by John Sciacca
I’ve talked a good bit before about the different kinds of clients that cross the threshold of my custom install showroom. Whether it is the groups of people that wander in on December 24th, or the ones that reek of an inhuman BO so powerful that it forces you to question the existence of a greater benevolent being, and then the various ways that some customers parallel those that use lawn care – gardening – services.
But, there are some other client traits – ten to be exact – that I thought I’d discuss. And I’m guessing that it doesn’t matter what business you’re in – custom installer, coffee barista, sewage treatment plant manager – you will recognize at least some of them.
1. The Interrupt You Guy
This is the guy that has SO many questions, that he doesn’t even really care about the answers. He just wants to fire them off, one right after the other. And it isn’t like he prefaces it with, “I have several questions I’d like to ask and they are…” He asks one, and then when you are right in the middle of answering, he decides to just jump ship and start over with another even more questioney question. This guy actually comes in two flavors; there is the Know Everything and the Just Can’t Focus variants. The Know Everything interrupter wants to just blitzkrieg you with a rapid-fire series of interrogation type questions really designed to just showcase his own knowledge, but once he sees that your answer is going to be both A) correct and B) way more intelligent sounding and articulate than his own, he immediately cuts you off by asking another question. This guy is the king of the douches and almost NEVER actually buys anything from you. The second guy is just SO all over the map, he just can’t keep his mouth still long enough to wait for you to answer. He might actually WANT to know the answers, but it’s like his ADD is running wild and is only free to fully express itself in a series of random queries that bounce wildly and totally randomly from topic to topic. I had this customer not too long ago. Fortunately, this guy can often be reined in by a long…deliberate…slow and thoughtful pause where you say nothing and just stand there staring at him. Then just when the silence is starting to become interminable, to go from being uncomfortable to REALLY uncomfortable and crossing over into unrepairably awkward, you say, “Would you like me to answer that question before you ask another one, or did you really not care to hear the answer?”
2. The Just One More Thing Guy
Seriously, this might be my worst guy. This is the guy that has this whole secret list of wants that he keeps to himself, slowly dolling them out one at a time. Often, he is at his most diabolical when he can wait until the VERY end of the day to start in one his one-more-thinging. And I’m talking about the kind of day where you have struggled with everything, put in like 10 hours, your back and knees are killing you and you still have like a two hour drive home. That’s when this guy chooses his perfect moment to strike! And the requests are usually so benign and seemingly minor that you can’t really think of a good excuse not to do them, or you just know you’ll have to come back again later so you might as well sack it up and do it while you’re here.
“Oh, great! It looks like you guys are done! Hey, there’s just one more thing; would you mind connecting the DVD player in my daughter’s room? It should only take a second.”
“OK, we got that player all hooked up. We’re gonna take off.”
“Oh, yeah, but first, just one more thing; would you mind if you checked the remote in my bedroom? It doesn’t have an aspect button on it.”
“Uhhhhh, ooooh-kay, yeah. Let me just pull out the laptop again and boot it up and reprogram that for ya...”
“Great. Thanks. And then, I forgot to mention that one of my outdoor speakers seems to sound a little staticky. Would you mind taking a quick look?”
“Well, there is just one more thing...”
This guy could be so WAY less irritating if he would have taken a few minutes to jot down all of his wants and needs and handed them to me when I showed up first thing in the morning. Then during those random bits of down time – or, you know, before I totally put away all of my tools and gear and mentally check out for the day – I could triage his requests and be thinking about all of these other little honey-do’s.
3. The Electrical Engineer Guy
OK, I lied. THIS is actually my worst guy. I’ve never been to schooling to get my EE, but I can only imagine that there must be a fair majority of the curriculum dedicated to the pursuit of utter assery and sucking the joy and passion from life. To date, every EE that I’ve dealt with has given me a major case of the chapped ass. These guys want to understand the minutiae of every…single…thing that you are doing. “How is that wired?” “What is the gauge of that cabling?” “How long is that run? Have you taken the resistance into account” “What is the thermal output of that unit?” “I’m going to need a full wiring diagram of your entire system connection architecture for my records.” “Do you have the board schematics for that?” “Why is that wire there?” Ugh! Look, I just want to hook up your stereo, not conduct a 300-level course on how each and every piece works. And seriously, I know that “electrical” is in this guy’s degree and “electronics” is what we do, but these pursuits are truly miles apart and while this guy MIGHT understand circuit boards he rarely knows anything about *systems*. It is kind of like a master chemical compound engineer at DuPont who spends his every waking second working on the molecular composition of different paint formulas trying to dissect a DaVinci or Michelangelo masterpiece based on the oil content in the painting. Sure, he understands PAINT, but he doesn’t know crap about a PAINTING. Dealing with an EE just sucks the life and enthusiasm out of the install. I’m sure this isn’t limited to JUST EEs, but in my experience, they typify the best-of-the-worst of this trait.
4. The Let’s Just Go Over It One More Time guy
At some point – usually pretty early on in the project – you realize that this guy is probably NEVER gonna get it. No matter how simple you make a system, it is going to confound this guy. And then, he’s gonna want for you to go over it. Again. And again. And then again like 50 more times. A toggle on/off paddle lightswitch could confuse this guy. “What if it gets stuck in the middle?” “It won’t.” “Well, we better go over it, just in case.” When you start talking about running a surround or housewide audio system, you might as well be trying to explain String Theory. And, the cruel irony is, this is usually the guy that is way into this stuff. He often loves movies or listening to music, but, for the sweet love of baby Jesus, HE JUST…CAN’T…GET IT!
“OK. I want to watch TV. So…. What do I do?”
“You press this button right here. The one labeled ‘Watch TV.’”
“OK. There. I did it. OK…and…hey! There’s the TV. Wow. That was easy. Now, let’s say I want to turn it off. I would…?”
“Press the button labeled ‘Off.’”
“OK. Let’s do it. Yep. It’s off. OK, now let’s say I wanted to watch a Blu-ray but THEN I changed my mind and decided I wanted to watch TV instead. What would I do?”
“Press the button labeled ‘Watch TV’ like before….”
“OK. Let’s try that. Then let me power it all off and let’s just go over the whole thing one more time.”
5. The Why’d You Do That? guy
This is the guy that will say something like, “I’d like a TV on that wall.” And you say, “OK. Where would you like it?” And then he’ll say something like, “Oh, just over there,” as he points vaguely to a wall area, “Wherever you decide will be fine. I don’t really care.” Then after you run the wire, you hang the TV, you get it all set and you’re pretty much packing up all of your gear to leave, he comes strolling back into the room and is all, “Oh, man! Why did you do that? I TOTALLY didn’t want it there! I wanted it like 4 feet this way! Wasn’t that obvious?” This guy is so confounding; it’s actually baffling how to take him. And even when you present him with what seems like the totally rational, “But you told me to just put it over there wherever I thought was best. Centered off the bed seemed like the best place,” he’ll often just shake his head and be all, “Well, I *guess* I’ll just have to live with it. I mean, I just thought you would have known where to put it. I really don’t understand why you did that.” Fortunately, this guy is a fairly rare encounter, and is often only a one-off client. Also, unless you are totally thick of skull, this is a guy that you will have pinpoint EXACTLY what he wants for any successive work, eliminating any further confusion.
6. The Just Get It Done guy
This guy has the potential to totally rock. When he’s on his game, he is seriously taking names and kicking ass. He is the kind of guy that may or may not know what he wants, but what he does know is how to make a decision. And with a quickness. There is no hemming, there is no hawing. There is just, “What do we need to do? What’s that gonna cost me? OK. Get it done.” This guy’s only potential drawback is that he is SO quick to, “Yeah, yeah, OK. I got it,” that he can often not fully understand the system when you’re done. He doesn’t like long explanation sessions and he can’t be bothered to read any instructions, so sometimes there is usually some follow-up involved where you’ll need to go back and go over something again. Even still, this guy isn’t one for the chitty-chatty so you can count on any of these follow-up sessions to be quick and painless. This guy also generally pays his bills with a quickness. Paying an invoice is just another thing that needs to Get Done and he can’t stand any loose ends.
7. The What Are My Options? guy
This guy can either be rewarding or totally exasperating. There is the Options guy that is looking for ways to upgrade his system by discussing different alternatives and he’s actually trying to learn a little bit so that he can make the most informed decision. I respect this guy. And if you’re patient with him, this guy will almost always option himself up to a better – more expensive – system. Then we have the flipside of this guy; the guy that just wants to go over the theoretical possibilities of every decision and then almost always stick with the original – cheaper – option. “What if we did this?” “What if I wanted to put a speaker here?” “What if I wanted to be able to use my iPad out by the pool to control my audio?” It isn’t that the options are bad or wrong, it’s just that this guy is usually SO cost conscious that you KNOW he isn’t actually going to do any of it. And usually he has the kind of system where it isn’t a simple answer. “Well, we’d have to add this wire, and an amp channel and then a WiFi access point, and then something for the iPad to interface with so that would mean changing out the entire head-end and then…” But he’ll often want you to just “work it up so we can see” meaning that you need to go back and re-drawing board everything from scratch on the off OFF chance that he will do it. But, you know, he never does. I had a guy recently that had me research a HUGE manner of different options for his security – the redundancy of our monitoring station, their emergency preparedness plans, cellular GSM back-up, IP back-up, remote access, the parts needed, the monthly costs needed – all of this took A LOT of phone time. And, of course, you knew up front that it was going to add a cost. But once I got ALL of the information, he, of course, decided to stay with the original system.
8. The Let Me Tell You What I’ve Got guy
I know that I work in a niche industry, and that it's one that attracts passionate, fervent Jihad-level hobbyists. And similar to the way that those people that are WAY into JRR Tolkein, when they encounter another like-minded enthusiast, they can’t help but immediately jump into deep discussions of deepest nerdery about Hobbits and Balrogs and Tom Bombadil and where the Similarion should rank in the canon and whatnot. Likewise, I can’t tell you how many people stop by our store to just…chat. They’ll usually say they’re just browsing and will walk for display to display, running a finger along gear, turning knobs, staring into displays, and then sooner or later they’ll want to open up and start telling me about all the gear they own or have owned in the past. How they got into audio, systems they’ve heard, other stores they’ve been to, strange tweaks they’ve made to their systems, etc. And, you know, I do love this stuff, but to be honest, when I come into work, it is pretty low on my list of daily to-dos to talk about the Pioneer amplifier you bought at the military PX back in the 80s or the set of Bose 901s that you still have from college or the great deal on the Panasonic Plasma you just got on the Internet or whatever. Sure, it is a nice little diversion, but – and this may be a little cruel – I really don’t care. For the most part, if you aren’t looking to buy something from me, I’d really rather just go back into my office and pay bills or surf the Web or something. If instead you want to say, “I’ve been reading your articles for years and I just wanted to stop in to say hello and tell you how much I enjoy your writing,” well then, brother, pull up a chair and let’s sit a spell, shall we?
9. The I’m No Audiophile guy
I think that this is really more of a defense mechanism than anything, and I guess it must be less damaging to the easily bruised male ego to say, “Look, I’m no audiophile; I’m not looking for the top-of-the-line or anything. I just want some *good* sound,” than to just come out and say the truth. Because, when you say this, what I’m really hearing is, “I don’t want to spend a lot of money on this stuff.” Which, hey, that’s cool. We’ve all got a budget. But I get SO sick and tired of people saying they can’t hear the difference on better audio (you can…at least to a point) or that they don’t need something because they “aren’t trying to build a concert hall or actual movie theater in my house!” And look, when you didn’t bring in any of your own music to listen to or when you wandered to the smallest speakers in my shop or said, “I don’t care” when I asked what you wanted to listen to or how you were looking at the remote like it might actually shoot a laser into your face at any moment, I pretty much already self-diagnosed that you weren’t an audiophile.
And, last up on our list and probably also in our hearts, we have...
10. The Know Everything guy
If this guy DID know everything, it would be so great. He would know exactly what he wanted, you could mind-meld with him and talk in direct techno-speak streamlining the whole process and making sure he got the perfect system. However, the sad truth is this guy really DOESN’T know everything; he really only knows just enough. And by that I mean just enough to question everything you do and then second-guess you on everything. A lot of times though, this guy – thankfully – isn’t actually the client himself, but rather the “expert friend” or “brother-in-law in-the-know” or whatever tagalong term you like that comes along to “assist” the actual client. The client hangs back and lets Know Everything run the show. But, sadly, instead of really wanting to help out the actual buyer, all this guy wants to do is derail and undermine your ACTUAL expertise by showing how expert he really thinks he is and by prefacing his statements-of-fact with, “According to what I read…” or “Such-and-such forum feels that this product is really the superior product.” First off, the truth is, if you DID know everything, you’d just do it yourself. Second, when I hear any part of the phrase, “What I read in a forum,” or “According to several chat groups,” or “If you look around the Web,” I’m immediately thinking that you’re a trolling wanker. And that you’ve never kissed a girl. There. I said it.
Help me out, fellow installers. You know these guys, right? I mean, I know that you do! Which other personality traits are your most "favorite"? Comments, people. Comments...