- Mike Prongue
Sometimes my craziest comments for this blog congeal from routine day-to-day challenges and observations. Regardless, when the subject turns to “better product” and “better service” and the drum is banged to the same old beat, it's easy for the message to becomes a “Wahh Wahh Wahh” of adult-speak from the old Charlie Brown cartoon.
That’s because everyone already knows that “better is better”. It doesn’t take a NASA rocket scientist to see that a better warranty is clearly… “better”. But with “better” comes a bigger price and that is the 600 pound gorilla sitting in your customers showroom. Upon reflection, they are trying to beat the old adage of “pay me now, or pay me later” by going cheap.
Many want to dismiss this old saying and believe that they can somehow “beat the system” and pay less and magically “get more” (magical thinking).
Let me give you the real-world mistake I made last week by “going cheap”.
“Honey,” my wife cried out,” The hot water seems kinda cool! Is it on?”
To me, this is one of the most dreaded phrases I can hear other than what my neighbor recently heard from his wife, “what does the oil light mean on the dash. Do you have to change the oil now?”
“Okay Dear,” I cried (literally) back to my wife, “It’s probably a heating element. I’ll go to Lowes tomorrow and get one. And since I’m taking it apart, I’ll replace both the lower and the upper heating elements!”
I could feel her sense of relief as I complied. Thus began the odyssey of the hot water heater repair. It was an epic tale that included elves, and middle-earth dwellers and even a dwarf or two as I loaded up the mule cart and rolled off to the local home improvement store.
My trip to Lowes netted two heating elements and a large metal “hex tool” to remove the old heater elements. The hex tool was hanging next to the heating elements in the plumbing department and I was happy to see it. It had a large 1.5” diameter and had a very deep socket to fit over the head of the heating element to unscrew it. I was unhappy that a simple stamped tool that cost 29 cents to make somewhere in Shenzhen, sold for $7.99. But it was an unusual tool and I felt it would suffice for my dirty job.
I don’t know about you, but nothing is easy for me.
The lower element was rusted tight and the Chinese-made hex socket was so imprecisely manufactured it nearly stripped the edges off the matching hex head of the heater element. I had managed to force the top heating element out with only a dislocated shoulder but the bottom element would not budge! Here is everything I tried over the next 2 hours:
- Drilled-out the hole on the hex socket where a screwdriver was inserted for leverage- then tried many larger screwdrivers and a couple steel rods that I had.
- Tried a plumber wrench on the hex socket.
- Cussed then prayed.
- Bloodied my knuckles.
- Got admonished for some expletive I uttered. Then I repeated 1-4 several more times.
The over-priced “piece of junk” hex socket wasted two hours, three band aids, a repeat trip to Lowes and a lot of knuckle skin and about a gallon or so of blood. Also the original $7.99 was wasted because the tool was worthless at any price.
I went back to Lowes, bought a ½” drive Kobalt breaker bar and a Kobalt deep 1.5” socket with a ½ inch drive- $35 and worth every darn nickel of it! So despite paying five times what I paid for the original hex socket, it was the best spent money of the week. I had thought I could get a “free lunch” earlier with the cheap tool.
Isn’t this like the business that buys a cheap LED sign, only to require at least one service call per month? Then after the indignity of someone paying thousands of dollars for service calls (either the customer or the sign company "eating" the charge) over the course of a year, the white coloration becomes pink and soon the brightness dims to “night only” viewing?
Those darn hex socket-like cheap LED signs are out there. They are heavily promoted by companies that I will not name. They are not worth the knuckle-busting and the return trip at any price.
“Better” is definitely “better”. You must educate your customer why there is a difference and help many of them overcome their magical thinking that they'll be the lucky one percenter that buys a cheap LED display that actually works long-term. This is an industry-credibility issue in my opinion!
The hot water heater is fixed. My wife is happy. My knuckles are healing. I paid my Visa charge. I have more quality tools in my tool box and I took the hex socket back to Lowes to get my $7.99 back.