ESPCO March / April 2013 Newsletter

Should the ‘counter day’ go the way of the dinosaurs?

I have been meaning to write this article for years but I always figured someone else would get to it so I kept putting it off…well, no one did so here goes!

I have been convinced for more than a decade that the ‘counter day’ event at wholesale supply houses has been the biggest waste of time, effort and money for the manufacturer’s rep, the supply house…and maybe the contractor as well.

Let me start by asking this question…have you ever gone to a counter day and learned something? I mean reallylearned something about a product and / or application that you didn’t know before? Now, I’m sure there is an exception to every rule and someone out there has indeed had something other than a free lunch at a counter day but I think if we all were honest about it we would say that is the rarity and not the rule.

I worked with and for manufacturer’s rep agencies for almost thirty years and I’m going to break the code of silence about counter days and how reps see them.

Most reps see counter days as a ‘part of doing business’ or a ‘necessary evil’. ..I see it as an ‘unnecessary evil’.

Because most reps see the counter day experience as a waste of time and a free lunch opportunity they send their least experienced, ‘newbies’ to man these events. Think about it…you wouldn’t send your best guy / gal to an event that you believed to be a waste of time…would you?

Maybe, if you’re a small agency, you have no choice but to attend these events yourself and instead of doing something productive, (and potentially revenue generating), you end up spending the day talking to the other rep who is there and / or flipping burgers.

Let’s look at it from the contractor’s point of view…who does the installer / service company send to the wholesale counter to pick up material…most often the ‘Johnny’ of their crew. Now, for those of you who have attended one of my mini split classes you know who Johnny is…he is the guy on your crew that in a perfect world would NOT be on your crew. Johnny is the guy you pay on Friday and is broke on Monday…he is the guy who is constantly texting…the guy who has a few Budweiser’s for lunch and that you know smokes the ‘ganja’…his name may be Pete or Tim but you know who I’m talking about…Johnny. The reason Johnny is on your crew at all is because you need a second set of hands from time to time, a guy to run to the supply house for material and, frankly, he shows up which is always half the battle with employees.

So you send ‘Johnny’ to ACME Supply to pick up a ¾” ball valve, a stick of 1” PVC and cement and tell him to get right back to the job because you and the rest of the crew are waiting for this material to finish the job. Johnny heads off with all good intentions but you don’t see him again for two hours…why? Because Johnny is enjoying the free lunch being served at ACME that day for a ‘counter day’ event.

Yeah, while he’s eating three hot dogs and two burgers, Johnny will learn about the attributes of organic hand towels that will not only clean your hands but take paint off most automobiles.

The counter day is the HVAC & plumbing equivalent to the ‘time-share’ event where you and the Mrs. go to learn about a new condo community being built in Boca Raton, Florida and get a FREE toaster oven too! Now, for most of us, our time is worth more than a toaster oven and because we realize that relatively simple fact we would never be caught dead at a time-share event…but, there is a segment of our world that live for free toaster ovens. We wouldn’t waste our valuable time spending a Saturday in the Poconos with the likes of them so why would we go to the counter day at ACME and hang out with the likes of ‘Johnny’ and his other ‘helper’ buddies?

A little harsh? Maybe.

If ACME wants to have a BBQ lunch as a ‘customer appreciation day’ I’m all for it! Maybe even solicit funding for the event from manufacturers and their reps…but please stop the practice of disguising these events as ‘counter days’ and just call them what they are…a free lunch!

Top 10 states for HVAC careers

There is a great article detailing a study / survey by Emerson Climate Technologies which created a top 10 list of states with the best opportunities for HVAC careers. You can see the article at Contracting Business .com at this address:

I found some states which I expected to see on the list like Florida and California but some surprises as well like Ohio and Illinois.

Back in the day when I was just starting out it was popular for guys to head to Florida because it was seen as the ‘mecca’ of HVAC. The problem was everyone had the same idea and the market became flooded with techs and those who did find work also found the wages were substantially less than what they had in NY, NJ and up through New England.

Based on the article it sounds like California is the new ‘HVAC mecca’ and it does seem to hold promise for those who want a warm climate near the water…and who doesn’t.

Many of the top ten states made the list based on the training opportunities found within the state…such as Ohio.  I just spent the entire month of February in Ohio and Kentucky and I can attest to their ongoing desire for training.

I also find it interesting that no New England states made the top ten, (sorry, but as a NY Jet fan I cannot consider NY & NJ to be in New England). I would be curious to know if the fact that New England is traditionally a hydronic market is the reason it didn’t make the top ten.

Check out RectorSeal HVAC accessory products

I recently had a dilemma with a mini split ceiling cassette condensate drain that was driving me nuts! As with all mini splits the drain connection was an odd metric dimension and I couldn’t figure what would easily connect to the drain fitting that was also readily available either at my local HVAC supplier or online.

I discovered that RectorSeal has a line of insulated flexible tubing in all kinds of odd diameters specifically for this application. You can see them all here.

Also check out their line of mini split condensate pumps here.

You can see me install the Aspen model ASPMAUNI in a Comfort-Aire mini split wall mounted evaporator in a new video I posted on my website. Go to the ‘Videos’ section and click on the video titled, ‘Mini Split Condensate Pump Install’.

Those of you who attend my classes know I like to use the phrase ‘it will get you out of a jam’…RectorSeal has what seems like an endless catalog of products that will ‘get you out of a jam’…and there ain’t nothin’ better than that!

Something I wanted to share with you…this has nothing to do with HVAC so bail now if you like

I was supposed to be in Columbus OH on Monday, February 5th but bad weather in Detroit didn’t allow it so I tried again the next morning. I took off from Stewart International in Newburgh, NY at about 6:30AM and for the first 15 – 20 minutes all was fine. It is at this point that I heard and felt a BANG but looked around and no one in the 3/4 empty plane seemed to be reacting so I thought nothing of it…with over 48,000 air miles under my belt in 2012, it just seemed to be literally a ‘bump in the road’.

About ten minutes after the BANG the captain came on the PA to inform us the landing gear had come down in a malfunction and we were no longer going to Detroit…he said we had plenty of fuel and they were devising a ‘plan’. I noticed we had lost serious altitude and were turning left and right rapidly. Another announcement informed us that we were diverting to JFK and the landing gear ‘would most likely stay down upon landing’.

About ten minutes out of JFK we were informed that even if the landing gear remained down it was likely the wheels were locked and thus this was now an ‘emergency landing’ and JFK was preparing a foamed runway and fire trucks, ambulances and police were awaiting our arrival. I turned on my phone at this point to text my wife what was happening.

A few minutes before landing we were given one last set of instructions…assume the ‘kiss your ass goodbye position’…(my words, not theirs, but you know what I mean).

We landed safely among a sea of emergency vehicles and were escorted to a remote location where we deplaned…all was well!

Here is the interesting part…at least I think so.

I always hoped that if I knew the end was eminent, that I could control my emotions. I didn’t want my last emotion on this earth to be fear. I wanted to go down smiling rather than pooping in my pants sort of speak.

Well, I am pleased to say that I passed the test! If that morning was to be the end I was cool with that…no fear, no nerves…texted Patricia that I loved her and I was good to go.

I know this may be strange but I’m weirdly comforted by the fact I was ready. This was not the result of any courage on my part, oh no…rather I think it is a benefit of age.

As we approached JFK I looked around the plane, the fear I saw in a young couple…literally shaking in their skin…and another young couple with a very new baby…that made me sad. I must say, one of the advantages of age is that in a moment like that there ain’t much I haven’t done…our daughter is grown, I know I would leave Patricia financially OK and the people I love know I love them. Youth, however, has not had the time to make mistakes and learn from them.

See you all soon!