Dan Holohan: A foreign exchange
It took Jimmy about a half-hour to realize that the homeowner hadn’t understood a word he had said.
“The guy was a real dummy,” Jimmy told Larry, who had been his partner for the past three years. “But he let me get all the way up to the part about the reset control before I realized that,” he said.
“I hate when they do that,” Larry said.
“Me, too. And even at that point, the guy was still nodding.”
“I hate that, too.”
“Yeah, and it was a fast nod. That’s what made me think I was doing OK. You know the smile and the nod?”
“Yeah,” Larry said. “Didn’t he understand any of it?”
“I thought he did at first,” Jimmy said. “But he let me go on and on. Almost to the end of my pitch. That’s when I realized he was stupid.”
“I hate that,” Larry said.
“It was a total waste of time. The guy’s an idiot,” Jimmy said.
“That would have been a great sale,” Larry said. “He told me he wanted to get rid of the old furnace and get hydronic heat because his wife is allergic to a lot of stuff in the air.”
“I know! I figured he already knew all about hydronics because he told me I was the third heating contractor he was interviewing. Did he tell you that?”
“No,” Larry said. “He just said he wanted to see someone.”
“I hate when they put it that way,” Jimmy said.
“See someone,” Jimmy said. “It was more than seeing. He said he needed to interview me. He made it sound like I was applying for a job.”
“I guess in a way you were,” Larry said. “We could use some jobs around here. It’s been too slow.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Jimmy said. “But I figured that since I was the third guy in there, he probably knew what he was looking for. I figured he should know what he wants at this point. I figured he did his homework.”
“I would have felt the same way,” Larry said. “How did you explain what we were going to do for him? Give me details.”
“Well, first I showed him the specifications on the boiler we were going to use, and I explained that this boiler has a great AFUE.”
“And what did he say to that?”
“He smiled and he nodded,” Jimmy said. “Just like I told you.”
“Did he know what AFUE is?”
“I don’t know. He should. He’s the one buying the system,” Jimmy said. “And I was the third guy in there, for Pete’s sake! Someone must have told him. And besides, he kept nodding and smiling, you know? No matter what I said, he nodded.”
“Uh huh,” Larry said, “I would have figured the same thing. What happened next?”
“Well, I showed him a sample of the radiant tubing we use, and I told him how our system was going to balance out the MRT in the new addition.”
“What did he say to that? I mean about the MRT.”
“Nothing. He just kept nodding. It was like he had a hinge in the back of his neck. His head just kept going up and down, and he kept smiling. He looked like one of those plastic dogs you stick on your dashboard.”
“And then what happened?”
“I showed him the numbers for the ASTM and DIN standards for the PEX, and I told him how the manufacturer we use meets those standards and that everything was going to be just fine.”
“Did he know what ASTM and DIN standards are?”
“I don’t know. He seemed to,” Jimmy said. “I mean, I didn’t tell him or anything like that. I figured he must have known because of the way he was nodding. And besides, he had talked to all those other guys before me, right? One of those guys must have explained it.”
Larry nodded. “You’re right. So what happened next?”
“I explained about the available emissive surfaces in each the rooms. I explained how we might have to supplement the radiant with a water-to-air heat exchanger on a separate zone in the new kitchen because of the appliances and the R-value of all the glass he was planning to use there, and how we had to get the CFM just right if we did supplement. He kept nodding. The more I talked, the more he nodded.”
“Did you explain about how we install digital, Bluetooth TRVs on some terminal units? Not everyone does that,” Larry said.
“I sure did! And I told him about the DPR, or maybe we would use a Delta-T or a Delta-P circulator instead of the DPR.”
“And he was still nodding?” Larry said.
“Yeah. That’s why I thought he was with me.”
“Did you tell him that the TRVs we use respond with just a 4-degree P-deviation, and that there won’t be any concerns about hysteresis?”
“And he nodded. I thought he was impressed by the 4-degree P-deviation. Hey, it impresses me!”
“So when did you tell him about the reset control?”
“Right after I explained about the microbubbles. How you can’t see them, but that we were going to get rid of them anyway? And about the magnetic separator that’s built into the device.”
Lost him at reset control
“That’s great,” Larry said. “But what about the reset? What went wrong there? You said that was when you lost him.”
“Oh, yeah, it was,” Jimmy said. As soon as I mentioned the reset control I realized the guy hadn’t understood a word I had said to him up to that point. I’d been talking to a total dummy! When I started to tell him how the water temperature would get colder as it got warmer outside, he nodded faster than ever, but he also put his hands up. He told me he doesn’t like to take cold showers, no matter how warm it is outside. Can you believe it? It was like trying to explain clouds to fish.”
“Unbelievable,” Larry said.
“You ain’t kidding. I even tried to tell him about Proportional plus Integral plus Derivative and all, but he wouldn’t listen to me anymore. He thanked me for stopping by and he said he would think about it. I asked him if he wanted a written quote and he said he had to think about it. The next thing I knew I was back in my truck driving here.
“That stinks,” Larry said. “He let you go all that way through before shooting you down.”
“He did! You’d think I was talking to him in a foreign language. That guy was just so unbelievably stupid, you know?” Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t think he understood a word I had said, but you’d never know that by the way he was nodding. It was like he had a hinge in his neck. A regular hinge!”
“Some people just don’t have the brains for the technical side of what we do,” Larry said.
“Then they shouldn’t be calling us,” Jimmy said.
“You may be right,” Larry said.
“I was the third guy in there,” Jimmy said. “The third. That bozo shoulda done his homework. The way I figure it, if you’re gonna buy a heating system you should know how to speak the language before you call an expert. I got no sympathy for that guy. None whatsoever.”
Larry paused a moment, and then he nodded. “You’re right,” he said, “but that sure would have been a good job.”
“I know,” Jimmy said.
We’d better get some work soon,” Larry added.
“We will,” Jimmy said. “We just gotta stop trying to sell to dummies.”
“Yeah,” Larry said. “If we don’t get some good work in here soon we’re screwed.”
“If you are gonna buy a heating system you should speak the language before you call an expert.”