Let’s Shine Our Good Apples

By Christopher E. Carter, P.E.

A few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch. Any time new legislation involving construction defect reform comes down the pike, such as the recent House Bill 1338, the building industry always seems to face the same old, tired mantra: “Look at what this big bad builder did to this poor little home owner.” Why? Builders produce good homes. They take care of their customers. So why doesn’t the building industry get a fair shake?

The answer is sensationalism. No one would be outraged and shocked if a local news channel did a story about a problem home that was fixed. That’s boring. People want blood and guts. They want sobbing housewives and grandmothers, and involuntary foreclosures. They want large cracks and flooding basements. They want sloping floors with marbles rolling off in every direction. And they want mold, lots of mold. Media outlets need human tragedy to get ratings and sell advertising. Anyone looking for success stories can always watch golf.

So how can we prevent this constant misrepresentation of the industry? We can’t. As long as there are “unhappy” home owners willing to be used for political gain, or just plain seeking revenge, we can’t. We can however, prepare for when it comes.

This is just Public Relations 101. In the arena of home warranty work, I strongly believe there are many more happy endings than sad endings. I know this personally, because I have been involved in over 200 major structural repairs over the last five years. And believe me, when you have rescued someone’s home from serious structural problems, he’s happy! So why doesn’t the media showcase these stories?

I know there is a reluctance to display dirty laundry, and that is a valid reservation. But couldn’t we at least develop an in-house list of satisfied, grass-roots home owners? A list of people who could be called upon to share their experiences?

Imagine a bus load of these folks showing up at the state capitol with their picket signs and bullhorns. Imagine them flooding subcommittee meetings and testifying before the Legislature. Imagine them wanting to do this because they believe in our products and the future of our local economy. Now imagine them facing down the opposition, who may be equally as energized. Sounds like equal time to me. It might even be newsworthy.