Readers React To POOLCORP Ruling

In late November, POOLCORP and the FTC reached an agreement that prohibits the company from using threats and coercion to stop manufacturers from selling products to competitors. Here are two of two dozen responses the article.

I have run many pool and spa companies, stores, service companies and online companies for 32 years and have always has some form of POOLCORP as one of our suppliers (whether it be SCP, Superior, GPS, etc.), and I can tell you from my own experience that our dealer pricing was always based on our yearly sales volume with them — and they charged us the same price for a product whether we sold it out of a store, or used it for a repair service call or sold it online. They really have no idea where a product that you purchase from them is going to be sold — or how much a retailer or service company, or an online company is going to mark it up. How could they possibly know that?

I do not work for POOLCORP, and I do like a good controversy, but dealing with them for three decades and running both online and bricks-and-mortar stores, I can tell you that we do not get two sets of prices as many people seem to indicate (one price for Internet and one price for the store and the service company). From what we are told by them, it is all based on our volume of sales, what we sell, and a pricing matrix.

Does anyone have any concrete examples of this happening?

— Daniel Harrison,

Daniel has finally gotten to the real problem with POOLCORP and some manufacturers, which is that they base their discount structure entirely on volume. They place no value on the customer service that consumers receive from so many of the traditional sellers in the supply network.

But when suppliers like POOLCORP cut their prices solely based on volume they are forcing the quality of customer service down and down. After a long enough period of time any supplier who incurs additional cost by adding value to his sale through educating the consumer or easy returns or flexible credit or any number of other customer services, will eventually lose market share. As fashionable as it may be to decry the federal government’s intrusion into the marketplace, this is exactly what government is supposed to do — make sure that monopolistic giants do not distort the free marketplace.

Now, if the manufacturers who sell to the Internet suppliers will fire all their MBAs, the business consumers who understand that customer service is actually worth something will have a chance to compete with value added products against the low overhead business who competes only on price.

— Paul Wahler, Pool Service Co., Arlington, Va.

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