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Random Thoughts (Blog)

Mo' Custom, Mo' Problems

Posted on October 9, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Lest you all think that I just sit around at work all day listening to the sound of my arteries hardening, trolling the Internet for the latest The Gregory Brothers autotuned masterpiece, or working on some new 2500 word blogging manifesto, I thought I’d share not one but TWO calls I received yesterday. These share the kinds of “oh, this crazy, crazy world we work in!” stuff that I imagine custom installers have to deal with all across this great, wide, lunatic-filled land of ours.


If you aren’t in this industry you probably think, “John! Come on! You sell audio and video systems, bringing joy and awesomeness to people’s lives! How could there possibly ever be any problems?! You are the music maker and you are the dreamer of dreams!"


(points and props if you can cite that reference...)


You’d actually be surprised at just how heated tempers can get over some non-working TV-related issue. And it doesn’t matter the time of day or year, if some part of an audio/video system has a performance hiccup, it is inevitably RIGHT BEFORE the most important televised event in the history of mankind! (I once had a woman offer me $300 to come down and unplug her cable box for her so she could watch some debate. I told her that I just couldn’t do that in good conscience for what would have literally amounted to 30 seconds of work, and finally convinced her to just call the cable company who could remotely reboot her box for her. See, I'm not totally without a heart. And I have a doctor's note to prove it!)


So, back to yesterday.


First call comes in from a guy who’s house we prewired almost 5 years ago. (Four years and 10 months to be exact; I know because I’ve been perusing through his file quite a bit since yesterday.) He now claims that when we were there installing his TV in March of ’08, we (allegedly) drilled into an electrical wire inside of his wall. And now this wire that we supposedly drilled into in his living room wall is apparently causing an outlet in his kitchen to not work. After four-and-a-half years. After a couple of minutes, of, "Wait. What? You're saying we did what? How long ago?"


So, I go looking through his file and there is not a single note of “we drilled into a wire” or “called the builder to notify him of a wiring issue” or any of the other things that are routinely put into our notes if there is some issue. (Our guys are quite good at documenting this stuff believe it or not. Even the “we had to go back and fix stuff for free” kinds of things get a worksheet with what was done, just so I can write “N/C” – No Charge – on the worksheet and dutifully file it away to look at at a later date if need be.)


The homeowner said that he recently called out an electrician to look at the outlet and the electrician couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working; so that electrician called the electrician that originally wired the house and the guy was all, “Oh, yeah. The TV installers drilled into a wire. That’s why it isn’t working.” (Amazing the instant recall clarity he had on that one job after nearly five year, to precisely know that the immediate source of the problem was us, but, I digress...)


So, now, Mr. Homeowner is wondering how we are going to fix his non-working kitchen outlet that has suddenly become an Alpha priority and wants to get together to discuss it. (At which point in the story should I mention that this is the kind of homeowner that frequently requires multiple invoices to be mailed to him, followed by a phone call where he says, “That bill? No, I’m pretty sure I paid it already. Let me look into it…”?)


So I called up my lead installer who has a journeyman’s electrical license; the guy on our staff who handles any electrical issues, and is also the best at any kind of drywall repair work and the guy who would have most definitely gone out to repair any drilled wiring. He can’t remember anything about it, and repairing a drilled electrical wire inside a wall is certainly a rare enough event that it would stand out.


Next I called the guy who actually hung the TV,; an ex-employee whose memory is so good, we call him “The Vault” because he is the one that we always turn to with that, “Do we have any of (insert name of the most random widget you can think of) still lying around?” and he’ll be all, “I’m pretty sure that I saw one on the back shelf, next to the (other name of random widget) like a year ago, and, yep, here it is.” So this guy can remember the job; remembers cutting in the speakers and volume control and hanging the TV and doesn’t remember anything about any wire issue.


Then I called the builder, who we have done A LOT (I’m gonna say 100+) of homes with. And this is the kind of builder that if something goes wrong, he wants us just to tell him so he can have his people handle it. He can’t recall there ever being an issue with the home either.


Then we start thinking about it. “Wait, if the electrician says he knew about the damaged wire, then that means someone would have told him about it. And – as the electrician over this entire community and building project – wouldn’t he have then been told to fix it? And if he didn’t fix it, why not? And if he did fix it, why is he now blaming it on us?”


Curiouser and curiouser…


Next call is from a women that we installed a receiver for nearly a year ago. (Apparently yesterday was the day for Ghosts of Systems Past to come calling...) (Incidentally, this was the customer that I wrote the “Surround Sound Helps Hard of Hearing” about.)


She has been having an issue off-and-on that we originally thought was due to the cable box; the picture would just cut-in-and-out, they would reboot the box, and it would work. She got new cable boxes, the problem would go away for awhile and then return. So, the last time the cable company came out for a service call, the installer disconnected the cable box from our system, and connected it directly to the TV to see if the problem still persisted. After a couple of weeks of it working fine, the cable installer returned and reconnected the cable box to our receiver. (I have to say, this is like doctorate level work for the typical cable installer, who’s usual job seems to peak with “I rebooted your box” or “I installed a new cable wire to your box.")


Now, what she SAYS she told me a few weeks ago is that the red light was flashing on her receiver. While I’m not saying she DEFINITELY didn’t tell me that, what I AM saying is that I know that a flashing red light on a receiver is way bad mojo, and that it will NEVER work with the red light flashing, and that if she HAD told me that, I would have A) asked her to power cycle the receiver and see if that fixed the issue, and if it didn’t would have B) immediately set up a service call instead of telling her (her words) that it sounded like a cable box problem.


So, the cable guy reconnects the receiver, powers it back on and the receiver started making a strong burning smell and immediately went into protection mode. The cable guy then – in all his infinite cable installer wisdom – said, "This thing is burning!" and immediately unplugged it.


Now, this client is older, and when the cable guy said, “burning” she translated that to "This thing is getting ready to spew fire and brimstone all over your house! We need to prepare to evacuate immediately!" And in her mind, her receiver has now turned malevolent and is just waiting for the perfect moment to completely immolate; bursting into flames, burning down her house and – her words – really, I'm not kidding -- “kill her in her sleep.”  


After my installer picked up the unit yesterday, I called the woman to assure her of what we were going to do. It’s under warranty; we’re going to box it up and ship it off, have it thoroughly repeaired, and then I can install it and run it in my showroom for a week for 24-hours a day to insure that it is totally safe and working.


No dice. She is completely freaked out that this receiver is unsafe and convinced that no amount of repair is going to keep it from burning her house down. In fact she is adamant that she doesn't want to have THIS unit back in her home, again reiterating the desire to not die in her sleep at the hands of a receiver that has gone all Ghost Rider.  


I tried reasoning with her on this, that it is virtually impossible for the receiver to actually catch on fire, and that it is probably a simple power supply repair, but she is ADAMANT that the unit is under warranty and that the manufacturer must give her a new unit. I tried explaining that while it IS under warranty, the warranty covers repair not replacement, especially after the product has been in use for nearly a year. She said if she knew that it was only a fuse or something that maybe – just MAYBE – she would be OK with it coming back, but when I suggested that we don’t know what was causing the burning smell – a totally common occurrence when something fails in a piece of electronics, I explained; a smell that can be reminiscent of very peaty scotches, by-the-by – and that it very well could be a fuse, and that we would know better after we sent the unit in for repair, but she immediately fell back to her, “As God is my witness, I will NOT have THAT piece back in my home!” stance.


She demanded that I contact the manufacturer and insist they give her a new unit. (I’ve started the email discussions with my rep whose initial humorous response was, “Couldn’t you come up with something original? I deal with this particular issue almost daily! Trouble is I’ve never come up with a workable solution….(actually this has never come up) ‘We have a customer who is adamant the time honored solution of a warranty repair is unsuitable.'")


Oh, and before hanging up she said, “And we love the system. And want it back to working as soon as possible.”


See, the world of custom installation isn’t all sparkly rainbows and unicorns that poop sunshine. Kind of makes you love your job a little bit better today, doesn’t it?

Categories: October 2012, CTA, Rants

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