Manufacturers of single ply roofing membranes offer warranties that vary in duration and conditions of coverage. The warranties typically include a lengthy list of requirements and exclusions. One of the most notable exclusions, which appears in all caps and/or boldface type on some warranties, is a statement that excludes representations or promises made by a representative of the manufacturer which differ from the provisions of the published warranty.
The ‘sales rep’ exclusion highlights a common dilemma. The manufacturer’s sales rep typically has to please several “masters”. The rep has to please the architect and project owner in order to get the manufacturer’s product or system specified. Then the rep has to please the roofing contractor, the first-line customer who will actually purchase and pay the manufacturer (or distributor) for the product. And, of course, the rep has to please the manufacturer with productive sales. In construction, full payment usually follows installation, so the manufacturer’s rep may be involved in site visits, inspections, and warranty processing related to project completion. In order to get paid upon project completion, the rep has to pursue the satisfaction of all these parties – the roofing contractor, the architect, the owner, the manufacturer, and maybe even a few others. That may be a tall order under circumstances where the interests of those parties are not all aligned, and one outcome may be a promise that cannot be kept. The ‘sales rep’ exclusion suggests that manufacturers have had experience with reps making promises that are contrary to the terms of a published warranty, and the exclusion protects the manufacturers from that problem.
Considering again the question “Who is the customer?”, I recall a conversation with a manufacturer’s rep several years ago. We were concerned with the quality of work that was being done by a roofing contractor, and we thought the manufacturer’s rep might be able to help persuade the roofing contractor to do a better job. The rep’s response to our request was very enlightening: “I can’t really help you out with that,” he said. “The roofing contractor is my customer.”