Tag Archives: material inventory

Bad Customer Service: I’m Melting!

As a toddler, I remember watching the 1939 hit “The Wizard of Oz” on television for the first time. It was terrifying; I saw most of it hiding behind our green “leatherette” couch. In the movie, Margaret Hamilton (as the Wicked Witch of the West) has the following lines, as Dorothy watches her melt:

You cursed brat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness? Oooooh, look out! I’m going! Oooooh! Ooooooh!“

Well, one of our “almost clients” had a melting experience of his own. Rick, his Hansen Buildings Designer, has stayed in touch with him, even though he purchased someone else’s building kit.

Rick forwarded to me an Email from the client today:


Sad to say it is still going! I got a window issue that Vendor X is more or less washing their hands of and not helping me out with. The window frame is bubbled and manufacture is saying it was exposed to extreme heat.  They say it was fine when it got on the truck and I say it was fine too i.e. the glass was not broken. I did not see the frame till I went to install it. Anyways I am out a window right now. Bad customer service!


I felt compelled to respond back to Tim:

Rick shared your Email with me and I felt it important to respond.

As the consumer, it would have been up to you to have reported any apparent damage – if not at time of receipt, at least within the few days following delivery. This is only being fair to the manufacturer and the building provider, as neither of them have control over how materials are stored at the jobsite.

There are many possible ways what you are describing could have occurred – generally windows should be stored in a cool, indoor location.

How important is receiving, inventorying and proper storage of materials? Enough so we devote an entire 18 page chapter of our Construction Guide to how to do it properly. It keeps lots of feelings from being hurt, and avoids situations like you are involved with currently.

In response to your question of “bad customer service?” the bad part was not having provided you with the information necessary to have either seen the problem if it existed at delivery, or to have prevented it after delivery.”

Did this client pay less for his building from the other provider? Probably, and sadly, it sounds like he got what he paid for.

Why a Materials List is Usually Not a Good Thing

One thing we have always done at Hansen Buildings, is to guarantee we have the best price, every day on any complete building kit package with equal or better features. We don’t sell materials; we provide complete buildings – all the pieces necessary to construct the building, per our plans, unless otherwise noted. Pretty straight forward.

As such, we’ve done comparisons against hundreds of other suppliers. In doing so, we’ve seen a fair number of the infamous materials list. I say “infamous”, as they are for the most part totally misleading the consumer.

Where does a materials list come from to begin with?

A prospective building owner will walk into his local lumber dealer, or big box store, and ask for a price on pole building kit. In the instances where someone at the store has a rudimentary knowledge of how pole buildings go together, they will most often provide a materials list of what they believe the materials will be, to construct the size building requested.

Great, right? As a consumer, if you have one of these lists, you can now go shop it around to whoever will give you the best price!

However….at least two major lumber yard chains, who regularly supply pole building kits, have disclaimers on the bottom of their materials list. In layman’s terms, they do not guarantee the materials listed on the quote will meet any building code requirements, or do they guarantee the list is adequate to construct any intended building!

Read the last paragraph twice, didn’t you? Chew on it a bit…..you will not have to search very long on the ‘net to find a post from a customer who spent $28,000 on a “pole barn package” from a large supplier, because “the prices were great”. In the end, it cost them $34,500 total, for the materials which were not on the list, but were needed to construct the building!

Eric (one of the Hansen Buildings owners) and I reviewed a materials list in the not too distant past, for a horse barn. Of course the client claimed his materials list quote was $5,000 less than our quote (the difference is never $100, by the way, it’s always some huge amount). The building was to be 10’ eave height. However the list had treated posts only 12’ long. Maybe they were planning to only have the posts be two feet in the ground? If so, I would not want to be near the building in a wind storm.

Right away what was glaring was that all of the doors we had included, were absent from the list! Over $3,000 right there. As we counted the pieces of steel roofing and siding, it became apparent the person doing the list, left off ½ of the roof, as well as one side and one end.

In this particular case, the client was absolutely certain the list he had was going to exactly construct the building we had quoted. He refused to be convinced otherwise, so we wished him the best.

One thing we will do absolutely free for any client is to compare any building quote they get from our competitors, to our quotes, and show them the differences.  Nine times out of ten when we offer this to the client claiming huge dollar differences, we never see the quote (or hear from the customer) again.  Sometimes you can lead a horse to water….

Building Materials: Inventory and Inspection

Like many suppliers of pole buildings kits, whether “standard” or completely “custom” kits, such as ours, I’m sure I am barking up a familiar tree.  What does building materials inventory involve?  Let me tell you about one of my most frustrating stories first.

The one which first comes to mind, in talking about inventory, is the guy who called up to say his posts and dimensional lumber had twisted and warped.  He wanted to know, “When are you going to send out the replacements?”  His name was familiar, but hazy – as if his building purchase was in the distant past.  So I did a quick check of our most recent projects.  Using his project number, I finally had to do a search in our database.  He came up alright, as having had his lumber delivered no less than 8 months ago!  And even worse, he lived in Arizona, and he admitted right off the bat his lumber had been sitting “outside” all Spring, Summer and Fall….in the sun and through monsoon rains.  But the comment which caused me to just shake my head was when I asked him, “How did the lumber look when you GOT it?”  He innocently replied, “Oh, it was really nice then – all straight and it looked great”!  Here it was 8 months later and he wanted us to just replace it?

As much as I’d love to make every single customer a happy camper when they call months and even over a year later to say they have things “missing”, damaged or otherwise, I’m not going to play Santa Claus.  No business can afford it.  When we’ve had folks claim they had hardware missing, due to very specific counting, weighing and tracking practices, it’s amazing how many “missing” pieces suddenly reappear.  I’m not saying folks are trying to “pull something” and get extra pieces for nothing (ok, some of them are).  Usually, it’s just a matter of poorly inventorying all materials, and carefully storing them so when they are needed, they can be easily found.

There are a lot of building materials and pieces in a building kit, especially if you have one of any large size or with a lot of features such as wainscot, cupolas, windows and overhangs.  So, what does inventory involve?

What it does NOT mean is having the delivery truck show up, signing the invoice and then walking back in the house never to look at what was delivered until it’s needed on the jobsite.  I get very frustrated (and am not very sympathetic) when a client calls from halfway across the country to report they “only got 5 rolls of insulation and I was supposed to get 45.  “And you need to overnight it to me.”  NO, I don’t.  And this demand came a good 6 weeks after delivery.

Sometimes folks balk a bit when we tell them they will get more than one delivery.  In fact, they may get 5 or 6 deliveries when you have as many different types of components as a building has.  I’ve seen toyboxes and desks have more pieces than our custom building kits, but its usually not such a big deal if you run short a few screws or pieces for something easily housed indoors, or there is not a contractor standing on the jobsite with the time clock running.  Because of the different deliveries, it’s actually to a client’s advantage to have deliveries on different days.  That way one can do a good job of inventorying, and not be overwhelmed with multiple deliveries on the same day.

Building materials inventory involves not just looking to see “yes, there is lumber in that pile”.  It means more than just taking a total count.  If you have the right number of pieces, but they are the wrong size, you are still going to be frustrated to run “short” when you are getting your new pole building constructed.  Or worse yet, your builder will be upset and want to purchase the missing pieces at full retail value, sending your budgeted building into “overtime”.

So – here we go – basic inventory rules:

  1. Count, measure and inspect every piece.  Yes, every piece, whether it’s lumber, steel or hardware.  Compare what you find to your MTO (Material Takeoff Sheet).  It’s a quick and easy checklist.  Be sure to note what is missing!
  2. Check for damages.  If pieces are nested together – take them apart – such as steel.  You may “find” the missing wainscot stacked under longer lengths of steel, so without taking each and every sheet off one at a time, you may not find it.
  3. Equipment roll forming steel can (rarely) not function properly – and damage the steel, leaving scratches or other blemishes on it.  Pieces may get accidentally damaged during shipment, so just because the top pieces look “ok”, doesn’t mean the bottom ones are.
  4. There are human errors – wrong colors selected, wrong sizes of overhead door panels.  Vendors don’t mean to make mistakes, but wherever humans are involved, there can be mistakes.  Give them the respect they deserve by being responsible and making sure everything is exactly as you thought it was going to arrive – in good condition.
  5. Most importantly – inventory soon after shipment.  What does “soon” mean?  We only give 48 hours. That’s right, 48 hours – to inspect, count and report damaged, missing or simply “wrong” items.  Waiting means vendors won’t replace things.  Theft is high for lumber on unsupervised lots.  Damages occur…sometimes on the jobsite.

Bottom line is, a good building materials inventory and inspection does two things.  One, it ensures the pieces you need to complete your building are there when you need them, and Two, it keeps “the honest folks honest”.