How We Spent Your Summer Vacation

Monday, September 25th, 2006

by Dennis DiPaolo

You could have knocked me over with a feather! When I told you about our Open House and Backstage Tour in last April’s newsletter, I honestly didn’t expect all of you to actually show up.

Well, a ton of you came to the Backstage Tour before we opened. Our entire team enjoyed getting to talk to you casually; not about solving pool problems and without having to watch out for who was next in line. The tour of our second floor was the most popular (well, next to the food). The factory reps all thought it was the best store promotion they had ever attended. Even people who just happened to show up without knowing about it thought it was great.

Thank you for all your support. Thank you to everyone who cleaned and polished to get everything looking spic-and-span for the day, and to all the team members who came in on their day off to be tour guides.. Our next event will be our annual Blood Drive on Friday, August 18th. Please help us out with it—blood supplies are always critically low during summer vacations. We promise to make it fast and efficient; with the best food and gift bags. We’ll even take reservations. We’ll also have another Backstage Tour sometime in early November after we make the transition to billiard, bar, and game season.

Pool Store Notes

Maybe it’s global warming, maybe it’s bad luck, but we were like a ghost town all of May while it was cold and rainy. Then you all showed up Memorial Day weekend. Our team did a wonderful job. We never ran out of anything and the lines moved quickly enough considering.

Here’s a tip for busy days: at the waterlab take a number, go to the coffee shop, have a FREE coffee or pastry (or both), and watch a movie until it’s your turn. After your test, don’t go to the Parts Department for chemical advice. There is no need to stand in another line, and there is almost never a wait for chemical advice in the chemical department! One wait is enough. Plus, those of us working the chemical department can help you find the chemical, and write on the container to match your print-out. The people in the Parts Department can’t leave to go to the Chemical Department with you—the other customers waiting for parts tweak out when they see that.  We are continuing to explore ways to make your trip to the store as simple, and as fast as possible.

What’s happening to prices? The big shock (no pun intended) was in chlorine last year, based on punitive tariffs put on Chinese and Spanish chlorine in order to protect the American manufacturers. Prices came down a little this spring, but they are never going to be as low as a couple of years ago.

We’ve stopped trying to carry a consistent brand of low-priced bromine. Instead, we are referring to it as “Generic Bromine”. The actual brand will be a good brand that we could get on sale. In the past couple of years, that’s been Aqua Clear, Swimfree, and Omni. All of those, by the way, are made by Bio-Lab, who makes our best brand of bromine: Bioguard. In reality, there are only about four mega-companies left that own everyone else!

How about names? The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing its rules regarding pool shocks—I imagine because of the flood of new chlorine shocks that have hit the market recently; many with directions which don’t actually reach “break point” in some conditions.  The marketing advantages are two-fold: buying a weaker shock keeps the price down for you, and it means you can swim faster after shocking. Now that so many people use PHmB products, such as Baquacil, with no time lost to shocking, chlorine users have been demanding less lost time (or just giving up and switching to Baquacil).

The EPA’s interest is obviously in that the older, stronger chlorine shocks actually “shock” in almost all pool conditions, and it is a bit problematic whether or not the new ones do. Of course, every time the EPA changes its regulations, some chemical companies line up with them, while others just figure a way around them.

These new regulations are still being debated and developed, so you’ll probably see name changes and directions changing over the next four to six years. In the future, the word “shock” will probably only be used in conjunction with chlorine-based pools because chlorine based pools have two reasons to need weekly shocking, while bromine and Baquacil pools only have one reason for a monthly shock. In fact, when Baquacil Shock and Oxidizer was first developed, it was called a clarifier, and in Softswim “C”, the “C” stands for clarifier. Of course, that always confused consumers, because the pool industry already had clarifiers, which are “sticky” polymers.

I’ve seen this happen before: we will probably see names change, then change back, then change again. It won’t make any sense, and in some cases, it will make things worse. Remember, there’s a federal government committee in charge!

Finally, a reminder: unlike every other pool store around, we have a price for 1 ½ cases of Baquacil Shock and Oxidizer, 1 ½ cases of Baquacil Sanitizer, and 1 ½ cases of Baquacil Ultra Sanitizer. This is cheaper than a case plus two bottles, without requiring you to buy two full cases. Why? Because the most popular pool in New England is 15,000 gallons, which uses 1 ½ cases a year. We’re trying to make out products work for the way you live.

We are also going to stop carrying Baquacil Ultra Shock and Oxidizer, because you, our cashiers and our warehouse team just found it too difficult to give you the right item and price. It only came in cases of two: a committee copying a bad idea by a competitor. The blue bottle is exactly the same product as the purple bottle, and no one will have to figure out “four mini cases of two” in order to make it as cheap as two cases of Baquashock.

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