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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

This is the end. Oh, beautiful friend, finally, the end.

Posted on April 19, 2011 at 2:19 PM

I just got off the phone, and I think I just got fired by a client, and, all I can say is...”HALLELUJAH! Finally! Oh, thank you, sweet Jesus, thank you, thank you!"

I’m going to call this guy Mr. Brain, and well, he has been an awful prickly, painful in-grown-hair-filled-pus-boil on my ass since 2002. The guy used to be in computers or software or something where he likely had a ton of stress and probably little daily interaction with flesh-and-bloodlings, then he had a fairly massive brain tumor and, well, that was the end of his career in software. What it was the beginning to was a radical personality change – well, to be fair, I never knew him pre-tumor, so it is possible that Mr. Brain was  always just a grade-A Ass Punch Jerk – where the guy was prone to violent outbursts and totally irrational and unpredictable and erratic behavioral mood swings. We don’t say his name around the office for fear that he’ll be summoned Beetle Juice style. None of my guys want to do a service call for him and every time the guy calls, I’m on the edge of my seat, watching every word I say, careful that something is gonna set the guy off. (When someone says, "Mr. Brain is on the phone for you." I'm like, "Are you kidding? You better NOT be kidding because you know I don't think that's funny. How did he sound?") He’s just an all around real nightmare of a client, but he pays his bills so every time we finish something we all say, “Well, hopefully that will be the last time we hear from him!”

My first experience with his massive WTF just happened?! mood swings was when we completed the initial installation. He was moving into his house and on top of installing a theater and housewide audio he wanted us to connect his old gear, which was actually *really* nice; Conrad Johnson mono blocks and Martin Logan towers. Say what you will about Mr. Brain – go on, I welcome any comments! – but he is into good audio. So it’s the end of like a 10 hour day, we have all of the cabling labeled and laid out but the special heavy-duty power cords for his amps are still in storage somewhere. I ask him if he wants us to just wait around on the clock until the movers locate the cords and bring them in, or if he can just connect them when they show up. (My mistake was thinking that someone that had owned high-end gear FOR YEARS and who clearly had a background in tech would be capable of actually connecting a single power cable. I know, an egregious misjudgment on my part. Like thinking that just because Bill Gates runs a computer company that he’d know how to power on his PC. It’s absurd really.) So he shook my hand, told me what I great job I did, told me how much he loved everything we did, told me how good it all looked and how we were the only ones that did exactly what we promised and I jumped in the van feeling all “Yay!”

So I tra-la-la my way home and the next day I’m 3 hours away at another job. I get a call from the store on my cell phone. “Mr. Brain is FREAKING OUT! You’ve got to call him immediately!”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Dude! He is FREAKING the hell OUT! Screaming, cursing, yelling. You’ve got to call him. Now. He is pissed!

So I call him. “Hey, Mr. Brain. The store said you called...?”

“Yeah. Nothing works. If you aren’t over here in 30 minutes I’m putting everything on the front porch and you can come pick it all back up!” (First off, there’s no way he could have even disconnected it all in 30 minutes, let alone carried it out by himself, but this seemed like the wrong time to talk about the logistics of it all.)

“What do you mean that ‘nothing works’? It was all working when we left last night. What happened?”

“No. You left and it wasn’t working. My amps weren’t working. And you left. You should have stayed. What kind of service is that? You call yourself a professional? This is terrible service. I’m gonna call another company and sue you to fix it. You need to give me service.”  

"Mr. Brain...I don't understand. When I left last night, I stood on your porch and you shook my hand and told me what a great job I did. I don't understand why you are so furious right now..."

"No. No. You didn't do your job. This isn't working and you're going to give me the right kind of service or I'm calling someone else. This isn't how you treat people!"

This goes on and on for like five minutes where I’m finally able to convince him that I’m 3 hours away and that it is just a physical impossibility for me to get there in 30 minutes but that I can be there the first thing the next morning and I’ll get it fixed. And I hang up scratching my head as to whole the whole thing could turn from chicken salad into chicken NOT salad so quicly. Well it turns out that Mr. Brain hadn’t remembered to turn his amplifiers ON after connecting the power cables. Those giant black rocker switches that say "POWER." Yeah. Those ones. Flip, flip on the two amps and problem solved. No "thank you." No "whoops my bad!" Just turned up the speakers to rock arena level and yelled more about how I should have done my job the first time and that I need to learn how to provide service and that how every other company he has ever dealt with basically did everything better than anything I ever do.

Whatever. I'm thinking just hold it together until he pays his final invoice and then we can get a no-contest divorce and never see each other again. Plus the guy DID have a pretty massive life-altering brain tumor, so I feel the Christian thing to do is to turn the other cheek and let bygones be bygones and something out of Proverbs or Psalms. Except these kinds of interactions continue again and again over the years and I get tired of all the cheek turning.

Something breaks, he calls semi-reasonable, we go out there, he has a brain tumor situation, freaks out about how our service is so terrible and how have we managed to stay in business, pays his bill, and we write his name down backwards, sprinkle salt on it and then throw the paper into a fire. One time he flipped out because his phones suddenly stopped working.


"Did anything change with the phones, like did you plug something new in or anything?"

"No. Your stuff just never works. You need to get someone over here to fix it! You need to learn how to provide service to your customers."

Rush over and after a couple of hours of jack-by-jack checking and looking at all of our punch downs and terminations we discover that some genius -- one of his kids -- has plugged an RJ-11 plug into the computer's network RJ45 jack and into the phone plug, backfeeding and shorting the entire phone system. Unplug the cable, show him what happened, he shrugs his shoulders and walks away and the crisis is resolved.

So yesterday he calls. He’s only getting audio out of one amp channel. And the processor that he bought a year ago isn’t working right. In fact, according to Brain it has NEVER worked right. I try to explain in the most benign and calming and soothing neck-rub terms possible that every time we’ve come out to resolve a “that processor you sold me is broken!” issue, it turns out that it has been some form of user error. When Mr. Brain has an audio related freak out, a lot of rapid, random button pushing ensues, ensuring electronica mayhem which is then blamed on the gear which in turn is blamed on me and – somehow – the years of horrible service that I’ve provided. (In one lucid moment, I once asked him, “Hey, Mr. Brain. If I provide such awful service, then why do you continue calling me?” I can’t remember what he said. Probably about how only someone with the most heinous level of service would even dare to ask such a question or maybe it was about that he firmly believed that past performance was no guarantee of future results. Something.)

“No. No. That’s not right. I just paid you to come out here, and now it’s not working again. I’m tired of every time I call you people to fix a problem with this I get a bill.”

I explain that the service that he so dearly craves require someone getting into a van and driving to his house. And that costs. Every time. Because phone tech support is just not possible with Mr. Brain. This is not a man that can be asked to unplug a cable box. He is EASILY frustrated which in turn rapidly escalates to ANGER, so it's best to not even head down that path. So, I tell him what I think is a bit of serendipitous good news: I happen to have an installer actually in his neighborhood that very second. My guy can pop over almost immediately and take a look. How do you like them service apples?!

So my guy – after a text of “Mr. Brain? Seriously? Just shoot me!” – heads over. Shocker of shockers, Mr. Brain is NOT operating the system correctly. After almost a year, he is trying to use the Multi Zone A to control the main zone, and Multi Zone B to control the Zone A multi-zone. So my tech goes over operation with him – again – and then determines that one of the amp channels is out because a fuse is blown on the amp.

So, I’m thinking that we’ve resolved the latest Brain crisis and can all return to slinking about our daily existences waiting for the next meteorite-soul-smashing phone call from Brain at some point in the future. Like celebrity deaths, they seem to come in threes. Well, that future was today.

“I want to talk to you about the service call I had today.”

“Mr. Brain? Is that you?”

“Yeah. I’m unhappy with the service I received today.”


“Yeah. Today. Your man just left.”

“Umm. No. He was there yesterday.” At this point I’m thinking that maybe he is confused – well, *obviously* he’s confused – but that he has confused us with some other company he keeps on his angry-terrible-customer-service speed complain dial. That maybe the electrician just left and on the way out he shouted something like, “Dude! You’re a total nut case and no one in our company likes you! We all wish you’d just move away and never call us again!”

“No. That was today. He was just here.”

“Mr. Brain. I can assure you that he wasn’t there today. He’s at another house right now and has been there all morning. He was there yesterday. For sure."

“Look, I’ve had a brain tumor and I get the days mixed up. They all run together to me, so today, yesterday, whatever. I didn’t like the service I got.”

“OK. Well, what was the problem?”

“My fuse was blown on my amp. And he didn’t have any with him.”

“Mr. Brain, you know that my installer just happened to be in your neighborhood. He didn’t leave the shop knowing that he was coming to your house. And we just don’t outfit our vans with your fuses in case you should happen to call.”

“You don’t carry fuses on your vans?”

“No. We don’t.” Truth is, a fuse blowing is an incredibly rare event any more. Outside of Mr. Brain and one model of They Who Shall Not Be Named 's older high-end subwoofer amp, I'm at a loss to think of any other fuses we've ever had to replace. Oh, and PS. Fuses are all different sizes and ratings, so it's not like one fuse fits all or anything and our vans are not rolling Radio Shacks.

“That’s just terrible service. You have to be ready to provide service to people."


So I asked him if he had any fuses and he said he didn’t and then he asked me if I had any left from when I had to buy the last ones. I mean. That’s so arrogant. His attitude was so arrogant. That's how you people are. You think your so good. Is that how you treat your customers? Is it? Maybe you don’t need my business.”


“Then he just left. I had to put the fuse in myself."

"Did you tell him that you had any fuses or give them to him?"

"No. I was outside shoveling gravel in my driveway. I didn't have the fuses right there in my pocket."


"And when I put the new fuse in, it popped. So we’ve obviously got a major problem here. Which you man would have known if he'd have given me better service.”

“OK. Well, it sounds like your amp needs to go in for repair if it keeps blowing fuses.”

“Well, I think I’m done with you and your company. I’ve never liked dealing with you. I don’t like any of the stuff you put in. I've never liked this system. And now I’m just done with it. So, I guess I’m just never gonna call you again and we’re all through.”

(Claps hands and throws glitter into the air!) Somewhere a pegasus took its first flight! A baby maybe a tidy short-sale profit on E-Trade! A cosmonaut and astronaut made sweet-sweet love in the Space Station! A volcano erupted negotiable bearer bonds! Jerusalem invited Palestinians over for an impromptu music fest and hummus cook-out! iPads started playing Flash!

“OK. Well, bye!”

Best firing EVER!!! 

Categories: April 2011, Rants, CTA

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Reply DW
10:22 AM on April 20, 2011 
Once again, a level of customer service that ranks right up there with Nero's care of Rome and the way Attila the Hun treated the aristocracy of the lands he conquered. When will you learn, Sciacca, when? If the customer is always right, then by definition you are always wrong.
Reply John Sciacca
10:57 AM on April 20, 2011 
You've got it all wrong....this is more like the treatment that the French aristocracy received from the peasant classes or the way the rebels stood up to the Empire or something! I'm the wronged party here! Me!!! This is once file I'm not gonna think twice about closing forever! In fact, I'm dancing a jig right now....
Reply ThatGeekGuy
12:40 PM on April 20, 2011 
You should have been nominated for sainthood after the first call. I wouldn't have waited to be fired, I would have fired him a looong time ago.
Reply John Sciacca
12:52 PM on April 20, 2011 
ThatGeekGuy says...
You should have been nominated for sainthood after the first call. I wouldn't have waited to be fired, I would have fired him a looong time ago.

I know, I know... I just kept thinking that each call would be the last, and occasionally he would call up to drop some mid-sized drachma on us. Plus, he is SO volatile that I always kind of worried what kind of response a "We've decided you're not our customer any more. Ba-bye!" comment would have elicited. Anyhow, the chains of oppression have finally been broken! Free at last!
Reply eScowheemoham
4:30 AM on June 1, 2011 
mjog ahugavert, takk