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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Mr. Brain: The other shoe drops

Posted on May 16, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Remember like a month ago when I told you about that total DICK of a customer, Mr. Brain? The guy that literally had a brain tumor which sent his personality cascading straight off the cliff of normal rational behavior straight in to violent, yelling, threateney, insultey outbursts?

Yeah. Well, a month ago he called and said that he was once again totally unhappy with me and my service and my arrogance and everything else that he has apparently hated about me for the past 8 years of our walk-on-egg-shells business relationship. So he said that’s it, we’re through, he’s not calling any more.


No. Nooooo!!! You said that we we're through! Me and the other members of the Lollipop Gang did a long musical number about the wicked witch being dead, then we all held hands and skipped of down the yellow brick road. I finally got that sense of tact that Dana has been wanting me to get for all of these years! I constructed a large wooden vessel, loaded it with Mr. Brain's file, set it on ablaze and then sent it adrift off to wherever is the total exact opposite of Valhalla. Valhella perhaps. No means no and we're through means adios, no me callo no more-o.

Apparently except when there is a brain tumor in play. So, yeah. He called back. He says that his amp still isn’t working. Apparently he pulled it out of his cabinet, tried changing around fuses, they kept popping, he tried putting in a new amp, now there is a hum and it isn’t working. All of this has led him to the deduction that something isn’t installed correctly. Oh, and my wiring is also sh**. He goes on-and-on about the terrible service and how we put in a terrible system and that it has never worked and that how DARE WE leave him with his system not working.

So I just sit there, calmly – well on the outside at least, but actually having a likely medical-level case of tachycardia and mentally willing back a borderline stress vomit/diarrhea combo on the inside – letting him get to the point where his autonomic nervous system forces him to pause for a breath and I say, “Mr. Brain, the last time you called, you said you were through with us. You were very insulting, and you made it clear that we provide you with terrible customer service. So, we have decided that we are no longer going to do any work for you.”

“Fine. I’ll sue you."  Ka-boom!

Now, I’m not sure the actual legal ramifications or liabilities outstanding here, but I must say, it is AWFULLY disconcerting when someone threatens to sue you. If Lauryn were to say, "You give me a gummi cherry or I'm going to sue you!" I would probably still need to take a brief moment to consider A) where she got such a preposterous idea and B) exactly what is the legal precedence in minor v adult gummi bear legalities. But, this threat is especially more so unnerving when that person is seriously mentally unhinged and I’ve actually seen him threaten to sue a builder, a satellite installer and an electrician. So, this gives me pause. It's barely a champagne bubble in the steamroller path of Mr. Brain though, and his continues right on with his tirade.

"You don’t come and fix YOUR SYSTEM, that YOU INSTALLED I will haul you into court so fast you won’t believe it. That’s fine. That’s what I should have done a long time ago. I’ll sue you for thousands of dollars. You’re not a professional. You call this good work? No. This is terrible. I hand out lawsuits like (it was something like "candy” or “they’re nothing” but I can’t remember so just insert whatever little phrase here that makes you think that he hands out lawsuits at the drop of a hat) and I’ll just sue you.”

I respond that he has been SO abusive and insulting and derogatory and dissatisfied with our work, why would he possibly want us to come back and inflict any further damage. Clearly I’m incompetent and should be kept away from anything electronical and probably have ovenmits taped over my hands.

“Oh, I don’t want to call you. I never want you people to come out to my house again. I don’t want to do ANY more business with you. You’re all so arrogant, you think you’re so good and so much better than everybody else. But, you’ve got my system so messed up that no one else could possibly come in and fix it. You’ve done such a terrible job that now I’m stuck with you.”

“You know, Mr. Brain, constantly insulting me and my company and telling me ho terrible I am is NOT the way to get me to want to help you.”

“Look, I’m just trying to help you by telling you how back your company is. If you don’t want to hear it, well, that’s just your mistake. You need to learn how to run a business. You know, I ran a business and I would never treat people like you do. All you have ever done is treat me nasty. I should have never paid you. I should have held out the money until you fixed this mess or made you rip it all out. And, you know, you’re people have said, ‘Don’t ever let anyone come over here and work on this system without us being here.’ How dare you. HOW…DARE…YOU! That is just how arrogant you people are. I’m just trying to help you learn what a bad job your company does.”

“You're right. We don't want anyone else coming over and working on it. It's very complicated, like you said. You have a lot going on. And every time someone else -- or you -- starts messing around with the system, it stops working and then you call us totally furious, yelling about it.”

“No. No. This system was never installed correctly.”

I’ve run out of pacing room in the store and am at a slight loss as to how to proceed which gives Mr. Brain room to interject, “So are you going to come over here any fix my problem or am I just going to take you to court?”

What I need here is a moment for reflection. I need advice. I need to reach out to others. I need cool heads to prevail. I have to take that pause that refreshes and decide whether I want to tell him to go ahead, get an attorney, you're a psycho and I can only imagine the kind of attorney that would be able to represent you. Or I can Stand By Me chug down another helping of humble pie and go down AGAIN and try and deal with him. So I tell him that I am going to discuss this with my partner and that I will call him later with our decision.

So I reach out to some industry friends. Also, because I’m apparently in the mood for more abuse, I text Darryl Wilkinson about it.

Here’s a transcript of that little exchange:

JS: Brain tumor guy just called me. I told him we were through. He threatened to sue me unless I come and work on system. Day wrecker…

DW: Sounds like you need a drink. Have you thought about moving your business to another state?

JS: I want to reincorporate in Absinthia where I’m free to be the jerk we all know I am. I’m actually bent by the whole thing. I have a call in to some attorney clients of ours to see just how responsible we might be before telling the guy we are done don’t EVER call here again! Sigh... Not loving day job today.

DW: Not doing anything is how I normally respond to critical situations. Does working for a client at one time obligate you forever? That means I’m going to go after the doctor who delivered me for not continuing to take care of my health over all these years.

JS: I know I’m going to regret saying this but…you are a lot more mentally stable than this guy. He SERIOUSLY had a brain tumor and we are not dealing with rational thought. He probably would threaten to sue his birth doctor...

DW: Wow. If he’s less mentally stable than me, you’re f***ed.

JS: I know RIGHT?!

DW: At least you’ve got a fresh blog topic.

JS: Yes. Though seriously, if there is a chance of some kind of litigation, I should probably let that go… (Clearly you see how this other shoe dropped.)

DW: Write it anyway just call him Geronimo

JS: Is that your professional legal advice or just as someone who can’t wait to sit back and watch the fireworks as I immolate in front of the world?

DW: Both.

JS: At least you’re honest. I figured it was all B.

Jeremy G offered, “Wow, that’s a really tough call. I could definitely go either way. I’m thinking that you fix it one last time, clean up the wiring, take pictures with a time stamp and tell him this is the end of your relationship. You agree to fire each other and move on. Will he keep hearing a hum and not let you go??”

Kirsten “Glasses” weighed-in with, “The guy definitely sounds crazy and/or bipolar brain. The only reason I fear the lawsuit scenario is the money it could cost your company to defend yourself in court. Would you have to hire an attorney, or would it be a small claims scenario?  Lawsuits are totally just a bully tactic, and you’re right, you’re going to be stuck with this guy forever if you capitulate once again. If you and your partner agree on it, then you’re set. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you! But really, you’re better off not to be working with such an abusive character. He can take his dark cloud elsewhere.  Maybe start assembling your witnesses, just in case...”

So I do a bit of honest soul-searching. Is there *any* real cause for negligence on our part?

In truth, his cabinet is terrible. Awful. Like a bad, sweaty, cramped nightmare to work in. It is basically a built in with these really flimsy slide out drawers that are housing WAY too much gear in a tight and crowded and terribly space. Also, it was like 8.5 years ago. Have I gotten better in my wiring practices in that time? Absolutely. I’ve no doubt that it is wired *correctly* but could it be dressed more neatly? Definitely. Further we have added, changed, serviced, moved gear in and out of that cabinet SO many times over the 8 years, that it has just gotten more and more jumbled over time. It probably needs a complete tear-down and redo. All gear out, all wire redone, all gear back in. After amp changes and cable to sat, sat to cable, cable to sat, sat to sat, new processor, new dvd, etc. it just really needs a start over. Honestly though, the guy is SO unlikable, none of us wants to spend the time in his house it would take to do this.

Plus he *seriously* has like 10 dogs. Big ones. My one tech goes into the house carrying a drywall saw in one pocket and a long jabbing screwdriver in another. And I’m not kidding. Finally, Mr. Brain is constantly messing with the gear; he pulls stuff out, pushes buttons, etc. and that totally exacerbates things.

Further truth, could we go in and fix it in like 1-2 hours? Probably. But how long to I want this guy to loom over me? It is always going to be his threat... If you remember from the blog, he threatened me with legal on his first tirade. So, do I suck it up now and then next year when he messes it up again, we'll be right back here... I just *really* don't like this guy. He is my absolute *worst* customer. Seriously. I am going to stop just short of saying that I hate him. But you can't stop me from thinking it.

So I talk the whole thing out with my CTA partner Al and we basically decide that he’ll support whatever I want to do. (So much for the easy, pawn it off on someone else tactic. Damn!) So, I’m ALL set to call him up and just say, “You know what? We’re through. I’m never coming back to your house again. You want to sue us. Fine."

And then if it goes to trial, we just show up and represent ourselves. Al and I have discussed that our defense would basically be, "Your honor, this man had been abusive over the entire length of our relationship. He is unstable. He goes in and messes with the system, and then calls us angry that it isn't working. He has repeatedly changed things over the years and the system now in no way represents the work that was done 8.5 years ago. He admitted that he removed the amplifier and that when he reinstalled it that was when this hum started."

Plus we can't imagine a judge saying, "It worked for 8 years and now it doesn't? You are obligagted to this job for life and you have to fix it." And that the worse case we figure our maximum hook here would be to just be ordered to go in and fix it. Also, what attorney would possibly take this on? And I would LOVE to see Mr. Brain represent himself. I’m picturing some kind of a scene where he goes all anger management on the judge and then is held in contempt. In my mind it is totally awesome. There's a lot of vein throbbing and spittle flying and then some extensive pepper spraying followed by tazer-ing and then flex cuffing and led away in a semi-coherent state. Like a de-testicled bull. You should see it.

So while I’m deciding all this, I get ANOTHER phone call. It is another local A/V contractor. He said he is just leaving one of our jobs and wants to talk to me about it. Said the customer was swearing and cursing and really acting all erratic. Ha! Welcome to Brain-ville, buddy! Population: You!

He said that he was called out to check the system and he said that he told Brain that didn’t take over other jobs unless the prospective client agreed to be totally through with the original company. Brain assured him that he was totally and completely through with us. So the guy gives the system a cursory look and says, “I told him I didn't know what was wrong or how much it would cost to fix that I’d have to just get in there and start tracing things out and see what I could find. And he flips out, yelling and saying he can't have me start a job without knowing what it costs. Saying, did I just expect him to hand me a blank check? That I must be crazy.” Then the other installer says, “Then he wouldn't pay me for my service call visit. Said I didn't do anything. I'm not gonna touch that system with a ten foot pole! And what is with all of those dogs?!”

Ahh, yes. A classic Brain encounter.

A few moments later, Brain calls me back.

He doesn’t know that I know that he has already called another installer. Advantage: Sciacca! Or that the other  installer has already sworn off the job! Game, Set, Sciacca!

The tone is A LOT more subdued this time. Now that he’s had a chance to see that this is no easy fix. He acknowledged that *maybe* it isn't our fault. That *maybe* it's his equipment. That *maybe* something is actually broken. That he doesn't want to hire another firm. “I still don’t want to work with you, and I hate that I have to even humble myself to ask you for help, but I can see that I need you to fix this. So, I hope you’ll come back and get my system working or I don’t know what else I’ll do.”

It’s clear that he has finally realized that he needs me and that it is going to cost him so much more now to have someone else come in and deal with his crazy brain tumor ass!  I said "I'm still discussing with my partner how we want to proceed with you going forward. I will call you back before the end of the day.”

I feel considerably better since he has significantly lowered his rhetoric, but I still have that stomach-acid vibe going. A little while later I called him back and said, “Look, I don’t want to totally leave you in the lurch with a broken system. Out of respect for the years that we’ve done business together, I am going to send someone out to get your problem corrected. I’m going to bill you for whatever parts or labor is required. I’d like you to not engage my installer. I am going to instruct them to just say ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir’ to you, to do the work and then to leave...”

“You know, I’m always nice to your installers. It’s them that have the superior, we're better than everyone attitude with me.”

“Look, Mr. Brain. I’m through arguing with you. This is how it is going to be. We’re going to get this fixed, and then I’m going to send you a letter with the final bill saying that we are finished with your project and that we will no longer be servicing your job any further and that we would like you NOT to call us again.”

“OK. That sounds fair. Thank you for getting me fixed.”

Ultimately I just didn’t want this to be like a sword of Damocles hanging over my head for weeks now, constantly wondering and worrying if the next phone call or mail delivery is going to be some bombshell or summons or something. Probably never happen, but now we have at least parted on terms much less “I’ll see you in hell before I come to your house again!”

Now, anyone know where I can get a sign made for outside of my office that says, "Your Brain Tumor Bouts of Rage will be considered grounds for immediate termination of our relationship!”?

Categories: May 2011, CTA, Rants

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Reply DW
2:51 PM on May 16, 2011 
So, basically, doing nothing until the guy capitulated proved to be the best advice. I am vindicated. Some have called me a f***ing p*ssy due to my congenital instinct for non-confrontation as a survival strategy, but it's clear here that my suggestion to you regarding putting your head in the sand saved you much in attorney fees. You're welcome.
Reply John Sciacca
2:56 PM on May 16, 2011 
DW says...
So, basically, doing nothing until the guy capitulated proved to be the best advice. I am vindicated.

I believe "The Do Nothing Strategy" is one of the most basic tenets of Sun Tzu's. And since I already know you accept payment in liquor, I'll be sure and send out your retainer...