The 8th Circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno was for all people that led their lives with fraud.  To me fraud can be offering “a great culture and customer service, when in reality it is anything but.”

You know a fraud when you see it.

On Friday we (Nate Sippel and I) entered that 8th Circle of Hell.  We went secret shopping at a competitor’s place in the Madison market…potentially the largest competitor to us in this market.


On the outside everything is clean and neat.  Looks good.  Pretty darn impressed.  I was thinking “I can see why they are the market leaders.”

The second we walked in we both literally whispered, “wow”.  Like not in a good wow, but in a wow when you go and see a relative and and stumble in his basement looking for another bottle of whiskey.   Where you suddenly see that they have a hoarding problem.  That low undertone, “wow”.   Seriously, that bad.

One person was at their sales counter.  He was the only person we saw, plained clothes, not formal at all.  We stumbled around a small display area (if you can imagine the displays about 1/10th the size of what we have for our showrooms) and ended up in their cabinetry showroom, which was also cramped and tiny.  The displays were untidy and unkept.  A new display, at least I assume a new was being put up, but no signage told me, but I just assumed it was under construction.

After literally running into the cabinet person, we said we were looking to build a deck.  She said, “OH, Trex?” An average consumer wouldn’t know what “Trex” was, but we were supposed to I guess that Trex meant decking.   She said “oh somebody would be with you shortly” and then walked away, where we continued to wander around.  Finally a guy couldn’t avoid us.  I can’t say he was happy to see us.   Anyways, we told him we were building a deck.

He asked what kind.  We said we didn’t know.  He went into Trex, then Azek, then deckorators (they displayed all 3).  They don’t STOCK ONE PIECE OF TREX (this is the largest most intimidating builder yard in the Madison market.)  Our stocking position on just about everything is much stronger than I even realized.  He did say they have a good vendor that comes twice a week.  A delivery charge on site was “maybe $10.”  They also had an azek display that was in shambles and a deckorator display.  I asked about those or the difference of them.  He said he liked TREX because he said he was most comfortable with it and knew it the best.  Ok… well then.   That didn’t give us much confidence.

Then we asked about railing and he rolled his eyes (seriously) and said there are so many options, wire, vinyl, wood, metal, and he went on and on, and then said, oh yeah, trex makes one too.  And then he stared at us; we stared back.  So I questioned, “Do you do deck design?”  He said, well if we had a sketch he would do a hand estimate.  “I just use my brain” he muttered and then would give us a list.  And we then did the staring game again.  I said, hey, “Can we go see your treated in the yard? I’d like to see the quality.”  He said sure, and pointed us on our way.  He didn’t walk with us or make sure we were assisted on our journey.

Ok, boy… this will be fun I thought, a self guided tour.  I wondered “How far can we take this trip?”  We then spent about 30 minutes in their yard.  Not one person, and there were maybe 7 or 8 people out there, greeted us or asked if we needed help.  Some people walked within 3 feet of us, but they kept their eyes down.   Two guys on a forklift talked to each other for about 15 minutes in the center of the yard.  One guy we think “ran” their millwork area outside.  He just hung out there, like a troll guarding his bridge.  We didn’t see one wood window job, not one full order of doors, not a single cabinetry order.   They didn’t stock any siding, and very little if any shingles.  They did have crock pits though.  And They did have a ton of leftover shit taking up space.

We did see a cool idea, they had rechargeable banding machines.  It melted the plastic.  We asked the guy if he liked them, he said he did.  Nate will be researching that.

After 30 minutes we simply walked out.

If you are not selling with confidence, please get secret shopping.  If you have builders that beat you up and weigh you solely on price, fire them and go find ones that appreciate happy people.  We must run our mission, we must supply happiness.  We must go take that market share in every corner of our area.

I am glad I don’t live or work in an 8th circle of hell.  I “almost” felt bad for them, to work in such a negative environment.  I can’t wait to take care of their clients.

The below is how we felt after our experience:



– Joel Fleischman.  Joel is Head Coach of the solution providers for Drexel Building Supply.  (drexelteam).   You can follow him on twitter:  @JoelmFleischman.   Our mission is to be a supplier of others happiness.  I hope this little post did just that.


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