Rug Doctor office moves to Eldersburg SOUTHEAST--Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

March 10, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Tom Sheets has a prescription for your ailing carpet.

The district manager for Rug Doctor, a national carpet-cleaning equipment rental company, recently moved his regional office from Hanover, near Baltimore-Washington International Airport, to Eldersburg.

Although Mr. Sheets can't rent you one of his bright-red, EZ-1 models at his Eldersburg Business Center office, he can direct you to one of about 55 rental outlets in grocery stores and hardware centers in Carroll County.

"This is a much nicer building," Mr. Sheets said of the 3,000-square-foot office and maintenance shop space. "Carroll County is more centrally located in my district, and it's only eight miles from my house [in Cooksville]."

The 900-plus outlet district, serviced by four company representatives and two repair people, includes Maryland, Washington, northern Virginia, West Virginia and half of Delaware.

"Hopefully, in another six months, we'll have another route," said Mr. Sheets, who is responsible for finding new rental outlets. "We anticipate close to 1,000 in the [district] and we should keep increasing."

The company, started 20 years ago in Fresno, Calif., works through established retail outlets because they already have regular clients.

"People are more inclined to go where they shop and already know the people than to go rent somewhere else," Mr. Sheets said. "We have local people renting from local people."

Dealers need only provide space for the products, which are serviced and maintained at least once a month by a Rug Doctor representative, Mr. Sheets said.

"The representatives check out the refill chamber and the vacuum motor to make sure the pressure is right" on each machine, he said. "If something is wrong, they replace it with another one and bring the broken one here to be repaired.

"A lot of companies don't service their products like they should. If one is broken, they take it and send it off to be repaired without replacing it, leaving the customer with nothing."

Mr. Sheets said the carpet cleaners, which weigh about 50 pounds and rent for about $19.95, are easy to use. Customers must also purchase cleaning chemicals, which brings the rental price to about $40, he said.

Right after Mr. Sheets returned to the company last July, he brought home an EZ-1 model to clean the 3,500 square feet of carpet in his home. As a professional carpet cleaner for 10 years, Mr. Sheets had always cleaned the rugs in his home. But this time, by the time he returned from work, his wife had cleaned the entire house, he said.

"She liked it so much, she went over and cleaned a friend's carpet," he said. "It's not an easy job, but we make it as easy and as good a piece of equipment as anyone, if not better."

Rug Doctor uses national television advertising and cooperative ads with dealers to publicize its product, Mr. Sheets said. Television advertisements often run in postgame shows and programs like "The Cosby Show," he said.

"We are trying to key in on the wife, because 90 percent of carpets are cleaned by women," Mr. Sheets said.

The most effective form of advertising is word of mouth, he said.

"One happy customer will pick you up 10," Mr. Sheets said. "Of course, it can work the other way. An unhappy customer can lose you 10 potential customers."

Mr. Sheets said Rug Doctor stresses customer service. All complaints are directed to his office and are answered promptly, even on weekends.

"Our goal is 100 percent customer satisfaction," he said. "I will call the person, even come to the home if necessary, to correct a problem. There are few complaints, but they are all handled."

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