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Random Thoughts (Blog)

The customer's always right. Even when he's crazy

Posted on April 11, 2010 at 5:04 PM

When you combine equal parts passion, obsession and insanity you get a customer of ours whom I’ll call Mr. Cooper. (In turn, he calls me "Mr. John.") Now, Mr. Cooper has been an incredibly loyal customer, returning to purchase items on a regular basis since he first found our store in 2006. He is also the only customer of mine whom I routinely try and talk out of making purchases, because, frankly, I often feel *bad* about selling him things.

 

You see, Cooper is completely unlike your typical high-end client. Generally high-enders are, well, rich. Far from being rich, we all picture Mr. Cooper as barely getting by from check to check and half-joke half-worry (and all-nervous laughter) that he is missing meals whenever he buys something. And while I don’t know this for a fact, our entire staff feels like he works *very* hard for his money (there is speculation that he either works at a tire factory or for a roofing company). He drives an old beater of a Mazda that is frequently worth quite a bit less than the items he carts away from our store. (In fact, it once standed him in our parking lot.) And he has described where he lives as a “cottage,” but from his descriptions of the flooring and wiring, I picture something far more single-unit, government housing-ish.

 

Not only doesn’t he have high-speed Internet, he doesn’t own a computer. Rather he does his research at the library where he will print out dozens of pages (at $.15 apiece) on whatever product he is researching. He also doesn’t own a credit card. All payments are made in cash, generally on Friday, in bank-fresh $20s and $100s. Again, we picture him getting his paycheck for the week, going to the bank, cashing the entire thing, and then driving the hour-and-a-half to our store to immediately convert that money into a way of quieting his upgrade demons.

 

From day one, it was obvious that Cooper loved movies and that he was absolutely fixated on getting the best experience he could. And while he isn’t someone you can discuss literature or philosophy with (truth be told, I often have a very difficult time understanding him at all. He told me he lived in a cottage four times, with me saying “I'm sorry, did you say college, like a dorm?” and “sorry, are you saying condo?” before he finally had to spell it for me. And again, I’ve been working with him for FOUR years.) he has a Rain Man like understanding of electronics and technology and a near eidetic memory from the research he’s done. He doesn’t go to the movies, but he is quick to buy all many new Blu-ray releases. (“I know what’s gonna be a good movie.”;) Of course, he buys instead of rents because he doesn’t have a credit card.

 

We have really tried to go out of our way to try and take him “under our wing” so to speak. It *really* upset me when I found out – too late – that he gave away his Playstation 3 and simply bought a new one when it broke and the only way to get it repaired under warranty was to supply a credit card number. He now brings his PS3 into our shop when it requires a firmware update, plugging into our network and enjoying a movie in our theater while it downloads and processes. And for the longest time, I felt really bad about selling him things. (OK, I still feel bad, but I’ve decided that he’s going to buy from someone, so it might as well be from someone who won’t try and take advantage of him.) I’ve had long talks with him trying to talk him out of making several purchasing decisions. I have begged him on occasion not to buy something. Pleaded with him. One conversation ended with me saying, “You know, you’ve already made up your damn mind, so just tell me what you want me to order and I’ll order it.”

 

What frustrates me so much is not that Cooper has chosen audio/video as the outlet for his mania, but rather that the upgrades and purchases he makes just don’t make any sense for his system and that his money would be SO much better spent elsewhere. And I’m not talking about buying a new car or saving for a house or just keeping some rainy-day money in the bank (all of which I’ve suggested, by the way. He brought in a friend one time and I felt like I owed the guy an explanation. I said, "You know, I try and talk him out of buying this stuff." And the guy said, "Oh, I know. You can't change his mind. He's crazy!") but making far more wholesale improvements to his system where the performance returns would be so much greater. Like upgrading his 30-inch TUBE TV. Or purchasing a processor and/or amplifier to replace his 4 year old receiver. Or getting a serious pair of speakers to replace his bookshelf models. You see, Cooper’s particular obsession is cabling.

 

Now, many people have slagged Monster Cable for being high-priced and unnecessary, but what Mr. Cooper buys makes the most expensive Monster products look like Cracker Jack giveaways. I’m talking about speaker wiring that comes in near Prada luggage-quality cases. Or 1-meter, 8-gauge power cables – that’s plural. As in he bought two! – the size of small fire hoses that are apparently stranded together with individual curls of silver that have been mined from the sacred halls of Valhalla itslef and sell for a wallet puckering $900 EACH. Even more hurtful/hateful is the fact that between power conditioners, power cables and A/V cabling, he has connected roughly $2000 worth of  miscellany to his $300 Playstation3.


Before his latest purchase -- some HDMI cables -- he called and asked if I thought he would see a difference between two different cables, one costing $200 and another $600. I told him "No, absolutely not. You don't need either one. Plus you don't need just one, you'll need two; one to your processor and then to your TV." That didn't take. So he bought the $200 HDMI cables, lived with them for 24 hours and then called me. "I only have one regret; that I didn't get the better one." The fact that a better cable -- clearly forged from single strands of Odin's spun, pure silver hair, then woven together by tiny, incredibly well-paid elves into 1-meter HDMI cables selling for $600 -- existed gnawed away at him like a rat with a piece of prison cheese.  We upgraded. Both cables.(He's also decided that standard, free shipping is too unrealiable. After a cable didn't arrive in time for the weekend, he swore, "That's it! Next time we goin' overnight!")

 

Now Mr. Cooper is absolutely convinced that he can see and hear a world of difference with his new cables. He'll always call me a couple of days after the latest bit of madness has been installed and "had a chance to break in" and tell me how I need to buy it for myself. Usually it is described as being "much more better, especially in the bass." And why should I suggest anything to the contrary? It’s clear these purchases make him happy and help him feel good about his passion. So, whether or not I believe, Mr. Cooper certainly does and a happy customer is always the best customer.

Categories: April 2010, CTA

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11:30 AM on April 13, 2010 
Incredibly interesting blog, John. The mind is a complicated thing.