Don’t you just love those rare “a-ha!” moments?”

Recently, I was right in the middle of a monumental carpet restoration-cleaning job when it hit me: The main reason this particular pet-stained disaster was even cleanable and actually making me look like a hero was that it was a carpet I had sold them 17 years ago.

I must confess to always being kind of a “carpet geek,” fascinated by the world of nylon, polyester and olefin fibers, mesmerized by carpet-pads in varying “weights” like “six-pound,” “eight-pound,” etc. I remember the transition from jute to plastic backings and the memorable switch to “stain-resistant” from the previous “old school” rugs of bygone days.

Granted, not terribly exciting stuff to most folks, but I was observing on a daily basis just how mystified the average homeowner was when it came to issues of carpet-buying and maintenance.

After years of cleaning (and taking lots of mental notes), I sauntered into our local retail carpet store one day armed with a referral; lots of questions too. We exchanged business cards and information. I learned about “30-ounce carpet-yarn face weight” and “heavy-duty wear-ratings” while sharing my own experience cleaning problematic styles such as “olefin level-loops” or “polyester plushes.”

They advised me on carpet patch-repair, and I relayed which do-it-yourself products were ruining rugs and which one was decent at the time. I remember leaving their store with some loaner carpet-sample books, along with knowing I had made a great networking connection sure to pay off in years to come.

I learned that it was valuable to add “new carpet sales” to my service offerings, and it has paid off well in the years since. Here are 10 reasons why you might want to do the same.

  1. Promote carpeting because it’s still a great option. Despite rising competition from laminates, hardwood, tile, etc. (more reasonably-priced than before), wall-to-wall carpeting still has many advantages the savvy homeowner can appreciate. While not “trendy” in the eyes of your average “professional decorator,” installing carpet in the home is a quick and easy process compared to other floor-covering options. Providing insulation from cold, noise, slip-and-fall (especially on stairways), it’s even been shown to be a filter for dust and allergens; not the allergy-aggravator it’s been portrayed. Plus, new advances like “pet-proof” backings, super-soft yarns, stylish designs and colors make wall-to-wall carpeting a great choice.
  2. Learning experience. The more we can learn about carpeting, the better for us as cleaning technicians. Even basic fiber-identification (nylon/polyester/olefin) can be so helpful when determining a job’s most appropriate pre-spray and estimate, for example.
  3. Elevate your status. Just last month, I had another “a-ha moment” when explaining to a new customer why her 50 oz. casual-textured nylon “plush” had held-up so well over twenty years of hard use despite its sub-standard, skimpy 3-lb. pad. “Wait,” she said, grabbing pen and paper, “I want to take notes so I’ll know what to buy next time.” I was her new carpet authority, sure to get her call the next time.
  4. More customer referrals. Now, since you’re a treasure-trove of customer referrals (needing new carpet) from your years of cleaning, that local carpet store will gladly return the favor, especially if you offer some special discounts (and maybe a freebie for the business owner) while you’re at it.
  5. Commissions. This one could be tricky, given the super-competitive pricing carpet stores have been trending to. But whether a percentage or flat “bonus,” you’re sure to score some small token of appreciation. Try and work something out in advance with your new carpet-sales partner.
  6. Diversify within the carpet universe. Major props to all of you carpet-cleaning techs who also scrub tile and grout, clean air ducts or sweep chimneys. But why not explore your original area of expertise to its potential? De-flooding, specialized odor/stain removal, minor re-stretching, seam-repair, patch repair, spot-and-whole-room dyeing all examples of where some new skills and knowledge can really pay off. For instance, maybe that pet-stained closet carpet can be salvaged by replacing the pad along with a patch-repair. Wouldn’t it be handy to offer that service yourself? It’s obvious the knowledge and help gained from your new retailer association will be a “gift that keeps on giving.”
  7. Make your cleaning jobs a breeze. How often do you have to break the news that your customer’s fancy cream-colored sculptured level-loop wasn’t the most practical choice to install in a hallway leading straight from a grease-stained garage? But now imagine that same situation where instead of following the advice of a random carpet salesman (or worse, a decorator), you had been their “carpet advisor.” Now, though a grease-stained mess, their hand-picked casual-textured nylon plush is cleaning up like a dream. Lesson learned!
  8. New marketing strategies. In addition to dropping off your business-cards, how else can you jump-start your new carpet-store alliance? You could print carpet-care flyers, complete with “pro insider tips” and your own free-advice contact info. Or how about some carpet-spotter, your own “private label?” Also, consider discount-coupons for the store’s retail customers, or offer a maintenance program where they can pre-pay for your twice-a-year visits.
  9. Keep it interesting. Networking with your local carpet store can open up a whole range of career options and new fields of interest. Why not you fill some slow weeks with moonlighting in carpet-sales, carpet-installation or, with extra training, carpet inspection?
  10. Job security. Whether you network with one carpet retailer or twenty, it’s free promotion and it elevates and expands your image and expertise. Every new-carpet sale you expedite will generate more referrals, commissions and years of repeat business as you service and maintain those new 100 percent nylon casual-textured beauties (hint, hint).

The big picture

Consider this a pep-talk about keeping alive a great American tradition (wall-to-wall carpeting) that’s been losing out lately to other floor-covering alternatives. As a sad sign of the times, one major retailer just opened its doors, offering every option to the homeowner except carpeting.

Let’s do our best to reverse this trend through a better-informed public, partnering with carpet-retailers and our own dedicated customer service.

Ron Robbins has been the owner-operator of Orange County, California’s “STEAMY WONDER CARPET SERVICE” since 1980. His musical career (jazz horn-player, singer/songwriter) inspired that reference to an early idol, the great Stevie Wonder. He is a devoted “portable” user, doing his own machine-repairs as well as several modifications to extractors and wands. Ron is the October prizewinner in the Cleanfax photo contest.