When your Client wants the Wrong Product!

Blueprint, hard hat, hammer and tape measureSome years ago, as sales manager for a major appliance distributor, I personally managed our biggest account, a large well-known Arizona home builder. They were opening a massive community north of Phoenix, and we were providing their appliances.

They went all out in selecting appliances for the model homes in the gated golf course section of their community. A top VP wanted commercial appliances in one of the models. He wanted a specific Traulsen brand commercial refrigerator and a Vulcan brand restaurant range for one of the models.

However, these appliances were not designed for use in residential homes. Rather, they were manufactured specifically for restaurants and commercial kitchens. I objected, but the builder insisted. Not wanting to lose the whole project over two appliances, I came up with a plan. First, I contacted a restaurant supply company that we had a relationship with and I was able to get all the pricing and specs necessary to quote the job. Then I did some research on the products that the home builder wanted.

When I delivered my price quote to the builder, I told them that these appliances had some special options and requirements and that I would need their input on before ordering.

“For example,” I said “You’ll need to specify if you want the Traulsen refrigerator on legs or on wheels. In addition, there is an option to have the compressor installedTraulsen commercial refrigerator inside or outside the refrigerator.”

“What?” The buyer asked. “Of course, we don’t want it on wheels, and who would ever want the compressor mounted outside?”

I answered, “It’s a commercial refrigerator. For many uses these refrigerators need to be moved around, so Traulsen sells them both ways. In addition,” I added, “they make a lot of noise. So, Traulsen provides the option to install the compressor compartment on the other side of an outside wall.”

“You should also know” I added “that the Vulcan range you specified needs a 1/2″ gas line. Right now, you’re only running standard 3/8″ gas lines to your homes.”

Vulcan commercial range“Good grief.” he said “Anything else?” “Yes.” I said. “Warranties on commercial appliances are parts only. The refrigerator is not UL approved or Energy Star rated, and the range is not AGA approved for residential use. So, we’d need your company to acknowledge this and provide us a written waiver of liability.”

Needless to say, the builder reconsidered and opted out of actual restaurant appliances. Instead, we provided them with high quality “commercial style” appliances suitable for residential use.

Designers get unusual requests from their clients all the time. I’d guess that convincing a client to opt for a different, but better, solution is a common challenge. In my case, this was a multi-million dollar account that we were able to save, and at the same time guide the builder in the right direction for their company and for their home buyers.

P.S. The Arizona home builder soon sold out to a large national builder who bypassed distributors and bought appliances directly from the manufacturer, and I began a new fifteen year career working directly for a national appliance manufacturer.

Art JoArt Johnson is the author of this article. this is what he looks likehnson MBA, is a writer, speaker, trainer, and social media marketing professional with broad experience in the appliance industry. Art may be reached at

1 Comment on this Post

  1. Diana Kempton

    Art, what a great article! Back when my husband had a commercial food equipment/HVAC business, I can’t tell you how often a restaurant owner or patron requested these very things, and the noisy compressor and need for a 1/2″ gas line certainly stopped their fantasy! For nearly every home cook, the commercial-style Wolf, Viking, etc., is MORE than they’ll need, and much more suited for life in a high-end home. Even the larger church kitchens I remodeled back then rarely had the capacity or need to install true commercial appliances.


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