May 6, 2016

Hard Selling to the Hard Sold

When we bought our house last month, we went into it knowing we'd have some basement issues to address.  The first heavy rain came before we could add some gutter extensions, so we had some rivulets of water seeping in from the walls.  This was not an entirely bad thing.  It gave us an idea of what we are up against as far as repairs.  Thankfully though, the purchase of several downspout extensions to get the water away from the house alleviated many of the problems.  A few hours with my vornado fan on full blast dried up the walls quite well too.
So, we set about calling for estimates on basement and mudjacking options.  Most are what you'd expect.  A phone call, a visit, and an estimate in the mail or email.  One or two followed up a few weeks later.  None of them seemed to be afraid to let you shop around.  It's passive, and it let's the almighty dollar speak.  For those seeking the lowest cost and hoping the quality doesn't suffer for it, this is a viable option.  What I need to be sold it to know the science and process.  I need to know what my money will be going towards and that it makes sense for me to purchase now and in the future.
I can say that within minutes of sitting around the dining room table with a very popular basement solutions company, I was both fascinated with their processes and put off by their blatant high pressure sales tactics.  Their science seems sound.  They can take a dank basement and turn it into a wonderland of dry useable space.  At a cost.

The pre-agreement and guilt driven methods were straight out of an entry level sales conference powerpoint.  Setting up a person with having them agree that a process is important to protect the home before the necessity and cost has been addressed is shady, and it sets up a buyer to agree out of a feeling of being bullied.  Yes, I agree that having a basement where I could prepare the next generation of pharonic mummies is important, but I'm going to resent a sales person holding that opinion over my head when I decline their exorbitant prices.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I know sometimes you do have to pay more to get quality.  Let me tell you a story.

When I worked for the city/county as a desktop technician, I had one department that was loathe to spend any money on technology.  When she ended up having to buy something new, she absolutely balked at the cost we quoted her.  It was an entry level Dell machine with very few bells and whistles, which is exactly what she needed.  Her complaint was that she could go out and order the same machine on the retail site and save $200,  We tried to explain to her that the business class version of the machine came with a 3 year warranty with a guaranteed 24 hour repair turnaround.  The retail warranty was 1 year and whenever you can get it to a service place is when the work will get done.  In a business environment, time is money, so we thought she'd go with the business machine.  Nope.  That she did not.  What she ended up doing was ordering the one she priced out.  When it came in and I took it out of the box to set it up, where I expected to find a OS CDs, I found two FreeDOS floppies.  She had ordered a machine without an operating system.  So, those $200 she saved had to immediately be spent on a retail license of Windows.  I still laugh about that to this day, despite it having happened almost a decade ago.
Knowing that pride and being penny wise and  pound foolish can get you in way over your head, I've tried to keep that in mind when making large purchases.  

Early in the pitch, we were told that the quote is good for quite a long time.  I think he told us it was something like 3 years.  But, it wasn't till after he set the expectations that this was something we should be doing for the house and soon did he drop the bomb that this was a today only price he was going to give us.  That immediately dropped my interest level down and I hadn't even seen the prices.  One day only pricing to me screams a company wants to blindside your wallet so you're distracted by the product or workmanship.

What also boggled my mind is that they seem to go for overkill when it comes to some of the items they recommend.  I have a very hard time stomaching a triple-redundant sump pump for $2500 and a dehumidifier for $2100.  I'm sure they have their merits in the right situation.  However, I'm a consumer who can live with the 1 year warranty instead of the 3 year one like in the story above.  Certainly, they warranty their work for 25 years, but if I spend $250 on a new dehumidifier every 5 years, I'm still under the original purchase price of the one I was quoted.  I think that's a risk that's worth the reward.  And that's just a single example of egregious pricing that's unnecessary for our little house.
Now, I had been working from home on the day he came over to look things over and give us the quote.  I felt like I had to almost shoo him out of my home so I could get to work.  My needs were to see what was being offered and what the prices were.  I wanted to chew on that much and decide what, if anything, we would choose to pursue.

In the end, the experience put us off to the point that not even the products that impressed us so much.  When we responded to the quote email, I advised Adrian that our sales guy was going to find anything he could hook his claws into, so don't give him a thing to try a Ronco "But wait!  There's more!".  I told him to just say a simple, "Thank you, but we've opted not to do business with Thrasher."  True to form, that got us a second offer and configuration of things that we could do on a tighter budget.  We didn't respond to that as we were done talking.  Later that night, I get a call asking if we'd reconsidered.  I told him no, we still weren't going to go with them because the high pressure sales tactic was so much of a turnoff that it drowned out all of the positives of their products and services.
A day later, I got a survey from Thrasher asking my opinions.  And I gave them to them.  I said that the pitch was transparent, high pressure, and slimy if you're aware of how you're being sold.  I liked the products, but didn't care for the pitch.  If we could have someone come in and give us some real talk with a no pressure, we're in this for you and your investment, then we might have something to chat about.
Today I get a call from Thrasher.  It was from a gal who said she was following up on our previous salesman's behalf.  I sense that this is the kid gloves technique.  Send in the XX chromosomes to talk and see if you can win them over so they do the work for you on the other half.  The problem with this is, and they don't seem to realize, I'm the one who saw right through their tactics, and I'm also one who wants the product, not the emotion in the sale.  We have a tentative appointment to chat after quitting time tonight.  If this is what I'm expecting, we're still not going to be going with Thrasher.  I'm hoping to be surprised.  But after being on the receiving end of the bronze level sales convention pass used on us,I'm not hopeful.  
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