By Rich Maas
Just about any church can make great use of portable room dividers. They can be a safe, cost-effective long-term investment… but only if you buy thoughtfully.
The biggest mistake I see churches make is buying cheap. Here’s why that’s so risky.
Generally speaking, durable, easy-to-care-for components and finishes represent a higher price point when selecting portable room dividers. For example, our company offers a few different fabric upgrades, including vinyl, which is easier to clean over time. For kitchen or dining areas in a church, that might be important.
Another upgraded fabric is FR701® by Guilford of Maine, which has a tighter weave — 30 threads per linear inch, as opposed to 26 or 28. And if you want to Scotchgard™ it, that represents a cost increase, as well. (Over time, of course, this investment pays for itself.)
Fortunately, quite a few longevity-minded components come standard on our dividers. These include powder-coated metal components, which are far more dense than painted finishes. They can be scratched, but not without a whole lot of effort. Even if a person is successful in doing so, a Sharpie or Magic Marker is enough to mask the blemish.
In terms of fabrics, a light cleaning with a little soap and water is enough for cleaning most of our fabric finishes. For dry-erase finishes — the entire panel can be covered, functioning like a massive marker board — Expo® Dry-Erase Cleaner, or even Windex, both work great.
An ounce of prevention…
As with most of life’s purchases, even when a room divider is built to last, a little preventive maintenance goes a long way.
Each room divider we manufacture features a full-length hinge running from top to bottom, up to 8 feet. Although they’re not prone to wearing out, every few years — yes, years — it’s a good idea to spray a little WD-40 onto a rag and run it up and down the hinge surface. (Just don’t use too much.)
We use ball-bearing casters because they work better than axle-type casters. Casters are another component that respond(s) well to a little preventive maintenance. Though each divider comes ready to use, here again, a little WD-40 squirted into the caster every few years will keep the wheels lubricated. Just move the divider a few feet, and the casters will self-lubricate.
These simple, quick preventive measures could extend a divider’s life by years.
Repeat business is the best endorsement
It’s one thing to say you manufacture a quality product and another thing to prove it, right?
Given human nature and the busy lives many of us lead, a happy customer might not always make time to call a vendor and tell them about the great investment they made. But what will they do? They’ll buy that product again.
So when we try to gauge customer satisfaction, besides nice “reviews,” one of the things we like to focus on is repeat business. For example, I can pull up a random zip code in Arizona and find several repeat church and school customers within a few miles of that zip code. One school district has bought from us 10 times. A Lutheran Church has purchased from us three times, as has another school district. The list goes on.
Perhaps no other indicator(s) speaks more clearly to customer satisfaction.
As you consider the best use of your church’s financial resources, we hope you’ll keep all these tips in mind. And remember: the best price doesn’t always equal the best stewardship.
Rich Maas is vice president at Screenflex Portable Room Dividers in Lake Zurich, IL.