Friday, November 13, 2009

Susan takes on the Jersey granite industry

My husband is blogging for me today.  He writes:
When Susan and I bought our starter apartment, we needed to renovate the nasty old kitchen. After installing new GloboSwede cabinets, we turned our attention to the countertops. Since the kitchen was small and there wasn’t much countertop space, we thought we could afford something nice like granite.
As with all home renovation projects, Susan attacked this one with the grit and determination of a hungry cheetah on the Serengeti. She did online research, she read Consumer Retorts, we visited Home Despot to look at samples, and so forth. This lasted weeks since Susan always does thorough reconnaissance. Just when I was about to suggest that we maybe don’t need to think about countertops anymore and could just use a sheet of plywood I found on the street, she announced the solution: New Jersey.
Evidently, northern New Jersey has a large population of granite contractors, and Susan had talked to all of them. These are large, gruff, grimy men, cigar smokers mostly, from rough towns like Jersey City and Paterson. Think Sopranos guys, but not as violent, and with a deep appreciation of igneous rock.
Susan made an appointment with a granite guy, and we took a bus to Jersey to see him. He had a countertop showroom with lots of beautiful samples. We looked around and eventually settled on Blue Pearl, a nice blue/gray stone with great texture. I turned over the sample and saw “Made in Norway.” That was a relief. Labor issues matter a lot to me, and granite comes from many countries around the world. I had visions of slave laborers picking away at rocks in dark dungeons. But no African child labor or Chinese prison labor with this Blue Pearl. Probably just one affable, well-paid Norwegian guy and an expensive excavation machine digging up our slab. I could live with that.
Then it was time to negotiate price. I always pull up a chair and pay close attention when Susan gets into bargaining mode. She has many tactics, most of which I don’t even realize are tactics, and she comes at the process from many angles. This one was easy, though. She looked at the price this poor guy quoted and pulled out some information from a different contractor from whom she had extracted an absurdly low price the day before. Susan asked this guy to beat the price. He started sweating. He said something about how his family had to eat, etc., and Susan began pulling me toward the door. He caved.
As Susan was filling out the paperwork, the granite guy took me aside. He looked me in the eye and whispered huskily, “She’s good.”

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