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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

This meeting's a Buster!

Posted on April 13, 2011 at 5:21 PM

One of my real peeves is when our showroom is closed down in the middle of the day. I hate it, hate it, HATE it. I know that time and unforeseen circumstances befall us all, and sometimes there is no avoiding those, "My wife went into labor! The baby came two weeks early! Seriously! This was totally unexpected! I'm SO sorry!" I have this weird sense of honor and duty that when your business hours are posted, you should BE OPEN DURING THOSE HOURS!


And I’ve personally gone to other businesses during the day, making a special trip and all, and arrived only to find that hateful “We’ll be right back!” sign on the door. This does not endear me to want to come back again later when YOU'VE decided to come back to do your job. And unless that sign says, “Sudden outbreak of cholera! Closed by order of Ministry of Health!” then I want you to be open! I did my job to come; you do your job and be there.


In line with this philosophy, I normally never leave for lunch; I bring my daily pittance of fruit and chip bag and just work through the day at my desk, nibbling on chips as the occasional power-up is required and ensuring that the store is always open and ready to receive business. My partner, Al, on the other hand, takes a much more relaxed and cavalier attitude to shutting the store during our 10 – 6 hours. Decide he needs to suddenly run to the bank? No problem. Just throw a sign up on the door. Need to go grab a Coke Mountain Dew? A sign’ll do ya. Gets a little slow on a Saturday afternoon? Ahh, let’s just shut’er down early. When I return from a service call and find a sign on the door – “HAD TO RUN OUT; WE’LL BE BACK IN 30 MINUTES” – a bit of my spleen breaks off and dies. (The spleen does have magical regenerative powers, right?)


I say this, because when I tell you that I had to close down our store for about 90 minutes today, I want you to understand what a rare, sacrificial moment that is for me. It started with a phone call from our number one builder, Bill. Bill calls up and says he has a client that is doing a remodel and that she has flown into town and is only here today and wants to meet. She wants to do automated lighting – Cherry – and automated shading – Second Cherry! – and a home theater! Triple-Cherry! Jackpot! Ching-ching-ching! But, she can only meet today, and she has a window in her schedule in about 30 minutes. Al is out on a job. Andrew is out on a job. I’m the only one. Crisis. Sophie’s choice. Do I close the store and get the job or do I risk losing the job and man the desk?


So, I load up some Lutron stuff, grab my tape measure and a notebook and jump in the van and head to the job. I get there and am met by a man as I enter the house. “Hi. I’m John with Custom Theater and Audio. Are you the homeowner?”


“Oh, no. I’m her personal assistant. I’m just here to take care of whatever she needs.”


Nice. Very nice. People that have personal assistants that follow them around to take care of their needs and whims? Them’s the kinds of people that like to spend crazy money on things. “I don’t care how much that costs! I want all of my wall plates in brushed nickel! ALL OF THEM! Now stop your jibber-jabber and get me that egg-cream soda I asked you for before I get in a snit!” So Jeeves takes me upstairs and introduces me to the client. Except she is deep in a discussion with the cabinet man. They are redesigning the custom cabinetry and enclosures for her high-end refrigerator and whatnot. That’s OK. The house is sitting right on the ocean, in prime Pawley’s Island real-estate and I’m thinking that it is gonna be worth the wait. So I see the 8 windows that look like prime candidates for shading and I whip out my tape start taking measurements, thinking about all that sweet shade money that’s about to come rollin’ in.


So after about 35 minutes she finally finishes with the cabinet guy and it’s my turn. “Hi, I’m John with Custom Theater and Audio.”


“Hello, John. And what is it that you do?”


“We handle pretty much anything to do with audio and video and automation. Bill said that you were interested in doing some lighting and shading control, and that’s what we would handle for you. We’re full Lutron dealers so we can take care of whatever you’d like.”


“Oh, excellent!”


I then launch into this discussion about automation and how the lights and shades can work together and can be controlled remotely by an iPad and how they can automatically lower the shading at sunset and all those cool things that people interested in automated lighting and shading are normally wanting to hear about. I’m giving her the full heated Corinthian leather seats, lighted cupholders, built-in handsfree Bluetooth pitch.


“Well, it’s a vacation home,” she interrupts, “so we wouldn’t need any of that. What I want is to control all of the lights – Yes, say it! Say it! All of the lights in the home! We’re both thinking it! – in this room. So these 6 cans and the fan light. Oh, and two lamps over by the bed. Can you handle that?”


“Umm, sure. Just those three lighting zones? That’s it?”


“Yes.”


“Ohhhh-kay. Well, you know because the system is wireless, we could retrofit the whole house if you wanted. We could replace the old switches and do lighting control throughout...” I’m saying this thinking that maybe she just didn’t understand. Like, you know, she’s thinking that she could ONLY do this room because it was the part being remodeled. I’m selling, people, fast and loose and from the hip.


“No. Just this room. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and take some medication...” So she leaves for like 10 minutes where me, Builder Bill and the electrician are just standing there hum-de-humming. So I mention that instead of having a 4-gang box at the entry to the room, we could easily make that just a single gang keypad and streamline the wall clutter. Bill says fine, whatever the client wants. Electrician says fine, whatever the client wants.


So she returns with this serious handful of pills. It looks like 15 Ibuprofen and a big other something. And she slowly starts taking them one at a time. So I start trying to explain that we could have Option A) JUST a single gang keypad at the entry or B) The keypad AND the three switches. This results in a 20 minutes round-and-round about the pros-and-cons and a moment where she says, “You are just going to have to sketch me a drawing of what you’re talking about” where I draw a 4-gang wall box and then she responds with “That doesn’t tell me anything. I’m going to need to see a picture.” All the while I’m trying to explain that you have to, MUST have the three switches; that you’re not getting around NOT buying the three switches; it is just a matter of where we install the three switches. (I think that I just unlocked the Double-Semi badge for managing to work a double semi-colon into a sentence! Not even sure if that falls under any rules of grammar but I’m gonna totally own it!) Finally either the light goes on or the medicine has stilled her will to fight and we just decide to do whatever I think is best. So, single keypad at the entry, check!


“OK. Now. Let’s talk about shades. I want to cover all of those windows.”


“Great. I’ve already taken measurements. Now we can put 8 individual shades, or do them in four groups of two. Do you have a preference?”


“That depends. How much do they cost?”


“Well, the price can vary based on the fabric selection and some other variables, but generally it is about $1300 – 1500 per window.”


“Oh. My. GOD! Bill! Did you have any idea they were THAT expensive? Did you?!”


“Well, ma’am, we’ve done them on other jobs and I knew they were pricey.”


“I wanted to spend about $1500 for the ENTIRE JOB! Not per window. No, no. That’s just outrageous. Looks like I’ll be doing my windows manually. What’s the difference really.”


It isn’t really a question, but I go ahead and take it. Since I went ahead and shut the store down and drove the 25 minutes to the jobsite and stood around while she talked to the cabinet man about her bathroom vanity and all. “Well, manually won’t interface with your lighting system. Won’t automatically raise and lower your shades according to specific times of the day, like sunrise to let light in or sunset for privacy. And manual won’t, you know, adjust the shades with the push of a button.”


“Fine. I *guess* wire it for power in case I ever change my mind. Now, let’s talk about home theater."


At this point, she really should have pre-faced this next bit with, "And now...for the coup de grace!" because she was about to plunge her sword of denial and disappointment all the way to the hilt into my hopes for salvaging something decent out of this.


"I recently had a system. It was actually stolen out of my garage just this morning. I bought it for $300 at Target. I just don’t want to drive back up there. So what do you have like that?”


“What home theater systems do I have like something that you bought for $300 at Target?”


“Yes.”


“Nothing. To be honest, we just aren’t in business to sell systems like that. Just as you hired Bill to build you a custom room and your cabinet man to build you custom cabinets, we’re in the business to install custom systems.”


“Well what do you have?”


“Our most entry level system would probably be in the $1500 price range.”


She repsonds to this by making a noise like someone exhaling an I-just-ate-a-bad-muscle burp. I think it is *literally* the sound of the wind being let out of someone’s sails. “And what does THAT get me?”


“Well, a much better speaker package and a receiver that can be easily upgraded. And instead of some box full of parts, you’ll get white speakers for the front and in-ceiling speakers to match your can lights for the surrounds. And a Blu-ray player that will stream Netflix and other on-line services. And if you ever want to upgrade, a system that will be far easier to integrate with.”


“Does it have some kind of iPod dock?”


“Sure.”


“OK. Fine.”


End result, this meeting -- which had all the pre-cog earmarks of a #winning job, in reality was a total bust and not the store closing-worthy event I was counting on. Though, perhaps I might get some sort of recognition for managing to sell the smallest lighting control install job in the history of Lutron.

Categories: April 2011, CTA

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