Our 30th Year is Turning out Great

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

by Dennis Dipaolo

Thank you for a great summer.  We have seen many new pool owners having their first test at the water lab this summer, and hundreds of people came to our pool schools.  Rich people started spending again; with dramatic increases in the sales of our most expensive patio furniture, hot tubs, and custom-made pool tables.  Certainly, there are  still people out of work, but we can definitely see the economy improving every day. 

Still, we are continuing to look at all of our operations to see where we can become more efficient without hurting customer service.  Here’s an example:  We run our water labs very differently than every other pool store in the country.  Small stores feature water testing at a single lab, where the technician recognizes the customer, gets the chemicals together, and reviews the test, then goes back to the lab to do another test.  Often, if you don’t buy the balancing chemicals, you don’t get the print-out.  When that kind of store finds a consumer doing too many tests, they can stop it.  I know almost every pool store owner inNew England, and many around the country. Not a single one of them has a night deposit like we do, nor would they ever fax or email test results, as we also do.  If you are not in their store, you are not getting the results.

There actually are not many pool stores as big as we are, but big stores either do not test, or discourage it.  The problem is, that every “free” test that we do, costs $10 to $15.  In order to keep up with the volume and to keep the lines down, we need to have four labs running on a network, using software that was never designed to be run on a $20,000 server.  We have $8,000 invested in the electronic colorimeters that read the tests and transmit to the computers.

Our technicians are working to get your test done efficiently, and then go on to the next person in line.  So we are not noticing the people who come in every few days or even once a week, so they don’t have to buy a home test kit.  We really want to be helpful, and it is our great pleasure to test your pool water.  It’s just that a growing group of people in front of you in line are doing their twelfth test of the summer. 

Water balance is permanent.  It only changes when you add water.  So an opening test in spring is needed to adjust for the winter’s rain and spring fill.  The balance will slowly change each summer, until a closing balance tops off for the summer’s rain and evaporation.  People with expensive plaster finishes should also do a test in the mid-summer.  So, we feel that doing five free tests per year for each pool or spa should allow 90% of our customers to continue to have free tests.  However, using our water lab weekly is going to start costing $9.99 per test, over the five free ones.  That’s less than it actually costs us to do the test, and it’s more than the cost of a test kit that you could use to do your own sanitizer and pH test at home in 15 seconds. 

I apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause, and we will be more than happy to make accommodations when the facts warrant it.  Honestly, I have talked to people who had never thought that it actually cost us to do their water balance test, and graciously stopped.  For customers who have a hard time reading their test strips, we will do a strip test anytime – that takes 15 seconds and does not require the lab.  We have also had a customer who refused to stop, even when I offered her a free test kit to test at home!  So there’s a wide variety of customers out there.  I am hoping that five free tests (that’s ten if you have a pool and a hot tub) will be a reasonable compromise.  Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or complaints.

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