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Fabric Scams:

  • Stain Resistant Treatments
  • Don't ever buy add-on stain resistant treatments. Virtually all modern decorative fabrics already have a stain resistant treatment added right at the fabric mill. Furniture stores and interior designers who try to sell you expensive add-on treatments, usually for ridiculous prices, are scamming you.

    You have all heard of Scotchgarding, which is the most widely-known stain resistant treatment used on decorative fabrics. Many fabric manufacturers use their own "house brands" of stain resistant treatments on many of their fabrics. Covington Fabrics calls theirs "Covgard", for instance. You will often see these treatments noted on the selvage of the fabric. All of the various treatment names end in "-gard", so just look for that suffix somewhere on the selvage.

  • The Inflated Estimate Scam
  • Over the years, my family has seen this scam very frequently from interior designers and interior decorators. Many of these people routinely inflate materials estimates to provide "insurance" against their own mistakes in measuring and estimating quantities of materials needed to decorate their clients' homes - fabrics, wallpaper, trimmings, carpeting, etc. This is the standard procedure for many businesses in the trade. Upholsterers and wallpaper installers we have known over the years have told us that they see this scam frequently from designers and decorators, too.

    We have returned tens of thousands of yards of extra, unneeded, wasted fabric to interior designers and interior decorators over the years. Most of the custom orders we received in our factory and custom workroom over the years were submitted with far more fabric than was necessary to do the work. We routinely returned 1 to 3 yards of wasted fabric to designers and decorators on small jobs (such as a pair of pillows or a small window valance) and even small ROLLS of fabric on larger jobs (such as a large pair of draperies).

    Guess who paid for all of the yards and yards of wasted fabric? Hint: It wasn't the designers and decorators. In fact, most of them actually enjoyed a bigger commission on the job because of the excess fabric they persuaded their clients to purchase.

    The vast majority of interior designers and interior decorators have no more training, knowledge, or experience in the manufacturing and installation of custom home furnishings than you do. Wallpapering, sewing, and upholstery are generally not taught in interior design schools. I have never seen a single interior design school course catalog that listed any classes that teach designers how to sew window treatments, put up wallpaper, or do any other type of custom manufacturing or installation. It is extremely rare for an interior designer or interior decorator to have any prior experience in manufacturing or installation. I have certainly never met one who did.

    If you don't understand how custom furnishings are made well enough to make a correct materials estimate, you have two choices - you can guess too much, or you can guess too little. One has expensive consequences for the designer or decorator. The other does not and can even help the designer or decorator turn a little extra profit on the job.

    Guessing too little will cause major problems for any interior designer or decorator. If there isn't enough fabric to make the draperies or enough wallpaper to cover the room, the designer or decorator is going to have to buy more materials at her own expense to make up the shortage. She might also have to pay an installer to make a return visit and finish the installation. She might even run into dye-lot mismatch problems. Guessing too low on an estimate is a very embarrassing and expensive mistake. Most interior designers and interior decorators only have to have this happen once before they learn not to ever let it happen again.

    Guessing too much is usually undetectable to clients. If the designer or decorator always intentionally makes her estimates a little too high, adding in a few extra yards of fabric or a few extra rolls of wallpaper here and there, she probably won't ever get caught short. Even if she doesn't know the first thing about manufacturing or installation, she can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that it is highly unlikely that she will ever have to pay for any extra materials out of her own pocket or suffer any embarrassment in front of her client. She can even boost her commission a little bit because she will usually be paid a straight percentage of what the labor and materials cost on a decorating job. She can't lose.

    Her clients lose big, however. They're the ones who have to pay for the wasted fabric and wallpaper - not the designer or decorator. The clients usually never even know that they have been ripped off. Most of them don't know how to make correct estimates either. After all, that's why they hired a designer or decorator in the first place and trusted them to do the job right.

    We estimate that most of the consumers served by the designers and decorators we have made custom window treatments for lost between $50.00 and $250.00 on wasted fabrics, depending upon the size of the decorating job that was done. This is just the waste from the work we did. Undoubtedly, many of these consumers also lost money on wasted upholstery fabrics and wallpapers. At an average of $22.00 per yard for fabrics sold through designers and decorators, wasted money adds up fast.

    Only a little more than two wasted yards of an average decorative fabric, an amount we saw wasted routinely on a single window treatment, would result in $50.00 down the drain. The consumer might as well have taken a $50.00 bill out and burned it. Of course, the designer or decorator would lose out on her $25.00 commission on the sale of the fabric if that happened.

    Most consumers who have custom home furnishings made through interior designers and interior decorators fall victim to this scam - usually without ever realizing it. Don't be one of them. It is completely unnecessary for you to ever risk getting ripped off this way.

    Use the guidelines in The Insider's Guide To Buying Home Furnishings to estimate the amount of fabric, wallpaper, carpet, trimmings, and other materials you need to decorate your home. If you need more specialized advice than this book offers, consult the manufacturer, workroom, or installer who will be working on your decorating job.

    These businesses are much more knowledgeable about the manufacturing and installation of custom home furnishings than designers and decorators, have no incentive to inflate estimates because they don't collect a commission on the sale of your materials, and routinely do these estimates for clients at no charge. You can't lose.

  • Where Does All Of the Wasted Fabric Go?
  • What happens to all of the tens of thousands of yards of fabric that interior designers and interior decorators all over the United States waste every year? We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fabric here. Where does it all disappear to? Who is getting all of this "free" fabric?

    The designer or decorator? Sometimes. Once, I went out to a designer's own home to measure her windows for draperies, and she showed me a chair upholstered in leftover fabric we had recently returned to her on a custom drapery job. She even commented that she had gotten the fabric free because it was left over from one of her clients' homes. She was quite pleased with herself about the great bargain she had gotten.

    I wonder what her client would have thought if she had ever found out about this - which, of course, she never will. She helped pay for the designer's new chair. It only seems fair that she should have an opportunity to express her opinion about it.

    Over the years, a number of designers and decorators brought in pieces of fabric that were left over from their clients' jobs to have small items, such as pillows and small window treatments, made for themselves. This is a fairly common occurrence.

    The workroom? Sometimes. Usually, the designers and decorators didn't ask us for the wasted fabric, because they didn't have to pay for it. They did usually ask us for a few small scraps of fabric to present to their clients as the total leftovers. This has been the standard procedure for many, many years.

    Some workrooms sell the leftover fabrics. If you only need a few yards of a decorative fabric, contact a custom drapery workroom. They practically give away these leftover pieces of fabric.

    The client who actually foots the bill for the fabric? Virtually never. I have never heard of one single designer or decorator returning the wasted fabric to her client.

    After all, what would the client say? In all likelihood, the client would expect to be reimbursed for the wasted materials because they never should have been ordered in the first place.

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