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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Errrr, ummm, awkward...

Posted on June 28, 2010 at 5:35 PM

Bad mouthing another trade’s work is never good. I saw this in action firsthand when a previous (as in “no longer with us") installer told a customer that his electrical wiring was a mess. In fact I believe his exact quote was, “Man! Your house is wired up like an old Christmas tree!” That’s when the customer shared -- rather tersely -- that his father, an electrician, had wired the house. Ooops!


So, I know that there is little to be gained from bad mouthing your competition. (Oh, another story! The other day, Jeremy G was at a dealer event and someone told him that – from my story about not wanting iPad to put me out of business – that I was an idiot who didn’t know what I was talking about. Jeremy assured him that he knew for a fact that I wasn’t an idiot. So, take that, guy!) OK, back to my story. So, while I don’t like to bad mouth the competition, I also don’t go out of my way to praise them either. I’ve often said that I would like to see them all out in the street begging for food, preferably holding a sign that I’ve consulted on. But the other day I was put in the rather strange and awkward position of having to defend a direct competitor. (I’ll not share his company’s name...)


I got a call from a realtor who says that her client is purchasing a home that was repossessed by the bank. The house was marketed as a smart house, but now that it is being sold, the installer is coming forward and saying that he is owed a lot of money on some deal with the original builder. Apparently he put in gear – A LOT of gear – with the promise of collecting when the house sold. Kind of like on consignment. Except, the house never sold, it got repo’d and ultimately went for less than half the original asking price.  So the buyers want an outside expert opinion on what’s in the house and what should stay and what the guy should be allowed to take back. Of course, this was all enshrouded in “and they’ll want to buy it all from you” kind of thing.


So I go out to meet them and the realtor is a total ass-face. He starts off with, “Yeah, sorry I’m like 7 minutes late” but I can tell that he really isn’t at all sorry about it in the least, and that he’d actually probably prefer that I apologize for being involved in anything that kept him from doing whatever else he wanted to do. So I start looking around the house and the guy says, “OK. First off. The lighting is staying. So that’s off the table. This guy (the other installer), he’s ridiculous. I mean, he said this lighting system is worth $30,000. That’s bullsh--. Just bullsh--. I’ve looked it up and it’s worth about $3000.”


So I start poking around and it is a Lutron Radio RA lighting system. Now I didn’t count up every switch in the house (and I also seriously doubt the $30,000 figure he was billing them for) but I tell him, “Look. I sell this lighting system, and I can tell you that it is *easily* more than $10,000. Maybe not $30,000 but WAY more than $3000.”




“Look. I’ve sold this stuff for 12 years. I’m a dealer for this product. So I know the pricing. You see this ONE lightswitch? It cost $225. This ONE keypad? $450. Add up ALL the switches around the house and then add in the processor and the repeaters and the programming and you are EASY $10,000, probably more.”


Then, I can feel that I’m veering into an adversarial relationship with this guy; I’m really not sure why he is attacking me or wanting to dispute everything I say. After all, you jabronis called me in as the expert. Your card doesn’t say A/V professional. (OK, neither does mine, but you get the idea.) So I start talking directly to the new homeowners who are actually trying to be really cool about the whole thing. Then, up pipes pipenstein again.


“Look. This other guy, he shot himself in the foot. He’s screwed. I’m gonna just tell him he’s sh—out of luck, this stuff is yours, and if he comes around here again, he’s trespassing and he’s gonna get himself arrested. And if he doesn’t like it, let him get a lawyer and fight it.”


To this the homeowners are saying, “Well, we want to be fair and we don’t want to steal anything from him. So, John, what do you think?”


So, what DID I think? I think the installer made some major mistakes. He installed a ton of gear with no written agreement and then didn’t file a lien – or take his stuff back – when the deal went down Mexico way. Then, he gave the new homeowners a totally unbelievable invoice. He billed them for $60,000 and said he would give them a $30,000 discount, which might sound like a lot if the stuff wasn’t all used and like 4 years old. There was a fully loaded Middle Atlantic rack with like 24 zones of NuVo audio, 4 XM tuners, an HD video distribution system, media center PC, a surround system, all the lighting, etc.


On the one hand, if the bank says its yours, it’s yours. Why pay a penny for something that technically (legally?) is now yours. Also, why would I want to see a single dollar go to my competition? That is really postponing the whole begging in the street thing.


On the other hand, this installer wasn’t the one to blame. He did his install. The system all worked. He could be blamed for making a poor business decision, but not for a bad install. And if it were me, I’d like to think that someone wouldn’t be recommending that the new homeowner’s stick the knife in as far as possible before twisting it.


I told the people that our company could totally come in and fix/repair/salvage anything that wasn’t working or that needed tro be replaced. But, it would take us a decent amount of time to go and figure out what the other company had done. Those were hours (days?) that would be required to get up to speed plus likely restarting their audio programming from scratch if we couldn’t pull the program from the system. If they could come to an amicable arrangement with the other installer, and could utilize him going forward, he would be in a far better position to help. I suggested they take the $30,000 of the lighting off the table (since that really was kind of a part of the house and was considered integral by the bank) which reduces the bill to $30,000. Then cut it in half like the installer did, which makes it $15,000. Then cut THAT in half for four years of use and demo and offer the guy $7,500 for the equipment and pay him to come and give them a tutorial on operating it and fixing any bugs.


So I took my check for my consulting time and left feeling oddly out of sorts, sure only of ONE thing; while I MIGHT have helped the homeowners, and MIGHT have helped the other installer, I most definitely did NOT help Custom Theater and that didn't leave me with a smile.

Categories: June 2010, CTA

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