Who Salted My Game?

To salt one's game: To publically insult or demean someone even if it's unintentional, especially when they're around someone they're trying to impress – Urban Dictionary   Big jobs are tough enough to come by these days, so when that supposed “sure thing” falls into yo
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To salt one's game:To publically insult or demean someone even if it's unintentional, especially when they're around someone they're trying to impress – Urban Dictionary

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Big jobs are tough enough to come by these days, so when that supposed “sure thing” falls into your lap, it is a thrilling, soul-lifting, self-high-five-giving experience.

Last week I had what I thought was the closest thing to a locket in my pocket. A builder that we have done many large projects with called us. He was building a new house – a fairly big, single story 9,000-square footer right on the intercoastal waterway.

The house had a dedicated media room, and the customer was an ex-music industry exec that retired at 42. The house budget was just south of $2 million. (As in MM, the two big M’s. Like a bag full of M&M’s but instead of candy-covered chocolates they’re candy-covered diamonds.)

So I’m thinking, “big house in high-end neighborhood, with a dedicated media room, so definitely a cool home theater, a builder that knows our caliber of work, music industry guy so obviously music will be important, retired young – and presumably well-off – so he is probably into tech.”

So I dutifully arrived on time and while the homeowner was with the electrician I took a walk-thru and start jotting down areas on my clipboard, coming up with 22 separate areas of the home. Then I began mentally plunking in items – a touchpanel here, obviously audio throughout here, definitely lighting control, probably some kind of pool and HVAC control, perfect spot for a projector to fire through some port glass and get it out of the media room, etc.

Then I met with the homeowner, and right away he hits me with, “I just want to let you know right up front, I’m old school. I’ve built lots of houses, and the technology just doesn’t work. So I don’t want anything complicated.”

Uh… OK… So… I try to take it all in stride, and come back with a, “Sure. Of course. No problem,” figuring that I can gradually overcome his objections. So we start going through the house and room after room the customer is saying, “OK, one wire here for a TV and one wire here for a phone.”

“No audio in here?”

“No. No audio.”

“No distributed video or anything?”

“No. Not here.”

“Any kind of network connection for someone to connect a laptop or maybe to plan for some kind of streaming device at the TV?”

“No. Just the TV wire.”

When we arrive at the front door, I can see that there are four separate triple-gang wall boxes for controlling all of the exterior and entryway lights. FOUR! So I see this as the perfect opportunity to propose lighting control. “You see all of these switches here? We can totally clean up this wall clutter, and greatly simplify your lifestyle in such a large house, with some automated lighting. By replacing all of those wall boxes with a keypad you’d have a much more elegant look on your wall.”

“No. I’m just not interested.”

“Umm, OK. Can I ask why?”

“Look, I’m old fashioned. I just want a switch on the wall. I just want to be able to walk over and turn my damn lights on. I don’t want some pad that’s gonna break and then have to call someone in order to get my lights on.”

This continues with the guy – click-clack – Pull! – Ka-BLAM! – on virtually every bit of tech that I suggest.

Audio? In his 9,000-square-foot home he wants audio in just four rooms, and none by the pool. I actually told him that this would be the first high-end house that I’ve ever been involved with in my 13 years where we weren’t putting audio out for the swimming pool… or in the dining room… or the study… or the master bed and bath. Plus he wants nothing more complicated than a volume knob where we ARE putting audio.

I even had a heck of a time convincing him to splurge on a URC remote so he didn’t have to open his cabinetry to change TV channels or have five remotes or walk to some inconvenient location to adjust the volume. We had like a 10-minute discussion to convince him that, yes, the remote would actually work and that it would make WAY more sense to be able to control the system that way.

Then we finally get to the media room where I feel like I’m going to be able to at least close strong. It is a single-door, window-less room that is 15 feet wide by 24 feet long, with tiered seating. This thing is screaming front projector, except the customer is apparently in outer space, where no one can hear a projector scream.

“In here I want a flat-panel, something like a 55 to 60-inch,” he told me. When pressed, he claimed that he has never seen a projector that looked good. I begged him to come down to our store to check out our Runco Q, but he wasn’t having anything to do with it. “No. You’re just not gonna convince me,” he said. “I just want a big flat-panel.”

Want to know what the homeowner was into? Central vac. This was the only thing that got him any kind of excited. And, honestly, it’s probably the thing that I know the least about. Because, let’s be honest, central vac is rarely cool, sexy, or fun. You’ve got a pipe, you’ve got a port, and you’ve got a canister. I don’t know about HEPA filter ratings or custom hose lengths, but because this is really the only thing that he has any serious questions about – questions that I’m floundering on answering – and I can’t share all the other things that I am an export in, I come off looking like a newb.

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From multiple comments it was clear that this guy has owned several homes that have had technology. Technology that has clearly been poorly installed and technology that hasn’t worked right, and technology that has now so thoroughly salted the field of this guy’s heart that no tech flowers will ever be able to grow again. So a big THANKS! to all you previous installers. Thanks for doing such a piss-poor job that you’ve totally alienated this customer from any possibility of having the kind of system that his home totally deserves.

It’s hard enough to sell someone that has never experienced technology before on the benefits of living with a technology, but it can be next to imfrickinpossible to un-brainwash someone that HAS had the technology and had it work so poorly that they’ve hated it.

Where do you go from there? “That other guy was retarded, but trust me, because I know what I’m doing”? Or “The other stuff you bought was junk, but the stuff that I’m gonna sell you will really work”?

So, what’s the solution? What do you do when you run into a client that has been salted – or ruined – by a previous integrator or poorly installed system?

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