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Random Thoughts (Blog)

Drop their name and twist the knife again

Posted on July 10, 2011 at 6:54 PM

One of the on-going blowbacks from the unceremonious severing of ties between us and They Who Shall Not Be Named (TWSNBN) was that we now have a showroom full of speakers and electronics still on display for which we are no longer authorized dealers. At current count we have a 7-channel Diamond-series system, a 5.1-channel 700-series system, some CM towers and various 600-series models with a retail value of like $30+ thou. And there’s really not much that we can do to support these products, short of explain they are floor models, we’re no longer a dealer, and would you like to give them a home?


In some ways, these disenfranchised speakers are like beautiful, sweet-sounding orphans; abandoned by their parents, they are now forced to try and wipe the crumbs and stickiness from their faces whenever some new visitor comes into the showroom, hoping to smile brightly and say all the right things so that they can be marked-down and find a new home for their manufacturer warranty-less selves.


So after everything else I did at work this past Saturday this couple comes in around 3 PM. I’ve done quite a bit of work with them over the years, including a fairly major housewide audio retro in their home that is literally like 1 mile from mine. The guy is a doctor, so, of course, I call him Doc. He’s a dermatologist and he has a long history of picking, cutting, freeze-burning chunks of questionable skin and moles from my CTA partner, Al’s, body. Al always comes back from these visits exclaiming that Doc is some kind of twisted, evil sadist that loves nothing more than to debride his pounds of flesh. (Doc also has the unfortunate occupational “pleasure” of diagnosing one of our ex-employees with uh, genital, um, warts. Yeah. So for years we got a lot of comic mileage about Doc handling Little Bill... Look, we’re an all-male company. You want high-brow humor, go try a law office somewhere.) His wife is one of the nicest, sweetest ladies like ever. She is always just so...sweet. Like the total June Cleaver – but way blonder and cuter – mom that would bring in lemonade and make sandwiches with the crusts cut off, smiling all the while.


Now Doc has come by our showroom many times before. Generally he likes to come in at like 5:47 PM and then ask me to demo multiple speakers over and over. Keep in mind that we close at 6. And he has done this to me on like 10 different occasions. Apparently his derma center is just down the street from us, and after a hard day of handling infected genitals and other warts and growths, when he gets off work at 5:30 with a hankering for some audio demo-in’ he swings on in. And he has been circling TWSNBN’s Diamond series speakers literally for years. He comes, he listens, he swoons, he asks how much they are, he agonizes, he listens some more, he says he’ll go and think about it, and then months will go by and the cycle will repeat. Years ago we pre-wired his upstairs bonus room for a theater, and he keeps “threatening” to finish it out.


So, I’m quite pleased that we’re able to begin this encounter at 3 with PLENTY of time left before closing. So he says that he’s heard we’re not TWSNBN dealers anymore, and after we rehash the whole unpleasantness of the TWSNBN episode I tell him that we definitely want to sell off all of our remaining speaker inventory and that we'll offer him 20% off. It turns out that their son is about to leave home to go to school or something, and that apparently they need to do something within the next couple of weeks to finish out that upstairs room. (I’m hazy on the exact nature of the time crunch, but, hey, you have some impending need for a surround system, I’m not really one to try and get to the bottom of it.)


I set up the CM and 700 series towers and we start listening to some music. In the past, Doc usually brings in his iPod filled with just AWFUL live recordings that he’s made. I mean, seriously, when you are going to audition speakers, listening through the headphone output of an iPod of music that you’ve recorded with concealed microphones under your ballcap from the overdriven PA at House of Blues is NOT anywhere near the ideal source reference material. It is just totally blaring and overdriven and sounds like when someone calls you from a concert and screams into their cell phone, “DUDE! CAN YOU HEAR THIS?! I’M AT A SHOW! I’M HOLDING UP THE PHONE! CAN YOU HEAR THAT?! TOTALLY SWEET, RIGHT?! DUDE?” Fortunately he is sans iPod this visit so I’m free to supply the source material.


I start by picking a couple of tracks from the Kaleidescape that I really enjoy demo-ing with. First is “Aerial Boundaries” and “Rickover’s Dream” from Michael Hedges album Aerial Boundaries – very quick, steel-string acoustic guitar that really shows off how good a speaker system can sound – and then “Say Goodbye” from Dave Matthews Crash and finally “A Case of You” from Diana Krall’s Live in Paris.


After listening for a bit – and then playing some random, haphazard tracks that Doc picks from our Kaleidescape collection -- his wife is basically, “Look, you need to just make a decision. We need to get something and I don’t really care what it is. I’m fine with either one. Just...choose.”


So, I decide to just, you know, stick the knife in a little. “Doc, I know you’ve always loved the Diamond towers. Why don’t you just come in and take a listen to those songs in here to establish a reference?” It's the classic "come sit in the Ferrari" moment. Everyone wants to own the Ferrari, all they need is to be given the opportunity. And the nudge.


So we mosey into the big room where the audio performance ratchets up by an order of magnitude. First, the acoustics in the room are SO much better with all of the acoustic treatments on the walls. Then the electronics are WAY better, with separate preamp, amp and bi-wired front channels. Plus, despite the business jack-assery of TWSNBN, the speakers are frickin' amazing. so I restart the audio and it is instantly apparent that we have gone from just listening to music to having an aural and sonic experience. Doc is smiling. I'm smiling. Even the wife is smiling. (She’s also saying, “Yes, these sound really, really nice, but we don’t need anything this expensive.")


We listen for a while and then head out of the “Big Room” and you can see the Doc’s wheels are totally turning. “Hmm, I wonder how that wood color would look in our room?” “Hmm, I wonder if those would be too big?”


So after some hemming-and-hawing they finally decide to just get the 700-series speakers that I have and I work them up a quote. We find the right receiver to pair with them and then they are getting ready to leave and the wife says, “You know, he just turned 50. This is his big present, so I hope he likes them.”


As we’re walking towards the door I decide to stick the knife back in and just…twist it...one…more…time. I turn to the wife and say, “You know, I really like you so I hate to do this but (turning back to the Doc), I know how much you’ve liked and wanted these speakers for so long. You’ve wanted them literally for years now, and I think that if you purchase anything else – no matter how good it is – that you’re always going to regret not having gotten the ones that you really wanted.”


I hold up my Rolex Submariner. “I wanted this watch for years. I wanted it when I was in high school. I wanted it when I moved out of my parent’s house. I wanted it when I got married. For years I wanted this, and I knew that if I bought anything else it would just be money wasted because it wouldn’t be the one that I really wanted. And I think that’s how you’re going to feel with the other speakers.”


Here he turns and looks back at the room longingly for like two beats and then tears his gaze away and looks back to his wife.


“Plus,” I continue, “There’s a lot of satisfaction on our end to sell things to someone that is going to really appreciate them. I know how much you want these speakers, and I know that you’re going to love them. It’s a lot more than just selling them to someone who can merely afford them.”


And it’s totally true. Sure, at the end of the day, it’s ultimately about selling/installing gear and getting the payment that results in a paycheck. But at the same time, all things being equal, it is way more fulfilling to sell them to someone who is going to appreciate them and give them a good home.


“Let’s go in and look at them one more time,” his wife says. And they go in and stroke the Connolly-hide leather and the furniture-grade wood cabinetry.


“OK. Work up your best price on these and give me a call.”


Done and done.

Categories: July 2011, CTA, Music

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