John: Today we’re talking about how to get the best carpet prices. Sam, what are the differences between carpets that affect the carpet prices?
Sam: Well, let me just first start to say that a carpet business is a very competitive business, and we all buy from basically the main three or four main players that are in the marketplace and we all pay the same price. Some people will do big container buyers or big truckloads and can get better pricing. But all or most of us have about the same pricing that you would find anywhere. The difference would be the markup of the store, but most of us know what everyone else is doing, so carpet prices are similar.
The way that you can play with the pricing is by using different types of yarn. If you twist a nylon yarn tighter and tighter and you squeeze all the air out of it’s less fluffy. You’re going to have to tuft it so it’s much tighter, so you’re going to get better density out of it and it’s going to perform better. The less you don’t spin it with the amount of twist in an inch, the less it’s going to perform. It’s a little fuzzy at the tip and it’s going to feel softer so it’s going to feel nice too. But it’s not going to perform.
Carpet pricing is confusing. I see a lot of other yarns that are in the marketplace today. It used to be nylon was the big American fiber. It’s very strong, very stain-resistant, and performs beautifully in heavy traffic. Polyester came out a few years back but it’s been out for a long time [and] it’s gotten popular again. We’ve had another rerun of it and it’s got a nice story and then it comes from the pop bottles recycled, the two-liter bottles that you’re seeing recycled. That’s what we call PET or polyester. It has made a big comeback.
The problem with polyester is that it doesn’t perform as well as nylon as far as holding up in high-traffic. Usually I have to apply it a little better and also pull a little tighter, but a lot of cases, they don’t do that because it’s carpeting [that] can be made for different reasons. One, it’s made for a price which would be maybe if you’re building a new house and you want to get a great price. Then it’s going to look good for a while once brand new, but it’s not going to perform in those high traffic situations. We see a lot of low [prices] in polyester [that are] used in a lot of [the], I will call, new home construction builder market, and also people who are looking for a [low] price.
I’m not a big fan of polyester, because you can’t get the color range, but if you’re just looking for the more neutral ranges of color, it’s very nice usually have as many color solvents in polyester today. Then there’s some new fibers out from Mohawk called the Smart Strand, which is a corn derivative. [This] basically means that [it’s] a hybrid that they are blending together and they have an exclusive patent on it, and they have come up with a remarkable fiber that feels like silk [and is] incredibly soft, and then is also performing extremely well.
I was, I guess, pessimistic about the way we want to call it, not so positive. Everybody tells me when they got great stuff, but when it comes out, it’s never as great as everybody says. But we’ve been selling it for about five to six years now and I’ve yet to hear the first complaint, and that’s what they’re telling too, that people are happy and satisfied with it and it is performing and so it’s got a great feel and look. The big thing with carpet is the softness today. You’ll find a lot of softness. I was concerned that softness would react to traffic and things like that, which it can.
Types of Carpet Fibers
Carpet is a very confusing business I think for most consumers and everybody thinks everybody’s carpet is the same as the next guys carpet and it really can be miles of difference and prices. I see all kinds of prices all over the place depending on what kind of fiber they are using and then how tight they’re spinning it and then how tightly they are tufting it together makes the price, [and] of course you can put in other fibers.
Today you have viscose fibers which is like a silk-like fiber. You have wool fibers, which we all talked about this before, [are] not always created equal. There’s very low staple stuff that’s not going to perform. The way to get the best price I think is the tried and true way. Find somebody that you trust and know and respect their opinion. It’s like buying art or buying jewelry or anything that you buy, [like] furniture [or] things like that. I think [it] is the same way. It’s hard to really know what you’re buying without having a little bit of guidance in there. Sometimes we get them side-by-side you can feel a difference between one brand or one manufacturer, and another.
If you can’t take carpet sample down to compare it with the competitors down the street, a lot of times when you bring in a carpet sample into a store they will look at that carpet and say, “Oh, we’ve got something just like this. We’ve got something better than this and that’s cheaper than this.” The worst thing that happens for a carpet guy is to have you take their sample down to their competitor where somebody can just basically blow it out [of] the water with something they’ve got better and then show you something that they are promoting or have a special buy on it or something like that. It’s a tough way for a consumer to buy a product. I don’t envy a customer having [to buy] carpeting because it is kind of challenging and I would have to say if I wasn’t in the business, I would hate it.
How Carpet is Made
John: Yes, [it] just sounds pretty confusing. Could you break it down and just give people maybe a couple of tips on how to find the best price and not just the best price but how to discern what kind of quality they’re getting in a carpet? Is it is just a matter of you get what you pay for?
Sam: Yes, you can tell a lot about a product just by flipping over and looking at the back. Do not read the warranty — that warranty on the back for 20 years, a hundred years, whatever the heck it is. It’s just a piece of paper and believe me you are never going to collect on that warranty because it’s written in the favor of the manufacturer. The back will tell you what type of backing they’re using on [it] and then if you fold it, you can feel the pliability of the back and then how tightly it’s put together. A finer back has more picks. If it looks like a grid-like graph paper, you got wider grades or little smaller grids. The smaller the grids or the tighter the back using the better quality backing there, and then more latex which holds the carpet together makes it basically last longer.
You’ve got to remember that carpet is made in basically two stages. One is what we call the primary stage, which is kind of like a very loose plastic burlap bag that they’re weaving through the tuft machines. Then after they finish, they apply latex to the back and then they put this secondary backing on it, which you see on the back of the carpeting. That gives it stability and helps it keep its shape, otherwise carpet would be like a towel possibly, giving in so many different directions. With pattern and seaming, you really can’t have that happen, so you want to make sure that has a good backing.
Backing tells you a lot [about pliability] because of how they use latex. The cheaper the carpeting, you’ll see a cutting of the latex, which means that they’ll put fillers in to stretch that latex. They’ll put chalk and basically what it is, is it’s a dry powder and it just expands the latex, which allows it to spread further and it gives you a better price. It’s just like cutting anything — drugs or cutting whiskey with water or whatever. It just makes it go further. It’s a little more diluted.
When you do that with latex, it dries out faster and a lot of people come out and say, “Hey, my carpet’s got wrinkles. You guys didn’t lay it right.” Well, usually what happens in that case, is that the primary has separated from the secondary backing, [and] the latex dried out. Then you can pick it up and a little bounce in your fingers almost how easy it is to pull the carpeting up and down. Which means that you’ve got delaminations. It’s nothing to do with the installation. That’s a very, very common problem with carpeting.
How to Get the Best Carpet Prices
John: Okay, so how can a customer be confident that they’ve gotten the best carpet prices?
Sam: Well, I think that’s the real challenge. I don’t know whether you can really be confident unless you do apple for apples. One thing is we trade in a brand called Karastan and Karastan has different labels that they even put on their brand for people. It’s like buying beds. Basically, they’re all putting different names on it and different covers on it. It’s the same bed frame underneath and there’s all different prices on it. The consumer today — it’s a tough world out there because they really don’t understand the marketing concepts of private labeling and basically whose carpet is whose.
We sell Karastan by a trade name [and] the actual names by the actual names that they sell it by. You can go down to our competitors, I don’t know exactly what it is there, and it’s the same price per foot. Where the real confusion comes in is what comes on after you get the measurement? That’s another confusing part because like they say, “Oh, we’re going to give you free pattern, we’re going to give free labor, we’re going to labor for $19 for the whole house.” But they’ve got some kind of gimmick that basically you’re getting some special deal [where] it’s almost like they’ll give it to you.
We have a guy in town he says he’s not here to make money, he just loves to sell carpet and I always loved that because [he] made a hell lot of money in town and not wanting to make money and buy one of the richest cats that walked in the carpet shoes.
It’s funny how people believe what they want to believe and it is all about shopping, getting out there, being a good student and there’s no easy way, it’s not like buying a Sony 55 inch TV whatever, it just isn’t that simple in most cases. Everybody’s got a better carpet than the next guy and everybody’s got something that they’re giving you free that they’re not really giving, or they’re giving a discount that’s not really real. It’s a tough business [and] the best way is to go out there and shop and feel and touch and then basically you’ll feel it and then you might want to go back to the guy that you trust the most and say, “Well, what’s the difference between yours and your competitors? It looks the same to me.”
I say they’re exactly the same or they’re really close to each other. I would say get a quote. Most people do quotes for free. At that point, you’ll see that the price [of the carpet] installed is a different price than what you could perceive it to be when you’re looking at the sample, just by cost of carpet only, because a lot of people build everything up, those little incidental trims, taking your old carpet up, putting new padding.
Padding can be all over the board as far as pricing, there’s some really recycled, really nasty padding out there that’s really cheap that gets sold for ridiculous money. That’s how they build it up and give you that free stuff. “Free is not free,” it’s just playing with the numbers and they give you a good price off that.
John: They make up for it.
Sam: Where you got the padding, you got trim, you got stairs to do or you got a hallway, we got to take all this stuff out and haul it off. There’s always some charge when you start looking at the final bill of, “Here’s what it costs.” That’s where you really find out what’s the difference between one guy and another and then you’re really close to it. For us, we always feel we’re at a disadvantage because we don’t play that game and most people like that game. They like to think that they’re getting the whole house for $19. But to me, if your laborer is willing to work for free or $19 for the whole house, I don’t want them in my house.
I spent a lot of time and money and energy on [the] training of installation people so they’re certified, [and] believe me, they are not cheap. They’ve got families, those guys work harder than most people work. They’re like guys who build houses type of construction people, that’s very physical work, very demanding [and] laborious. People need to wake up a little bit to the reality of what the big boxes are doing to you as far as marketing [goes] and that everything is free and it isn’t free, it’s just hidden.
John: Right. When you’re shopping for rugs, you should definitely make sure you’re getting a quote that includes all of the other things, all of the rug pad, like you said, the installation and then maybe find out what type of rug pad they’re using, is it a low-quality rug pad and that sort of thing. Really make a more of a direct comparison.
Sam: The pad will be a telling sign of how quality the company is because only quality companies use quality pad, because they are more concerned about [the] performance of the carpet, whereas lower guys who are trying to sell on price, they have to cut it somewhere and that’s usually a telling sign as well.
John: All right well, that’s really great information. Sam Presnell, thanks for speaking with me today.
Sam: All right John, my pleasure. Thank you.
John: For more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery and Oriental rugs and carpets, visit ruggallerycincy.com or call 513-793-9505. Make sure you catch the latest episodes by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes and if you could take the time to give us a review on iTunes as well, I would appreciate that. See you next time on the Rug Gallery.