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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Nguyen, we meet again!

Posted on June 9, 2010 at 5:45 PM

Several years ago we had a Vietnamese customer named Hai Nguyen (Hi Nu-when). This guy was in his 30s, and he would always come in wearing these awful flip-flops. I keenly remember this because I had to look at these horrible, elephant hide textured calluses on his feet that looked like they would be perfect for doing a little barefooted soft shoe on shards of glass. Hai would stroll into the store and plop down in a chair in front of our desk and barter about prices...for hours!

"How much for these speakers?"

"They sell for X. We'll give you 10% off."

“Come on, man!”

 “No, Hai. That’s the best we can do.”

“But...come on, man!”


“But, man! You said!”

He would just sit there. Customers would come and go. Phone calls would be answered and finished. And Hai would sit. It was really every bit as rude and irritating as it sounds. For some reason, Allen put up with it, and when he finally reached his threshold, he would say, “OK, Hai, you talk to John now” and then I would tell him to leave.

Hai said that he owned some of those food court in-the-mall Asian restaurants, and he would always come by with pocketfuls of cash. He would pull out these wads and say, “I ready to buy! You give me good deal on speakers and I buy right now! Come on, man!”  But the one time I ever stopped by one of “his” restaurants and I asked for Hai I got, “Who?! Who you want?!”

“You know, Hai, the owner,” and the guy burst out laughing followed by a rapid fire exchange in Vietnamese (?) to the other workers who also burst out laughing.

“I tell them you say Hai own restaurant. They laugh! Hai no own restaurant! You think Hai own restaurant! HAHAHAHAHA!”


For some reason, despite the fact that he was really Allen's pet project, I ended up having to do the majority of work for Hai, including the unfortunate pleasure of calibrating a Zenith Pro900 CRT projector that he bought from God knows where. This calibration meant just me and Hai in a pretty much completely darkened room for nearly an entire day. With the house smelling like the unpleasant result of a fish and curry factory explosion. Now, Hai, me definitely no love you long time. Me no love you even short time. So this was a long day for me. On a ladder twisting pots and knobs. Off the ladder with a tape measure. Back on the ladder, more pots and knobs. Etc. All while he is sitting there scrutinizing the image. “I see a bow! That line! That line have bow! You fix it!”


The final coup-de-grace was that after this full day of work and some other stuff we installed – a Bell-O rack, some speaker cabling, etc. – Hai skipped town owing us almost $1900. It would have been more than that, but Allen spotted his car while driving around one done and then showed up at his wife/girlfriend’s nail salon (I know, that is such a stereotype, but it’s totally true) and waited till Hai came out and demanded payment. Hai gave him all the cash he had on him and said he’d pay the rest later. It was a very HIgh Plains Drifter moment for CTA.

So, that was 8 years ago, and I figured that my days with Nguyens were mostly over. Until...


I got a call from a guy a couple of weeks ago who said, “You sell B an W?”

“Yes. We sell B and W.”

“I buy B an W.”

“OK. We sell B and W.”

“I buy diamond tweeter.”

“OK. We sell that model.”

“No. I already buy. You sell me diamond tweeter.”

“You want just the tweeter?”

“Yah! I have speaker. I need tweeter. You sell?”

"You usually don't just buy the tweeter. Is yours broken or something?"

"Yah. I buy tweeter."

“OK. Well, we’re a full line B and W dealer, so we can definitely get you parts.”

“OK. I come in. You sell me tweeter. You have in stock?”

“No. We’d have to order it. It usually takes about 4 days.”

“OK. I come in.”


So, days passed, and then I get almost the EXACT same call.  Then more days pass and Allen gets the call. Then when I get back from vacation he ups the ante by calling again and saying, “I come in. Today. I buy tweeter.”

So, secretly (OK, not very secretly--I pretty much told everybody) I’m hoping that I won’t be around when this guy comes in, because, well, my patience for these kinds of encounters is really just wearing thin. So, 6 PM comes and I leave. Then today as I’m opening up our salesman, Andy, says, “You’ll never guess what happened last night. I’ve locked the door and I’m walking out to my car and this guy pulls up and says, 'You sell B and W?' So I tell him that we do but that we're closed for the day and we'll open back up tomorrow at 10 and he says, 'I buy B and W. I buy 802D.' (Note: these are speakers that sell for $7000 EACH by the way...) So, I figure sure, I’ll open the store back up for someone wanting to buy some 802Ds. Then he follows me in and walks *right behind* me in a totally uncomfortable way following me back into the office. Then it turns out he just wants to order some parts...”


And he made Andy print up the entire B&W parts list. And go over speaker diagrams and schematics! BWA-HA-HA-HA!


So today, the guy comes back in and gives me his parts request like it’s a sushi order. “I want this...this...and this. Oh, and you get me box and owner’s manual.”

I tell him that before I order anything, I want to check with B&W and make sure we’re on the same page.  (B&W is MANY things, but low-low pricing they are not.) He thinks that he’s going to get a new tweeter and grill etc. for like $30. I ask for his name, and there it is: Chanh Nguyen. (I had such a hard time understanding him, he just pulled out his driver’s license so I could copy it down.) So, I call B&W and explain what he is looking for and they tell me that what he *really* needs is an entire new tweeter assembly. Selling for --- ka-pow! --- $1042.56!

So I call the number he left me and a woman answers the phone. "Hi. Can I speak to Chanh please."


OK. Seriously. You know who I'm asking for. Maybe I didn't have the correct tone or tongue roll, but when someone calls your house and asks for "Chanh" don't act like you don't know who I'm talking about. So I repeat it and she hands him the phone.

"Chanh. This is John with Custom Theater."
"You get my tweeter?"
"Uh, no. B and W says you need the whole tweeter assembly."
"No. I buy tweeter isolator. $22."

"No. They say you need the whole thing. $1042. And fifty-six cents."

"You open Sunday?"
Now, I'm not sure how this total non-sequitor is relevant to anything we're talking about, but I tell him that no, we aren't open Sunday.

"OK. I come in. You no order nothing yet."


So, I no order nothing yet. But I fear this encounter is yet to be over. To be continued...

Categories: June 2010, CTA

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Reply Malia76
3:17 PM on June 18, 2010 
Does he stil owe the $1900 and is trying to order more? How does he have the nerve to even come into the shop owing you money???? Or am I not following this story right, Jon says I can't follow a story he's telling, but we all know HE MUMBLES!
Reply John Sciacca
3:31 PM on June 18, 2010 
Malia76 says...
Does he stil owe the $1900 and is trying to order more? How does he have the nerve to even come into the shop owing you money???? Or am I not following this story right, Jon says I can't follow a story he's telling, but we all know HE MUMBLES!

Hai still owes us $1900; he is gone like Kaiser Soze. This is a new guy -- Chanh -- with the same last name.