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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Yo no understando...

Posted on April 23, 2012 at 6:00 PM

A couple of weeks ago a woman called our shop. I happened to be out when she called so one of my installers took the message. She wanted to see about adding a surround system to her TV and wanted someone to come out and take a look at her home. 

I didn’t get back to her that day – I know, that’s bad on me. You should REALLY return all calls by the end of the day, even if just to say, “I will have to call you tomorrow to handle whatever you called about…” – so she beat me to the punch and called again the next day. Clearly this was  a woman that was hot for some surround sound.

So I take down all of her information and it turns out that she lives like 60 miles away from our store. One way. Literally in another state.

Since I’d be looking at a 2.5 hour-ish roundtrip drive, I told her that the spec-out would cost $75. I’ve found that this is a great way of weeding out people that just want some free advice and the warm, human companionship that can only come in the form of a Sciacca in-home consultation. The people that agree to the charge are generally very serious. The people that don’t, usually end up buying their stuff on the Internet like they were planning to do all along. I often think not-so-nice thoughts about these people. Thoughts that might involve Interet-purchased stuff falling off the wall and breaking. Possibly after it lands on the family pet. I know. I do have serious issues.

So I drive-drive-drive and finally get to the woman’s home – funny aside. I’m getting directions to her house from the guard at her gated community, and the guard says, “Turn right on Militant.” “Militant?” “Militant.” “MILITANT???” “Yeah. Militant. You turn right on Militant.” I’m thinking, “Wow, that’s an awfully unusual name for a road in a private golf community, but, you know, whatever floats your boat.” So I drive for a bit and then see...Middleton. Some accents are just WAY more southern than others… -- so I get to her home and I start with my typical, “So, what is it that you’d like to do?” opener.

And the woman says, “I want speakers here, and maybe here and some here…” as she points to places around her room.

Since I’m highly doubting that this elderly woman is REALLY looking to have front height, front width AND surround back channels, I ask if she is familiar with what a surround sound system is. She isn’t and we go over the basics of what is surround sound, the usual speaker positioning and component requirements, etc. and we come up with a game plan. I poke around in the attic – no problem – look at the baseboards for wire concealment – no problem – take some cabinetry measurements and discuss different look options.

She seems totally on board. So I give her a snapshot estimate of somewhere around $4300 – 4500 which includes all new Definitive Technology speakers, a new receiver and Blu-ray, a URC RF control system, cabling, surge protection, a new WiFi router, and travel and install labor. I tell her that I’ll work up a more formal proposal when I get back to the store and she says that sounds fine. I remind her about the $75 fee – which considering that the whole thing took me around 3 hours from door to door seems pretty fair; especially when you factor in 120 miles worth of gas for the van – and she writes me a check.

So I get back to the store -- after stopping for a $11.91 Five Guys burger, fries and drink. Seriously. Almost $12 for a burger lunch for one? Wow. -- and work up the proposal, dot my i’s and make sure that Excel didn’t mess up any formulas, turn it into a PDF and e-mail it off.

Whole thing came to $4700.

Then I wait. Usually when you meet someone that morning, tell them you’re gonna e-mail them, and THEN e-mail them, all within a 4 hour span, you get a reply pretty quickly. But…nothing.

And the next day…nothing.

And the next…

So a whole week goes by. And still nothing.

So today I decided to give her a call. Maybe she couldn’t figure out how to open an attachment in an e-mail, or maybe her Adobe wasn’t up-to-date, or maybe she is still driving around looking for Militant. I don’t know. But she answers and says, “Oh, yes. I received your proposal. I’ve thought it over and that is just more than I’m interested in spending on this right now. So I’ve decided to not do it.”

OK, that’s fine and cool. I get that something is more than you want to spend. I mean, I’d love a Rolex Daytona in Stainless, but I just don’t want to come off the hip for the $7500. So, you know, I’m down.

But what I don’t get is why you wouldn’t e-mail me or call me back to say something? Beyond the courtesy of a, "I've decided to hold off for now. Thank you for your time," e-mail, why wouldn’t say, “Hey, I got your proposal and it is just more than I want to spend right now. You know I’m serious because I paid you $75 to come up and look at my home and now that you’ve seen it, do you think there are any other options or is this really the only solution you have?” You know, to do anything like that instead of just, well, nothing.

So I suggest that I have lots of other solutions I could propose. Would she be interested in me reworking the quote to come in at a lower price?

“Oh, yes. That would be wonderful.”

“Well, this proposal is around $4700. Would you be more comfortable at $4000? Because I think we can make a few changes and get it down there.”

“Well...I really wanted to be closer to $3500.”

So, we finally arrive at the point. This is the number she was interested in spending. Why we couldn’t have started out our entire interaction with, “I’m looking for a surround sound system for my TV, and I would like to spend somewhere around $3500,” I just DO NOT understand. But this is just SO typical of interactions in this industry. No one wants to tell you how much they want to spend. It's all a big game and secret. But, ultimately, at some point, you're gonna HAVE to tell me how much you're willing to spend.

And, yes, if you tell me $3500, my proposal is going to come in at $3500. (Actually $3627.) But I am going to give you the most gosh-darn system I can for that money. And if you tell me $10,000, then I’m going to increase the quality of the everything to get you the most hellacious system I can for $10,000. But when you tell me nothing, well, you’re going to just get a shot-in-the-dark, and that doesn’t usually end up helping anyone. Because you might end up getting a mediocre $4500 system when you really wanted a killer $10,000 one.

Sciacca lesson learned: Always follow-up on a proposal. No information might really be a silent sustained scream asking for MORE information. And just because someone says, "OK, that sounds fine" to your $4300-4500 comment, don't expect that they really want to spend that much. (Why this is, I can't explain. But, well, here we are.)

Reader message takeaway: If you’re working with a custom installer, let them know the budget that you'd like to work within. If it's a realistic figure, they'll do what they can -- if they're any good -- to hit that number. And if the quote does come in too high, and you're really serious about having the work done, ask what changes could be made to lower the price. And, for the love of all that's holy, if you are actually wanting something REALLY good, ask the installer what step-up options you could explore. Believe me; there's always room to go up.

Categories: April 2012, CTA, Rants

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