Are You Kidding Me?
Since opening our doors at PJP Buttonwood, we've leased a marginally functional commercial dishwasher from Ecolab. And beyond the aggravation of the machine eating most of our teaspoons, we are charged $75 a month for dishwashing chemicals that we don't need (and never receive). And if you are new around here, suffice it to say that the backstory is that we don't care for being charged for chemicals we don't need. At all. And for months, we've been working toward formally terminating our lease for the dishwasher. Contemplating the eventual removal of our teaspoon devouring machine, we signed a lease in September with Swisher Hygiene company for a commercial dishwasher. In writing, we were guaranteed a lease price a few dollars less a month than Ecolab AND, more importantly, no minimum monthly chemical purchases.
And today, it all finally came together. Right at 8 am, several people from Ecolab arrived to take our dishwasher away while the representative from Swisher stood by to install the new machine.
And you would think that FINALLY our dishwashing saga had found a natural conclusion. But not so much, actually.
As it turns out, Ecolab purchased Swisher Hygiene in August for $40 million dollars in cash. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? A blog reader sent me the tip last week and a quick Google search confirmed all the terrible truth...that in just a few months, we will again be Ecolab customers.
Today when our Swisher rep stopped by, I asked him if he knew that Swisher had been purchased...and he did. When I asked him why he hadn't told us, he had no answer. And when I asked the point of removing the current machine to install a new machine that in a few months will be Ecolab's machine, he basically said that none of it really mattered because the deal hadn't been approved by the Swisher stockholders and if it was, there were a lot of other dishwashing company options available to us.
Oh. Actually, it does matter to us quite a bit.
To start with, we don't want to be an Ecolab customer...ever again. That was something we clearly explained to Swisher (who apparently didn't listen or didn't care...or both). I would expect that had he been listening, he might have disclosed the $40 million cash purchase that had recently gone down.
Secondly, if we switched dishwashers today, I don't want to switch again in a few short months to another company. While the removal of the Ecolab dishwasher didn't take long, the installation of the Swisher machine took a better part of the day. I'm not interested in wasting our time to do it again in a few months because we didn't have full disclosure when signing our new contract.
And perhaps most importantly, I searched around online for commercial dishwasher leasing options and didn't find a lot of other options for our area...so the suggestion that finding another company would be easy isn't really the case. I found a lot of rent-to-own and a few leasing companies that serviced particular areas of the United States, but none that was able to offer full leasing service to Columbia. We could purchase our own dishwasher for $3,000 or so, but there are many other needs for a growing small business than purchasing a dishwasher.
Which leads me to my final point...the Federal Trade Commission. Ecolab's purchase of Swisher effectively removes any choice in vendors of commercial dishwashers for so many business, which translates to an anti-trust violation. We are guaranteed under FTC regulation to have choices, and also to maintain competition for the good of all customers. In this case though, businesses in this area needing to lease (and not purchase) their dishwashing machine have significantly fewer options. By the end of the fourth quarter of 2015, Ecolab will assume over 30,000 contracts from Swisher. That is 30,000 customers now locked into buying $75 a month in chemicals. Well played, Ecolab...you'll make back your $40 million purchase price back in no time at all.