From refrigerant to technician tools to rooftop units, HVAC equipment is on Craigslist. Described as local classifieds and forums that are community moderated and largely free, Craigslist has more than 50 billion page views per month and counts more than 60 million users each month in the U.S. alone.

There is a lot of stigma that goes along with Craigslist, and although its usage for job postings, lead generation, and equipment sales seem to be growing, the online forum’s benefits, dangers, and impact on the HVACR industry is largely undefined. To help shine a light on Craigslist, The NEWS reached out to a number of contractors and distributors to determine, “What role does Craigslist have in the HVACR industry?”

You’d Be Crazy Not To?

Bill Holz is not only familiar with Craigslist, he is an avid user both personally and as director of sales and marketing for for First Supply in Madison, Wisconsin. He has purchased and sold hundreds of items and services on Craigslist over the years. Holz said he considers Craigslist to be another form of Web advertising that both large and small contractors would be crazy not to take advantage of.

“It really is just a reincarnation of what the classified section of the local paper or the corkboard at the grocery story used to be,” he explained. “There are some small, one-man shop contractors who use Craigslist as their main form of advertising. Between Craigslist and the referrals they receive from other jobs they sold on Craigslist, these contractors often have more than enough work to keep them busy.”

Holz noted the online environment is price sensitive and not necessarily for everyone, but he also pointed out that posting on Craigslist is free.

“Free leads are a good thing for my contractor customers,” he said. “I think all of my contractors should think about taking advantage of this. As for the wholesale side of things, Craigslist has allowed me to move things that my contractor customers were not interested in purchasing, such as discontinued items, scratch and dent items, and returned items.”

Job Postings

Job postings seemed to be the No. 1 business reason contractors utilize Craigslist. According to Craigslist, there are more than 1 million new job listings posted each month.

Walter Mott is the owner of Dean’s Shop, an HVAC service and retrofit business based in Staples, Texas. His early experiences with Craigslist stem from a personal hobby of restoring tractors. His company, however, has had success in finding technicians and posting jobs.

“We have hired several folks from Craigslist postings,” he said. “I’ve seen a few legitimate HVAC ads as well. I’m not sure of the success rate, but I believe that a consumer can tell a good company from the bottom feeders.”

Mott is intending to try some marketing on Craigslist in the near future.

Drew Santos, president of Admor HVAC Products Inc., Honolulu, is having success with his job postings as well.

“We advertise for HVAC positions on Craigslist and receive more applicants than the paid sites,” he explained. “Our company has also hired several people from the site. These results are even better than our local newspaper.”

Popular or not, some contractors are seemingly intrigued but not necessarily completely sold on the usefulness of Craigslist to the HVAC industry.

Ralph Doak is using the service for job postings like multiple other contractors. As president of All Seasons Heating and Cooling Service Co. in Chesapeake, Virginia, Doak noted that this is all he really needs at the time and that he doesn’t yet see a need to push further into Craigslist for his business.

In Ronkonkoma, New York, Bob Keingstein, president of Boss Facility Services Inc., acknowledges that job postings could be useful on Craigslist, but he thinks the online service is suited for individual use rather than business use.

“Craigslist purchases don’t have a great reputation,” said Keingstein. “There is no security and it is basically buyer beware. Even job candidates are generally not highly qualified.”

As a commercial, mission critical, and industrial contractor, AirTight in Charlotte, North Carolina, sees Craigslist as a primarily residential tool, for now.

“I understand Craigslist’s functionality,” said Greg Crumpton, president and founder of AirTight. “I just don’t see it being something for our sector of HVAC contracting, at least not now, anyway. But I have learned to never say never.”

Lead Generation

Job postings are a popular use of Craigslist for multiple business sectors, both foreign and domestic. Several contractors and distributors in the HVACR industry take advantage of the free service to find and hire company staff and technicians. Another common use of Craigslist for HVAC industry members is lead generation.

Jeff Schmidt, owner of Mar-Hy Distributors in Milwaukie, Oregon, doesn’t really use Craigslist in his wholesale HVAC distribution business, but he has heard of several of his contractor customers using the service to help with lead generation.

“My customers get quite a bit of work from Craigslist,” he said. “The service is a great lead generator for those my company services.”

Craigslist Caveats

There is a lot to be said for Craigslist and the presence of the HVAC industry amongst its prolific postings. One of those things is to warn users to be careful.

Hallmarked by caveat emptor, Latin for “Let the buyer beware,” Craigslist is, at times, surrounded by controversy and negative connotations. The online service has topped national news with murders, rip-offs, and a bevy of public relation and safety nightmares that has a chunk of the public, as well as the HVAC industry, keeping its distance.

Ann Kahn, president of Kahn Mechanical Contractors in Dallas, said she would rather not associate her business with Craigslist, calling it an untrustworthy site.

Craigslist isn’t for everyone, and John McCarthy Sr., president of P.H.E. Inc. in Omaha, Nebraska, explained that it is not for his company, either. He, like Kahn, noted that he knows nothing good of the website service.

“Craigslist attracts people looking at price only. Our business does not cater to this kind of person,” said McCarthy. “Our business is a relationship business, not one of strictly price. We want to build a long-term relationship.”

Samm’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Plano, Texas, uses Craigslist to post classified ads in the job posting section, but when asked, the company responded that it didn’t know that HVAC equipment was being sold on it as well.

“I am not sure we would consider using Craigslist for that aspect of our business,” said Paul Sammataro, president. “I feel Craigslist is an option for people expecting low-priced deals. If they are selling equipment on Craigslist, I feel some of those customers are looking for install only. That is something we do not do for multiple reasons, specifically commitment and loyalty to our distributor and warranty issues.”

Publication date: 6/23/2014 

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