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Not so great experience with Curtain Install

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by LesWilson, Apr 14, 2018.

  1. LesWilson

    LesWilson Member

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    So we ordered a $13K set of curtains and track from "the" major player in the industry. You know, the one that shows up with all the sponsored Google search results. Anyway, they are a system integrator and outsource the hardware. We paid a little extra but we wanted one stop shopping. In the end, it wasn't a good experience and I'd look elsewhere if I have to do another.

    The curtains themselves are high quality and exactly to measure. But their order quotes and invoices as a system integrator are an absolute mess. Probably good for them but for customers, it's hard to work with and make sense of. It was so bad, our TD missed the fact that an entire section of the curtain design was missing from the order. It's 2018 and it felt like we were dealing with a system created in 1990. Support from the client rep wasn't so hot either and our net install suffered for it.

    We have a TD and specialist staff that have designed and built stages in our area for 20 years but just so happen to not have done curtains. Installing the track isn't rocket science and we had the renovation general contractor workers on hand for all the rigging. It should have been straight forward. Unfortunately, the only documentation provided is a packing list. I know it dates me but it was like a giant erector set of parts and you had only the packing list to guide you on what goes with what. A joke really and it made me wonder if the industry is trying to protect an ancient brotherhood of installers. Dunno.

    When I asked about a system diagram, the response was basically "We don't do that." And, there are no high resolution images of assembled track on Google images. It seems very overt and controlling. Their response was "We don't provide diagrams. You have to contact the manufacturer." Back to the messy order to decipher what they sent us. It's ridiculous at this point but I muddled through only to find that in order to access diagrams and drawings, you have to create an account and ask for approval. That took a day and happened too late. The install was done by then. What a joke.

    So buyer beware.
     
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  2. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'm sorry you had such difficulty. True, rigging curtains is not rocket science but it does require specific skills. If you'd never done plumbing would you expect to be able to install a bathroom with a "complete package" of fixtures and pipe and so on from a major supplier?

    I have been asked if a GC or electrical contractor can install a pipe grid or simple curtain and I would never condone it. The skills are unique and hanging things overhead has too many liabilities.

    Usually, when I've seen something like a battens for lighting hung by an electrical contractor, it does not meet usual stage rigging standards.
     
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  3. LesWilson

    LesWilson Member

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    I agree that a GC by itself doesn't have the technical skills. We had that. The rigging engineering was signed off in the blueprints by an engineer. So the GC handled those things well. It was the poor quoting and order forms that caused excess time in review cycles and in our case, missed the fact that only one leg had had been ordered when the design was for two. And the count on the pulley system was also missing. I would have rather looked at a one page diagram to know how to mount the live and dead end bullies and how to thread the rope rather than search YouTube for instructional videos and then recreate it in the air. Simple stuff easily handled with a basic diagram. Not simple until you "know". And then the track coupler cost us a day all for the lack of an exploded parts diagram or something. One coupler was fine, the second hung up put only when opening. And attaching the little rubber bumpers on the 166 carriers was much harder up 20 feet on scaffolding spread all over the stage than if the instructions advised putting them on before installing in them in the tracks. The one pager on the system integrator website didn;t even mention the bumpers .... I could go on.
     
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  4. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    You refer to the vendor as an integrator but I have never heard of an integrator that did not have people on site at least supervising, if not doing the work. Certainly Rosebrand, who comes up in my Google searching, is not an integrator, so it's hard to know what services were reasonable to expect from whichever vendor you did use. It does seem you went to a vendor to buy materials, and had an expectation they provided supervision, from afar. I don't know who does that in this trade. You stated no one on your site had ever rigged a curtain. The problems you had are simply not unusual nor a surprise.

    Had you come to this site prior to installation, I think you would have gotten some guidance and tips about things like sequencing of tasks and such, from people who had done it.

    I am sorry it didn't go well and hope that the next one is easier. A lot of experience here you can take advantage of.
     
  5. microstar

    microstar Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
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    Quite frankly, I think you're barking up the wrong tree here. A couple of months ago I helped a local church install three curtain tracks and sets of curtains (one rigged for bi-parting and two for one-way operation) and a 52' teaser which covered 52' of wall space. I've been in theatre for over 45 years and have fixed lots of curtain track problems but never installed one from scratch. I ordered the curtains and tracks from a VERY large theatrical integrator but planned the install with church volunteers, one of which was a general contractor. I gave the vendor the desired track lengths and curtain dimensions and the bi-parting/one-way information. I specified CWANA (Complete With All Necessary Accessories) for each track.
    Their communication and documentation regarding what and when they were shipping was horrible; I don't think I have a single piece of paper from the order except my credit card receipt and the actual packing slips.

    But here is the take-away on this tale:
    I knew I was dealing with a reputable vendor, so if there were problems with the hardware they would be responsive.
    In fact, after the order was placed, I was quite surprised by the shipping quote, which they said they could not give until everything was packed for shipment. It was about twice what I had budgeted! I asked that several different shipping scenarios be explored, and this was agreed to. I ultimately received a call from my sales rep that said the order had been shipped and who admitted that they had failed to investigate the different scenarios. He offered to eat about $350 of the shipping charges for this mistake, which put the shipping amount back to within reason.
    I knew I was responsible for the install, so I went to various manufacturers' websites and downloaded the INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS for track and hardware, printed them out, and studied them thoroughly before the order arrived. I did not have to "create an account" to access this information.

    The instructions emphasized ASSEMBLING THE TRACK ON THE FLOOR, NOT IN THE AIR.

    When the order arrived, I inventoried the parts, checked them against the packing slips, and matched them to the installation instructions. When install day came, our team of volunteers followed the instructions I had printed out. While there were a few head-scratching moments, the fact that we were standing on the floor with the curtain tracks on sawhorses made all the difference in the world.
    I don't think you anticipated the complexity of the job or were adequately prepared for the task at hand.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
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  6. LesWilson

    LesWilson Member

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    Good points. I used the wrong word. One place that sold drapes and hardware is all I meant. Things like distance between overlapping tracks of biparting curtains for example, we called and asked in absence of a diagram for the hardware. Were told 6". But the order actually had a clamp assuming 3". Next one we'll know better. Earlier planning on our part would have gotten ahead of some of the problems. I think PDF's of hardwaree should have been easily available. That would have prevented our install problems. A better quote and order format would have prevented the order error. Wish I had had time to come here. I posted here to help the next person who is thinking of doing their own install. FWIW
     
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  7. LesWilson

    LesWilson Member

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    That's the tree I'm barking up. There were no instructions to speak of with the detail you were able to bring to bear. Our install was successful save the extra work of installing the bumpers and coupler. I see we weren't alone with order issues.
     
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  8. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Rosebrand (or insert other big googleable company) is a supplier. They'll give/sell you anything you want, with the assumption that you're ordering it because thats what you want and you know why you want it. It sounds like a quote was made and then "parts" were ordered, rather than getting into the actual project management side of what they offer. They will design and specify but its an added layer of cost.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
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  9. egilson1

    egilson1 Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
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    This is the reason I added traveler track to my rigging classes a year ago. Lots of people use them, some know how to move them from line set to line set, few know how to install them from scratch. And although it’s not that complicated it’s one of those things where a little experience goes a long way.

    Ethan
     
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  10. JonCarter

    JonCarter Well-Known Member

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    I'm kinda with @microstar on this. It sounds like the OP 1) didn't know quite what he was ordering and 2) didn't know quite what to do with it when he got it. I don't think it's the supplier's job to build your theatre for you; their job is to supply what you order at the best price. You're supposed to be in the biz; you're supposed to know what you're doing before you try to do it. (And if you don't know, ask somebody who does.) (And if you don't know you don't know, ask anyway.)
     
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  11. LesWilson

    LesWilson Member

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    A. I didn't do the order. The TD who did is a good guy. He says he ordered two legs but we received one. He said he ordered two pulleys but we received one. The convoluted quote and order system of the supplier was a participant in the negative result.
    B. Nobody expected the supplier to build the theater
    C. Having to create an account at the hardware manufacture's website, wait a day for the account to be approved just to access the cut sheet and assembly diagrams is absurd. I'm ignoring that for the main system diagram you had to own Autocad or have an account at the Autocad website in order to use their "Free" viewer for autocad files
    D. All in all, three cut sheets like you get with other equipment would have gone a long way
     
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  12. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I am sympathetic. And I'm not trying to beat you up. Just some ideas for the "next one".

    The ordering system is what it is. I would just go somewhere else if you didn't like it or find it friendly. I'm sure Mainstage up in Pensacola would have sold it to you. It doesn't sound like they didn't ship what was promised, just that the bill of materials was not as clear as it might have been and did not included what you expected. As far as the diagrams and install instructions, had you posted a request here, I would have made them available to you using my account of no one else had. I suspect you could have had them in minutes or an hour or so at most. They are available in pdf. (Personally, I prefer H&H Specialities over ADC track hardware, partly because of better data, but ADC has been around for a long time and lots of folks use it.) Also, is planning one ahead so onerous?

    Truly sorry that you had a bad time but accept it's hard to believe your group doesn't have some responsibility for it. I just can't accept you're victims of some evil company. You may have ended up with a Rosebrand (presumption) order taker on their first day, which would have not helped.

    (I can't think about Rosebrand without wondering what would have happened if had I accepted George Jacobstein's offer to come to NYC and sell gaffers tape on the telephone.......in 1978.)
     
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  13. LesWilson

    LesWilson Member

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    Thanks Bill. I didn't mean to say we couldn't have planned better and I tried to word things in a way that didn't make the supplier out to be evil and we were poor victims. I definitely screwed up not posting here.
     
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  14. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    Seller of Softgoods :dance: Conner, King of Rags! :clap:

    And possibly retired and sipping a beverage while on a beach somewhere. :)
     
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  15. kicknargel

    kicknargel Well-Known Member

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    Is there any compelling reason we're obscuring the vendor in question? Now we're making guesses, which may be unfair.

    I does sound like the vendor committed the fault of sounding more turn-key than they were. I know some vendors quote travel track with a per-foot price for a complete system. But what a complete system requires varies depending on circumstances. I think it would be more honest to either sell parts a'la carte, making it clear that the buyer is speccing the system, or provide professional consultation and guidance. The in-between approach leads to unhappy customers, at least in this case.
     
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  16. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Some things work great as DIY. Some things do not work great as DIY.
     
  17. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    A couple of points:
    Consider the great favor you have done posting this, this will probably pop up in online searches for any one else considering DIY curtain track installation.
    Consider contacting the vendor with suggestions on how the transaction could have been improved.
     

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