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  • Ooo Blah Dee
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    So, this Fourth of July, I check for news on LL’s investor page. Nothing. But the website directed me to a survey by Bizrate, so I tell them I’ll roleplay a visit so they can get some feedback. And, to avoid losing my work or posting before finishing, I go offline and compose my thoughts in Word. But at the end, I find Bizrate doesn’t allow enough characters for my entire feedback. So, I’m posting it here.

    I apologize for the time it takes to read this, but visiting the site and writing it up took a good deal of my morning. I get that I’ve made a long list of little annoyances, and it’d be nice if I could just boil it down to save the reader’s time. But, proofreading a website is a tedious business, with lots of little things to get right. That’s why no one wants to bother. But every little hassle we leave on our site, multiplied by millions of visitors, is a tremendous waste of our customers’ time and an insult to their intelligence. Sales revenue is a numbers game. Twenty million aware homeowners become two million visitors to the site. Two million site visitors become 200,000 contacts with our stores or call center. And if you unnecessarily lose 5%, 10% or 20% at any step on the way, you have to discount like crazy to make up for that later in the buying process. If my time this morning, and your time reading this leads to a real improvement there in Toano, it will be worth it.

    I suggest any current or would-be investor actually go on the site, with a specific room project in mind, and see how the search engine, etc. behaves. Or if you want, you can reenter my search terms and see if my results replicate. I used the desktop site, so it’d be interesting to know if the phone site works differently.

    Be forewarned. A close look at our site will make your gut churn as an investor, but will also show you how easy it would be to stop screwing up and set this company right.

    My original comments to Bizrate follow …

    “I’ll type my reactions here as I navigate the website using another window. I searched on “Floor for my half bath” and it brought back three floors. These are the same three suggestions as when I searched a few days ago; I would have thought the site either had more than three options for a half bath or that the suggestions might have changed either due to a new deal or to simply recognizing that, if I’ve come back to search again then I might be looking for something different.

    The three suggestions returned are “Tranquility Ultra 5mm Grizzly Bay Oak LVP” for $2.59, “Tranquility Ultra Waterproof Rustic Reclaimed Oak LVP – 5mm thick” for $2.56, and “Lisbon Cork Castelo Cork” for $3.29. The words “Tranquility Ultra” are in a much smaller font than “Lisbon Cork” so it wasn’t immediately obvious at first that the two LVPs are from the same maker. Just like putting “5mm” at the beginning of one’s name and “- 5mm thick” at the end of the other also obscures their similarity. Just like the Grizzly Bay version does not say Waterproof, while the Rustic Reclaimed does, even though both turn out to be after I go to the trouble of clicking and comparing all three links! Seriously, LL, if a half-bath shopper was looking for waterproof (a reasonable assumption), she’d think that you only offer one based on your search results. But it doesn’t stop there. One of the LVPs is on sale – big yellow tag – but the price difference is only $.03? Okay, maybe that’s a big discount.

    So I open Grizzly Bay in a new window. I notice $.10 savings if I buy a whole pallet, then notice that I’ll have to buy a minimum of one box for $54 that will cover 19.99 sq ft. I realize that I need to measure my room. I also note that somehow a box won’t cover that last .01 square foot of a 4’ by 5’ foot room, just 19.99 sq. ft. Since that is only the diameter of a pencil, it doesn’t matter – unless it’s a defect that occurs in the middle of the plank. But surely LL can’t be selling something that defective. But if they aren’t, then why call out that .01 sq. ft is missing from every box?

    I decide to go measure my room… It’s basically 5’ by 6’ but with a vanity covering part of the floor and a wide doorway to the next room. Could it be under the single box’s 20 sq. ft? I split the floor into three rectangles; 66” x 49.5”, 15.5” x 29” and 11” x 29”. I multiply that out and add it up to 4085 sq. inches, and divide by 144 to get 28.37 sq. ft. (Compare how many customers can do that math, with how close you could get using the Picture It app?) So I’ll need two boxes… unless there’s a product sold in 30 sq. ft. boxes.

    Back to the page for Grizzly Bay …. I then notice the product photo looks a little blurry, and want a closer look. I click “expand” and the photo on my laptop expands from 5.5” by 5” to 7&1/8” by 5” about 20% larger. Not really a close up, but maybe it’s actual size shown? No. I look closer at the photo for clues and notice there’s a J-shaped pattern in the wood grain at the upper left. Then I notice the same J-shape in mirror image on the upper right. Then it hits me. The photo is of a square image, photoshopped to repeat or tile the image to fill a rectangular space, but with the repeated section reversed to obscure the photoshop work. Which makes the product look like the pattern repeats really often, even though it couldn’t — surely.
    So I wonder how big the image is – it shows three plank widths; how wide is a plank? I read the entire page to learn that its comes in 48” lengths, but there’s no info on width. I have to click on the “Specs” tab (next to the “Product Description” one I’m on) and learn that it comes in 6” widths. So the 7 & 1/8” image on my screen with three planks is roughly one third of the actual size – not a lot of detail in that image.

    I then click on the “Reviews” tab, and am surprised to see only photos of rooms reviewers have done. Confused, I scroll down to find the reviews I want and skim the first page. I learn that the product can be damaged by the shipping bands before I receive it, and that glue can block the connecting grooves (two reviewers out of 10), and that it’s not as easy as it looks (again, two out of 10). I wonder if all the reviewers installed it themselves which would suggest that most don’t find it difficult, or if the only people not complaining had professionals install their floor. (Tirerack gives detailed info on their reviewers so you can put it in perspective.) I look for information on the reviewers and only find their name, city and that they are “verified” which I assume to mean they are confirmed purchasers. No detail on whether they are DIYers, like I’m planning for this small project. Consistent with my reaction (above) to the small product image, one reviewer says “Featured picture gives it no justice. I’m very happy. Seems to have a different color shade pop, depending on the lighting.” Looking at the bottom of the page for more reviews, I note that it is “Displaying Reviews 1-10”. I wonder if one out of ten total, one out of ten pages of reviews – I click on “next” to see there are 18 total reviews. I skim the rest. I start to wonder if everyone would recommend to a friend, or if LL only shows the good reviews. Then I find one negative reviewer who said it scratched easily. Not sure how that squares with the “Top coat protects against scratches, scuffs, and stains” claim mentioned in the product description…

    Moving on, for the sake of completeness, I click on the FAQs (which itself is misspelled as “F.A.Q’s”). Reading that tab, I notice that it seems to let me, as a visitor, answer questions! Thinking that can’t be right, I decide to test it. I does take my reply and shows it as “open reply”, (but not as “verified”). But when I click away and return my answer is gone. Leaving me wondering, yet again, what the point of that was…

    Looking at the online shopping links, I’m struck by the fact that the “Add to Cart” link is in red, the traditional color for stop, while “Add Sample” is in caution yellow. While still wondering what “Add sample” even means and whether they are free, I notice and wonder why the “Add to Favorites” link is in black. Wondering what red, yellow, black symbolizes, I search and find the Wikipedia page for flag colors and learn than only Germany and Belgium and to a lesser extent, Angola use our color combination. Again, what is the point of that?

    Plowing on, I notice that although only three floors were suggested based on my search, each floor shows five suggested products I might need to complete my project. The Grizzly Bay LVP suggests I might need base board and toe molding. The 7” colonial base is shown twice, same link, no idea why. The 5” base is labelled PFJ (pine, finger-jointed) but the photo is clearly the man-made MDF product. One toe mold is described as 11/16 x 11/16 PJF; its photo fits those dimensions but clearly shows an MDF. (Five years ago “Mike” clearly asked about this in the FAQ, “Is this the same base molding as your 9/16″ x 5-1/4″ x 8′ PFJ Primed Colonial Baseboard but in a 12′ length? I’d like to order some 12′ and 8′ lengths but want to be sure they will match. The picture that goes with this product seems to show an MDF profile so I’m not sure I can trust it as far as the profile is concerned.” but the verified answer ignored his questions about length and MDF vs. PFJ. “Yes they are the same profile. Thank you for your interest in our flooring products.”) The other toe mold has no photo, only a line drawing of its profile; unfortunately the product is longer on one side (9/16 x ¾) but the drawing does not match the dimensions.

    Around this time I noticed that each of three products suggested for my half-bath project has 15 to 25 suggested add-ons I might need to finish my project. Which is kind of a lot considering it could only find three floors.

    Additionally, some products’ titles give their length (e.g., 9/16 x 5&1/4x 12’) and some do not. Clicking on the description for the ones that don’t shows that some only say “8lft”. Now, I’m a guy who knows what eight linear feet means, but do you really only want to sell to me? Do you mean to annoy my wife if she goes shopping online? Honestly, the verbiage and information throughout the site is a confused blend of industry terms that pros and contractors use, and terms flooring shoppers would use. The site is trying to have it both ways, or just half-assing it, and annoying everybody.

    Which takes me back to the pricing. Everything is priced per square foot for the flooring and per linear foot for the moldings, even though I cannot buy a half box of flooring or just three feet of baseboard. Do you guys buy sheets of toilet paper for $.0012 each? Or four rolls for $1.49? It’s about connecting with the shopper where she is. Not making her come to you.

    Continuing on, the suggested products for the second Tranquility Ultra 5mm LVP (Rustic Reclaimed) are totally different than for Grizzly Bay – no toe mold, one base board – but with four coordinating Rustic Reclaimed patterned products; two sizes of drop-in grills and both treads and risers for a stair project. Now, I get that the site is trying to show all the coordinating SKUs, but do they really think I have stairs in my half bath? Worse, the Rustic Reclaimed base board and the 7.5” reducer threshold that you might have sold on my bath project are buried on the 3rd and 4th tabs of add-ons.

    Finally, in the same way, the suggested products for the Lisbon Cork lead off with the five low-value, commodity like primed moldings, except that each one is shown twice so that the shopper doesn’t get to the high value coordinating products until the third page of add-ons. And those coordinating products are all shown just once.

    For the website to be set up this badly indicates either; 1. carelessness to the point of inconsiderate rudeness, 2. deliberate sabotage by an employee or contractor working for a competitor or short investor syndicate or 3. some employees’ attempt to hold on to their job by obfuscating what could be easily simplified. Or all three.

    Moving on, I decide I want something between the light colored Grizzly Bay and the dark Rustic Reclaimed. I look to the pull-down menus to the left of those choices, and click on “color shade’, “waterproof”, “Quick click”, etc. to see that there are only three items fit my search. But I remember other colors being shown so I know they are there. So I clear all my choices at the pull-downs. Presto. Nothing is cleared, it is my original search for half bath that is limiting me to just three floors. So I eliminate “for my” and search on “floor half bath” – Same three items. Finally, I eliminate “floor” and search “half bath” to get 17 choices, but not including anything by Tranquility Ultra or the original Lisbon Cork. Of these, six are Bamboo and six are engineered. None of them are waterproof apparently, since that filter has been dropped from the pull downs on the left. Then I realize the search engine did not recognize my input for “half bath” and substituted “hand ash”.

    For fun, I search on “half ass” to see if it takes me to the investor page. The engine returns 172 suggestions, the most yet, but it has substituted “hand as”. So it’s not really saying 172 of our products are half ass. It just looks that way to the on-line customer.

    I decide to search simply on “Bath”. That brings up four suggestions — the original three products of Grizzly Bay, Rustic Reclaimed and Lisbon Cork, plus apparently because I’m now searching for an entire bath, not a half, it suggests I might need eight feet of American Walnut Countertop. (Really, when you think about it, the cockamamie suggestions of our search engine goes a long way toward explaining some of the unfortunate design choices some of our customers proudly post on our site.)

    I search on “bathroom”, and now I get only the same two Tranquililty LVPs. I try “bath room” (two words) and get the same thing.

    I think that’s enough feedback for now, assuming anyone at LL HQ is interested in something as trivial as the website.”

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