, that works fine if your a residential electrician, but not well at all with commercial and industrial. You would have to drive a tractor trailer rig to haul the many variable breakers and equipment used in that field of work. A Square D distributor should have a reasonable amount of their product in stock as well as the Siemens, GE and others. Home Depot and Lowes does not stock common bolt in breakers used in commercial applications, and sometimes I think they actually have more conduit in stock than the supply houses.
 

cdslotz

Senior Member
If you have an account with any distributor, you should have an outside salesman assigned to you (This assumes you are a legit EC that doesn't work out of his truck). You should have multiple accounts at different distributors, therefore you should have relations with all salesmen from different distributors. Each outside salesman has an inside salesman assigned to him.
If you need materials for a job, you don't wait for the day of install and go to the counter expecting them to have everything to complete your order. That's nuts.
Days before you call your inside salesman, or better yet, email your BOM to him, have him confirm what he has and what he doesn't have. The stuff he doesn't have, call the other distributor and fill the missing parts. And while your at it, have them price everything in their response.
Did I mention supply houses deliver free and you can have your complete order sitting at YOUR dock door?
 

cowboyjwc

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Simi Valley, CA
A guy started up one here in town, (we didn't have one at the time) and I was all excited. Went in one day and started to order wire, 1000' feet of #12 black, 1000' of #12 red, 1000' of #12 white, Sorry no white. How can you not have white wire in stock? Well I also need 1000' of 1/2 EMT, sorry only have 200'. Really? You have batteries, flashlights, codebooks, but no material? Stock the basics. I would get blank 4/s covers from him with HD price stickers on them.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
If you have an account with any distributor, you should have an outside salesman assigned to you (This assumes you are a legit EC that doesn't work out of his truck). You should have multiple accounts at different distributors, therefore you should have relations with all salesmen from different distributors. Each outside salesman has an inside salesman assigned to him.
If you need materials for a job, you don't wait for the day of install and go to the counter expecting them to have everything to complete your order. That's nuts.
Days before you call your inside salesman, or better yet, email your BOM to him, have him confirm what he has and what he doesn't have. The stuff he doesn't have, call the other distributor and fill the missing parts. And while your at it, have them price everything in their response.
Did I mention supply houses deliver free and you can have your complete order sitting at YOUR dock door?
If only it were that simple. You know how many times I have had to bury pipe on a moments notice otherwise it will be covered with conctrete if I come later to do it? Then the supply house doesn't have enough pipe on hand, or worse yet they tell you they have it, so you plan for them to deliver it because it is delivery day, then they bring the wrong thing:rant:
 

PetrosA

Senior Member
I'm lucky enough to have a relatively large choice of suppliers within my working range:

Yale - 2 locations
Colonial - 2 locations
Billows - 1 location
Rumsey - 1 location
United - 1 location
Yesco - 1 location
CES - 1 location

Out of that list there are three that I use way more than the others. They have more knowledgeable staff, better inventory and comparable prices. Inventory is starting to suffer as more suppliers move to a "Keep two in stock" approach and more and more things are second day items. That may affect who I do most of my business with since it can really get ridiculous at times (ex. not having enough Maestro dimmers on stock to fit out one kitchen...). The staff at one of the suppliers is SO BAD that I really only use them in an emergency. I've literally walked in on a sleeping counter guy who never woke up as I walked around looking for what I needed, didn't find it and walked out. Geez. That one specializes in supplying bigger contractors who do housing and commercial spaces - so not much business after 8 AM ;)

The profile of my work doesn't lend itself to me investing in a pile of gear sitting on shelves collecting dust. There are some things I "stock" but I keep inventory low, buy what I need and use stocked items to fill in when I'm short on something. I've seen companies that keep a large stock in their shop go belly up for different reasons, and the only advantage then is to the vultures who can come in a get good materials for pennies on the five dollar bill.

It's rare that I have to leave a jobsite for materials (as it should be) but I don't agree with never going to the supply house. There are some real traps I've seen other contractors fall into with that approach. For example, the owner and his guys get behind on new materials, tools etc. because they never see anything other than what gets ordered. If they also don't read trade publications, it's easy to get 5-10 years behind fast. Another issue for resi contractors can be awareness of pricing among the employees. I've seen employees recommend high dollar ET8000 series timeclocks when a simple T101 would have been better suited not realizing that the astronomic version costs almost $200 vs. $50 for the mechanical version. Not the best way to make your customers happy...
 

templdl

Senior Member
Location
Wisconsin
A guy started up one here in town, (we didn't have one at the time) and I was all excited. Went in one day and started to order wire, 1000' feet of #12 black, 1000' of #12 red, 1000' of #12 white, Sorry no white. How can you not have white wire in stock? Well I also need 1000' of 1/2 EMT, sorry only have 200'. Really? You have batteries, flashlights, codebooks, but no material? Stock the basics. I would get blank 4/s covers from him with HD price stickers on them.
I don't think that the distributor understand the business.
 

jaylectricity

Senior Member
Location
Massachusetts
So I go back in today, tell him I've got a couple problems with the last order. Told him how I had come to look at the slip, but gave him a pass on not having the material. Returned the WR/TR GFCI for the TR-only. Told him my connectors box was half empty and then said, "And $204 for a simple 200A panel?"

So he swaps out the receptacle, has the new kid count out 23 connectors, and says, "Oh yeah, I hosed you good on that...sorry about that. Let me fix it."

So he basically just says he just over-charged me. *raises eyebrows* So he refunds me about $35.

I think I'm gonna give Concord Electrical a try.
 
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