The American Heritage Dictionary has several definitions for this word.

For example, “relatively low in cost, inexpensive,” “charging low prices,” “of small value,” and “of poor quality.”

Roget’s Thesaurus uses other synonyms for this word: “disgraceful,” “inexpensive,” “inferior,” “paltry,” “stingy,” and “worthless.”

Some businesses tout the word in their advertising of sale-priced merchandise — although, I have to admit, I don’t remember hearing the word used to describe reduced-cost services.

Some people are proud of the word. If you want to see some examples, check out some of the descriptive text of auction merchandise at eBay.

The word gets spread around like manure.

I’m sure all of you have used the word from time to time, either in a derogatory or praising manner. It is part of our heritage, made prevalent in our retail world by the explosion of discounters in the 60s, many of whom are now out of business.

OK, so much for keeping you in suspense. The word is cheap.

Personally, I’d rather use it to describe the sound a chick makes. But unfortunately, the word has become synonymous with real bargain-basement prices, and, consequently, bargain-basement quality.


The good news is that the hvacr trade delivers top-quality products, which are manufactured to stringent specifications and assembled in state-of-the-art facilities. I have seen the quality control processes at some of our plants and can attest to the strict standards that we must live up to.

Cheap is certainly not an adjective that describes our products. It also does not apply when describing our services. If one contractor charges less per hour or less per job, that certainly doesn’t make him or her cheaper, just less expensive.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I also know that we are smacked in the face every day by consumers and would-be customers who continually seek out the cheapest price for goods and services. I’m sure the commercial contractors have less to worry about than the residential guys. I have not heard of too many commercial customers who look for the cheapest contractor.

But I am curious as to how many residential contractors lose a job because of the word cheap. I wonder how many customer service reps hear a voice on the other end of the phone saying, “Well so-and-so is running a special. Can you match the price?”

Is it worth fretting about? Probably not. But it would be nice if we could rid the word from the vocabulary of our buying public. After all, if a consumer can buy a television set or a dining room set cheap, why not an air conditioner or furnace?

My answer: because we sell quality and deliver quality. Period. There is no such thing as cheap in our vocabulary.


In 2002, consumers may be pulling in the reins on big-ticket spending. We can’t blame it on interest rates. We can blame it on the lack of job security. Thou-sands of people have lost their jobs over the past several months, and the unemployment figures are the highest in seven years.

It is logical to believe that this uncertain atmosphere will drive people to spending out of necessity — and only if they can find low prices. Perhaps it is our job to prove that quality is just as important as price; that if a person spends more now for good products and good service, they won’t have to make frequent purchases when the product fails or a service-person has to be called back to do the job right.

In our economy, we should make sure that our customers appreciate the need for indoor comfort, and not slash their budget on one of the most important expenditures they will ever make — the quality of life.

I say, good riddance to cheap. Go find someplace else to hang out. You’re not welcome in this trade.

Publication date: 01/01/2002