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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

No... Wait... Seriously? Are you retarded?

Posted on April 13, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Since the economic slowdown, our company, like many custom installation firms, has broadened our cast net as regards the kinds of installations that we are embracing. Where in the past we could count on a schedule that was filled with giant, multi-day, extensive prewires and elaborate home theater build-outs, these days we get a lot of “Can you mount the Vizio Ibought at Costco?” and “Can you hook-up my new Blu-ray?”


Of course, any new job is A) a money generating truck roll and B) a foot in the door offering a chance to win over a prospective client, so we take these small jobs in stride waiting for the next big project to come along. But sometimes what you win can seem more like a booby prize.


Recently we were called on to wall mount a client’s TV over the fireplace. Typical retrofit of a couple of HDMI cables, connect a cable box and Xbox 360, tie in their Wii, slap up the mount and TV and Bob’s your uncle. (If you are an installer and haven’t yet discovered thetime saving joy which is the Wii wireless sensor bar, message me and I’ll tell you how that $20 doo-dad can save you tons of blood, sweat and tears.)


So, after noticing the pile of remotes on the coffee table (TV, cable box, DVD/VCR combo, Xbox 360) and diagnosing that “technology” and “savvy”were two words that were never going to come together in the cosmos of time to describe this couple, I suggested a Harmony remote control. They agreed and we programmed a new Harmony 700 for them. Now, the 700 is kind of like a poor man’s version of Harmony’s ONE, like a Pinto was a poor man’s version of a car. It has a “color” LCD screen in that it isn’t black-and-white (I think it actually manages the entire 16 color spectrum) and it is throttled down to handle only 6 devices. However it does address one of the biggest complaints that has run through the history of Harmony remotes: this thing keeps eating batteries. So, with the 700 you get rechargeable batteries, a definite plus for a remote retailing for $150.


Yesterday, the client called to complain that the remote wasn’t working. Wouldn’t light up, wouldn’t pass Go, and wouldn’t be collecting $200. She’s just dead, Jim. So I try and walk her through a few things. In our troubleshooting it turns out that after having using the remote for a week, the remote indicated that the batteries were low and needed to be charged. So the customer called the store and we explained the charging procedure. (An admittedly lame USB- to-AC power pack thingy.)



So, during this conversation, the customer explained that she first REMOVED the Harmony’s rechargeable batteries…



and THREW THEM AWAY! Now, at this point in the phone conversation my eyes close and I think about a more peaceful time, perhaps SCUBA diving in St. John. After a moment of calming reverie, I go and open up a 700 remote and check out the batteries. They are *clearly* not ordinary batteries. First, they say “Rechargeable” plain as day with an icon of a trash can with an big X through it. You know, the international symbol for “Throw away as soon as possible.” Then they have that waxy/plastic rechargeable battery feel (don’t act like you know what I’m talking about) that would allow even a blind person to ID them as special batteries. So, of course, she took them out after a week and tossed them in the trash.



And replaced them with regular batteries. Then, delivering the coup de grace, she plugged the remote into the charging outlet. And blew up the remote. Seriously, it’s probably a really good thing that it didn’t burst into flames. I don’t know a lot about the Necromancy which is the guts of a battery, but I DO know that it doesn’t mix well with electricity. After another composure gathering pause, I ask, “We did tell you that they were rechargeable batteries, right?”

“Yes. But I didn’t know that meant I had to use special batteries.”


Are you retarded?

Really?! Is it possible that someone could spend an entire life in these United States and NOT know that a rechargeable battery is a special kind of battery? Even factoring in these people’s age and a tech ability that actually seems to have DE-evolved, am I really to believe that they don’t have ANY device that require special batteries? A digital camera, a camcorder, a cell phone, a laptop? Nothing? Even my mom who -- God bless her -- is confounded by the seemily simplest of tech knows about recharging a batteries. (In fairness, she knows that the camcorder NEEDS to be charged, she just isn't squared away on the actual process.)


So, we’re going to have to replace this remote for her in order to get paid for the job. (I say “we” but what I *really* mean is that I’ll have to go through the trouble of getting an RA and returning it as DOA for credit.) Lesson learned? We’re implementing a customer sign-off sheet for all installers that details that the recharging process has been thoroughly demonstrated and explained to ALL customers, not just the retarded ones.


Categories: April 2010, CTA, Rants

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Reply Craig
12:57 AM on April 14, 2010 
I'm not sure it is PC to use the word "retarded" anymore....but, if there was a time....
Reply Malia76
10:19 PM on April 26, 2010 
No Craig, in this instance, it is completely acceptable.