Why buy local?

Local businesses help support local people, events, and fundraising initiatives. So, when donations from local retailers are based on a percentage of profits, the amount of support local retailers get from their local community, directly affects how many funding dollars will be tossed back into the community pot.

The more people support local businesses, the greater the amount of money available to those local persons and charities in need. As a result, by spending your money locally, you’re not only encouraging a local business, but you’re also helping support the local sports teams, theatre, community events, and the many charitable fundraisers. When local businesses make more money, they give more back. When sales are down, we inevitably have less to give. And that’s it. That’s all you’ve got to remember. Buying local helps your neighbors as well as the retail store or local tradesperson you just completed business with. That’s all the incentive anybody should require in order to shop locally.

How do you know when a salesperson isn’t local? Some clues are more evident, such as the fellow who knocks on your front door, introduces himself as Biff or Jett, let’s you know he’s in the neighborhood for the balance of the afternoon and would require only 15 minutes of your time, all while his unmarked, white paneled van is parked road side, still running, with only a silhouette of somebody at the wheel. For all intents and purposes, this guy’s about as local as the red poison-dart frog (more commonly found in the tropical forests of New Guinea).

Why buy local? Because in most cases, the local retailer or professional is going to care more. Not only is it our job to serve people well, and because that’s inherently what local business people strive to do, but we’re also part of the community. So, we live and interact with our customers every day. As a result, it’s in our best interest to be as good as we can.

Why buy local? For the after-sales service. Sometimes, a sale doesn’t go quite as smoothly as expected. Either a part is missing, or the product arrives in the wrong color, is the wrong size, or is damaged. When the customer has purchased a product locally, they’ll find themselves face to face with the person responsible for this misfortune, who by following up with the manufacturer, will hopefully be able to resolve the issue in a timely manner. Regardless of the problem, the key factor here is that you’re “face to face” with the salesperson. When a product is purchased from an out of town retailer, and there’s a problem, you’ll find yourself at the mercy of either a sales representative on line, or on the phone. So, should an issue arise after a product is purchased, what scenario, in your estimation, would present a customer with the best chance of success in resolving an issue, face to face, or over the phone?

Unfortunately, discussions regarding the after-sales service policy are often forgotten, or dismissed as irrelevant when making a purchase, when in fact it should be an element of priority.

Next, if you’ve allowed this travelling salesperson into your home, either because you’re lonely, have day-old baked cookies that need to be eaten, or are actually interested in what this salesperson has to say, please, DON’T SIGN ANYTHING. No matter what the deal, the one-time save 20 per cent today only type offer, or even if it’s a don’t pay for two years if you sign up right now, DON’T SIGN ANYTHING.

This darling salesperson may remind you of your grandson, but your signature gets sent directly to the head office, whereby any second thoughts regarding your purchase will be met with a not so darling pre-suit notice letter from their lawyer. In most cases, you’d have to be a really bad boy to get a lawyer’s letter from a local retailer. That’s why you buy local.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Just hang up on home-repair telemarketers!

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The call usually starts off with a friendly, “Hello, my name is (insert most any non-aggressive name, such as Tabitha, Rose, or Barbie). I represent Wee Willey Windows, and if you’ve been thinking of replacing your outdated windows, it’s your good luck that we have a salesperson in your area today.”

That’s the bait.

Your first mistake was picking up the phone when the number on the screen seemed unfamiliar to you. However, with only about 20 seconds of your life invested into this conversation, it’s still not too late to simply say, “no thanks, I’m not interested,” and hang up.

I know, it’s not easy being abrupt, or even slightly impolite, and after all, you’re being told that today’s your lucky day by a total stranger, so it might very well be true— right? Otherwise, what are the odds of you being singled out in this manner?

Actually, the odds are pretty good.

Tabitha and her friends at Wee Willey Windows couldn’t pick you out of a lineup if the balance of the subjects were members of the Bulgarian weightlifting team.

But they do know you either live in a mature neighborhood, and as a result, may very well own a home in need of renovations; earn a household income that’s higher than the regional average; or, are members of the national jams and jellies of the month club, and have a past history of purchasing online or over the phone.

So, with the lure of “our salesperson being in your neighborhood, just for today, and just for you,” the information regarding the demographic you represent is telling Barbie you most likely will stay on the line. Part of the lure of you choosing a company such as this, totally unknown to you, and totally out of the blue, is of course your opportunity to save money.

“Sign up with us today and save 20 per cent on both the windows and labour to install,” is indeed a big savings, if of course the discount has been reduced from a real price.

Most companies have list prices or suggested retail pricing, which in essence mean nothing, since this pricing is often significantly higher than what would be considered a fair retail price.

So, where’s the savings when a 20 to 25 per cent discount is being offered from a price that is ridiculously high in the first place? The answer is simple, there’s no real deal to be had here.

If the representative from Wee Willey’s should show up at your door, do you let him enter your home? No.

What if they’re well dressed and seem to be holding a tiny ship in a bottle, or cheeses of the world labelled box, which could be a unique type of housewarming gift, just for you? Then, simply out of politeness, do you allow them to enter?

Never.

When the doorbell rings, grab the poker out of the fireplace, or lay your hands on some similar type instrument, keep it behind your back, then open the door and let this person know that unfortunately you will not be entertaining a visit from them today.

If they should move forward in some forceful, aggressive retail-type manner, a determined swing of the poker up between their legs, following through to the neck, should have them re-evaluating the potential success of today’s sales call.

Actually, a sincere “thanks, but no thanks” should have you avoiding any confrontation.

The danger with letting this fly by night salesperson into your home is that they will likely subject you to a 10- to 15-minute video describing the many attributes and advantages of buying a product from a seemingly national supplier. That’s 10 to 15 minutes of you wishing for a power outage, or somebody dropping a bomb on the house, in order for you to be mercifully put out of the misery of having to watch such a rehearsed sales pitch.

Next week, “Why we buy local.”

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Making a house wish list

Nothing like the view from a balcony, though most aren’t as high as this one. Postmedia Network

Building a home this spring? Or, looking to gain a little more living space by putting on an addition?

If this is the case, let’s examine the wish list of home features you and your spouse, if there’s a bit of wiggle room in the budget, and if the landscape permits, should be discussing with your architect.

Please note that the following suggestions are a wish list, as opposed to a dream list of home features. Dream lists are like dream homes, very costly. Wish lists, on the other hand, are far from free, with the following suggestions, or recommendations, no doubt costing you more money than had you stuck with a standard eight ft. deep, rectangular foundation. However, these upgrades are game changers, with the added value of these great home features further differentiating your home from the masses, unless of course everybody starts modifying their homes in the same manner.

Wish list modification #1, the walk out basement. Basically, you’re replacing about six-eight feet of poured concrete with a sliding patio door. The benefit to a walkout basement is of course the fact you’ve now linked the buried portion of your home to the exterior. With an abundance of natural light, and a straight out access to the back yard, you’ll be effectively turning what was traditionally a dungeon, into comfortable living space.

A key factor in making a walkout basement a reality will be the landscaping. How your property manages the rain and snow melt will be essential construction details. Structurally, the walkout basement is a very doable, and feasible adaptation to most regular foundations.

The challenge will lie in preventing the water runoff from pooling at what will be the lowest point of the above grade portion of the home, which will be where the basement’s patio door meets your concrete or interlocking stone platform. So, once the walkout basement has been engineered and drawn up on paper, hand the plans over to a landscape designer. Don’t move forward on your walkout basement project until a landscape designer or engineer, can figure out where to divert the rain water.

Next, if your home or addition is going to have a second story, consider having a balcony extending off the master bedroom. If a walkout basement is going to be a reality, then a balcony overtop makes for the perfect house accompaniment. Basically, balconies are like backyard decks, there’s no mistake to be made with having one, other than going too small. So, whether a balcony is designed to serve a specific room, or extend the entire width of the home, you’re always going to enjoy time spent on a balcony. Similar to a walkout basement, a balcony added to a home after the fact will incur plenty of engineering and construction costs, while making it part of the original plans basically requires the contractor extending the floor joists and pouring a few cement footings in order to accept the supporting pillars. So, if there’s room in the budget, do the balcony now.

Reasons for a balcony? Better sun, better breeze, better view, if it’s a choice between deck or balcony, the balcony is always a better experience. Plus, the security, tranquility, and peace of mind to being on a balcony simply makes it superior to ground level living. When you’re on your balcony, enjoying an early morning coffee, or late night tea, the odds of you being interrupted by the neighbor’s cat, or the neighbor’s dog, or the neighbor, drop to zero.

Next, consider installing skylights. General work areas such as your kitchen, bathroom, or exercise room, will benefit greatly from the supplementary, natural light offered by a couple of skylights. Now, you may ask, don’t skylights leak? Like everything else, they leak eventually. So, and like everything else, some maintenance is required. Regardless, skylights are a terrific modification.

Next week, more wish list tips. Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Fiddling on the roof

Up on the roof? Making sure you’re tethered is a very good idea. Postmedia Network

Saw a fellow the other day using one of those high powered gas leaf blowers. Got no problem with that, and as a matter of fact, I own one of these noise pollution, raise the dead type of machines, myself.

He was cleaning his eavestroughing, aka the roof gutters. Got no problem with that either. Although using a tool of this magnitude is akin to rinsing your dinner dishes with a pressure washer, this procedure seemed somewhat more effective than my strategy of climbing a ladder, scooping out leaf matter with my hands, then flushing the remaining debris through with the garden hose.

What was most interesting though, was that this fellow was operating his leaf blower while walking along the edge of his roof, untethered, staring death right in the face, moving with the same relaxed, confident manner he would have possessed had he been blowing leaves off his garden path.

I might have a few reservations concerning this strategy. If I’m going for a walk, and happen to see a person up on a roof, I take notice of two things. One, I look to see how this person has tethered, or secured him or herself to the roof. This, not only for safety reasons, but the fines for this type of noncompliance can be severe, so I’m hoping this contractor is following the rules. And two, I try to see if there’s a logo on the door of the pickup truck parked in the driveway, just to see which local company has been hired to do whatever task is at hand.

In this case there was no tether, no lifeline, not even a tree branch to reach out to in some last leap of faith should this fellow stumble, and of course, nothing but regular, noncommercial type vehicles in the driveway.

So, we’ve got an untethered homeowner, perhaps a father, maybe a grandfather, up on his roof, one step away from disaster. So, for all you young fellows and young ladies out there, who own homes and may have witnessed this gentleman calmly going about his untethered roofing yard work, DON’T DO THIS.

Being in the retail building supply biz, we see a lot of the same contractors every day. Occasionally, we won’t see a fellow for a few weeks. This is concerning, which leads us to inquire into this fellow’s well-being, or asking our fellow staff members and other contractors if they’ve seen this fellow around or not. Then, he shows up, hobbling down our center aisle with the aid of crutches, with what appears to be a Volkswagen Jetta clamped onto his left foot. Fell off a ladder, fell off a scaffold, or fell off a garage roof, in 99.9 per cent of the cases that lead to injury, the word “fell” is in the claims report.

My wife and I are currently watching a drug cartel, bad guys chasing good guys, who are chasing other bad guys, type of action drama. With all this chasing, men and women are constantly jumping down from first or second floor apartment dwellings and tiered parking lots, landing on some platform or the street below, often falling a couple of body lengths. Through one and a half seasons of such activity, what’s amazing is how effective the art of ‘tuck and roll’ has served in saving the show’s main characters from minimally incurring a sprained ankle, or even suffering a loss of breath. The hero and heroine either jump or are tossed down, tuck and roll, dust themselves off, then start running again. It’s like they’re all cats. Needless to say, when non-Hollywood humans fall from 8-10 feet, a break or sprain is usually the best case scenario. In most cases, things shatter, leading to months of recovery. So, if you’ve got roof work to perform, and you’re adamant in wanting to complete this task yourself, invest in a roofer’s safety harness, it’ll at least give those passing by a little peace of mind.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard