Dealing With Moonlighters From Behind the Counter

In response to the letter written by Michael Cole of JEM Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. ["Under The Moonlighting Sky And Other HVAC Difficulties", Jan. 30] I would like to give some perspective from the wholesalers' point of view. First of all, let me start by saying that I agree with Mr. Cole wholeheartedly that the HVACR contractor is the best customer any wholesaler has. Our customers are treated as business partners. Our job as distributors is to ensure that we help our business partners be profitable and without them, we would not be in business.

That being said, of the 250-plus customers that we do business with on a regular basis, at least 50 percent (conservative estimate) of those customers all used moonlighting as a vehicle to get their businesses started. I would venture a guess that the same can be said of other wholesalers. We, as a company, do not condone moonlighting in anyway. I also agree with Mr. Cole that, in most cases, moonlighting will only hurt our industry in the long run. Without all of the fixed costs of an established contractor (overhead, taxes, insurance, etc.), the moonlighter has the potential to ruin the pricing in a given market, which in turn means lower margins on our side of the counter.

We handle moonlighters very carefully. First of all, if a helper or apprentice comes into our counter looking for material, we call the contractor whom he works for. We do not do this to embarrass or harass the moonlighter, we do this to protect our business partner. In most cases (in our experience), we get the OK from the contractor. If the customer tells us not to sell to their employees, we do not sell to their employees. Many times, we have walked away from nice orders because we were told not to sell to them. The other thing that we do is charge a premium to the moonlighters. This is done to protect our customers and the pricing we have negotiated with them.

But we also have to be careful as to how we treat them. Keep in mind that the moonlighter is still going to be coming to our counter as an employee of our customer. Not only that, if that moonlighter does legitimately go into business, we have to look at him as a potential customer. What are we to do? If we get the approval of our current customer, then it is our job to treat that moonlighter as a business partner as well.

It is very difficult to be everything to everybody, but it is a line that we have to walk everyday. I do believe that we wholesalers have to be part of the solution, but we also need the help of our customers.

Alan C. Longley, president of Stamford Winair Co.
Stamford, Conn.

Building a Better Checklist

[Editor's note: This letter is in response to John R. Hall's editorial "Prevent Double-Crosses With a Double-Check," Feb. 27.]

It was a good article. It made me remember how we used to do it. The trouble we've always had seems to be that when the tech is working, writing isn't convenient, so they'll do their work and check the boxes at the end. Maybe turning the check sheet into a pocket-sized check card would work better.

Although we have some boxes to check on our list, we now require techs to fill in the blanks. It seems like it should work better, but doesn't seem to make a huge difference. Maybe we should drop the "filled out right" checklists in the hat for an end of the month drawing?

Thanks for the thought-provoking ideas.

Barry Kindt, president of Secco Home Services
Camp Hill, Pa.

Upgrade Your Coils Is Good Advice

Joanna Turpin's articles [in the Feb. 27 supplement "HVAC Turns 13!"] were great. I have always looked for ways to show my customers how to make their homes more comfortable and efficient. Efficiency does not always mean cost of operation, it could mean that the equipment in your home works as well as it was designed to do.

The one problem I have had in the past 25 years is other companies never believed in changing out coils when doing condenser changeouts, especially when the coil is 10 years old or older and when they [the customer] have an existing expansion valve that was worn in to use higher pressures. The article was the third-party proof I need to show my customers that I am not blowing smoke, and I am correct in advising them to upgrade their coils. I get ganged up on with three [others] saying no [the customer doesn't need a coil changeout] and I get doubted. You used several manufacturers to give you more credibility and that was perfect, too.

Kenneth J. Lichamer, Five Star Heating & A/C Inc., Palatine, Ill.

Send correspondence via e-mail to

Publication date: 03/27/2006