Cheater paper is on the market, there's no doubt about that, and many distributors have no problem selling it. Others believe, however, that purchasers have a right to know what they're signing for before the truck unloads.

"There are so many cheater rolls out there, it is hard to keep up," says Ronnie Kent, owner and president of Associated Paper Inc. in Conyers, Ga.

Cheater rolls are a way for distributors to save money on paper products — albeit very deceitful, as the name implies. Some distributors are knowingly selling these cheater towel and tissue rolls, which advertise as a certain size, length and weight — when in fact they are shortened and "fluffed" to deceive end users. The cheater paper is then sold at a significant savings as a way for dishonest distributors to win accounts and attract new customers.

"If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is," adds Tim Maddy, director of operations for Twin Ports Paper & Supply Co. in Duluth, Minn. "Your cost is less because you're getting less product. The problem lies with distributors who might be misleading end users by selling cheater products."

Facility executives that base purchases on price alone are most often duped by cheaters. The low price tag is attractive, but is only disguising less product as a bargain.

Jeannie Murphy, president and owner of Murphy Sanitary Supply in Broken Arrow, Okla., takes a very strong stance on the importance of honesty when it comes to her customers and cheater rolls.

"I tell my customer right up front," she says, and also explains that Murphy Sanitary Supply puts the cheater info directly on the product description. "We put it right there so the customer can choose."

She gives an example of a tissue roll situation a few years back. For as long as she can remember, the rolls had been 1,000 feet long with 12 rolls to a case, when customers started noticing a change.

"I actually had customers unrolling the paper to measure it themselves; they were so frustrated they were going through the paper so fast," she explains. Turns out, the new rolls were measuring only 770 feet, but the labeling had not signaled any difference.

Murphy isn't the only distributor plagued by the trend towards cheater paper. Sid Sowers, vice president of Huber Inc. out of Wichita, Kan., stresses how important it is for cleaning professionals to work with a reputable distributor, who will know the difference between the 8-inch roll the facility may need and the 7 ¼-inch one managers may purchase unknowingly.

"That's quite of bit of paper towel lost in a case," he says. "You need to make sure you're getting what you're paying for."

In addition to paper costs, cheater rolls can result in increased labor. Restocking frequencies will vary when comparing the expected 1,000-foot roll towel and the 600-foot cheater roll provided. Facilities that go through a lot of tissue will see hefty labor expenses as a result.

Distributors agree that those in the cleaning industry should take advantage of the supplier's knowledge and ask questions. They can provide valuable information and education on products and an honest and reputable distributor will be up front about identifying cheater rolls.

Murphy adds, "If a supplier doesn't keep the end user informed, it's a real disservice. It takes only a minute to show people what the trends are in the industry."

That one minute can mean additional savings for a department.

For additional information about what facility managers are doing to save on paper purchases, click here. Also, learn how paper weight can play into pricing of paper products.

Jennifer Bradley is a freelance writer based in East Troy, Wis.