How industry professionals are handling the coronavirus outbreak
Superior Pool Products in Palm Desert, California, is taking a number of precautions in order to continue providing supplies to its pool pro customers, but also abide by social distancing. In addition to sanitizing all surfaces in the store regularly, a six- to 10-foot social distancing barrier is barricaded by caution tape to keep customers at a safe distance.
“We have been using a net and pole to give invoices and wear new gloves for each transaction,” says Brooke Reynolds, inside sales rep for the store. “We spray the net and pens with Lysol throughout the day. The door to the store is left open so that the customers and employees can enter and leave without having to touch the door handles, and we installed two antibacterial dispensers on walls for customers to use.”
Superior Pool Products is offering 100% paid sick leave for employees infected with COVID-19 and two-thirds pay for employees who have to stay home with their children due to school being closed. Specials and discounts are also available for customers in order to help pool pros with the cost of essential supplies.
“I’ve had a lot of customers thank us for taking this seriously and remaining open so they can continue to work as well,” Reynolds says. “Our customers are some of the hardest working people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. We are doing everything in our power to ensure the pool professionals have the supplies and equipment they need to help properly maintain the water, while observing the CDC recommended guidelines.”
Business for Cannonball Pool & Spa in southeastern North Carolina is predominantly servicing pools at vacation rentals and commercial pools. Owner Peter Gittrich says that his business will be reduced by at least 50% every month that shelter-at-home mandates continue. “The rentals are closed and the state shut down all community pools,” Gittrich says. “[My business is] stuck in winter mode for now.”
Gittrich isn’t sure anything can be done to make up for the lost business. “With maintenance, once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he says. “We can’t repeat the month of April or May after it passes. Maybe I’ll advertise more to try to increase the amount of customers we have.”
Counting Gittrich, the company has four full time employees. Typically he adds five or six more part time employees from April to September, but he won’t be this year until community pools and vacation rentals are opened again. “I’m trying to keep my full-time employees working, but if the summer gets canceled that would be bad news,” he says.
With the expansion of the SBA 7(a) payroll loan through the government’s stimulus bill response to COVID-19’s economic impact, Gittrich says that he may consider applying in order to keep his employees on the payroll.
He also contacted his bank to inquire about a home equity loan in case he needs cash, but isn’t sure he wants to risk that option. “That would put me in a worse place next year if things don’t improve,” he says of how the economy could negatively impact the value of his home.
Cannonball Pool & Spa has expanded into home warranty repair calls, but Gittrich says they are only trickling in — nothing like consistent maintenance work. “I have cash reserves, but the longer this goes on, the worse things get,” he says.
Alliance Pool Works, Inc. serves 120 pools in the Tyler, Texas, area. Owner David Sage enacted a new protocol for his service technicians out in the field when the COVID-19 outbreak progressed in late March, which includes sanitizing hands before and after serving each customer and using sanitizer on yard gate latches.
“All it takes is for us to come behind a sick yard guy, and we’d spread it to all my customers, since we could be infected and not know it yet,” Sage says. “We’re using a damp, slightly chlorinated rag to wipe down any gate latches and controls our customers might touch [before and after use]. I don’t want them to get sick, so we’re going the extra mile.”
William Dotson, service manager for Crystaline Pool Service in Canton, Georgia, sent out a mass email to customers explaining precautions and asking them to stay in the house while he is there servicing the pool. The email read:
“Good morning. I will be continuing to service your pool so we don’t turn pools green and create more problems. Plus, it will be safe for you to swim in your pool because the coronavirus cannot survive in a chlorinated pool, per government regulation. The only thing that I ask is you please stay in your house while I’m there — as much as I love my customers and like talking to them — until we pass this nasty thing going around.”
Dotson also recommends that pool pros consider working with their customers in regard to fees during this time of financial strain so that pools can remain clean, especially if they are longtime customers.