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Beware of sales people

I had an interesting experience today. I’m looking to buy 2″ Calcium Silicate board for my own cast in place pizza oven that I’m building at my home. I’m building because, of course I want a pizza oven in our new house, and also to test out the molds we are producing to help others build a great pizza oven at a low cost. I reached out to Distribution International, a large distributor of industrial products, including refractories and high temperature insulation. On the advice of a Good Samaritan on the Forno Bravo Forum, I reached out to them after getting a nearly $500 quote for CalSil boards from Armilcfs.

I emailed, and then called DI. I reached the sales person on the phone who said, in no uncertain terms, that DI didn’t have any stock of CalSil boards in my local office and they would need to ship them—which would probably make the price explode. I hung up and resigned myself to building forms and mixing vermiculite concrete, and then waiting for days while it dried. Then, toward the end of the day I got an email message for a different person in my local DI office, who asked me to clarify what I was looking for (2″ thick, 1800ºF service, roughly 48″ square CalSil board), so I called him. We chatted and he know exactly what I need, and they had it. They buy huge lots of the stuff, and fabricate it to customer requirements, and he could make me a 48×48″ sheet (big enough for a 36″ oven) for $200, and I could pick it up from the local office. That’s close to the cost of vermiculite concrete, it’s a better insulation and a lot less hassle. In other words, it was what I was looking for.

Crazy.

I’m sure I’m not telling you something you don’t already know, but beware of sales people in the pizza oven industry. There are a couple of reasons this piece of general advice particularly applies to pizza ovens.

First, our industry still isn’t very mainstream. Pizza ovens are growing in popularity, but it’s still a lot smaller than the barbecue and grill industry. And where the volumes are a lot lower, the sales people tend to not know the details, or even anything, about our products. The other issue is the sales channels where you can buy pizza ovens. This is particularly trust of the steel pizza ovens, which are sold through the grill, hot tub, wood stove retail store network and through BBQ online stores. Let’s be honest. These people don’t have a clue. And finally, our products (pizza ovens of all types) are very complicated, relative to grills, hot tub, and grills. They’re hard for anyone to master, let alone a grill sales person who need to learn about hundreds of different stainless steel grills.

What should you do, other than read the Biscotto di Sorrento Knowledge Base?

Talk directly with the manufactures. And ask lots questions by email. If the sales person responds by saying “call me, let’s talk about it,” they aren’t being helpful and you should shop elsewhere. Try to get as high up the sale food chain as you can when you’re talking with a manufacture—the sales manager, or the owner, if possible.

Good luck with your pizza oven research.